comics, Pop Culture, TV

If you didn’t understand the first two episodes of ‘WandaVision,’ it’s OK. Those characters never make sense. Here’s why.

From the mind of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

Let’s be honest: The first two episodes of “WandaVision” make no damn sense.

The new Marvel TV series on Disney+ begins in black and white like an old episode of “Bewitched” with our heroes Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) apparently living a zany early 1960s sitcom lifestyle — complete with laugh track.

Vision supposedly died in “Avengers: Infinity War.” He died twice, actually. Wanda killed him once to save the universe. Thanos hit reset on the game and killed Vision to take the stone from his skull and snap half the universe out of existence.

The next time we saw Wanda, she used her powers of deus ex machina to put the smackdown on Thanos.

Thanos rolls his 1D20 and has his spaceship blow stuff up for a few minutes. After that, Wanda shares sniffles by a pond with Hawkeye over the dead, which included Vision.

Vision is back looking like a red-faced baboon in a green hoodie. Wanda is performing witchy tricks that would make Elizabeth Montgomery jealous in an effort to hide their collective weirdness from the nosy neighbor, oppressive boss and a collection of TV tropes so old you’d think you fell asleep during a MeTV marathon.

How did we get here? TBD.

Maybe there’s a clue in the title: “WandaVision,” like television.

There seems to be people trying to reach Wanda from the outside world. It blew up a radio at the neighborhood bully’s house.

The whole thing could be in Wanda’s head. That’s happened in the comics.

If it feels as if I’m not making things any clearer, that’s exactly right.

Wanda, known as the Scarlet Witch in comics, and Vision have some of the most complicated backstories in Marvel Comics history.

I tried to explain their comics’ origins to a non-comics friend and less than halfway through she said, “I’m to the point where all I can hear is angry bees buzzing in my head.”

The movie universe summed up Wanda and her dead brother, Pietro, as “He’s fast and she’s weird.”

Her powers are making red gooey things and doing whatever the writer needs in that scene.

The writer of “WandaVision” needed her to contour whole objects out of the air, teleport people into magic boxes and make lobster thermidor with copious amounts of levitation.

Vision can alter his density to make himself intangible or diamond-hard. He can shoot lasers out of the gem in his head. And he’s an android.

He’s technically a synthetic human, but let’s not get those Isaac Asimov “I, Robot” people into this.

The point is, Wanda and Vision have never made sense. Not in comics. Not in film. Not in this streaming show.

So just go with it. Right now, they’re doing schtick and it’s at least as amusing as an actual episode of “Bewitched.”

And Elizabeth Montgomery never looked as good as Elizabeth Olsen in a magician’s assistant costume.

Yeah, I know. I’m not supposed to say that.

Don’t tell me how to enjoy things.

And don’t try to figure out “WandaVision.”

Just watch. See what happens. But don’t expect it to ever make sense.

Daniel P. Finney followed his dream. Look where that got him.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Faith and Values, humor, Iowa, TV

To my family and friends on the occasion of Christmas, 2020

Episodes of Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” air on a special channel of PlutoTV.

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

The internet streaming service Pluto offers a channel that plays reruns of “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson,” minus the musical acts.

Watching Carson’s monologue would be an interesting way to study history. We tend to think things are the worst they’ve ever been.

If you judge by Carson’s jokes, we always have.

During a show from 1989, Carson told a joke about a TV movie about the last days of Richard Nixon as president.

“It reminded us of the terrifying days when Spiro Agnew was just a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Carson said. “Now, that doesn’t seem so bad.”

The audience laughed.

The president at the time Carson made the joke was George H.W. Bush, who was hailed as a hero of the World War II generation when he died in 2018.

Dan Quayle was vice president and the punchline of the joke.

People joked that Quayle was too young to be vice president. Editorials often depicted Quayle as a little boy. He once misspelled “potato” in front of a room full of schoolchildren.

Quayle was 42 years old when Carson made that joke in 1989.

I’m three years older than Quayle was then. I feel too old to be vice president. I’m not nearly a good enough speller.

People often talk about their past as simpler times. That’s not true.

