Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here on my usual Thursday to present chapter sixteen of Corn Maze. By now you have probably witnessed as my novelist and I did, the Emmy Awards this past Monday. We were most disappointed in the way things went especially with Better Call Saul and Bob Odenkirk not taking home the prizes for superior work in their respective categories. We were also disappointed that Severance did not pick up a directing award for Ben Stiller’s outstanding effort. And we are even more devastated that neither show claimed a writing award. Both shows were the best written and by far the most interesting this past year especially Better Call Saul with its phenomenal landmark final season.
If you have not seen either of these two shows I urge you to do so. Better Call Saul can be streamed on Netflix and Severance is on Apple TV+. They are presently and genuinely the crem dela crem of television right now.
In our opinion, the best award of the night went to Michael Keaton for his outstanding performance in Dopesick, a must-see miniseries on Hulu. After his win and Jean Smart’s nod for HBO’s Hacks, everything went downhill sinking into a mire of mediocrity.
Yes, we know that Succession is a well-done show and basically a modern King Lear. But its major flaw has started to show in its third season being there is no Cordelia and for that matter no Fool either. Each of these characters represents the voice of morality and the voice of reason respectively in the classic story. The choice for the show to leave them out is by design of course, but the trick is losing its potency and the story arc has continued to fall into a never-ending loop of who gets thrown under the bus this year with no well thought out plan in sight. Yes, there are some truly great moments such as the one involving texting mishaps, but this is not enough to distract from its melting center and ever widening fissures. All shows written by Vince Gilligan on the other hand constantly move the story forward and are set on a strong trajectory. Because we believe Mr. Gilligan always ultimately knows where they are going and how they are going to end, he has yet to disappoint us.
Ted Lasso also suffered from a bit of a sophomore slump this time around. We like the show and honestly it has no real competition in the comedy arena right now except for Only Murders in the Building. But the first season’s storyline is stronger than the second and though we like the twist at the end of season two with the one character who had the most interesting arc, there was a good stretch of yawning in the middle. We think that if Only Murders in the Building does more with the Theo character, provides a much better villain than they had in season two (season one had a good solid villain), and continues to have more fantastic scenes like the glitter mishap it has the potential to outplay Ted.
We have a love/hate relationship with Squid Game. We think it is intriguing and we understand the popularity and its ability to draw viewers in. We also think the characters are rather interesting to watch and although Bob Odenkirk lost to Lee Jung-jae there’s no doubt Lee Jung-jae does a great job on the show. That said, it is not designed to be excessively deep. Where shows like Severance or Better Call Saul or Saul’s predecessor Breaking Bad have more profound forays into the human psyche, this one plays a bit more on the surface. The constant killing, uber violence and relentless focus on games work to subtract from what could be a more profound story. In other words, Severance and Better Call Saul are for grownups. Squid Game is for adult children.
And with those thoughts, here is chapter sixteen of Corn Maze. Jouir!
Gigi the parti poodle
Harley sat on his porch swing staring down the road Farley and Mallory had driven off on. Darkness surrounded him and he found himself alone listening to crickets. Their chirping made an empty lonely sound. The sound of isolation.
He picked up his can of Farmstrong Ale and finished it off. Then he rose, headed inside the house, and ascended the stairs. He opened the door of his old bedroom, leaned on the doorframe, and assessed the neat and orderly space. His bed was made up with plain blue sheets and a navy comforter. On his desk sat a coffee mug filled with pens and pencils. A robot alarm clock stood beside it. On top of his dresser were a couple of small trophies with marble bases. He moved over to his closet and slid open the wooden door. At the back corner beneath where his varsity jacket hung, he’d stored most of his high school souvenirs in a large footlocker. Sitting beside the footlocker was his trumpet case. He sighed when he saw it. He hadn’t played for the last couple of years. And he missed it.
In high school he and Farley had been rivals fighting for the coveted spot of first chair. They had switched back and forth each claiming the seat until Farley finally won. Then Farley decided he didn’t want to be in band anymore and Harley took over. The odd thing was, after Farley left Harley excelled. And he kept excelling well past what he and his band teacher thought was his potential. He even ended up with a partial music scholarship and became a member of his university’s marching band. But towards the end of his sophomore year of college, his interest in music began to wane. At his parent’s urging he spent his time fully devoted to Botany. Then quietly without their knowledge, he turned back to his childhood passion of art and completed a double major. But he missed band and all the memories tied to it.
