Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Gospel According to Jessica Fletcher and Frasier Crane

Okay, I’ve written enough heavy posts in recent weeks to warrant one that’s just for fun. I mentioned in passing in last week’s entry that one of my self-care habits is watching old episodes of Murder, She Wrote and Frasier.

First, both TV programs overlapped my move from Los Angeles to Atlanta, so they gave me continuity. And I shared Murder, She Wrote with Mom and Frasier with both Mom and my brother, more continuity. (This may make you nostalgic for the days when we all watched the same programs on the same day at the same time and thus could  talk about them the next day!)

Both helped me survive the death of my mom, followed by the death of what had promised to be a lifelong relationship, followed by the death of Open Hands magazine, whose editorship accounted for about half my income.

I know you’re thinking, where’s the lighter part of this post?

At the time, Murder, She Wrote episodes aired twice in the morning and twice in the late afternoon. I would only allow myself one episode per day, given my work ethic! But escaping to the homely and picturesque Cabot Cove, Maine, and hanging out with both a writer and a motherly figure (pardon me, Angela Lansbury) trying to solve a mystery was just the escape I needed. I preferred the episodes in her hometown to the ones on location or in New York City. (Of course I noted the scenes filmed in my home state of California, which I missed.)

What I subsequently discovered is that many clergy LOVE crime dramas, maybe because the solution to a life’s mystery can be discovered within an hour, whereas most life mysteries require a lifetime to solve, if then.

Plus, watching the show encouraged my own new project, writing a mystery novel and spoof about a “spiritual profiler” named John Boswell, not to be confused (wink) with that medieval history professor at Yale. Every afternoon I would escape to my fictional town of Crowbar, Mississippi (the prototype of which I discovered on a solo road trip) where Boswell interviewed, one by one, selective citizens of the town to determine who murdered the pastor of Primitive Presbyterian, Angus MacDonald. Originally I called it A Presbyterian Murder, but later renamed it Angus Dei.

In his sometimes stodgy first person narrative, the Roman Catholic Boswell describes how he realized his gift of spiritual profiling:

As I look back, my adulthood prescience of the spiritual dimensions of traffic accidents should have intimated to me the possibility of applying my gifts to crime scenes. One traffic accident I happened onto, for example, I sensed, came from one driver’s inability to forgive the trespass of another, and that first driver’s insistence on his right-of-way brought them together in death, though never meeting in life, giving a spiritual if not ecumenical twist on the traffic instruction, otherwise ignored, to “merge.” And another: A one-way street seemed to confirm the theology of one driver, only to run into a universalist going in the other direction. Unbelievably, only their theologies were badly shaken. And you can imagine the multiple car pile-up when a fundamentalist refused to “yield.”

Back-to-back Frasier reruns came on twice in the evening between 6 and 7, my dinner hour. And since I was now eating dinner alone (though my dog Calvin was mindfully aware of any dropped or leftover food), far from family, the ensemble cast of characters became a kind of substitute family. And it was a non-traditional family, and the stories were often about love sought and found and lost, with the “loser” always able to return to the bosom of the extended family. Of course, there were some hilariously gay episodes, my favorite, and plenty of gay sensibility humor in others, which got the series written up in a New York Times article lauding subtle gay themes and jokes in otherwise mainstream sitcoms!

The truth is, Frasier can still make me laugh out loud! So when I need a laugh, I watch an episode on Netflix or Cozi TV, the latter of which also runs Murder, She Wrote.

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Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.

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