Pluto plays Carson shows from the 1970s through the 1990s. A show from the 1970s makes jokes about inflation under Nixon.

Another episode talks about high gas prices during the energy crisis under Carter.

Carson dressed as George Washington in one gag and said fellow farmer Carter piled his manure higher.

Shows in the late 1980s poked fun at the rising Japanese investors buying up American icons such as Rockefeller Center in New York.

I doubt if you polled anyone in the audience of those Carson shows, they would have described their life as simple. Humans are complicated. Life around them is, too.

I think life was quieter then. Everybody yells these days. And technology has given a lot of people powerful tools to be louder than when they had to manually type their manifestos in cabins.

I wonder how many crazy people with truly terrible ideas just gave up because going to the post office was a hassle. They just had a beer and watched a ballgame.

2020 was a hard year both personally and for the whole world. I don’t feel like recounting all the ways why. That’s excessive and we are fully stocked on excessive.

Instead, I recall a story from my friend David Oman, former chief of staff to both Iowa Govs. Bob Ray and Terry Branstad.

The story started on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. David picked up his son, Graham, from school.

Graham asked what was wrong. His mother usually picked him up from school. David tried to tell Graham, then-6, about the buildings attacked in New York and Washington, D.C.

“It’s a bad day,” David remembered saying.

Graham said, “I think it’s a good day.”

This shocked David. He asked his boy why he thought that.

“Well,” the child said, “today is the newest day. And somewhere somebody invented something.”

Only children can pull a thread of hope out of such grim moment. Maybe that’s the simplicity people remember. The simplicity of hope.

I hope you’re still surprised.

I hope you’re still awed.

I hope you smile often and laugh easily.

I hope you read.

I hope you imagine.

I hope you create.

I hope you have a moment in the flurry of wrapping paper, cacophony of joyful noises and bellyful of food that your mind slows down so that your thoughts fit between the ticks of a clock and you realize just how nice all of this really is.

I hope you all have a happy Christmas and a merry New Year.

With love and hope,

dpf

Daniel P. Finney is a five-time winner of the Long Winter’s Nap contest.
Movies, Pop Culture, TV

Don’t think too hard about that Luke Skywalker cameo in ‘The Mandalorian’ finale

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

“THE MANDALORIAN” SEASON 2 FINALE

A familiar starfighter streaks across the docks in the Imperial Cruiser.

The grizzled Rebel trooper Cara Dune sneers, “One X-Wing? Great. We’re saved.”

But the viewer knows better. This is “Star Wars,” or more precisely “The Mandalorian,” the latest and best thing to happen to “Star Wars” in a very long time. “Star Wars” began 43 years ago as a story about one guy, his spaceship and a leap of faith against a moon-sized Goliath.

A lot more “Star Wars” stories have been told since then. Some good. One great. Most terrible. A few unforgivably horrible. Of course, that depends on a certain point of view.

Mine is that “Star Wars” should be and needs to be simple. Good guys and bad guys. Wizards with laser swords and a religion that allows for forgiveness and redemption of even its most fallen knights.

Modern “Star Wars” isn’t much for that. The sequel trilogy to the original films delighted in turning heroes into losers.

Han Solo and Leia had a kid. The kid broke bad. So, naturally, Leia went back to her military career and Han went into exotic animal trading.

And then there’s Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original trilogy who grows from callow farm boy to galactic redeemer. What of him? Well, Luke felt bad about Han and Leia’s son going Dollar Store Darth Vader under his care, so he split and set up on a mountain to drink green milk from the teat of a space camel.

So, now, comes the season finale of “The Mandalorian.” The series takes place between the events of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.” This was an imaginary space once thought to be rife with potential. Sci-fi author Timothy Zahn wrote three terrific books in the 1990s that people thought might well have served as sequels to the original trilogy.

But that was before “The Last Jedi,” when Luke tossed his old lightsaber over his shoulder and turned his back on the Jedi-wannabe woman whose quest is to save the galaxy — the kind of thing Luke cared about — for life as a mope.

Dare we dream that the lone X-Wing carries the Luke of yore, the hero who redeemed his fallen father, who saved the galaxy?

