One of the few dramas I try to watch each week is Major Crimes, the follow-up to The Closer, that airs on TNT Monday nights. Even after all their years in the squad room the show has done wonderful work this year, and the last three episodes particularly have each been gems.
The most recent is a case in point. Among other things, I like it when a show tries to do something a little different on occasion, and tell a story another way. They did that with a hilarious, comic episode three weeks ago (called in by a crackpot to investigate the death of a dog), and did it on Monday, somewhat in flashback, but very cleverly tying the main plot to the personal issues that the character (relating the story to his psychologist) was himself going through.
Nice too that they brought back former series regular Jon Tenney and finally gave him a lot to do -- and that they also brought back Malcolm Jamal Warner as an undercover police officer. He was wonderful in his guest appearance last year, and I get the sense that the producers thought so, as well, not only because they brought him back, but because it seemed set up to bring him back more.
But the point of all this is not really about how good the episode was, filled too with terrific, thoughtful and clever dialogue and sharp acting. ((Which included another terrific performance by the always-wonderful character actor Erick Avari -- one of those, "Oh, that guy, what's his name?" -- as a diplomat from India.)
What brought this all up is the aforementioned "wrap around" story, the one about the teenage kid, Rusty, talking to his psychologist. For those who don't watch the series, it's important here to know that Rusty was set up last year as homeless kid on the street surviving as a prostitute, who becomes a witness to a murder. He's taken in by series star Mary McConnell as the police chief, in part for witness protection, in part to act as guardian.
One of the things this episode on Monday dealt with was Rusty trying to build up the courage to tell the other officers in department (with whom he's long-since bonded) that he's gay. It was handled with great care and even humor, since it's obvious that highly-trained police detectives grasped this fact...oh, a year ago. (It also should be near-blatantly clear to the audience, with plenty of big hints from his introduction and throughout.) But Rusty was still scared about how they all would react to him, he tentatively asks (so surreptitiously, he thinks) "if I told you all I was gay." The officers are struggling to keep from bursting out in hysterics, and fight to keep a straight face.
(There was a great speech here when one of the senior detectives interrupts the kid and tenderly replies, "It would mean that you're showing how much you trust us.")
Anyway, as I said, it was a wonderful episode all around, dealing with diplomats under immunity who might be involved with a murder, the Rusty story, another subplot between two officers, and the clever structure -- and all terrifically written and acted. So, I decided to check out the reaction on the interwebs, and see what viewers were saying on Facebook.
Ha! God love and please give needed comfort to small-mindedness. Were they praising the show? Well -- okay, yes, how could they not, it was that good -- but only in part. Because taking up the attention of a vocal minority of the millions of TV viewers were the outraged Bible-pushers outraged that a character who was pretty clearly gay, and has been pretty clearly gay for a year, actually coming out.
One that caught my eye, was a charming bit of self-deceptive, personal angst by Sharon Crawley Woodard
Have really enjoyed and looked forward to "Major Crimes", until tonight. I liked Rusty and understood that what he did on the streets when he was rejected by his mother was because he needed the money to live. Tonight the producers brought him out as being gay. I liked it when he had girl friends, but now I am really turned off. I get sickened with all the gay propaganda that is going around these days and don't think I can stand watching a program with active gay people in it. It's a shame this program's producers felt they had to write this fag stuff in. They probably have a male lover for him in the future? Sick!! My opinion is not politically correct, but I state it like it is, and believe most normal people are afraid of speaking how they really feel.
I tend not to jump into such online discussions, and didn't do so here, but I was oh-so deeply tempted to write back --
Dear Ms. Crawley Woodard,
Actually, most normal people gave up using “fag” many years ago because they understood how offensive and hurtful it is.
Bobby, age svene
Actually, it's worse than even this. Because -- understand -- what the dear Ms. Sharon Crawley Woodard was saying here is that she and her interwebs pals were okay with an underage boy prostitute living alone on the streets -- just not someone saying out loud that he's gay? Well, bully for them. I have no doubt that they can point to a misinterpreted sentence in their Scriptures that explains why their God is okay with this kind of attitude. Though I suspect when they finally meet the afterlife, it will not be at the door where they thought they were going.
The thing is, as appalling as Ms. Crawley Woodard and the others who responded similarly, it's unfortunately semi-understandable. After all, just the other day, I wrote a piece here about “Fox News” doing two scathing stories that slammed President Obama for supposedly releasing the terrorist who went on to lead this ISIS military group that’s overrunning Iraq. One wee slight problem -- he was released in 2004 under George Bush.
When things like that -- "Fox News," the Drudge Report, Breitbart, Limbaugh and more -- are your source of information and create the base foundation of a political party, and people are given free reign by their party's political leaders and their media to make racist allusion about the black president, call him a traitor, suggest that he and his wife give terrorist fist-bumps, suggest that he hates white people, is a Nazi socialist, Kenyan who was elected illegitimately and should be impeached, and there's no push-back from people they trust and admire telling them that this is wrong behavior, one of the end results is the Shirley Crawley Woodwards of the world, who think it’s normal to be intolerant and call people fags.
Such people exist, alas, though I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over them posting complaints about a TV show. It's most everything else they do about life outside the box that's problematic.
Still, though, in all honesty, even more than my own response to the dear, troubled lady, who isn't quite as normal as I fear she thinks, what I most would have loved seeing is a response like this, sort of a group hug written by the entire writing staff of the show --
Dear Ms. Crawley Woodard,
Just to clarify, no, we had no plans at all about writing in a boyfriend for Rusty. In fact, it hadn't even crossed a single part our minds. But your note brought up such a great idea that hadn't even occurred to us. Thanks very much! Keep an eye out for Episode 11. We’ll give you an acknowledgement in the end credits for suggesting it
Your friends at Major Crimes
By the way, I'm not suggesting that they even write such a character into the show -- but just imaging her reaction (and that of others) seeing what she had supposedly done by accident would be worth it, all on its own merits.
Actually, in the end, the funniest thing of all is what Ms. Crawley Woodard reveals about herself. After all, as she says bluntly, "most normal people are afraid to speak how they really feel." Yet she herself, she makes clear, is unafraid and perfectly willing to "state it like it is." Unlike normal people.
At last, something Sharon Crawley Woodard, her supporting compatriots and I can agree with.
See! If you just try hard enough and put in enough time to work hard for peace on earth, then all men can unite as one and join together.
Well...okay, just to be clear, when I say "all men" I don't mean only men, but there will be women there, too. Not to worry.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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