by | Oct 10, 1999 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

So I tried this new TV show “Once and Again.”

I failed.

You could say I failed once, and again.

The story of two divorced parents who fall in love with each other, “Once and Again” has been hailed by critics as “brilliant,” “mature,” “real,” an oasis of adult sanity in a TV world littered by teenage anorexics.

Hmm. Not the shows I saw.

Having watched the first three episodes, I would sum up “Once and Again” this way:

Sorry, I nodded off.

If this is adulthood, no wonder our kids hate us. The lead characters in “Once and Again,” Lily (Sela Ward) and Rick (Billy Campbell), spend more time brooding over who likes whom than a hallway full of eighth-graders.

They whine. They wonder. They pick up the phone, then put it down again.

Rick says let’s kiss. Lily says what does the kiss mean? Rick says why does it have to mean anything? Lily says it doesn’t. Rick says maybe you’re right. Lily says let’s kiss.

These people are in their 40s?

You want to take a bucket of dishwater and …

Sorry. I nodded off again.

It’s not that the actors in “Once and Again” aren’t talented. It’s not that the writing isn’t of decent quality.

But the theme of the show, the slow rolling rock at the center is …angst.

Angst! Angst! Angst!

Angst and Again?

Fishing for an Emmy

The dictionary defines angst as “a feeling of dread, anxiety or anguish.” It might add “an emotion confused with being deep and worthy of an Emmy by late-20th Century TV producers.”

The truth is, angst isn’t much fun. It wasn’t fun in “thirtysomething” (by the same people behind “Once and Again”) and it isn’t fun now. Yes, Socrates once said the unexamined life is not worth living. He didn’t say you should spend all day gazing at your belly button.

This is how “Once and Again” sounds:

“Should I call him?”

“Do you want to?”

“I guess, but I don’t want, you know …”

“You’re not.”

“Because I want to, I do, I …”

“Maybe you should call him.”

“You think I should?”

Arrrrrgh! Take that phone and clunk it over her head!

Fans of this show say it has real people with real issues. I don’t know. For one thing, real parents of teenage kids don’t tend to look as gorgeous — or as young — as Lily and Rick.

And if real workers spent that much time cooing on the phone, their next date would be on the unemployment line.

Just do something

What I’d like to know is, when did whiny self-absorption become entertainment? Even soap operas have action. This one gets pregnant. That one gets divorced. Plots spin. Stories move. They might be ridiculous, but at least they don’t meander on every mundane moment.

As opposed to the speed of “Once and Again.”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.”

“Why does it have to feel right or wrong?”

“I don’t know. It just does. . . .”

“Isn’t it enough to have what we feel?”

“But what is it that we feel?”

“Are you feeling what I’m feeling?”

“I don’t know. Is that your hand or mine?”

To quote another show, just shoot me.

Personally, when it comes to angst, I prefer the take that Woody Allen once offered in the film “Hannah and Her Sisters.” Allen’s self-absorbed character spends every day obsessing over the meaning of life. He explores cults. He tries different religions.

At one point, he confronts his Old World parents, who can’t understand why he’s making such a fuss.

Allen pleads: “Come on, Dad. Don’t you wonder how God can exist if there is so much evil in the world?”

The father shrugs. “Me? I don’t even know how the can opener works.”

I’m sure the folks behind “Once and Again” have good intentions. I’m sure the actors and writers do their best. I just figure the world is full enough of people thinking their small problems are the center of the universe. Why watch it on TV?

But then again, maybe I’m not deep. Maybe I need to confront my issues.

Also, my can opener doesn’t work.

MITCH ALBOM can be reached at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Listen to Mitch’s radio show, “Albom in the Afternoon,” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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