The stakes are dire as that X-Wing lands.

The Mandalorian, once a gruff, no-nonsense bounty hunter, is trying to place Grogu, the Force-sensitive child who looks like Yoda, with the Jedi. He makes friends with a collection of sketchy people who fight hard and end up doing good, sometimes in spite of their own intentions. Even Boba Fett shows up to do a solid by Grogu and the Mandalorian.

They’re tough fighters, all of them. But they’re outmatched by some kind of super-robot stormtroopers. The Mandalorian took one out. It nearly killed him. Now there’s a squadron and they’re all coming for our heroes.

A cloaked figure streaks down the hallways of the Imperial ship. Grogu’s ears stiffen. His eyes widen. He reaches for a black-and-white monitor that shows the cloaked figure slicing through the droid troopers with ease.

Then we see the cloaked figure. Not in full form, at least not at first. His boots and the green glow of his lightsaber. The shine of his silver belt buckle. And the moves, the violent, deadly ballet of the Jedi. The 8-year-old in me screams, “It’s him! It’s him! It’s Luke Skywalker and he’s going to save the day!”

And he does. He trashes the robot troopers like squeezing aluminum beer cans.

This is the Luke Skywalker fans from a certain point of view always wanted to see: Strong, confident, fast and skilled. We got a taste of it during the battle on Jabba the Hutt’s skiff. We saw some of it in the duel with his father, Darth Vader, on the Death Star II.

But this was the Luke we dreamed about when we played with action figures on the shag carpets of our childhood homes. He was the hero.

The scene lasts only a few minutes, but it does for Luke Skywalker what the 2 minutes of “Rogue One” did for Darth Vader: It reminds us of how strong these characters were, how certain of purpose, how cool.

The cast of “Mandalorian” have proven themselves to be well-hardened warriors. But this Skywalker — this Jedi — is something different, something greater altogether. And we see it in the way these hard-core fighters react. They’re good. But nobody is that good. A Jedi, the Jedi, is the best.

Is the CGI recreation of Mark Hamill perfect? Of course not.

But this is all pretend. The Grogu puppet still looks like a puppet whenever somebody is handing him to someone else.

Those of us from a certain point of view got almost exactly what we wanted. Luke takes young Grogu after an emotional goodbye with the Mandalorian. Roll credits.

Wipe away the tears.

Close your eyes.

Enjoy the moment.

But don’t think.

Thinking leads to remembering that the dark pit of a thing, “The Last Jedi,” still exists. That the Luke Skywalker we just saw trash the Empire’s biggest baddies is on his way to one day pondering the murder of his own nephew, getting all his little Padawans killed and living off green milk on a rock planet.

That still happens. That’s canon.

The creators of “The Mandalorian” gave us a respite from that with this glimpse of Luke we thought would be lost forever. It doesn’t remove the stain on those characters put there by the hack writing of talented people who choked when they got their chance at “Star Wars.”

But it helps.

Enjoy the Luke Skywalker cameo. Love it. Rewatch it often.

Just don’t think about how it fits into the “Star Wars” story as a whole.

Because then it will really piss you off.

From a certain point of view.

Daniel P. Finney lost the green lightsaber for his “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker action figure and had to replace it with a translucent green cocktail sword. It still killed stormtroopers, but they weren’t confirmed kills because it was not an official Lucasfilm-licensed lightsaber.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Iowa, Media, News, Newspapers, TV

My first week in TV: Be careful with the grommets and know your vocabulary words

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

In the vernacular of Twitter cliche, which is the parlance of our times, if you had “Daniel Finney” takes a job in television news on your bingo card, you win 2020. The person who least expected to be working in television not just this year but any in his lifetime is the aforementioned, or, as I like to call myself in private, me.

The pace of TV is so much faster than the print newsrooms of my youth — and the assignments I’ve had the last eight or nine years — that I felt like I started the day three laps behind in a four-lap race.

My job title is assignment editor, which sounds like I’m handing work to other people. That’s sometimes true. Two people where shot last week, so I sent the night reporter out to get video and canvass neighbors. I gave out another story about an area Santa Claus who had a special story.

