Star Trek:  Picard – The Journey Continues

by Dennis Greene

I became sentient in 1966, a little too late to have it help me as an undergraduate student but just in time to ship out with James T. Kirk, the 35-year-old Captain of the starship Enterprise. I journeyed with Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Scotty, and the rest of the crew for 79 imaginative adventures from 1966 to 1969 when NBC abruptly cancelled the Star Trek series. Just when mankind took its first step into space with Apollo 11, some short-sighted executives at NBC decided to go in the opposite direction. Seven years later, in a memorable 1976 SNL sketch, John Belushi portrayed Captain Kirk eviscerating the NBC top brass for this ill-advised decision to cancel the show. Every time I hear Belushi utter those final words, “We have tried to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before, and except for one television network, we have found intelligence everywhere in the galaxy,” I vividly re-experience that loss.

It was another eleven years until CBS–evidently a more evolved and intelligent network than NBC–decided, in 1987, to continue the journeys of the Enterprise, this time set 78 years after the original series. It was a more lavish production, with advanced special effects, a larger budget, and a more seasoned cast. Patrick Stewart, a celebrated stage actor, was cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. But I was still mourning the loss of the original series and refused to accept Star Trek: The Next Generation in its place. Nothing could replace my beloved original version.

Over the next seven seasons, I caught an episode of TNG now and then, and heard nothing but praise for series.  TNG continued for 178 episodes. Several years after it ended, I finally swallowed my pride and binge-watched the entire series. I discovered that TNG had stayed true to the essence of the original series and built upon it to offer an imaginative, well-constructed, and thought-provoking collection of stories which explored all aspects of the human condition. Star Trek: TNG dealt with many of the “big” questions of human existence including politics, race, religion, artificial-intelligence, xenophobia, conflict, nationalism, isolationism, Shakespeare, sex, loyalty, and diversity. You name it, Star Trek TNG examined it.   Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean Luc Picard, with his wit, wisdom, compassion, courage, and unflinching morality, seemed to personify everything a leader should be.  Our world could use someone like him now.

Since TNG ended over 25 years ago, there have been numerous TV series and full-length films expanding the Star Trek universe, and most of them have been very successful. I have watched and enjoyed most of them, as well as two humorous parodies, Tim Allen’s Galaxy Quest and Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. But nothing in the Star Trek franchise during the past 20 years has gotten me really excited until now. I just watched the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, a new series developed for CBS All Access.

The cold open of Episode 1 shows Captain Picard and Commander Data playing poker in the Ten Forward lounge, a setting familiar to all TNG fans. In the background, Bing Crosby’s version of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” is playing. This is the song Mr. Data sang at the wedding of Commander Riker and Deana Troi, shortly before Data sacrificed his life to save the crew of the Enterprise in the last TNG movie, Star Trek: Nemesis. Both Patrick Stewart and Brent Spinner stepped back into their roles perfectly, as if the eighteen-year hiatus didn’t exist. To old TNG fans, it almost appears that nothing much had changed. Data still displays his intelligence, humanity, and naivete, and Picard is still the witty, wise, and thoughtful Captain we remember. But this is a dream sequence to snare past viewers, and, of course, things have changed.

We learn that Picard has been retired from Star Fleet for more than a decade and is living at Chateau Picard, his large and thriving vineyard in France. He is  now over 90 and is assisted by his loyal house staff, a Romulan man and woman. This immediately caught my attention, since when we last saw Picard in Nemesis, there was only a tentative truce between the Federation and its long time enemy, the Romulan Empire.  There is much to catch up on.

The new series represents a major commitment by CBS All Access to establish a strong foothold in the Star Trek universe. It is the creation of Kristen Beyer, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Alex Kurtzman. Patrick Stewart, Goldsman, Kurtzman, and Chabon are among the show’s strong executive production team, which also includes Rod Roddenberry, the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.  Michael Chabon,  a bestselling novelist, science fiction writer,  and screenwriter–and an admitted Star Trek fan–is the series “show -runner.”  This means he has overall creative authority and management responsibility for the series. The first two episodes are directed by Hanelle Culpepper, an energetic and unflappable filmmaker with broad experience in television. She is the first woman to direct an initial Star Trek episode and, along with Chabon, may bring a younger perspective to the 55 year old Star Trek saga. Episode 1 seems to suggest that Chabon and his team intend to return to the thoughtful, big issue approach of the TNG series, rather than continue the predictable “space opera” adventure trend of the Star Trek motion pictures. But the first episode did include enough stunning visual effects, action, mayhem, and death to keep our attention.

Sopan Deb, in a New York Times review of the new series, noted that:

There are just enough nods to “Next Generation” lore to signal for die-hard fans that this is a show that understands why Picard’s return is so important to them. But it doesn’t lean so heavily into nostalgia to overwhelm a great story. And it is a great story.

The tone and feel of the first episode is intimate and earthbound, as Picard broods about the loss of his friend Data and several other epic events which are quickly revealed. Picard’s interactions with his Romulan house staff, and with Number 1, his companion pit bull, portray Picard as more vulnerable and approachable than he seemed as the imperious Captain of the Enterprise.

In the initial dream sequence poker game, Data makes a large bet which forces Picard to risk all he has left to “call.”  When Picard pushes all his chips into the pot, Data’s reaction convinces Picard that Data has the winning hand. Picard begins refreshing his Earl Grey tea and otherwise stalling to avoid laying down his losing hand. When Data asks why he is stalling, Picard, with a show of wrenching emotion, answers Because I don’t want the game to end. He then wakes up. This may be the key to understanding the series.

Through well-paced action and dialogue, we are quickly brought up to date about intervening events and are then promptly immersed in a mystery concerning Data’s legacy, artificial intelligence issues, the cessation of the Federation’s manufacture of synthetic androids, and the appearance of a strange young girl with unique powers who is somehow intimately involved with Picard. The episode is punctuated by scenes incorporating advanced weapons, acrobatic martial arts, mysterious assailants, and lots of dead bodies. All this stimulates Picard to abandon his sedentary vineyard life and get back in the game.

