Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Eastwick" gets hanged

ABC is burning "Eastwick" at the stake. The only prime time show I watch, "Eastwick" was just canceled after seven episodes. The show was cursed from the beginning.

First, I watch it. I watch it. I cancel things. "Eastwick" is only the latest casualty. I tuned in for silly reasons, namely Jaime Ray Newman, Paul Gross, and sex.

Jaime Ray Newman played Kristina Cassadine on "General Hospital." If it weren't for fan loyalty, I would never have watched "Eastwick" in the first place. I only started watching GH a few months ago, actually, after spending the last year or so watching clips of Newman's former GH costar Nancy Lee Grahn. I loved Nancy on "Santa Barbara" when I was a teen, and reconnected last year when I needed some distraction from the nightmares of school and general insanity.

Paul Gross is a god. Americans might remember him from "Due South," a show about a Canadian mounty in Chicago. I liked him best in "Slings and Arrows," a Canadian show so close to perfect my face is getting hot just thinking about it. He played Geoffrey Tennant, a nut job stage actor-turned artistic director who communicates with the ghost of his mentor/rival. The writing and acting absolutely crackled. Loved it.

And then there's the sex. "Eastwick" was the latest iteration of "The Witches of Eastwick." The book came first, and there was a rather successful movie, as well. Any time you put witches and demons together, you're probably going to get some sex. And I like sex. So I wanted to watch because I like to watch. And the show, in fact, had some fun and sexy moments.

A pleasant surprise was the humor. Well done. I was expecting more drama and fewer chortles. I'm sort of stingy with my laughter, but this show got me.

Also a nice surprise were the actors. Paul Gross and Jaime Ray Newman were known quantities for me, but I'd never seen Rebecca Romijn in anything before. She's pretty amazing. Also amazing was Lindsay Price, who I'd never heard of before. I'll definitely be on the watch for them, as well as Sara Rue, who isn't one of the witches, but the BFF for Lindsay's character.

So what killed this show besides me? There are a number of cliches we could blame, such as the line-up. It followed an entirely new comedy line-up on Wednesday. Maybe "Cougar Town" attracts a similar audience as "Eastwick," but I'm not convinced. I'm not watching "Cougar Town," a half-hour sit com about a forty-something woman lusting after much younger men, including high-schoolers. It's not funny to watch older guys have impure thoughts about young girls; it's equally unfunny when a woman is the lustful one. High school kids are just that – kids. Gross. Leave them alone. No, this show needed to follow something like "Desperate Housewives," which had a similar spunky, dramedic tone. And it definitely needed to follow an established series, preferably on a weekend, not be the last prime time offering on a mid-week night of all new shows.

Another problem is that "Eastwick" needed to leave the gates running, and it started at more of a meander. It's cool to do that in a book and let characters and story arcs develop. But on television, there's no time. You've got an hour to hook an audience and give them a reason to return. After the first episode, it was apparent this show would not make it. There was not enough punch, not enough to make me invest in those characters, and I really wanted to invest in them. I wanted to, so I did, and came back for every episode. But without that pre-existing investment, there was little reason to tune back in, unfortunately. After a few episodes, the show was starting to find its stride, and although it's not quite there yet, the potential exists for some really good stuff. There's drama, mystery, humor, all wrapped in and around a pretty quirky idea for network TV – that is, these three surprise witches summon the devil.

At least it's not another crime drama or hospital show. Or maybe that's why it didn't make it. Whatever the reason, I'll be sorry to see it go.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

This is my brother Clint. Clint died two years ago after a shockingly short battle with lung cancer.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer kills more people every year than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney, and melanoma cancers combined, yet it receives a fraction of the research funding. October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons were ubiquitous, from the corrugated insulator on my coffee cup at Caribou to specially marked packages of M&Ms, with proceeds going to fund research and outreach. Public awareness, screening programs and research funding have helped contribute to huge strides in treatment and survival of breast cancer, and that is fantastic. Now it’s time to focus more attention and money on lung cancer, a disease that affects so many people, either themselves or someone they love.

Like my brother. Clint was diagnosed in August 2007 and died that December. Although I shouldn’t have been shocked, I was. Only a week before he died, his doctors told my sister-in-law, Lee, they expected him to recover.

He was not a smoker, not that it should matter. But some people seem to think that people with lung cancer deserve it because they smoked. That attitude surely contributes to a lack of funding for lung cancer research. According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, total research funding for lung cancer in the U.S. in 2009 is projected to be $199 million, down one-third since 2005. Compare this figure to breast cancer research funding: a projected $1.1 billion for 2009, up $50 million from 2005.

Perhaps the lack of funding also stems from projected outcomes. Lung cancer is considered a death sentence, with 5-year survival rates just under 16 percent, compared to 89 percent and almost 100 percent 5-year survival rates for breast and prostate cancers respectively. Doctors don’t want to board a sinking ship, and the government doesn’t want to buy a boat with a hole in the hull.

Clint and Lee had four kids. He will never see his children get married, never know his grandchildren, never gaze lovingly at his wife again. He will never tease me again, never show me how to be a patient, loving parent again. My mother had to bury her first-born child.

I miss my brother. I think about him every day. His photo is on my hutch. His Coca Cola glass is on my dresser. His love is in my heart.

Lung cancer needs to be talked about, and it needs to be eradicated. Check out these sites for more information or to get involved.

Lung Cancer Alliance
National Cancer Institute
Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation