We all could use a good distraction at times. But what happens when the intended distraction becomes a course in elevated thinking and deeper contemplation? Word on Fire contributor Ellyn von Huben tells us how she stumbled upon one such distraction: the little-known TV show "The Booth at the End."
TV is often used like a drug. Something to take you out of the doldrums; away from the laundry, barking dogs, unsorted bills. I resort to this drug myself. There are times I am too tired to read, too unmotivated to write, clean, walk, or even do a craft project. But I still look for a diversion. There was a rainy Saturday afternoon like that. Bored with the thought of watching "Arrested Development" or "Malcolm in the Middle" reruns, I toyed with the Hulu+ selections to see if there was anything I had missed. It is usually comedy that I seek and the more absurd the better. But this time my eye was caught by something new: “The Booth At The End.” This was billed as Sci-Fi, which is a genre that I tend to avoid like to a proverbial plague. In my estimation, Sci-Fi is a plague of misshapen space creatures possessing unpronounceable names set in preposterous situations. I have been blessed with many gifts; willful suspension of disbelief is not one of them.
But “The Booth At The End” caught my eye and held my attention for way more than the usual three minutes I take before I bail on a show. That was probably because the characters were regular humans, with pedestrian names and the setting was a coffee shop not unlike the twenty-four hour a day place that I frequented in my college days. Whether we were visiting for a study break during an all-nighter or converging for sustenance after a night at the bars, I never saw a man in a back booth waiting to help those who approached to make their wishes come true. This special “Man” idling in the last booth is what makes the show’s coffee shop different. Xander Berkeley portrays the Man in a very low key way; deftly combining sang froid and compassion to give us a character who is fascinating to watch and almost impossible to read. (In season 2 he has moved to a different coffee shop. Maybe even a very special man can only loiter so long in any one establishment.)
“I heard the pastrami sandwich here is good.” (Eeew – never had pastrami. The thought of just saying the word might be a deal breaker right there for me. I’m not sure what pastrami actually is; it just sounds wrong to me.) That is the code that lets the man in the booth know that someone is there to make a deal. Word of mouth is the Man’s only promotional tool. The motivations of those who come to make a deal are diverse. Some are driven by love of a child, parent, or spouse. Others are compelled by vanity and lust...
It's a rare treat that television serves us up something that is not only watchable, but funny, poignant and even a bit realistic. Word on Fire blog contributor Ellyn von Huben stumbled across one such gem, BBC Two's "Rev.", and shares her close-to-home impressions.
I have had the privilege to serve as a parish secretary (now actually having a golden sign with my name and the title “administrative assistant”) for almost 11 years. One sees a lot in that position: joy, boredom, sorrow, veritable insanity, the whole lot. And my aim has had to be primum non nocere and take it from there. It’s a job in which no two days are alike and can only be learned gradually and with attention to detail and the demands of the Gospel. Working with a lot of faith-filled people who possess sharp senses of humor helps. And since there has been a strong “The Office” fan base (mostly U.S., a few U.K), we have often joked about what a great sitcom could be based on our daily experiences.
I think BBC Two has, in a way, beaten us to it. Along with watching “The Office” and a bit of “Mad Men” to help me process my days’ events, I have found a most delightful program that rings so true to my work experiences.
We’ve gone off the cable and are relying on broadcast TV (too late to get those discount digital scramble boxes that the government offered a few years ago, I can only wish we had thought ahead) complete with some beautiful artisanal antennas crafted by my son with the hangers we scammed up from my son-in-law who actually sends his shirts out to be done. I have run a “no wire hangers ever” household for decades, so even the antennas were a challenge. As long as we have a few broadcast shows, we are fine. And for other entertainment we rely on Hulu Plus and streaming Netflix.