Trailers indicate that Picard is about to surreptitiously acquire a starship, assemble a crew, and launch into the unknown to find answers to these vexing new questions. My reaction to this planned undertaking by Captain Picard is in sharp contrast to how I reacted to that first mission with Captain Kirk 54 years ago. When I was 22, the thought of a 35-year-old hero embarking on an epic adventure was expected and not especially noteworthy. But now that I’m 76, the thought of a man at least 15 years older than I am, who has trouble climbing stairs, undertaking such a mission draws both my admiration and my concern. I will be rooting for Picard to prevail, but I hope he can find time to nap and then stretch a little. I will worry about him because, after a certain age, most folks don’t handle stress well, especially when moving at warp speed.

Critics who have seen the first three episodes report that these initial episodes are mostly “set up” so that both veteran Star Trek fans, and new viewers who have not seen the prior 55 years of Star Trek, are all able to get up to speed. Then, when this much more mature Captain Picard gives his new crew the order to “Engage,” we can all enjoy the adventure together.

CBS All Access has already committed to Season 2, so I am looking forward to “going where no person has gone before” each Thursday night for the foreseeable future.

Live Long and Prosper!

BOLLI member and frequent contributor to BOLLI Matters, Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.



            I am a semi-grownup who admittedly escapes to imaginary worlds when confronted with the unpleasantries of life. When faced with Joe McCarthy and his “Red Scare,” the 1950’s polio epidemic, the fear of nuclear war, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and finally the military draft and the devastating years of the Vietnam conflict, I sought refuge in Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Herbert’s Arrakis,  the futuristic universes of Asimov, Bradbury, Bester, Niven, et al,  and the hopeful visions of TV’s Tom Corbet Space Cadets and Star Trek. All these fantasies helped me handle the passing of the 50’s during which I was fortunate to witness the birth of Rock and Roll, the transformative effect of television, the explosion of this country as a world leader in everything, and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.   I felt, back then, that I shared  an unshakable optimism about my country with all my fellow Americans.  I now know that my view of the 50’s was not shared by many women, blacks, ethnic minorities, gay men and lesbian women, and others who are still victims of poverty, discrimination, and indifference. But I was a lucky (and “privileged”) 16-year old white boy in New Bedford.  What did I know?

Lately, the problems of America, and the world, seem so insurmountable that fleeing to my imaginary worlds no longer affords relief. Not that I don’t spend lots of time there anyway. Recently, I have been escaping the insipid and never-ending stream of depressing news by binge watching the many popular TV series that I had somehow missed. These included Star Trek Enterprise, Good Omens, Stranger Things, Endeavour, Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, West World, Witcher, Schittz Creek, Northern Exposure, Bosch, The Umbrella Academy, Altered Carbon, and even Tiger Joe. But none of them cut through my present case of the blues. Then one of my daughters mentioned West Wing. I had somehow missed all seven seasons from 1999 through 2006. It was a political drama which, at the time didn’t especially tickle my fancy. But, desperate for any distraction, I watched the first few episodes. Wow! I was hooked. I am now just beginning the sixth year of the seven-year run, and it keeps getting better.

When it originally aired, this idealized White House—populated with brilliant, dedicated, compassionate and quirky people working for the benefit of the country—was juxtaposed against the Bush administration and offered some fine theatre. But the contrast between the West Wing and the circus of moronic sycophants and their reigning imbecile who now occupy the White house is so vivid as to be almost blinding. If Sorkin had had the current administration as his starting point, who can imagine what he would have created?  As is, West Wing is a wonderful fantasy in which to seek refuge.

There remains a little voice in my head which whispers, “Why can’t we actually find some people like President Bartlett, C. J. Cregg, and the rest to save the admirable but imperfect union that our founding fathers created?”

I am now going to watch Season 6, Episode 3.

Frequent BOLLI Matters contributor Dennis Greene.

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  


Stranger Things: 80s Films Redux

 by Dennis Greene

The enormous number of big-budget, high quality original TV series being produced by HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others makes it tough for even committed pop culture junkies to keep up.  I didn’t become aware of Netflix’s science fiction-horror thriller Stranger Things until more than a year after Season 2 was released in October, 2017.  But the story is so compelling that it was easy for an old retired guy like me, after golf season, to binge watch all 17 one-hour episodes in a week or two.

The first season, set in the early 1980s, focuses on the unexplained disappearance of Will Byers, a young boy in fictional Hawkins, Indiana.  Will’s hysterical mother Joyce, played by Winona Ryder, and her high school friend Jim Hopper, now the local Police Chief played by David Harbour, organize a search for the missing boy.  But the main focus of the series is on Will’s small group of geeky, Dungeons and Dragons playing middle school age friends Michael, Lucas and Dustin, who are joined by a mysterious young girl with strange powers. Together, they begin their own investigation into their friend’s disappearance.

The relationships among this group of science and fantasy-oriented sleuths reminded me of Elliot and his friends in E.T. or the boys in Stand By Me. In many ways, the group was also similar to the young Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts.  While facing unspeakable and overpowering evil and observing occurrences beyond the scope of human understanding, the boys also worry about who has a crush on whom, what Halloween costume to wear, who will be Dr. Venkman, and if they have packed enough snack food as they set off to battle monsters from a parallel dimension. The story includes the usual secret and sinister government project, the complex social life of the boys’ older siblings, dysfunctional family relationships, lots of slimy and repulsive monsters in dark and forbidding places, a wonderful science teacher, several deaths and enough references to Newtonian and theoretical physics, telekinesis, and psychology to keep the story grounded in reality.   The series is so well written and directed, and the cast is so talented, that I found myself really caring about a score of characters.

Certainly Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Will, and their new friend El (for “Eleven”) are at the top of that list.  Each heroic in his or her own way.  Most of these kids are new faces, but Dustin, played by Gaten Matarazzo, will probably look familiar.  He is a younger version of the curly haired, precocious  boy who now preaches the benefits of Fios in Verizon’s current TV ads. This ensemble won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance in a Drama Series in 2016. The series also received 31 Emmy Award  and four Golden Globe nominations.