Usually, the reporters come up with most of their ideas for stories. Sometimes I might ask a question or make a suggestion about how to execute the story. All the reporters and photographers have a lot going on. Everybody is working on short-term stuff for that day’s broadcasts and long-term stuff for special packages and future evolutions of specific shows.

My job is like a traffic cop. I make sure everybody is heading in the right direction and all the lanes are moving smoothly. When I say “I,” I really mean a future version of me who knows what he’s doing. The first week the people who did this were the executive producer and the show producers I worked with.

They patiently explained to me everything from the vocabulary used in scripts for anchors to exactly where to put my cursor to on a screen to place a pink grommet. That’s not a joke. You can really mess something up by put a pink grommet in the wrong spot. You shouldn’t mess with the blue grommets either.

TV is like the military in this way: It comes with a blizzard of acronyms. There were so many that I had to ask my boss to write down the most common ones so I could study them. Don’t quiz me. I’d fail.

Print journalists often turn their noses up at TV journalists. I did. It’s a human weakness. People in competition need to believe their way is superior to the other ways. The reality is they’re just different. And it’s also true that the print culture felt a lot more like the broadcast culture at the end of my time at the newspaper.

After a week on the production side, I learned how little I know about the difficulty and skill involved in putting on a single 30-minute news broadcast. I’m thankful for the patient producers who helped me feel like I was contributing and not flailing helplessly like a child in the deep end without his water wings.

A new week dawns. Let’s see if we can do better.

Insert obscure pop culture reference and self-deprecating Daniel P. Finney caption here.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, Movies, Pop Culture, TV

Why watching Stormtroopers die is wonderful

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: An under-appreciated joy of watching “The Mandalorian” is watching the wholesale slaughter of Stormtroopers. They are easily the worst army ever assembled in fiction. They are not good at anything, especially shooting people at point-blank range. They look good. If you lived in a universe where there were no “Star Wars” and a bunch of dudes showed up in white armor and helmets with laser guns, that would be terrifying. But thankfully we live in a world with “Star Wars.” The very first time we met these guys, all the way back in 1977, they were banging their heads against bulkheads and tripping over themselves chasing down four Rebels. In the ensuing 43 years, the Empire has failed to improve their training programs. Designers have given them cooler-looking armor over the years, which has boosted action figure diversity. This has not, in any way, improved the armor’s defensive capabilities. On a recent episode of “The Mandalorian,” Boba Fett smashed through Stormtrooper armor with a pointy metal shaft. It’s no wonder the Ewoks wiped them out on Endor with sticks and rocks. Disposable soldiers are a longtime trope in movies and television. In “Star Trek,” they’re called redshirts, because crew members of the original series whose names weren’t in the opening credits and wore a red shirt were likely to be shot, evaporated or turned into a salt block and crushed under the boot of a menacing evil alien scientist. Stormtroopers have perfected disposability to the point that their very appearance means most of them are going to die. Maybe one of them will get a Wilhelm scream, but mostly they just fall over and clatter to the ground like plastic cups knocked off a sheet of plywood at a raucous game of beer pong. The best part of watching Stormtroopers get slaughtered is that you don’t have to feel guilty about it. It’s bloodless revenge on the musclemen of a dictatorial authority and clear Nazi allegory. Plus, when the troopers are dead, you can recycle their armor to make great instruments for a “Stomp!” set. Stormtroopers! Long may they live … so that they will die for our pleasure.

Daniel P. Finney played Little League so no one would know what a nerd he was. The ploy failed.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, obesity, People, TV

HOT SHEET: My first day in TV

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: I started my new job at the TV station Monday. Everyone who was present, which was only a few, was very pleasant. No handshakes. The occasional elbow bump was offered, but this is the era of maximum caution in the pandemic. The day was a blizzard of new vocabulary. The unknown acronyms of insider TV talk hit me like a rapid fire blasts from a Super Soaker. I have a lot to learn. More than once, i wondered if they hired the right guy. But apparently they did. By late afternoon, a specially ordered over-sized chair for my special over-sized body arrive, alleviating some of the pain felt in my arthritic knees and back. A full workday is new to the ol’ Paragraph Stacker, whose been sidelined since May 1. I was more tired than I expected to be and my consciousness did not last long during the Monday Night Football games. I’ve got to get my caffeine in a higher does this morning and remember to pack a lunch. I really lost steam without some midday protein. I’ll wrote more in a day or two, but just know I’m working and that’s an improvement.

