Inhuman Swill : Television
            

Bill and Laura with Anthony Atamanuik after 'Trump Dump: The Last Rally,' NYU Skirball Center, 3 November 2016
Contrary to what Morrissey would have you think, we love it when our friends become successful. It's especially sweet when that friend has been doing fantastic work in relative obscurity for a decade and a half. That's why I've long been so vocal on social media in support of Anthony Atamanuik.

Anthony is a brilliant comedian and improviser—fearsomely disciplined yet fearless in accessing the most twisted recesses of his id. Before I met him, I got to know his work through a series of bizarre short films he made, like this one:

As a performer and teacher at the Upright Citizens Brigade, Anthony was tapped to play one of the writers on 30 Rock. As essentially a glorified extra, he appeared on the show for years but did not get so much as one line until the series finale:

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Though it is widely known among our circle of friends that Laura and I were married on television, few are they who have actually seen the episode of the obscure series in question.

Yes, we appeared in an episode of the Travel Channel series Two for Las Vegas which aired early in 2002. Yes, the episode ran several times that year. No, you can't see it now because Laura has always vetoed my requests for permission to post the episode to YouTube.

Except that today, on the occasion of our fifteenth wedding anniversary, egged on by numerous voices on Facebook, Laura relented. So now you can watch this lost classic of the small screen. You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll become a part of you.

But hurry because she might change her mind any moment now.

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Michael Ian Black: NOTED EXPERT on Epix
It was a magical moment. That's how Barry put it, and who am I to disagree?

Barry Goldblatt is my friend and literary agent. He also happens to be literary agent to actor/​comedian/​author Michael Ian Black, with whom you may be familiar. This past November, Barry took a small group of us—me, Laura, and Colleen AF Venable—to see the taping of Michael's new standup comedy special at John Jay College in Manhattan.

Now, this happened to be the very next day after my book release party for The Accidental Terrorist, so 1) I was still on a pretty big high, and 2) the comedy outing felt almost like a continuation of the party from the night before.

As the line of showgoers entered the auditorium, a woman we called the Sorting Hat directed each little group to the exact row where she wanted them to sit. "Are you big fans of Michael Ian Black?" she would ask, before sending the young and attractive college students to the front of the house and the rest of us to the anonymous back middle. She needed the audience to look good and enthusiastic on TV.

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Mormon's Secret Men's Magical Mesh Top
Not many people outside of Utah may be aware of it, but a controversy is brewing—and it has to do with Mormon underwear.

Specifically, it has to do with the portrayal of Mormon underwear on network television. As reported by Scott D. Pierce of The Salt Lake Tribune, next month's premiere episode of the new ABC series "Quantico" will feature a scene in which a young FBI recruit appears on screen in only his "garments," the sacred underclothes that many Mormons wear next to their skin.

Why is this controversial? It's not like garments are very racy, since they're meant to cover the body from the shoulders to the knees. (I, in fact, find them downright offputting, though I'm sure garments have their fetishists.) The problem is that most Mormons consider garments—which are stitched with arcane though unobtrusive symbols meant to remind the wearer of covenants made in the temple—to be sacred, and not intended for the prying eyes of outsiders.

This apparent secretiveness and sensitivity about garments has made them ripe for mockery. Most people, even if they know nothing else about the church, "know" that Mormons wear "magic underwear" to protects them from physical and spiritual harm. One of the most frequent questions I get, in fact, when someone finds out I'm a former Mormon, is: "Is it true about the magic underwear?"

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Your attention is Justified

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I'm not here to tell you about Justified, the Elmore Leonard–based FX television series that ended this week after six terrific seasons. I'm not here to tell you why it was my favorite show, or why I look forward to rewatching it even more than Breaking Bad. I'm not here to praise the writing, the directing, or the acting, or to lament the fact that it never found more than a cult audience.

I'm just here to present this playlist I assembled of some great Justified moments, so you can see for yourself how much fun it was—that is, if sarcastic gunslinging U.S. Marshals tangling with colorful, loquacious criminals in rural Kentucky is your idea of fun:

And here are a few appreciations of Justified from around the web:

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Malcolm Tucker as Doctor Who

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I know it's a disappointment that the new Doctor Who isn't a woman or a person of color, but to this In the Loop fan he at least has the potential of being colorful...