The series was created and written by twins Matt and Ross Duffer, known as the Duffer Brothers. They pitched the script to about fifteen cable networks who all rejected it because the plot centered around children as leading characters and would not appeal to older viewers.  Suggestions were made to make it a children’s series or drop the kids and concentrate on the sheriff’s investigation of the paranormal.  But the Duffers, believing in what they had created, teamed with Shawn Levy and successfully sold it to Netflix for an undisclosed amount.

The series has been greatly influenced by, and pays homage to, the great science fiction and horror films of the 1980s. To pitch the film, the Duffer Brothers showcased images, footage, and music from films like E.T, Close Encounters, Poltergeist, Stand By Me,  Nightmare on Elm StreetJaws, and Alien.  It offers both a riveting and charming story in its own right, but it also provides nostalgic reminders of those captivating sci-fi and horror films we have enjoyed over the past three decades.  The Duffers have clearly paid homage to Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Steven King, and Wes Craven.  And I consider that a good thing.

I suspect this show isn’t for everyone. It’s best if you are a fifteen-year-old science fiction or fantasy fan or can still suspend your disbelief to think and feel like one. If you enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer, A Wrinkle in Time, Stand By Me or The Golden Compass, or if you are a Steven King fan, you will probably enjoy Stranger Things. If you read all of The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

We are presented with so many rich characters in this story that everyone should be able to identify with at least a few of the central characters and hopefully experience the adventure with them. That’s what makes speculative fiction fun.

The character I most identified with was Dustin. In Episode 6 of the first season, Lucas leaves the group in anger after a fight with Mike, and Dustin attempts to convince Mike to find Lucas and reconcile:

Dustin: “This is weird without Lucas.”

Mike:    “He should have shaken my hand.”

Dustin: “He’s just jealous.”

Mike:     “What are you talking about?”

Dustin:  “Sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mind. He’s your best  friend, right?”

Mike:     “Yeah, I mean, I don’t know.”

Dustin:   “It’s fine. I get it. I didn’t get here until fourth grade. He had the advantage of living next door. But none of that matters. What matters is, he is your best friend, and then this girl shows up and starts living in your basement, and all you want to do is pay attention to her.”

Mike:     “That’s not true.”

Dustin:   “Yes it is. And you know it, and he knows it. But no one says anything until you two start punching and yelling at each other like goblins with intelligence scores of zero. Now everything is weird.”

Mike:     “He is not my best friend.”

Dustin:   “Yeah, right.”

Mike:      “He is, but so are you, and so is Will.”

Dustin:    “You can’t have more than one best friend.”

Mike:        “Says who?”

Dustin:      “Says logic.”

Mike:         “Blow your logic, because you are my best friend too.”

Dustin:       “O. K.”

I was the new kid who moved to town in the middle of third grade after all the “best friend” slots were filled.   After 60 years, it still bothers me a little. This passage made me both admire Dustin and also feel sorry for him.

Season 4 has already been filmed and is expected to be released some time next summer, so you have plenty of time to catch up on the first three seasons before then.

Welcome to Hawkins, Indiana–if you dare!

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since. 


GOOD OMENS : A Unique “Buddy” TV Series

by Dennis Greene

            I have a special fondness for so-called “buddy-films”, and so, apparently, do lots of others. These movies depend on a special chemistry between the two protagonists, who are usually portrayed by exceptionally talented actors, and, of course, a brilliant script and strong supporting cast are also required. Some of my favorites include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The African Queen, The Odd Couple, Thelma and Louise, Some Like it Hot, Midnight Cowboy, and, more recently, Frankie and Grace. I have now added Good Omens to my list.

Amazon’s new series, Good Omens, is a six-hour feel-good delight created through the collaboration of two supremely talented writers–Sir Terry Pratchett (Discworld) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods). Their book, Good OmensThe Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, was published in 1992. You can almost visualize the fun shared by these two then little-known writers, (who were to become recognized as masters of fantasy and comedy), as they communicated back and forth long distance thirty years ago to try and top one another with comic insights and visions. Gaiman, who excelled at creating elaborate worlds and portraying cosmic conflict, wrote the original draft of this biblical themed romp. It chronicled the development of the six thousand year relationship between Aziraphale, the angel who, since Creation, was God’s representative on earth and Crowley (formerly “Crawly”) the demon  who, in the form of a snake, tempted Eve with the apple, and then served Satan as his representative on earth. Each was charged by their respective side (i.e. Heaven or Hell) with preparing earth for the arrival of the Antichrist and for the Apocalypse, when the war between Heaven and Hell is to commence and earth and its human inhabitants destroyed.

Pratchett, a friend of Gaiman’s and a genius at writing absurdist comedy featuring quirky characters, liked the story. He told Gaiman that he knew what should happen next and then made a proposal. Either Gaiman must sell Pratchett the rights to the story so Pratchett could finish it or Gaiman must agree that he and Pratchett would work together on it. Fortunately for us, Gaiman chose the latter.  So Good Omens reflects two “buddy” stories, the fictional tale of Aziraphale and Crowley and the real-life friendship of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. In an interview, Gaiman offered the following example of their collaboration.

“I had written the following line spoken by a minor character: ‘When I was courting my wife, we would sometimes lay by that river and spooned.’

After reading the line, Terry called me and said, “I  have just added a few words and made it 17% better.” The modified line read, ‘When I was courting my wife, we would sometimes lay by the river and spooned, and, on one memorable occasion, we forked.’

             Terry had made the line 100% better.

Before his death in 2015, Pratchett made Gaiman promise to see that Good Omens was made into a film, and Gaiman carried out his friend’s wish. He wrote the screenplay for all six episodes, sticking closely to the book, and was involved every step of the way in order to honor “the gentle, sensitive incredibly articulate voice” of his friend which Gaiman felt presented “our best selves in the voice of the book”.  I suspect Pratchett would say he was successful.

