Happy 30th Anniversary, Wings! A Celebration of a Classic TV Sitcom

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Have you ever almost been physically injured while watching a sitcom?  I have.  The year was 1998.  It was my first semester of college, and I was enjoying my new schedule.  A schedule that allowed me to go to the gym early in the day.  I was on the treadmill at Sun Oaks in Redding, California, and on one of the TVs in the room was a show I’d never seen before: Wings

It was on closed-captioning, so I could only read the dialogue, but remember the episode distinctly.  It was from season 8, episode 21: “Oedipus Wrecks.”  I was running on the treadmill, reading the closed-captioning, and laughing out loud.  I laughed so hard at one point that I nearly lost my footing and fell off the treadmill.

Luckily, that’s didn’t happen, but at the moment I knew that I had to find out more about this show.  At this point all I knew about it was that it was hilarious, it was on USAM (Primetime Comedy in the Morning), and that I was now a Wings fan after one episode.

And so began my journey and my mission: I had to record and watch this series.  At the time, VHS was the big thing, so I would set the timer and record Wings whenever it was on USA.  And every day I would watch.  And I loved every minute of it.  The comedy.  The characters.  The storylines.  One fateful day seeing an episode on at the gym made me a fan for life.

It’s hard to believe Wings turns 30 this year.  It made its debut on NBC on April 19, 1990 and ran for 8 hilarious seasons.  Created by the team that would create another of my favorite shows, Frasier, Wings is one of the quintessential sitcoms of the 90s.  While it’s often overlooked by many, the series has a comedy style and dramatic undertone that makes it one of the best series I have ever seen (and I’ve watched it many, many times). 

Existing in the same universe as Cheers and Frasier, Wings is the story of two estranged brothers who reunite and end up working together at an airport on the island of Nantucket.  It’s part workplace comedy, part family drama, and 100% funny.  Wings has one of the best ensemble casts I have ever seen.  The chemistry between the characters and the actors is electric and incredibly fun to watch.

One of the keys for an ensemble show to work (in my opinion) is when any pairing of two characters can result in comedy gold.  And Wings was able to do that a thousand times over.  Each actor brings their A-game to each scene, each moment, and each storyline, and the result is comedy gold over the course of eight seasons and 172 episodes.

With VCRs gone the way of the dinosaurs, I was extremely happy when Wings popped up on DVD (and equally happy not having to fast-forward through commercials!).  Wings is what I consider a Comfort Show.  It’s a show that’s fun, light, easy-going, and there are plenty of laughs to be had after a stressful day or week. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting more about the show, including posts discussing my Top Ten Favorite Wings Episodes in celebration of its 30th anniversary, and even an interview with one of the show’s writers. 

Wings is a series that doesn’t get the recognition I feel it rightfully deserves in the annals of TV history, and this is my way of making sure the creators, writers, actors, directors, and crew are celebrated for their efforts.

So, if you’ve never seen the show, I highly recommend you check it out on Hulu or Amazon Prime.  And if you’ve seen the show, why not watch it again! 

Here’s to Wings!  A great series, a great cast, and a great comedy.

Please Vote for The Field by Ian Dawson on TaleFlick Discovery This Week!

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Hello!

I’m excited to announce that TaleFlick Discovery has chosen The Field for this week’s contest that starts Wednesday 04/15/2020 at 10:00am Pacific. This is a monthly contest in which visitors to TaleFlick.com vote on the stories they would like to see adapted to film or TV, and I would love to have your vote!

Voting takes place for three days, starting this Wednesday, and ending Friday at 4pm PacificParticipation is 100% free.  

Click on the link below to the TaleFlick Discovery page and vote for The Field by Ian Dawson beginning Wednesday, April 15, 2020 starting at 10AM Pacific Time

I appreciate your support!

Vote here: https://taleflick.com/pages/discovery

As a Writer, Has This Ever Happened to You?

At work this evening, a coworker of mine asked me what I was doing this weekend.  I told them I was working on my second novel, to which they replied, “You’re still working on that?  What’s taking so long?”  I started to laugh, telling them that writing is a process that takes time.  As I was talking, a classic scene from Family Guy flashed into my mind, which I promptly found on YouTube and showed to them:

No matter where you are in the writing process, people often will be amazed that you’re still working on something.  But the important thing is that YOU ARE STILL WORKING ON IT.  In progress is better than no progress, and what matters most is that you know that work is being done and that you will finished with it when you know it’s ready.