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Mitt Romney's comment about "binders full of women" during the debate the other night could not have been more unfortunate, especially considering his family's history of polygamy. Anything that inadvertently conjures up images of the young women in Roman Grant's "joy books" on Big Love is probably not a place Mittens wanted to go...

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raylan.jpg
Update: Since writing this little review, I've learned that Elmore Leonard gave the manuscript of Raylan to the writers of Justified a couple of years ago so they could "hang it up and strip it for parts." This answers some questions of mine but doesn't change my opinion of the book.
Let me say up front that I adore Elmore Leonard. Wait, rever might be a better word. Worship. Idolize. I've been working my way through his immense canon for years. When I bought my iPad, the first thing I did was load it up with his ebooks. His minimalist, dialog-driven prose conveys more than most writers' wordier, clumsy attempts at clarity. He's surely our greatest living writer of crime fiction, and I wish I could write like he does.

That said, Leonard has always had a problem with sequels, which is what his new novel Raylan essentially is. Whether bringing Chili Palmer from Get Shorty back in Be Cool or Jack Foley from Out of Sight back in Road Dogs, he simply seems to have trouble finding a story of equal weight to build around characters who've already had their perfect turn in the spotlight. I appreciate the fact that major characters from some Leonard novels often show up in supporting roles in others, but two major outings always seems to be one too many.

This, I regret to say, is the case with Raylan. U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens was a supporting character in Leonard's 1993 novel Pronto, then a more major character in 1995's Riding the Rap, but he probably enjoyed his finest role in the 2000 novella "Fire in the Hole." In that story Givens, who sees himself as a modern-day gunslinging lawman, is punished for his trigger-happy ways with a reassignment from Florida to Kentucky, where he grew up and mined coal as a teenager. He is drawn reluctantly but inevitably into a showdown with his former friend and colleague Boyd Crowder, who has gone the other way into a life of crime and violence.

"Fire in the Hole" was the direct inspiration for the FX series Justified, which is in its third season and is currently one of my favorite shows on television. Unfortunately Justified seems to have been the direct inspiration for Raylan, which is less a novel than three slightly overlapping Raylan Givens novellas smooshed together into one book. The first plotline, about a gang who steal kidneys and then try to sell them back to the victims, has appeared in slightly different form on Justified already this season. The second, about a mining company's attempts to intimidate land owners into selling, was the story underlying most of Justified's second season. The third features hookers coerced into committing dangerous robberies in exchange for oxycontin, a plotline that appeared in last week's Justified, and I think it's reasonable to assume that the high-stakes poker subplot will show up in a future episode.

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Posers in the "Parking Lot"

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Okay, sometimes it's fun to see yourself on TV. In 2004, the Trio network debuted a documentary series called "Parking Lot," which featured snippets of conversations with attendees at events like concerts or conventions. The show didn't last long, but it did last long enough for Scott Edelman and Bob Howe and I to end up in one episode.

Scott (who has written a longer post about our brief appearance) has just discovered that the producers of "Parking Lot" have been uploading segments of the show to YouTube. And voilà!, there we are outside of I-CON 22, a science convention at SUNY Stony Brook.

See if you can spot Scott and Bob and me, nine years younger, trying to sound all erudite and set ourselves apart from the rest of the madness. And, um, failing. Our bits are interspersed throughout the segment.

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Dedux

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I was complaining about The Walking Dead a couple of weeks ago. I finally saw the mid-season finale (an oxymoron, for sure), after having somehow managed to avoid any spoilers. I have to say, it was great, it was visceral, it was shocking, it recast the entire season so far. What it did not do, though, was atone for how boring the season was up to that point. Here's hoping the remainder of the season can maintain that level of intensity, even if the characters are still more types than people.

In other follow-up news, I've been waiting for the Mormon missionaries to call me after their visit back in October, but they still haven't. I feel rejected. I feel jilted. I feel not worth saving. I feel upset that I haven't been able to invite them in and then tell them that praying out loud is not permitted under my roof.

Dammit. Maybe they found out more about me and are afraid. Maybe they just didn't like me. Oh, well, life is short.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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