One reviewer noted that “At its best, Good Omens is a cosmic gay romantic-comedy, with bad boy Crowley tempting Aziraphale to get out of his comfort zone and enjoy life, while Aziraphale simultaneously lures Crowley into being a better, less selfish individual. The series is intelligent story-telling and certainly not for everyone. Fundamental Christians and others who think the Bible is “history” (i. e. true) rather than fiction may be offended.  Others may be put off by hearing the voice of a woman, Francis McDormand, as God. But for the rest of us, the Good Omens series is a masterpiece. Mike Hale, in a review in The Times noted that Good Omens has the wit and good sense to mock The Sound of Music, and, for that alone, it deserves an Emmy. A soundtrack which features Freddy Mercury’s Bohemian Rhapsody is also notable. One reviewer called Good Omens “fluffy and fun, an antidote to The Game of Thrones

After rushing through a brief collage of significant events in history, in which our two immortals act to promulgate their respective ends, the action moves to the ten days before Armagedden. We don’t know the exact date, but cell phones have been invented, and Pollution has replaced Pestilence as one of the Four Horsemen. (Pestilence was retired after penicillin was invented.) Our friend Crowley lists as one his evil accomplishments, the invention of the “selfie.”

After six thousand years on earth, both Aziraphale and Crowley have come to enjoy their lives here and have become friends. They recognize that, after the Apocalypse, there will no longer be sushi, crepes, Queen, Crowley’s classic Bentley or lunches at the Ritz. They don’t accept the inevitability of the Apocalypse or accept that God’s plan is “ineffable” and conspire to prevent Armageddon, if possible. This alchemic combination of good and evil drives the action while the future of humanity hangs in the balance. The show is a pitch perfect pairing of David Tennant and Michael Sheen

Sheen (Masters of Sex and The Good Wife) and Tennant ( the tenth Dr. Who , Hamlet) are two superb actors who bring this unlikely friendship to life and make it believable. But they don’t do it alone. There is an enormous cast of well-known actors who amplify the story.  Among the faces you will recognize are Jon Hamm, Adria Ariona, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean, and Derek Jacobi. And there are a number of supporting story lines which proceed at a rapid pace. One story involves the coming of age of “the Antichrist,” who, while a newborn under the care of Sister Loquacious, a Satanic Nun, was mistakenly switched with a very ordinary human baby and has become lost. This boy is essential to causing the Apocalypse and is now sought by the minions of both Heaven and Hell. Meanwhile, Adam, the eleven year old Antichrist, is living an ordinary eleven-year-old’s life in a small town with a small group of friends who are strikingly similar to the Stranger Things gang.  Another story line involves the romance between Anathama Device, a descendant of Agnes Nutter, the only witch whose prophecies were always correct, and Newton Pulsifer, a decendant of Thou-Shall-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, the witch-hunter who burned Anathama’s ancestor Agnes. A third story involves a charming romance between an aging and slightly demented witch-hunter (portrayed by Michael McKean) and an attractive, mature psychic and brothel owner (played by Miranda Richardson).  There is lots of over the top comedy and very little subtlety in this irreverent and sweetly amusing narrative.

One reviewer noted that Tennant and Sheen “are so emphatically into their roles that they make each hour-long episode fly by and the absolute need for a second season apparent, … if for no other reason than to keep this disparate duo meeting throughout history to enjoy each other’s company.  In Good Omens, the alchemic bonding of Patchett’s and Gaiman’s world views have combined to produce a story that is pure gold.  Of course, the combination of Aziraphale and Crowley to form the perfect counter to the Apocalypse also reeks of alchemic influence.

If the evolving relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley intrigues you, and you enjoy fantasy and sweet-natured comic absurdity, with brief appearances by the Kraken and  the Lost City of Atlantis, take a peek at this uplifting feel-good comedy.

Rumor has it that God has given it four and a half stars.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene





My Correspondence with George

George R.R. Martin

by Dennis Greene

In 2004, during the long wait for the publication of A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in his  A Song of Ice and Fire saga, I sent George R. R. Martin the following email:

“I don’t mean to press you, but I am now over 60 years old, and if you take as long as Tolkien did, I am afraid I will not be here to read the end of your epic. Then I will die unfulfilled. I intend to be more disciplined in my efforts to write my first novel this year. Please make an old guy happy and try to do the same. If you can wrap things up by September 15, you won’t have to experience any guilt while watching the 2004-2005 NFL season.”

 Much to my surprise, George responded promptly as follows:

“Ah, sixty isn’t that old anymore. Why don’t you just live to be a hundred? Then you can not only finish Ice and Fire but read all the books I’m planning to write afterward.  Me, I’m a Giants and Jets fan, and I refuse to die until I’ve seen a subway Super Bowl.  Many thanks for the email, and your kind and encouraging words.”

 I read A Game of Thrones, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire saga, when it was published in 1996. Martin intended for the saga to consist of six books which would tell a sweeping tale of the political and military contest for the control of Westros followed by the final confrontation between the human armies of Westros and the inhuman hordes from the north. The story is told in the third person, alternating among the limited points of view of numerous major characters. The scene and point of view change with each chapter. The first book has eight major characters and 674 pages. The second book, A Clash of Kings, published in 1999, has two more major characters and 728 pages. The third book, A Storm of Swords, followed quickly in 2000; this one has another two characters and 924 pages.  At this point, though, progress seemed to stall.  By 2004, when I sent my email, it was rumored that the draft of the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, contained eighteen major characters and an additional twenty chapters involving minor characters or single events. The draft exceeded twelve hundred pages, was still growing, and was nowhere near completion.

Succumbing to the pressure of my email, as well as pressure from other fans as well as his publisher, Martin decided to release his planned fourth book in two parts, each containing a separate set of story lines taking place simultaneously. This enabled Martin to publish A Feast for Crows in 2005. It contains sixteen major story lines, seven minor character chapters, and 684 pages.

I waited patiently for another two years for the second half of the fourth book,  A Dance for Dragons, and in August 2007, I sent another email:

 “The last time I dropped you a note, I was 60 years old and worried that I wouldn’t live to read the end of the saga. Now I am almost 64. So, nu?”

