Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kelsey Grammer in Boss

I just watched the preview of Kelsey Grammer's new Starz show, "Boss" Wow! It definitely looks to me as if it's going to be a winner.

Grammer's success has far surpassed mine in most respects. He is considerably different from me in other respects, too. Yet his life has occasionally had some interesting parallels to my own.

For one thing, there's the connection with the cities of Boston, Chicago and Seattle. Kelsey's first show, Cheers, was set in a fictitious Boston bar (for which there was a real life corrolary, which they actually named after the show). I lived in Boston for seven years during the 80s. (Earlier, right after graduating from high school, I worked at the Teen Challenge in Brocton, MA, and I visited Boston several times during that period, even attending a church which met near Harvard at one point). They were still filming that show when I was living in Boston, as I recall.

Another big city with which I have more than a passing familiarity is Chicago, where I lived in a 22 story YMCA SRO (single room occupancy) apartment named Lawson House, from 1992 until just last year. I even remember seeing Mayor Daley when he visited our building briefly not long after I'd moved there.

If you've read about "Boss", it's Grammer's first non-comedy TV show, and Grammer plays the role of the Mayor of Chicago, who they have given the name of Tom Kane. (Citizen Kane, perhaps?)

It wasn't Kelsey Grammer's first connection with Chicago. John Mahoney, the guy who played Frasier Crane's father, lived in Oak Park (a western suburb of Chicago), and I bumped into him one day while I was checking out some of the shops out in that suburb. It wasn't an interaction he would remember, but it was memorable to me nevertheless.
Then late last year, I moved from Chicago to Bellingham, WA. It's not quite Seattle (where  the show "Frasier" was based), but pretty close to Seattle. About 80 miles or so to the north.

During his years in comedy, Kelsey reminded me of myself, physically, in terms of the bald head, and (for quite a bit of time) in terms of the beard, too. (But his beard was pretty short, compared with mine.)  There were differences, including the fact that he was a bit more trim and fit than I was, but the similarities were noticeable enough that someone I once met commented on those similarities.

The Frasier Crane character was known for being slightly pompous, but it was also clear that he was a pretty intelligent and educated person. Also, he played the piano. In both of those respects, he and I were and are quite similar. (Hopefully, I wouldn't be described by most folks as pompous! Then again, perceptions are hard to control. Some people think that anyone capable of speaking in a manner which is grammatically correct are pompous by definition.)

I often watched and enjoyed "Frasier" when it was on the air, but I think that the thing I liked the least about the Frasier Crane character was his cavalier attitude towards casual sex. It seemed as if the script writers always had him falling into one woman's bed or another. Yet, his failures in terms of relationships did have a kind of endearing quality, to which I could kind of relate.

It's pretty hard to watch the preview of the new show "Boss" without being reminded of the city I came to know, if not necessarily to love.

While living in Chicago, I couldn't help but be impressed by the manner in which they eventually improved the areas now known as Navy Pier and Millenium Park respectively. (Actually, Navy Pier has been known by that name for a very long time, but when I first moved there, it wasn't very impressive to me. While it was eventually transformed into a bit of a "tourist trap", that was better than what it had once been.) It's a better city than it once was, and for all of his flaws, I think that the second mayor Daley can take some of the credit for that. But phrases such as "the mean streets of Chicago" were not far off the mark, especially when one considered the city's history, and when one considered the horrendous violence associated with "the projects". I remember reading newspaper stories about drive-by shootings and those who used "human shields" in an attempt to evade the flying bullets. "There Are No Children Here" is a book which will be especially helpful to people who want to better understand the downsides of living in Chicago.

I might dislike the current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, in many respects, not the least of which is my aversion to his reputation for frequent profanity, which I regard as unprofessional, in addition to being un-Christian. But life in Chicago has a way of stressing people out, to the point that the occasional profanity is easy to understand (and in all honesty, I was hardly perfect in that regard myself, especially when I was being harassed by one of the street people who frequently hung out at the McDonalds restaurant at the northeast corner of Chicago Avenue and State Street). (Here's a link to an interesting story about an incident which occurred there this year at that particular McDonalds. I ate there so often, over the years, that I could have papered the walls with the receipts from those transactions.)

The word "gravitas" was used in the recent USA Today story about Kelsey Grammer and his new show "Boss". Judging by the 19 years I spent in Chicago, anyone playing "da mayor" will need ample gravitas. I think that Kelsey Grammer is up to the job. And it also appears that a lot of the scenes will actually be shot in the city. (In one scene, Grammer is shown going up the escalator at the Palmer House Hilton. I am well familiar with that lobby. I even watched their progress when they restored the art on the ceiling there.) For someone who has lived in that city, in a place located on Chicago Avenue, that should be especially interesting.

UPDATE: They have actually posted a video consisting of the first episode of "Boss". To put it mildly, this is not a show which should be seen by people who can't handle violence or profanity. Or subtly staged sex scenes, for that matter. Yet, it seems to me that the word "gratuitous" would not really apply to either the violence or profanity. It might be a sad statement to say that the show reflects the real world accurately, but I think that in may respects, it does. And in fact, I think that it serves a valuable purpose for people to get a better idea of the issues our political leaders face, both personal and public.

Watching this show as a Christian, I find that these are my thoughts: We need to pray for our leaders, because despite their obvious flaws, they are just men and women, many of whom are just doing the best they can under the circumstances..

For those people who would object that religion has no place in politics, I would respond that God certainly has no place in politics, which is perhaps the most corrupt human institution. God is holy, and we are most definitely not holy. Our politicians are corrupt, and many of our religious leaders are equally corrupt, too.

Yet, the Creator looked upon the tainted world of men and women, and he found it in his heart to show his love and mercy to us anyway. Let us make evey effort to live as if we know and appreciate that fact.

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