If you had “Daniel P. Finney goest to work in TV” on your 2020 bingo card, you have to ask yourself what the hell kind of bingo are you playing anyway?

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, Pop Culture, TV

HOT SHEET: The eeriness of an empty Drake Knapp Center during the best game in Iowa

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: The Iowa Hawkeyes and Drake Bulldogs played a high-scoring women’s basketball game at the Knapp Center this week. One could hardly tell from driving past the Knapp Center. The lights were on. People were home. But don’t bother to knock. The doors are locked. The inability to watch a basketball game in person must rank low on the list of tragedies in this wretched pandemic. Still, it’s a stark reminder of how changed things are. This would have been one of the biggest crowds for a women’s game all year. Former Dowling Catholic High School star Caitlin Clark, a fast-blooming star for the Hawkeyes, probably could have filled a section by herself. The ties between Drake and Iowa are strong. Drake Coach Jennie Baranczyk played at Iowa for the Hawkeyes’ Coach Lisa Bluder. Bluder coached Drake for years alongside Drake superstars Jan Jensen and Jenni Fitzgerald. The trio have coached together for nearly 30 years. I’ve often said if you make a list of the best people in Iowa, you start at No. 4 because Bluder, Jensen and Fitzgerald are in a three-way tie for No. 1. The bright light remains on Bluder, Baranczyk and the women they coach. But they deserve the roars of the crowd too.

ITEM TWO: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker admits to some worry about his new job at WOI-DT. Not only have I never worked in TV, I spend a significant amount of my time looking for the remote to my own TV.

ITEM THREE: I finished my first full semester of graduate school Thursday night shortly before 8 o’clock. I would like to say I took to the truth of knowledge like a moth to the flame, but I won’t for two reasons. First, that’s a cliché and I hate clichés. Secondly, It was a long, trying semester. I made good marks and learned a lot, but the daily struggle of unemployment and the sundry worries that accompany said condition drained every last bit of energy out of me. I am glad for the break in schooling until February. I plan to continue and finish the degree. Teaching is something I want to do some day. I always secretly hoped I’d get Woodward’s old job at Drake. But for now, I’m still a newsman trying to get the paragraphs stacked.

ITEM FOUR: Another Carson Classic Zinger on PlutoTV: A 1986 episode ran long and they had to cut the appearance of the band Katrina and the Waves. As the credits rolled, Carson apologetically invited bandleader Katrina to come out and wave.

ITEM FIVE: Almost everything about unemployment stinks, but I admit I’m going to miss a few things, namely regular appointments with the rerun networks offered as over-the-air digital sub channels to local networks. I’ve become addicted to the Jack Webb classics “Emergency” — what I wouldn’t give for a Squad 51 firefighter helmet — and “Adam-12.” There’s “M*A*S*H” and “The Rifleman,” too. I don’t know why, but I would rather watch these commercial-supported reruns than the new stuff. I guess that’s a consequence of being a middle-aged man.

ITEM SIX: Congratulations to Des Moines East alumna and all-around great human, Megan Gogerty, currently of Iowa City, for being named local stand-up comedian of the year by Little Village, the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids culture mag. Megan was a classmate at East. I say nice things about her because I fear her intelligence and wit and don’t want her to unleash them upon me in a savage series of barbs that expose my insecurities and shallowness.

ITEM LAST: Oh, yeah, I’ll be missing one more thing about unemployment — naps. So I’m going to go take one. You should too. Unless your reading this while driving. Then you have other problems.

Daniel P. Finney had a red nightlight in the shape of a cow with googly eyes.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Iowa, Media, News, People, TV

HOT SHEET: Hey, Finney finally got a job!

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, Paragraph Stacker-at-large, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: I got a job.