This time George’s response was less chatty:

You really need to stop all this aging.  Hey, I’m not that far behind you—58, going on 59.”

Shortly after this response, George made it clear on his website that further inquiries from fans about his writing progress would go straight to trash. He would notify the world when the book was actually released for sale.  So, I quit asking.

His fifth volume, A Dance with Dragons, finally appeared in 2011.  The book has more than twenty major characters, another twenty minor character chapters, and 959 pages.

George originally contemplated six books. But as the number of characters and stories expanded, each book did also. With the publication of A Dance with Dragons in 2011, he has completed four of the originally contemplated six books. That would mean at least two more books will be necessary. But at the rate each sequential volume expands, it is not unreasonable to expect that it may take three or four more volumes to finish the tale.  We have been waiting eight years to read Winds of Winter, with no publication date yet announced.

Meanwhile, the HBO adaption of the saga has moved way past that of the completed books and is about to begin its final season.  The HBO story differs significantly from that contained in the completed books, and unless George is planning to conform his remaining books to the TV series, which is unlikely, we can expect the divergence to increase. With the tremendous TV audience and publicity, the HBO version of Game of Thrones has effectively replaced George Martin’s original vision with the great majority of his fans. The HBO series is an epic undertaking in its own right, visually impressive and powerful, but it is, nevertheless, an abridged, altered, and diluted version of the story he provides in the books. At the current rate of progress, I will be nearing the century mark before the literary saga is complete.

And now, George has betrayed my trust. Instead of making progress on the long overdue A Song of Ice and Fire saga, he has recently been devoting his time to writing a 600-page first volume of Fire and Blood, a two part “prequel” describing the history of the Targaryan kings of Westeros. His unfinished 23-year-old epic seems to have been cast aside.  If Tolkien had abandoned Lord of the Rings after The Two Towers, two thirds of the way through his story, he would have been vilified instead of revered.

Is this how George R. R. Martin wants to be remembered by his oldest and most ardent fans?

P.S. Incidentally, I feel obligated to disclose that I have not yet written the memoir that I mentioned to George in my 2004 email. I’m still working on it. If George is correct, I still have plenty of time.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  










Measure Thrice. Cut Once

Professor Horace Slughorn

by Dennis Greene

I’m very new to this writing business and still experience a thrill upon seeing my own words in print. This past year or so, I have had over a dozen short articles published in the highly regarded BOLLI Journal and in the BOLLI Matters blog. I now sometimes dare to refer to myself half seriously as a “writer” instead of a “story teller,” and I confess that, deep down, I feel smugly pleased with the idea. But “pride often goes before the fall.”

In the interludes between the important activities that occupy my time, like watching tv series, doing BOLLI homework, reading my ever-growing pile of recommended books, and watching the stock market, I occasionally take a beak to reread and admire my published work. Today, I was happily perusing my recent piece on Harry Potter when I came upon a paragraph that didn’t sound correct. I realized I had violated one of the cardinal rules of non-fiction writing. I had relied on my memory (which has lately become less and less reliable) to recall some facts which led me reach an unjustified conclusion. I didn’t check the facts. While fact checking does not seem currently in vogue, I highly recommend it for those with integrity.

Here is what happened.  I had recalled that Professor Slughorn, a character first appearing in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had formed a “club” to which he invited only students who were either from very noteworthy wizarding families or students from less notable wizarding families who themselves possessed extraordinary talents and were likely to become noteworthy. The Professor sought to elevate himself by cultivating contacts with rich and famous wizards. Based on this recollection. I speculated that the Slughorn character might have been based on Professor Harold Bloom, the Yale literary critic.  I suggested the possibility that Professor Slughorn, and by implication, Professor Bloom, was an insufferable snob, a social climber and a bigot.

When I checked the source, I confirmed that Professor Slughorn did select his invitees based on  family prominence or extraordinary talents. Those receiving invitations included Neville (famous Auror parents), Harry (the Chosen one) and Ginny (because of her amazing hexing powers). All three were “purebloods.”  But Professor Slughorn’s favorite student had been Harry’s mother Lily, who was not a pureblood but, rather, a “Muggle.”  Furthermore, when the Professor became aware of Hermione’s extraordinary talents, she was invited to join without regard to her Muggle antecedents.

So I owe Professor Slughorn, and, by implication, Professor Bloom an apology and a retraction. Professor Slughorn is an insufferable snob and a social climber, but he is not a bigot. I should have checked my facts before I rushed to print.  Mea Culpa.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  





                          J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter:                                Serious Literature or Adolescent “Slop”

By Dennis Greene

     “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at age fifty.”  –C. S. Lewis

Unless you have been living under a stone for the past twenty years, you have certainly heard of British author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Ms. Rowling has sold over 500 million copies of this seven-volume “young adult” series published from 1997 through 2007. The series has spawned ten extremely successful films and is frequently credited with encouraging the millennial generation to enjoy reading thick, complex books. This literary phenomenon has made the author a billionaire, and the Harry Potter franchise is now valued at over $25 billion dollars.

The Potter fan base is not limited to young adults. Millions of mature readers have come to know and love the Potter books by sharing them with their children or grandchildren. Others have sampled The Sorcerer’s Stone to see what the fuss was about and discovered, in one reviewer’s words, “the liveliest, funniest, scariest, and most moving children’s stories ever written. The praise from many well-respected reviewers has been effusive. A. N. Wilson in The (London) Times referred to Rowling’s narrative skills as Dickensian while Stephen King predicted that Harry Potter deserved his place on the shelf with Alice, Huck, Frodo and Dorothy. The Mail on Sunday rated The Philosopher’s Stone as “the most imaginative debut since Roald Dahl,” and the Guardian called it “a richly textured novel given lift-off by an inventive wit.”

The skyrocketing commercial success of the Potter books, along with the literary awards and critical acclaim they have received, eventually attracted the attention of the elite literary establishment. Leading the attack on the popular books was Yale Professor and well-known ;iterary critic Harold Bloom. In a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Can 35 Million Book Buyers be Wrong?  Yes.” Professor Bloom observed that Rowling’s writing was “dreadful” and the book was “terrible” (note Professor Bloom’s magnificent use of richly descriptive adjectives) and then went on to disparage her readers.