So, that novel you’ve been working on?  Keep writing, and never stop creating!

Farewell to Chuck E. Cheese’s Animatronics: My 80s Flashback

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Chuck E. Cheese’s as most of us knew it is no more.  Recent news articles have reported that the animatronics in most locations will be removed, a dance floor installed in the main room, and tokens will cease to exist.  And while it appears that costumed versions of the character will be around, the singing, blinking, and pivoting robotic characters that have always been a staple of Chuck E. Cheese’s will slowly fade into entertainment yesteryear. 

This news made me a bit nostalgic, and it prompted me to write about my favorite memories from Chuck E. Cheese’s/Showbiz Pizza as a kid.

My family and I were frequent guests of Chuck E. Cheese’s/Showbiz Pizza back in the 80s.  The car dealership that my dad worked for at the time would have Sunday night pizza parties there when sales when they met their sales goals for the month.  And most months were would end up spending Sunday evenings there.

I remember entering the building, the air thick with cigarette smoke – this was the 80s before smoking was banned in public buildings – and the smell of fresh pizza.  It was loud, chaotic, and frenzied, and I loved every minute of it.

One of the thrills as a kid was taking a couple bucks from my mom or dad and feeding them into the token machine.  One dollar produced five tokens.  It was like hitting the kid lottery, and I had come to play!

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The arcade area floor was covered in dark green carpet with Chuck E. Cheese’s face plastered all over it.  My favorite video game was Tapper, a game where you’re a bartender that has to run back and forth to serve people drinks.  If you fail, you either spill the beer on the floor, or get run down the bar and out the door by an unruly patron.  I’m sure that game wouldn’t fly for kids today.  Here’s a gameplay clip:

But the thing I loved most were the animatronics that performed every fifteen to twenty minutes in the main dining area.  At the time I was going through a phase where I was obsessed with puppets, Muppets, and all things puppetry. 

And during these peak years as a lover of puppetry, I was fascinated and mesmerized by these animatronic figures that populated Chuck E. Cheese’s/Showbiz Pizza.  I was never afraid of them, they never freaked me out; I thought they were really cool.

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In the 80s, the characters were up in a wooden balcony.  From left to right were Mr. Munch, Jasper T. Jowls, Chuck E. Cheese, Helen Henny, and Pasqually.  This was the era with the Warblettes, and the flags around the perimeter of the main room that waved when the show got to its finale.

And, I cannot forget to mention The King, a giant lion who sang Elvis songs in the lounge area of the restaurant.  I remember sitting on these black metal stools that bobbed up and down as he performed. 

The clip below is from one of the summer shows of 1988.  I remember this as if it were yesterday!

I watched them in awe.  Loving the shows.  Wondering exactly how they moved and operated.  And one day, I finally found out.

It was a weekday afternoon during a summer in the late 80s, and I decided that I wanted to find out how the characters worked.  I think I remember asking my mom if I could ask someone to show me, and she said okay.  I found a woman – who was probably 18 at the time – and asked her. 

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8-year-old me, circa 1988

Next thing I knew, 8-year-old me was being taken to a door next to the stage.  Inside was a wall-size computer with a reel-to-reel set-up.  A folding metal chair was in front of the console.  The woman showed me how they loaded the shows and told me that the characters were operated by compressed air.  Just seeing this technology – even if it was 80s tech – I was even more excited to learn how these characters came to life.

And back then I also knew I was one of only a handful of kids who probably knew how it all worked!

As my love of puppets faded over time and our visits to Chuck E. Cheese’s became less frequent, I still remembered that day and those fun times we had there.  And while I know from YouTube videos and news articles that the place has evolved and changed both in its aesthetic and in how the characters are designed, I will never forget the smoky pizza place where I learned how the animatronic magic happens.

What are your childhood memories from Chuck E. Cheese’s/Showbiz Pizza?  Leave a comment and let me know!

 

 

Are You Holding Back in Your Writing Because of Social Media?

