The good and the bad.
Nostalgia is a powerful force for grabbing people’s attention, and anyone who’s read my books knows that I’ve delivered a healthy dose of it in my storytelling. I talking about the numerous references to old television shows from the 80s and 90s that lots of readers, beyond a certain age, immediately identify with. As a childhood couch potato, I have a lot of fun including them.
But this past week, I found myself drawn into nostalgic overload by a couple separate happenings — one that was very much welcome, and another that felt more like an endurance test.
First, the good…
One of my favorite things as an novelist is hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed my work. It doesn’t matter who those people are, or whether or not I know them. There’s just something rewarding about discovering that an individual was entertained by, or otherwise came away with an affection for, your creation.
But truth be told, it’s even more exhilarating when that person happens to be a creator or artist them self… whose work I’m a fan or admirer of.
This happens on occasion, and it happened last week, not long after I responded to a fun little post on social media:
While I appreciated “Mr. Chau” for evoking this gem of a show, which ran on ABC for two seasons (1986-1988) when I teenager, I think he seriously underestimated how many people still remember it. Those who saw it when it originally aired will likely never forget it. Why? Because it was that freakin’ great!
Sledge Hammer! starring David Rasche (as the title character), Anne-Marie Martin, and Harrison Page, was precisely the cop show the era needed — an uproariously funny satirical poke at the increasingly popular “loose cannon” detective genre, as exemplified by the Dirty Harry films and later Lethal Weapon.
I was just about to turn 14 when the pilot aired, and fell in love with the show just minutes in. The often slapstick-style gags were genuinely funny, and I found myself recording every episode for multiple viewings.
Here’s a little taste of the show’s humor:
I loved Rasche in the lead role, and crushed on Martin (as I’m sure many young viewers did at the time), but my favorite character was actually Captain Trunk (Harrison Page). Whoever wrote the Wikipedia description for Trunk absolutely nailed it:
He is a chronically uptight, Pepto-Bismol-guzzling, apoplectic parody of police precinct captains from popular 1970s and 1980s TV cops shows. Trunk spends most of his time yelling at Hammer for his incompetence or complaining about his migraine headaches and hypertension brought on by Hammer's antics.
God, he was great.
Anyway, my tweet praising Sledge Hammer! was met with one heck of a response:
It truly made my day. Actually, my week. I have no idea how Mr. Spencer got turned onto my book, but I absolutely love that he enjoyed it. And now that we have become personally acquainted, and follow each other on social media, maybe I can talk him into one of my celebrity interviews for the ‘Daly Grind’ newsletter.
Now, the bad…
Last Saturday, I made it to the end of the second season of Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+, and — quite frankly — the journey nearly killed me. (Okay, not literally, but it did feel at times like I was being brought to my knees with a Vulcan neck pinch).
If you’re not familiar with the streaming series, it’s a follow-up to Star Trek: The Next Generation, starring Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. It ran from 1987 to 1994, and Stewart reprises his role in the new series (as do other original cast members).
I enjoyed The Next Generation 30+ years ago (though it was often hokey), and though I would never consider myself a Trekkie, the premise of Picard intrigued me enough to give the first season a try when I was sitting at home in 2020, during the early weeks of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it was not particularly good. Sure, it was kind of fun to catch up with members of the old crew, including Jeri Ryan reprising her role as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, but the nostalgia trip felt like it had a pretty quick shelf-life. Add in the fact that Stewart’s now in his 80s, and it didn’t even occur to me that a second season would even be attempted.
But then, a few months ago, this teaser trailer hit the Internet:
It promised the return of Q, Picard’s ever-amusing arch-nemesis played by John de Lancie in the original series. Again, I was intrigued. And against my better judgement, I began watching it.
The first episode was actually pretty decent, but after that, things went south and kept getting worse with each new episode. The acting was fine, but the writing was not. The story revolved around Picard and company having to time-travel back to modern-day America. Plot-wise, their mission was to save the universe. But the real mission — the one undertook by the show’s writers — was to inundate the audience with one current-day political stance after another (all predictably from the same ideological perspective). It was over-the-top ridiculous, almost to the point of parody.
Yet, I kept watching… until the bitter end… without the awfulness letting up… purely out of a decades-old affection for some of the characters. Resistance… was futile.
As I said at the top, nostalgia is a powerful force. And sometimes it will leave you feeling like a fool.
Did you watch Sledge Hammer? How about Picard? Let me know what you thought in either an email or in the comment section below.
There’s a big Amazon Kindle sale currently going on for my first four books (the eBook versions). For a limited time, you can get them all for less than $12… total!
Obligatory Dog Shot
Six years ago last week, this gal joined our family. She's been an absolute blessing ever since. A true saint who loves everyone, comforts us when we're upset, and calmly puts up with her little brother's b.s. all day, every day.
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I had no idea, until a quick Wikipedia check the other day, that the iconic 1977 classic-rock song, “Black Betty” (by Ram Jam) was actually a cover. Believe it or not, the song’s origin dates back to the 1930s (possibly even earlier), when it was an African American work song.
Ram Jam’s front man, Bill Bartlett, extended its lyrics, and turned it into a stop-and-start, guitar-driven masterpiece that still lights up radio stations today.
I found the below 12” vinyl single of Black Betty several years ago at a used record store in South Carolina. It was pressed in 1990, and includes the 1977 version along with two alternative mixes of the song — which are both pretty cool in their own right.
It’s a great listen, especially with the volume turned way up.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!