“Why read it?” Bloom said.  ” Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do. At least her fans are momentarily emancipated from their screens and so may not forget wholly the sensation of turning the pages of a book, any book. And yet, I feel discontent with the Harry Potter mania, and I hope my discontent is not merely a highbrow snobbery or nostalgia for a more literate fantasy to beguile (shall we say) intelligent children of all ages.”

 The disparaging comments of this prominent critic, cloaked in the prestige of both Yale University and the Wall Street Journal, was an unwarranted attack on a young novelist whose first published work had achieved startling commercial success. In Rowling’s wizarding world, Professor Bloom would be easily recognized for what he is—a highbrow snob and a bully. If Professor Bloom were rewriting his article today, it would have to be titled “Can 500 Million Buyers Be Wrong? Maybe not.” I have no idea if it was a conscious decision, but in a later Harry Potter book, Ms. Rowling introduces Professor Slughorn, a mercurial, pompous, social-climbing Hogwart’s teacher who hosts dinner parties for “pureblood” students from famous wizarding families while excluding Hermione, the smartest student at Hogwart’s, because she is a “mudblood.” Professor Slughorn might easily have been patterned after a certain Yale literary critic.

Once Professor Bloom opened the floodgates, the deluge from other critics began. One of the first to pile on was Dame A.S. Byatt, an English author with an honorary title and an aristocratic aura, who opined that the Potter books were “written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, reality TV, and celebrity gossip.” Another British newspaper critic predicted that “in years to come, people will make a link between our plump, comfortable, infantilizing society and the popularity of Potter.” Other more measured critics did fairly identify a number of flaws in the Potter books, including tired writing, overuse of clichés, and being too complex for children and young adults to sort out. I don’t know exactly where Harry Potter should rate on the spectrum of young adult books of “literary merit,” but I believe it would be much closer to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Grahame’s Wind in the Willows than to Twilight or The Hunger Games.

 After 20 years, the commercial success of the Potter series has assured Rowling and Harry Potter an honored place in popular culture. Whether the Harry Potter books are to stand as one of the great classics of English literature or are ultimately judged to be unremarkable adolescent “slop” as Professor Bloom contends, only time will tell.

I enjoyed spending time in Ms. Rowling’s imaginary wizarding world and coming to know all her unique and definitively drawn characters. But what made these books special tp me was Ms. Rowling’s extraordinary ability to make me care about each character and emotionally participate in their interactions. The seven-year transformation of each of these characters about whom I cared deeply was a poignant coming of age story. Ms. Rowling really “gets” the adolescent experience and makes the reader see it. I still have an emotional reaction when I think of Dobby’s death or Dolorous Umbridge’s tyranny. Along the way there are also trolls to kill, mysteries to solve, backstories to discover, unspeakable evil to oppose, and a series of wonderful friendships to admire. In addition, the books incorporate many of the traditional elements of classical English literature.

The most comprehensive discourse on the literary merits of the Potter books is John Granger’s Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader. He describes the way the author meticulously planned and structured the entire narrative before completing the first book. Ms. Rowling was familiar with many of the fundamental patterns of great English literary tradition and seamlessly wove them into her tale. Among the patterns evident in the narrative are:

The traditional Hero’s Journey.

  1. The patterns of Literary Alchemy, a tradition dating back to the middle ages and evident in works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jonson, Blake, and Joyce. The mythical philosopher’s stone, which is the title of the first Potter book published in England, was the key to medieval alchemy.
  2. Well devised narrative misdirection drives the reader to keep active and on edge through the 4100+ page journey and allows numerous plot twists and surprises.
  3. All the trappings of the English schoolboy novel as established by Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays published in 1857.
  4. Incorporation of numerous postmodern issues and concerns, including class prejudice, slavery, friendship, race, xenophobia, intermarriage, loyalty, family, bureaucratic ineptitude, credibility of the press, gender, individual transformation, tyranny, and, of course, love and death.

If you are a sophisticated reader who enjoys exploring the text to discover literary antecedents and subtext, as some scholars do with Tolkien’s works, there is much in Rowling’s Harry Potter books to examine.      

 There are many adult readers who haven’t read a Harry Potter book, either because they instinctively dismiss books designated “young adult” or because Professor Bloom and his ilk have driven them away. William Safire, in a New York Times article, argued that “children’s books like Harry Potter are responsible for the infantilization of adult culture,” and Ruth Graham in Slate argued that “adults should be embarrassed to read literature aimed at teenagers.” Faced with such highbrow snobbery, some potential readers may give in to the shaming. But those who do succumb will be doomed to reading only books like Portrait of a Lady, Anna Karenina, and “The Sun Also Rises” and existing in a continual state of depression. Instead, I suggest you look to the wisdom of C. S. Lewis who observed that “on becoming a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

If you are willing to risk being thought childish by literary highbrows, try reading Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.  You may enjoy it and discover for yourself the literary merit encased in Ms. Rowling’s magnum opus.    

“BOLLI Matters” pop culture writer Dennis Greene.

While Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer,  he’s been a pop culture geek and junkiey for sixt.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  


A Taste for Borscht

by Dennis Greene 

It took me over a year to discover Amazon Prime’s charming TV series The Magnificent Mrs. Maisel but only two weeks to binge-watch the first two seasons. If you have not done so already, I’d recommend that you add this to your watchlist and catch up before the third season airs in 2019.  Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of The Gilmore Girls, is adept at showcasing strong female characters. This time, she switches  from  Rory and Lorelai’s contemporary life in the storybook Connecticut town of Stars Hollow to focus on the tumultuous lives of a well-to-do Jewish family living on New York City’s upper West Side in the late 1950’s. Rachel Brosnahan, as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, the protagonist and eponymous character, is brilliant as she transitions from a married, seven sisters educated housewife with two kids to a struggling, foul-mouthed stand-up comic whose marriage has ended.  Alex Bornstein is a scene stealer as her unlikely manager, and the rest of the large supporting cast–including Marin Hinkle ( Alan’s ex-wife on Two-and-a-Half Men) and Tony Shalhoub (the star of Monk)–are superbly skilled and energetic.  The sharp contrast between the Weissmans, Midge’s sophisticated, highly educated and emotionally repressed parents and the Maisels, Midge’s volatile and demonstrative garment industry in-laws, provides an ongoing source of humor and tension. The story is fast paced and the 50’s background music and dress sets the scene perfectly. The emotional twists and turns, punctuated by crisp, humorous dialogue and Midge’s biting stand-up routines make each hour fly by.  But these are not the only reasons that 16 episodes left me wanting more.