He picked up the trumpet case and set it on his bed. He flipped open the latches and raised the lid. He lifted the instrument out of the case and put in the mouthpiece. His fingers worked the valves. He put it up to his lips and played several sour notes. Then he pulled up his desk chair and sat down. After a few more attempts he played the opening to “Your Latest Trick” by Dire Straits.
Valerie grew tired of her studies and headed upstairs to Farley’s bedroom. She stepped into the large master bathroom with the dark bachelor-like interior, drew a glass of water, and took a couple of aspirin from a pill case she had in her handbag. She swallowed the medicine then returned to the bedroom and lay down on his king size bed.
As she stared up at the ceiling, she wondered how many mornings she would wake up and see the same stark white surface after she married Farley. Did prisoners think the same thing when they lay in their cells at night?
What were Farley and Mallory doing right now, she wondered. Were they still having dinner? Were they at the movie theatre? Were they…? Did she care? Did it matter? Does one bad night make all that much difference to a relationship?
What if she left and went home right now and packed her bags and skipped town. Even with most of her money under Farley’s control could she disappear and start again? She was still young. Time was on her side. A change of scenery was possible.
Valerie closed her eyes and was assessing her options when she heard music playing. At first, she thought it was a car radio, then realized wherever the music was coming from it was close by. She rolled off the bed and approached the window. Looking outside she thought she spotted someone below. Was it a burglar? Of all the nights they had to pick this one to rob Farley’s house! She rushed to the dresser grabbed her phone out of her bag, dialed 911 returned to the window…and stopped. Suddenly, she realized the burglar was the one playing the music. She put down her phone, slowly opened the window and leaned on the sill.
Under the porchlight, Harley stood playing his trumpet. He looked up and saw Valerie watching him. He stopped momentarily. Then after a beat he began playing “Valerie” by Steve Winwood. It had been a long time since he’d performed that piece. And even longer since Valerie had heard it. She listened with an intensity she rarely gave anything. Her heart flooded with a forgotten warmth.
She turned and burst out of the bedroom, sailed down the stairs and threw open the front door. She rushed to the edge of the porch and stopped, her toes teetering on the top of the steps.
Harley saw her and ceased playing. He stood frozen, his trumpet down in front of him as he looked at her. He opened and shut his mouth a couple of times hoping his breath would release the words his mind was crying. He lifted the trumpet to his lips, hesitated, then continued playing the song. Valerie leaned against the pillar. She felt as if something long ago lost had been found.
Harley finished playing and put down his trumpet. He could see she was shivering, from the cold…or something else. He stepped towards her. “Val,” he said, his voice hoarse.
Valerie floated off the porch and stopped. The chirping crickets filled the silence between them. She could see desperation in his face. “Do you think we could untie our knots, Harley?”
Harley took another step towards her. “Oh, Val, I…”
And then she ran to him. She threw her arms around his neck, and he hugged her close. She smelled like the night air and strawberries. His lips melted into hers. She tasted like hope and relief and finally for a moment all was right with the world.
You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!, Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!, Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!
STREAM OF THE WEEK: THE OLD MAN (2022)-FX & Hulu
One of the fun new shows this year is this well-cast thriller which bounces between the protagonist’s past and present. Based on the book of the same name by Thomas Perry it is the story of Dan Chase (Jeff Bridges) and young Dan Chase (Bill Heck), a widower retiree quietly living off the grid in upstate New York with his two large dogs. Dan occasionally chats on the phone with his twenty-something daughter who calls to check up on him. But as the show takes us in deeper, we find that Dan is anything but ordinary. He is former CIA and has a box of multiple driver’s licenses and large investments of cash in several different banks in several different locations.
After a home invasion, where Dan kills the perpetrator, he decides things have become too hot and he packs up his two dogs and heads out. He manages to land a living unit in a new location far away from his original home. The unit is rented out by a middle-aged woman named Zoe McDonald (Amy Brenneman). Zoe is personable and stable, and Dan takes a liking to her…or does he? The two go out on a date and romance starts to bloom until Zoe catches a glimpse of the darker side of Dan’s life and finds herself on the lamb with him.
Meanwhile, back at CIA headquarters, we meet grandfather and FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Harold Harper (John Lithgow) and young FBI agent Angela Adams (Alia Shawkat). When Harper finds out his two agents who tried to capture Dan were overthrown their target, we begin to find out Dan and Harper have a complicated past.
The show is a lot of fun and the acting from this unbelievably talented cast is great. The fight scenes are well choreographed, and the taunt pace of the story keeps you coming back for more. If you are looking for a new thriller series to watch, check this one out.