Off the Wall


I got a kick out of this Mutts strip from September.

Panel 1: Mooch the cat about to throw a ball as Earl the dog waits excitedly. Panel 2: The ball in the air. Panel 3: Earl and Mooch recoiling in surprise as it bounces off the right panel border with a 'bonk'.
Mutts for 2018-09-13 © 2018 Patrick McDonnell.

The most amusing part to me is that it doesn’t really break the fourth wall but accomplishes something very like what we think of as breaking the fourth wall by not breaking the panel’s third* wall, surprising the characters — and in turn the reader — by suddenly reneging on the contract that allows panel borders to be drawn in the same ink as any lines defining solid objects within a strip’s panels yet be traversable by said objects as portals to the rest of the world being depicted.

[*While I’m not sure the other “walls” have a conventionally accepted numbering, if
you count from the left clockwise in a plane intersecting the flat page or screen (or the proscenium of the stage, from whence the concept originates) — with the second/
middle wall being the background, parallel to the unseen “fourth wall” through which we view the action — that makes the left wall the first one and the right wall third.]

In the Stir


can of Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup inside the vertical colored bars of a SMPTE test pattern familiar to television viewers of a certain age

Other projects commanding my attention mean that, even as older posts slowly get refurbished amidst ongoing technical problems, new content here will continue to be sparse at best for a while — so the soup can is long overdue for display. Not the greatest way to mark the blog's anniversary, but that's the way the cookie crumbles... or at least the way to cooking Campbell's. Please check in every now and then.

The Birdy Bunch


When Larry Wilmore's abruptly canceled Nightly Show ended this past Thursday,
I stuck around to watch @Midnight. Since the Presidential campaign and the Summer Olympics provide no shortage of springboards for Twit-friendly topical humor, I’m assuming we have the program's two-week hiatus to thank for the evening’s mundane Hashtag Wars category: #BirdTV. Personally, I enjoy having an evergreen subject to riff on given that updates to the blog will remain infrequent for some months, so here, minus a few brainstorms that I’d seen others beat me to when I took a quick scroll through the feed on Twitter, are…

My Top Twenty-Five Avian Television Shows

25. America’s Got Talons

24. The Young and the Nestless

23. Feather Knows Best

22. Sesame Tweet

21. Harpy Days

20. Parrothood

19. The Eggs Files

18. Gilmore Gulls

17. Fowl Frontal

16. The Dove Boat

North Mythology


FX will air a marathon of Fargo Season 2 tomorrow starting at 10 a.m. ET/PT.

A red 1970s Dodge seen head-on, dusted by snow, with the stylized 'Fargo' logo outlined in snow and cracked glass on its windshield

I can’t recommend it enough. Pretty much everything that TV does well, Fargo does very, very, very well. The cast is phenomenal; the score and soundtrack are just A+; the cinematography is outstanding. Even if the plot and dialogue were nothing special this would probably be captivating television.

But they’re something special indeed. About half of the season’s scripts are credited to showrunner Noah Hawley, the novelist and former Bones story editor who wrote all of Season 1 — and who, given the copious love for the classic 1996 Coen Brothers film on which the series is based, was as bold in doing so as (it turns out) he was justified.

Get Carter Back


ABC finally canceled Marvel’s Agent Carter last week. The short-run winter series, which spelled the fall and spring halves of Agents of SHIELD these past two years, had been a ratings disappointment. Once star Hayley Atwell was cast by the network in a potential regular-season legal drama, now picked up to series, writing met wall.

Agent Carter, in silhouette and backlit, emerging from giant logo

You can’t entirely blame ABC, who clearly wants to be in business with Atwell.
SHIELD itself hasn't exactly been a ratings bonanza — due in part to ongoing identity crises, tensions between Marvel’s film and television enterprises that leave the big-screen blockbusters bereft of nearly any reference to (and, thus, what should be no-brainer promotion of) the show, and the general demands that “peak TV” has put on viewers’ time. I’ve enjoyed both SHIELD and Carter, however, even as what they do well makes my frustration over what they could be doing better all the greater.

Stella Saner 1916-2016


Stella Saner would have been 100 years old today, had she not passed early in
the morning of January 21st with her daughter, my mother, at her side.

Here’s a lightly edited version of what I wrote to read at her memorial service.