While anyone may enjoy this series, Jews of “a certain age” with New York City roots may find that the world of Midge Maisel particularly resonates.  I left Queens in 1952, when I was seven, and yet, many aspects of Midge’s world evoked strong responses in me.  Midge’s parents and her in-laws remind me of people I have known.  And we have all seen the conflicts that arise when offspring deviate from their controlling parents’ expected paths. Plus, the scenic background of the show reflects an era I remember fondly. When Midge’s four-year old son was sitting in front of a small black and white TV in his grandparents’ apartment, I caught a glimpse of Froggy the Gremlin, and then Howdy Doody on the screen which transported me back 60 years.

The most poignant images for me, though, were those during Midge and her family’s summer vacation at Steiner’s Mountain Resort, and that surprised me.  I had never visited the Catskills with my family.  My few visits to the Borscht Belt were after college and had been to chase girls. And yet,  I knew just what it would feel like to be a guest at a place like Steiner’s.  This could be the result of watching Dirty Dancing too many times, but I believe I have a more real connection. The Weissmans’ stay at Steiner’s made me recall my own family vacations at Camp Winadu when I was a kid.

The name “Winadu” sounds more Native American than Borscht Belt because of a compromise.  This boy’s camp in the Berkshires could have been named “Camp Winnick, Nadleson and Dube,” but the three founding friends from Brooklyn shortened  that by using the first two letters of each of their surnames.  They established a kosher Jewish boy’s camp near Pittsfield, Mass. around 1918. During the 1920s,  my rich grandparents sent my Dad from Brooklyn to Camp Winadu to rough it for the summer in cloth tents with rustic “outhouses.”  By 1950, the rustic camp had grown to include a  comfortable mountain resort with 32 guest rooms and separate guest quarters with a pool and tennis court.  There was also a guest dining hall with excellent cuisine.

Following World War II, Winadu alumni like my Dad began getting together at Winadu with their families the week after camp ended. My recollections of those family vacations in the Berkshires don’t seem any different from the Weissman’s annual vacations at Steiner’s.

My more direct experience with the Borscht Belt involved several stays at the famous Concord Hotel.  Ken Winnarick, a close college friend, was the grandson of the owner of the Concord, and he occasionally invited a few of us up for a free weekend.  Ken’s grandfather Arthur Winnarick, along with many other Borscht Belt resort owners, gave hundreds of aspiring performers their start in show business.  I recall once getting stoned in the Concord penthouse and then going down to the bar to see Woody Allen, a new stand-up comedian getting his start. He was pretty good.  I think we spoke to him after the show, but I doubt he remembers me.

You don’t need first-hand experience with either the Borscht Belt or stand-up comedy to appreciate Midge’s travails.  Almost anyone who has had some exposure to the extended New York Jewish Community will find things which stimulate memories or just make you smile.

If a displaced and out of touch Jew like me, who hasn’t lived in The City for 67 years and never knew a word of Yiddish, can get so immersed in Midge Maisel’s world, I’m sure many of you–especially “real” New Yorkers who remember the golden age of Broadway,  waiters at the Carnegie Deli who actually knew what a knish was, or ever purchased lipstick at the cosmetic counter at B. Altman–will enjoy reliving those days with Midge Maisel and her lunatic friends and family.  I can’t wait for Season 3 to begin.

Our BOLLI “Matters” pop culture guru Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  Most recently, he has  led BOLLI study groups in science fiction reading.




A Cure for the “End of Golf Season” Blues

By Dennis Greene 

It is that time of year.  The colorful leaves are falling from the trees, the sun is setting early, there is a raw, chilly wind, and the golf course is closing.  I have ceased my exercise routine, begun overeating, rapidly put on 15 pounds, and have a constant desire to nap. Either I am suffering a bout of fall melancholy or a long dormant urge to hibernate is about to erupt.

While recently lounging on my living room couch, trying to decide whether to make a black and white frappe or take a nap, I clicked on Netflix and was confronted with a promo for The Kominsky Method, a new sit-com created by Chuck Lorre.  Now Mr. Lorre’s creations have  been serving as my antidepressant  ever since 1997 when I discovered Dharma and Greg, his fourth TV series. That was followed by Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, and Mom. I also feel Chuck and I have a special connection through a mutual friend, though that connection is somewhat attenuated. In 1986, during Lorre’s guitar playing and songwriting phase, he wrote Deborah Harry’s hit single “French Kissin” for her Rockbird album. By an unbelievable coincidence, twenty years earlier, when I was a student at Lafayette College and Debbie was at nearby Centenary Junior College, she dated one of my fraternity brothers and we hung out together.  That means there is only one degree of separation between Chuck Lorre and me. He is almost a friend of mine.

The Kominsky Method started streaming on Netflix on Nov. 16. The series co-stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin as two aging friends in their “later years,” dealing with the rapidly changing world of Los Angeles while their own respective lives, bodies, and minds are deteriorating.  Douglas plays Sandy Kominsky, a washed-up actor but skilled acting teacher, and Arkin plays Norman Neulander, a successful talent agent and Kominsky’s long-time friend. Surprisingly, Douglas and Arkin had never met or worked together before, but Lorre brought them together, and the two Oscar-winning actors, proven masters of their craft, fit together perfectly. They are a pair of “buddies” to rival Newman and Redford, Lemmon and Matthau or the more recent Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin of Frankie and Grace.

