Friday, December 18, 2009

Matthew Gray Gubler - the knot at the end of the rope

On Facebook, there's this "Become a Fan" feature that I've been invited to use, but I've avoided. I've been a fan of TV series, books, and movies, but I wouldn't describe myself as a fan of people. I feel a little uncomfortable putting people on pedestals; but I feel terrific about putting their works up there: the works are campfires where I can sit around with other fans, toasting marshmallows, telling jokes, and obsessing over minutiae until two in the morning. When I say I'm a Stephen King fan, I mean I'm a fan of his work; I'll read anything the man writes. I've rarely thought of myself as a "fan" of an actor, although there are actors I like a lot.

Until now. What can I say? Desperation makes me vulnerable. You know the saying about coming to the end of your rope: Tie a knot and hang on. If you can climb up above the knot and turn it into a swing, so much the better.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I loved getting A's. It was a game. When one of my teachers lectured on how to study effectively - eliminate all distractions, turn off the TV and radio, etc. - I immediately started doing my homework with the radio or record player on, because I wanted more of a challenge. If it was harder to study with noise in the background, I was going to have noise, dammit.

So I've long, long had the habit of putting the TV on in the background for white noise. And to this day, if I'm reading a book or writing, you practically have to whack me to get my attention. I have a terrific ability to tune out auditory stimuli.

I still prefer to have some background noise while I work (unless the work involves numbers). Maybe it comes from living in L.A. most of my life, or from working in companies with cubicle activity humming around me, or maybe just from practice/habit. To fit the bill, background noise has to be something I like, but have seen or heard before or don't really have an interest in closely attending to.

I couldn't have known what a big, big mistake I'd made when I was channel surfing for some suitable background noise about two months ago and heard Mandy Patinkin's wonderful voice. And stopped. I mean, Patinkin is safe, right? Familiar, I like him, I can tune him out. I've seen most of what he's done, with the exception of Sunday in the Park With George. I can set my subconscious to perk up at my favorite parts of whatever this is.

Well, I should have kept right on surfing, because I'd never seen whatever this was. Right off, that made it an unsuitable selection. Change the channel, De Lude.

But -- Mandy Patinkin! I could happily listen to him recite the phone book. Maybe it was a movie. Oooo... Maybe he'd sing!

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was about detectives. And they looked grim. Odds are: no singing.

But -- I love detectives.

They're interesting. Change the channel.

That's okay. I can still tune it out. I just gotta focus.

At the commercial, I find out it's a series. A series? A weekly series? I get a weekly dose of Patinkin's voice? Oh, no. This is awful! I mean, it's great! I mean... crap. I hit the INFO button on the remote control to find out what this is. It is...

It is an unmitigated disaster. Reruns of a series I have never heard of but has been around long enough to be running three episodes a night on A&E. Now we've moved totally out of the land of BACKGROUND NOISE and into the geography of TIME SINK. *headdesk*

Fortunately, Mandy Patinkin leaves the show 30 minutes later. Seriously. The episodes are being shown out of order, with no discernible pattern. I look at the schedule and learn that over the next few nights, Part I of a two-part arc airs, but Part II of the arc appears nowhere on the schedule. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever.

I am annoyed and relieved. There is no way I'm going to get any entertainment satisfaction out of non-sequential episode broadcasts. They offend my sense of narrative. Time-sink threat neutralized, the show takes on background-noise status once again. Without Patinkin, and being broadcast out of order, I don't really care.

But I can't screen it out 100 percent. Enough seeps through to know the stories and actors are compelling, and I wonder if they are on DVD so that I could watch them in order and actually, you know -- pay attention.

I get online to research. How many seasons are there? What are the backstories? What network did it debut on? Who produces this stuff? Who ARE these people? Aside from Patinkin, I don't recognize anyone.

I suppose this is where I should mention that my second (I think) winter in Portland shocked me into a pretty serious (albeit temporary) depression. I will not waste time elaborating, but this winter is the first since then (1994) that I've felt this tired, snappish, and on the cusp of hopeless.

Enter one of the actors in Criminal Minds (that's the show), Matthew Gray Gubler, who has a Web site, which became this year's answer to my please-god-let-the-solstice-arrive midwinter prayers. Gubler's site is quirky and cheerful, kind of like if David Lynch had been born a Muppet, or Ralph Steadman's style with Jim Henson's heart. Gubler handwrites his blog entries and scans them in (as a fountain pen and calligraphy lover, I find this endearing). He draws odd little creatures and makes funny noises. His brief documentary of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou cracks me up, and his unauthorized autobiography episodes are horrifying and hilarious -- more Mamet than Muppet, but I watch anyway and wince and laugh.

I had to "Became a Fan" of Gublernation on Facebook. I suppose I'm easily amused. During these short, dark days, I think that's a good thing.


Cat said...

Two weeks ago, I had this EXACT internal dialogue about Criminal Minds on A&E. I too allowed mild relief to set in upon discovery of the out-of-order and missing broadcasts. Then Unmitigated Disaster Part II: Ion Television also is rerunning the show. The missing episodes broadcast on Ion about 7-10 days after the first part of the arc airs on A&E. It's kind of tragic that I know this.

More tragic? That in the search and explore phase, I think I actually delayed much-needed sleep to watch all of Matthew Gray Gubler's Unauthorized Documentary on YouTube. Though, in all honestly, the character-break near the end of Ep. 3 is totally worth it.

Michelle De Lude said...

Oh, I did NOT need to know that about Ion. They're picking up where A&E leaves off? What's up with that?

Aren't those Unauthorized episodes hilarious? What strikes me most, I think, is his smile. In the mockumentaries (and in the Zissou thing), he has a REAL GRIN. I don't think I've ever seen that smile on Criminal Minds. One look at that grin and the dreary drag of winter melts away.

Cat said...

But you did need to know!

I'm taking everyone else down into the CM time-suck with me. Because I love all the actors, I love all the characters, but can't seem to love the show. Yet I continue keep watching those reruns!

Along with the bookend quotes, I think the lack of grinning is a show trademark, perhaps best noted in this mid-season four clip -

Maybe I just need to start YouTubing the four-and-a-half minutes of non-case-related character interaction per show.

Michelle De Lude said...

Do a search on YouTube for Criminal Minds bloopers. Check this out:

C_StillSquare said...

I love the one where Mandy Patinkin has them all go crazy at the park! That is probably one intense man to work with.

Michelle De Lude said...

I don't remember that episode. There are still a bunch I haven't seen. I borrowed the first season DVDs from the library, and I'm still waiting for season 2. After that, season 3, et alia.