In a world where people seem to be offended by anything and everything, it can be a daunting task for a creative person to navigate the choppy waters of what will and won’t evoke controversy hour-by-hour.  No matter the topic, it seems like someone can find a way to twist it into their own meaning pretzel with plenty of negative connotations.  And when the world seems to be backfilling with these types of oftentimes innocuous offenses, many creative types may be afraid to truly express themselves.

The solution: Don’t allow hashtags and comments on social media to dictate what you want to express in your story.  If you have an idea for something a character does or says, then you start to think about how Twitter or Facebook of Reddit will react, the trolls have won even before you’ve expressed yourself.

You can’t let that happen.

You have a story to tell.  And you cannot let anonymous people online dictate what you want to say in your story.  You just can’t allow that type of false pressure to squelch your creativity.  Even before the internet there were people who hated and were offended by things they read or saw.  Just because those people have a larger more vocal platform now doesn’t mean you should allow them to get into your head and beat down your ideas.

Maybe your story has controversial elements or themes.  Maybe you explore domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or other hot button topics.  Maybe you have a character who is a racist or sexist; who uses language that you wouldn’t use but they do.  As a creative person, you need to do what’s best for your project.  If it evokes anger, offense, or hashtags against you and your work, so be it. 

Hey, you can’t please everyone.

And that’s the main thing you have to remember.  More people when they dislike something are likely to comment on it than those who like or enjoy something.  And what is odd is that usually when reviews or comments are negative, people tend to want to find out the truth for themselves instead of just going off of what some person has posted online.

And example: Joker.  Here’s a recent film that was maligned in the press, by many critics, by people online, and other groups for weeks prior to its release.  The star and director were hounded with questions about the film’s violent content, the red carpet premiere did not allow the press to ask questions, and the fear of the film spawning violence led to the U.S. military issuing a warning, and some theaters adding extra security.

All pretty negative things against the movie, and yet it was the highest grossing film for an October release and is set to break other R-rated film box office records.  There’s also Oscar buzz around Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Joker. 

The filmmakers didn’t hold back.  They didn’t listen to the critics and edit the film down to a safe PG-13.  They stuck to their vision of the film and released it as is.  And the results were effective and the negative outcry probably had a positive outcome for the film overall.

Joker is the perfect example of how as creative individuals we need to do what’s best for our story.  We need to tell the story we want to tell.  Tell the story you want to tell without the fear of social media backlash churning in the back of your mind. 

Tell your story.  Not theirs.

Do you find yourself editing and toning elements of your story down due to fear of what may be said about you or your story on social media?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Using Empathy & Sympathy in Your Writing

What’s the difference between Empathy and Sympathy?  When it comes to writing, should we use one over the other?  Should we use both?  Do they even matter? 

The short answer is yes.  They do matter.  And both can help your reader connect with the problems and conflicts faced by your main character over the course of the story.  So, let’s define each word.

Empathy – the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy

Empathy allows the reader to jump into your main characters shoes and experience what they are experiencing even if they never have.  It helps create an emotional bond between the reader and character.  A way to connect them on a deeper level that in turn keeps the reader caring about the main character and their situation.

Sympathy – an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other.

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sympathy

Sympathy allows the reader to feel bad for the plight or situation of a character even if they can’t directly identify with the experience.  This is much more surface level emotion, while empathy digs deeper into the feelings and emotions of the reader.

If you want your reader to have a full immersive experience in your story, ensuring that they can either empathize or sympathize with your main character is key.  Whether the reader has gone through a similar situation as your main character or not, making them invest their emotions and feelings into the struggles and conflicts your main character is going through will keep the reader engaged and invested.

It all comes down to the concept of caring.  Does the reader care about the characters?  Do they have a level of compassion for them?  Do they hope they succeed and want to be there with them when they achieve their goals?

If you as the author don’t care about your characters, the reader won’t either.  Take the time to give your characters emotional weight and put them in situations that will create a sense of empathy or sympathy for them with the reader.  Readers need someone to root for and identify with in a story, and adding these levels of emotional connectivity can ensure that your readers and characters will connect over the course of the story.

Do you utilize Empathy and Sympathy in your writing?  Is one more important to you than the other?  Is it important for the reader to empathize or sympathize with your main character?  Leave a comment and let me know.