The Kominsky supporting cast is also superb. Nancy Travis, whom I have admired since Three Men and a Baby,  is Douglas’s slightly younger (but, at 57, still “mature” ) love interest; Susan Sullivan, the veteran star of Falcon Crest, plays the ghost of Norman’s deceased wife; Lisa Edelstein, recently a regular on House, plays Norman’s drug addicted daughter; and Ann-Margret is cast as a lonely widow with her eye on Norman.  For me, the high point of the first season was Danny DeVito’s brilliant portrayal of Sandy and Norman’s effervescent urologist.

Many of the subjects dealt with in Kominsky are dark or sad, which is not unexpected in a show about the “twilight years,” but the humor and honesty pervading the writing and the acting enable the viewer to easily get through the tough spots without trivializing the real issues.

I binge watched all eight episodes in one weekend and was again left with a void in my life, but one that was easily filled. There have been several successful Lorre series I had missed completely, so I used the power of Xfinity’s “on demand” function and found all 87 episodes of Cybill,  Lorre’s third series creation which aired during the four years preceding Dharma and Greg. The show starred Cybill Shephard, who I remembered only as the stunning, naked teenager who dived into the swimming pool in The Last Picture Show. In the Cybill series she plays a struggling 40ish actress with two likeable but contrasting ex-husbands, two daughters and an acerbic best friend, played by the brilliant Christine Baranski, who earned an Emmy for her Cybill role. Baranski more recently starred as Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife, and currently appears as Leonard Hofsteder’s mother on the Big Bang Theory.

Last night, as I watched the first two episodes of Cybill, I realized why I so enjoy Chuck Lorre creations. Though he got his start writing for Roseanne, he left quickly, citing “creative differences,” and from then on, all of his characters (except maybe Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men) have been fundamentally nice, decent people. Lorre understands flawed characters involved in complex human interactions and enables us to see the humor in it all.

But most importantly, Lorre “gets” friendship. The relationships portrayed by Douglas and Arkin in Kominsky, Shepherd and Baranski in Cybill, the entire cast of The Big Bang Theory, and Allison Janney,  Anna Faris and the support group on Mom all are uplifting and just make the viewer feel good. This isn’t a brilliant insight on my part. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld clearly showcased the appeal and entertainment value of friendship in their hugely successful sit-com, and to make sure none of us missed the point, they named it Friends.

Not only does Lorre create wonderful friendships on screen, but he also seems adept at forming them in real life. The number of actors who seem to reappear in his work suggests that  he forms lasting relationships with the talented people he encounters. Actors he met on Roseanne decades ago, like John Galecki, Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf, as well as more recent discoveries like Christine Baranski, appear in his projects today. I suspect Chuck Lorre would be a good guy to hang out with.        

My depression is over, and I’m again ready to face the trials of late middle age. Cheer yourself up and binge watch The Kominsky Method, or watch the series more patiently if you are so inclined, and extend the enjoyment. It’s “Friends” for our generation.

“BOLLI MATTERS” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  More recently, he’s been exercising his writing muscles–in the Writers Guild and as a member of the “BOLLI Journal” staff.



It’s Time They Were Recognized

By Dennis Greene

            I am guilty of putting up a variety of false fronts. I spend lots of time with my golf buddies talking Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins. I know the scores and the stats, and after a round, I usually join them in a beer, even though I would prefer to go to J.P. Licks and have a chocolate ice cream soda with vanilla ice cream. I try to act like a guy’s guy.

Each week, I attend the New Yorker magazine discussion group. I read the chosen item carefully and attempt to make insightful comments. I try to appear as an erudite student of literature, but I know my unfamiliarity with authors like Alice Munro or Richard Ford gives me away. My literary false front isn’t very convincing.

This term, I am enrolled in a class about the incomprehensible workings of our universe. We are learning about Einstein’s General and Special Theories of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and the relationship of time, space, mass, light, and energy. I try to act as if I am interested in understanding these mind stretching subjects, but it is another pose. I just want to understand what Sheldon Cooper is talking about on The Big Bang Theory.

I am a closet TV sit-com nerd, and after 10 years, I feel compelled to speak out. The “Me Too” movement focused my attention on our society’s treatment of women, and I have long been aware of yet another area where they are treated unjustly. For the past decade, I have noted the accolades heaped on Jim Parsons for his role of Sheldon Cooper, while Kaley Cuoco, who, as Penny, carried the show from the start, has received little professional recognition. Until two other female actors joined the cast, Penny was on screen almost full time with one or the other of the three male leads, and she carried them all. Sure, she earns lots of money but no individual Emmy nominations. To add insult to injury, since Mayim Bialik joined the cast, she has been nominated for the Emmy almost every year. Not to say Mayim doesn’t do an excellent job, but she joined an established hit and already had celebrity from her prior success as Blossom, while Kaley made The Big Bang Theory a hit. The lack of recognition received by extraordinary women actors in successful sit-coms (ok, Tina Fey, Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Chloris Leachman aside) is inexcusable.  And this trend seems to be continuing.

Recently, I saw an episode of Young Sheldon, a prequel showcasing Dr. Sheldon Cooper in his youth.  Ian Armitage, the young actor playing the nine -year-old Sheldon, is masterful in capturing Sheldon’s mannerisms, quirks, and idiosyncrasies and is already a frequent guest on TV talk shows and late night TV.  It is likely that he will be as celebrated as Jim Parsons was in the role. But, in this pop culture geek’s humble opinion, the best characters on the show are Sheldon’s Meemaw, played by Annie Potts, and Sheldon’s twin sister Missy.  Annie Potts dominates every scene she is in.  She did the same thing in the movie Ghost Busters 34 years ago. While Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase went on to become household names, Annie Potts–despite her success on Designing Women–remains relatively unknown. And I have noticed little fanfare for Raegan Revard, the spunky and talented young actor who, as Missy, is the perfect foil for young Sheldon.

As a recently motivated, male geek feminist, I would like to call for an end to this injustice to women in TV sit-coms by showing some love and an Emmy nomination groundswell for Young Sheldon’s Meemaw, Annie Potts.

BOLLI MATTERS Feature Writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.