The last of the “onboarding” paperwork went through this morning. I start as assignment editor for Local 5 We Are Iowa at 9:15 a.m., Monday, Dec. 7, 2020.

This ends an employment drought that dates to May 1 when the local paragraph factory eliminated my job amidst corporate cutbacks during the coronavirus pandemic.

That WOI-TV wooed me back to daily journalism surprises me only slightly more than they convinced me to try a new medium.

I started stacking paragraphs for pay when I was 17. I thought that part of my life was over for good.

But the people at Local 5 seemed to want me at their shop even after I explained that all I know about TV is how to turn one on.

I don’t know what “assignment editor” means yet. I know it means I will be behind-the-camera, which is exactly my preference. I know it involves writing, story idea generating and working with reporters and anchors.

Hell, I’ll get people coffee if the pay deposits on the regular and I can afford to get cortisone shots for my arthritic knees.

I plan to continue my graduate studies at Drake University. I’ve laid out money for next semester already. I will teach someday. As my old friend Don Adams, the retired Drake vice president, always says: “Preserve your options.”

This week, I’m finishing up the semester work. I’m off school until Feb. 1, which means I’ve got two full months to learn my job, get to know people and immerse myself into the new gig’s culture.

Family, friends and readers, I thank each and every one of you for your support of this blog and me personally. This year tested all our souls.

I am blessed to know so many people who showed the love for me even as they carried their own burdens.

I promise to reward your faith in me by being the very best journalist I can be for Local 5. You may not see my byline, but know that I’m there trying my hardest to make sure you know what’s going on in your hometown.

As for this blog, the future is uncertain. I may keep writing. Some topics will be verboten, especially media criticism and politics.

That’s OK. There’s lots of good stuff to type about.

For now, though, I’m going to take a break to finish up the semester and get ready for my new adventure in journalism.

With love and hope,

dpf

Daniel P. Finney works in TV news now is a sentence he never thought he’d type.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, sports, TV

HOT SHEET THANKSGIVING: Where I can say any damn thing I want because I know no one is reading

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Today is Thanksgiving, which is the American festival of its two most sacred traditions: gluttony and football.

ITEM TWO: Friday is Black Friday, which is the celebrates Americas’ other sacred tradition: spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need in the name of Jesus, who, as the Bible tells us, loved a good deal.

ITEM THREE: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker spent Thanksgiving morning watching Johnny Carson reruns on PlutoTV. The episode was from the early 1970s during the Energy Crisis. Carson mention gas prices were up to 62 cents. There’s nothing like an old TV show to remind that things can always get worse.

ITEM FOUR: Idea for new late night talk show: “Sitting At Home Waiting for Death.”

ITEM FIVE: COVID-19 is like we’re all living in a hospice — except without the morphine drip.

ITEM SIX: [Insert cliché, perfunctory list of people and things the typist is thankful for here.]

ITEM SEVEN: A turkey is the de facto mascot of Thanksgiving, which seems fine until you consider that it’s the only major holiday to have a mascot that gets eaten as a part of the celebration. That’s dark, America. Very dark.

ITEM EIGHT: BREAKING NEWS … sister station WKRP-AM in Cincinnati reports the Pinedale Shopping Mall has been “bombed with live turkeys.” We will update as more news becomes available.

ITEM NINE: Are you falling asleep during the football game because of the tryptophan in the turkey or because the football game is a turkey? The world may never know.

ITEM TEN: Folks, a lot of us will be traveling this season after enjoying a little or a lot of holiday cheer. So, please, PLEASE, be mindful of your blood-gravy levels.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Media, mental health, Pop Culture, TV

HOT SHEET: The joys of Carson repeats, pining for Letterman and the reruns that numb the age of COVID

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: PlutoTV has added a channel with classic episodes of “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.” Carson also airs at 9 p.m. weeknights on the over-the-air digital-plus network Antenna TV, which is channel 13.3 in Des Moines. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker lived in a house without strict bedtimes, so he watched a lot of late-night TV as a boy. The typist is happy to see the late Corning, Iowa, native on TV and streaming again.

