Fahrenheit 451 and TV Personalities
Note: It’s been ages since I’ve read Fahrenheit 451— so if I get any the details wrong, please don’t hesitate to dispute and/or correct my claims in the comments.
As I recall, in the book the main character’s wife, Mildred had this parlor in which three of the walls were big giant TVs. I believe Mildred loved her TV shows. She was obsessed with them and the characters felt very real to her. I think she preferred her shows to the company of her own husband. In fact– I think she wanted to invest in a fourth TV– so she would be surrounded and completely immersed in that fictional life.
This week with the passing of Steve Irwin, I commented to Sean, “It’s been a bad year for the TV personalities we like.”
It was then that I realized that my attachment to characters I see on TV may be one small step on the way to being… Mildred!
At least with Steve Irwin, I can rationalize that he was a real person, not a fictional character. I can justify the lump I felt in my throat each time the homage commercial came on Animal Planet. Each time I heard him say, “I’m the proudest father on the face of the earth” and each time he talked about sharing his love for wildlife. And I know I’m not alone– at least three of my friends posted a note about his unfortunate death (Christina, Clint, Marty).
But there are a few other TV deaths that are a little harder to justify. Two come to mind real quick:
John Spencer (West Wing)
Sean and I both watch West Wing regularly. During the TV season, we watched the new episodes religiously (even during the less than stellar seasons). One time I even lost my temper with then roommate, Ledman, because of West Wing. He was mucking around with the TV and taking his time getting to NBC. He was heading that way, but too slowly for my taste– especially considering the clock already read 9 PM. Finally I stood up and shouted, “That’s it! I’m going to watch it upstairs!” I stomp all the way to my bedroom only to find out the clock downstairs was wrong! We still had a good five minutes until show time. So…I got to slink back downstairs and apologize.
Another testament to my affection West Wing. In 2003, I gave up TV for Lent. The biggest temptation I had was missing a brand new episode of West Wing (the one where Air Force One had landing gear problems).
In more recent times, Sean and I watch a lot of the reruns on Bravo. It’s mostly on as background noise and it’s usually on during dinner. Sean will be sitting at the computer desk and I’ll be sitting on the laundry chair (the chair Sean keeps his clean laundry on) and we eat our homecooked dinner and watch West Wing.
We’re taking a little bit of a haitus right now, though. When Sean was recovering from back surgery this past January, he watched a steady stream of West Wing reruns for 8 days. There can be too much of a good thing. Well, except for Sub Station II Meatball Subs– I don’t seem to ever tire of them.
Anyway, Leo McGarry (and subsequently John Spencer) were part of our lives for many years. So it was sort of sad to hear of John Spencer’s heart attack. But– that wasn’t the saddest fictional TV loss for me….
Jerry Orbach (Law and Order)
When Sean and I were first dating, he used to watch this show called “Law and Order” during the day. He really liked the show and went as far as changing his Windows theme to emulate it. When you opened a window on his desktop, it made the Law and Order “Da – Da!” sound. I didn’t care for the show too much at first and didn’t really see the appeal. I think the turning point was when I saw an episode with a young Claire Danes playing a prostitute.
Well boy have times changed! Law and Order and its derivatives are now my relaxation staple. I’ll watch the first run episodes here and there, but it’s the reruns that have my heart. If I have a tough or trying day, it is the perfect environment for a “Law and Order Night”. Case in point: I had a hectic schedule this week and right now as I write this– I have an episode on! I have a horrible track record for staying up to the end of the episode, but that may be the appeal! I am gently lulled to sleep by Lenny Briscoe, Jack McCoy and Adam Schiff.
I have numerous entries about my love for Law and Order in my journals. Here’s one excerpt from June 6, 2004 when I returned home from France. I was writing about the unexpected things I missed from home. Along with sweet tea, free refills, Substation II Meatball Subs and the Appalachian Mountains, I mentioned Law and Order:
Nearly Unlimited Access to Law and Order Reruns
At home after a hard day at work or a strenous hike, I get such a feeling of peace by falling asleep to a Law and Order rerun. Something about snoozing on the couch is fulfilling. As luck would have it, TNT, TBS, USA and NBC all have a habit of showing Law and Order episodes. An episode can be found almost every evening. I didn’t see one place in Europe feature “Law and Order”. But, I did find an even more fulfilling sleeping agent– long train rides!
There are a lot of character shifts in Law and Order, but the character of Lenny Briscoe was present for 12 years. And since Lenny always had the opening wise crack at the beginning of the show, I got exposed to Jerry Orbach in almost every episode– even the ones I fell asleep during. Law and Order is a comfort item for me and Lenny Briscoe is a huge part of it. Lenny Briscoe welcomed me home after a long business trip. Lenny Brisco was always there to smooth over a tough day. Lenny Briscoe made me smile and put my mind and body at ease.
So when Jerry Orbach passed away, I was very sad. I don’t think I cried, but I certainly felt a loss. It was especially difficult to watch the Law and Order: Trial by Jury episodes that aired after his death. You could see how sick he was. I know he’ll live on in reruns, but it still remains a tough TV loss for me.
Now– luckily, I still enjoy the company of real people over Leo McGarry and Lenny Briscoe. So maybe, I’m not quite Mildred Montag just yet!