ITEM TWO: The typist enjoyed Carson, but always felt he was a warm-up for “Late Night with David Letterman.” Watching Letterman, especially in his “Late Night” years, felt like you were really getting away with something. He was the guy throwing pencils out the window and invisible glass. He was harassing NBC’s new owners, General Electric. In the early days, he wore jeans and wrestling shoes. The sketches were rickety and bizarre, almost as if they were designed to fail and that failure generated all the fun. Letterman was always there as the too-cool-for-school guy who flippantly thumbed his nose at convention, mocked TV tropes even as he created them and even dared to make both the guests, the audience and certainly himself uncomfortable.

ITEM THREE: The Hot Sheet notes all of this because our burning desire is to relive those memories again. In the early 2000s, NBCUniversal slated “Late Night with David Letterman” episodes on the short-lived cable network Trio. Since then, we’ve been left to grainy VHS clips posted on YouTube. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if NBCUniversal dusted off those masters and started spinning them on one of the digital plus or streaming services again? The ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s eyeballs would be glued there several hours a day.

ITEM FOUR: The Hot Sheet ran this idea by his buddy and podcast partner Memphis Paul. His response: “We are spoiled for choice these days.”

ITEM FIVE: The typist found the reply someone deflating, but still valued the perspective. Seeing Carson on PlutoTV is like learning someone brought home the best ice cream in town and then complaining that you don’t have hot fudge topping with whipped cream and a cherry.

ITEM SIX: So, in the spirit of enjoying what is rather than wishing for more, the Stacker notes PlutoTV has apparently added a few new stories to its “Doctor Who” channel including at least two Dalek stories. This could be to pump up Dalek excitement for the upcoming “festive season” episode of the revived “Doctor Who” series titled “Revolution of the Daleks.” Streaming Dalek stories is often troubled by rights issues with estate of Terry Nation, the writer who created the creatures. Britain has different copyright laws that give creators much greater ownership than in the United States, where everything a person creates for a company is owned by the company that pays them. Nation’s estate has sometimes been prickly about allowing certain stories, such as the masterpiece, “Genesis of the Daleks,” from streaming. Twitch managed to get rights sorted out when it did a multi-week marathon of every remaining classic “Who” story a few years ago. PlutoTV’s offering has been light on Dalek stories, so it’s a boon to see the tin-plated pepper pots menacing the universe on a free streaming service.

ITEM SEVEN: If this edition seems a bit less newsy than previous Hot Sheets, well, that’s part circumstance and part design. The circumstance is COVID cases are spiking. The typist wants no part of COVID. He survived pneumonia in February and has asthma. So, that means he’s spending a lot of time at home with the TV on. He chooses comforting old series, such as “M*A*S*H,” “Doctor Who” and Carson or live sports rather than news-heavy programing. Besides, do you really need another voice complaining about how divided our politics are, canceled Thanksgivings and other sad-sack stuff of the era? The typist thinks not. The other reason there isn’t a lot of news commentary in these stacks relates to that big announcement that the typist regrets to inform you is still pending. Be patient. He’s anxious to tell you the news nugget, but only when things are final.

ITEM LAST: As a reminder, this blog will be made private sometime in the next few weeks. That means you’ll have to request access to it. To avoid the hassle, go over to http://paragraphstacker.com and find the big “FOLLOW” button. On a desktop, it will be to the right near the top. On a mobile device, such as smartphone or tablet, it will be at the bottom of the page. Enter your email. Respond to confirm and every post lands in your inbox.

Try this for a deep, dark secret: the great detective, Daniel P. Finney? He doesn’t exist. I invented him. Follow. I always loved excitement, so I studied, and apprenticed, and put my name on an office. But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed so… feminine. So I invented a superior. A decidedly MASCULINE superior. Suddenly there were cases around the block. It was working like a charm… until the day HE walked in, with his blue eyes and mysterious past. And before I knew it, he assumed Daniel P. Finney’s identity. Now I do the work, and he takes the bows. It’s a dangerous way to live, but as long as people buy it, I can get the job done. We never mix business with pleasure. Well, almost never. I don’t even know his real name!

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