Discover more from The Daly Grind
A Fresh New 'Fresh Prince'
Plus some thoughts on Ukraine, and the comedic talent of Nate Bargatze.
Before I get into this week’s much lighter topic, I felt compelled to express some quick thoughts on Ukraine (though those of you who follow me on Twitter may have already heard several of them).
In a statement last Thursday, former president George W. Bush called Russia’s unprovoked attack on its neighbor, “the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II.” I wholeheartedly agree, and this is a very serious situation with tremendous international ramifications.
Over the past few days, lots of Americans have been busy online and elsewhere pointing fingers of blame for this conflict at current and former U.S. leaders on the other side of the political aisle. While there’s certainly something to be said about ineffective strategies for dealing with Russian aggression spanning multiple U.S. administrations, I think it’s important to understand and remember that the devastation happening right now in Ukraine is the fault of one man: the tyrant leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
All of the death and suffering that has (and will continue to) come from this incursion is attributable directly to him.
My heart goes out to the many innocent victims of this unjustified act of war; they haven’t left my mind and prayers from the moment the invasion began.
My deepest admiration goes out to the extraordinarily brave, inspiring people of Ukraine who are fighting to keep their country free, as well as the courageous citizens of Russia who are putting themselves at tremendous risk to protest Putin’s invasion in Russian streets.
I also applaud other countries who, along with the United States, are working to hold Putin and his regime accountable for what they’re doing.
No one’s sure how any of this will end, but I pray for the success of everyone working to end it with Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty intact.
God bless Ukraine.
In West Philadelphia, Born and Raised…
A few weeks ago, when someone was describing to me the premise of the new Peacock streaming series, Bel-Air, I must admit that I rolled my eyes.
For those who haven’t heard, the show (which has since been released) is a current-day remake of the popular 1990s NBC sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which starred Will Smith in his first major acting role. Pretty much every recurring character established in the original series has been recast in the new one, sharing the same names and character traits. But there is a huge, glaring difference that Peacock and parent company NBC have drawn an extraordinary amount of attention to in their promotion of the series: it’s no longer a comedy, but rather a serious drama targeting sensitive social issues.
Hence, my eye-roll.
To clarify, my sourness toward the premise didn’t come from a position of Fresh Prince purity, or anything like that. Sure, I kind of got a kick out of the original series back in the day, but I wasn’t a regular viewer, let alone a dedicated fan. I’ve certainly never believed the show to be some holy artifact, for which tampering with it would amount to blaspheme.
I was just kind of turned off by the notion of Hollywood producers tapping into Gen-X nostalgia — for something that was fun, silly, and mostly innocent (though the original show did wade into serious themes on occasion) — to tackle heavy societal narratives that are anything but. I mean, if you’re going to create an edgy rags-to-riches series that explores complex and uncomfortable social topics, why not just build one from the bottom up (and leave memories like “the Carlton dance” out of it)?
That said, I’m also a free market guy. Those who own the rights to the show can do whatever the heck they want with it, and if I don’t want to watch it, I don’t have to watch it.
Only… my wife wanted to watch it. And since the free market doesn’t always apply to what’s going on inside the Daly household, I’ve been watching it with her.
To my surprise, it’s actually been very good.
The story runs parallel to the original show, but only in its most basic terms. The Will Smith character runs into inner-city trouble in West Philadelphia, so his mom — for her son’s safety — sends him off to Bel Air, Los Angeles to live with his super-rich Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian, along with their privileged children (Will’s cousins) Carlton, Hilary, and Ashley.
There’s the expected nostalgia fix, and its kind of fun watching the new actors display some familiar behavior and mannerisms. But what really pulls viewers in is the way the writers take those character traits in some very intense directions.
In this go around, the “one little fight” that got Will a one-way ticket to L.A. was a rather intense beat-down that resulted in him pulling a gun on a gang leader.
The new Carlson isn’t just a pompous ass with a Napoleon complex. He’s a coked-up, vindictive, pompous ass with a Napoleon complex.
A significantly more physically fit Uncle Phil is still a lawyer, but instead of running for a judgeship, he’s engaged in a cut-throat campaign to become District Attorney.
Hilary? She’s still self-absorbed, but has parlayed that denominator into a pseudo-career as an Instagram influencer.
My favorite character reboot is Geoffrey, the butler. He’s now a “house manager,” but does a heck of a lot more than attend to residential duties. He’s cool, calm, collective, and even mysterious. Actually, he’s more than that. He’s downright ruthless — a “fixer” of sorts for the family; a guy who makes inconvenient problems (even big ones) go away.
The show works well, while being different enough from its lighthearted predecessor that nothing feels tainted. Though the story does dip into political directions that will assuredly turn some people off, it’s also a well-written and intense family drama that keeps you engaged. My wife and I haven’t finished it yet, but hopefully the rest of the season delivers as well as the first part has.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been all that surprised that such a stark genre-upheaval could work for an entertainment franchise. After all, we’ve recently seen it with Cobra Kai, the self-parody series born from the Karate Kid movies. The show’s producers went in kind of the opposite direction for that one, funneling drama into much more of a comedic offering. And it has paid off big time.
Anyway, I recommend Bel-Air. I think you’ll like it, even if you’ve never seen the original series. Just be warned that it’s not for kids.
Which series, if any, are you into right now? Let me know in an email or in the comment section below.
A Nate Bargatze Booster Shot
Last November, when my son and I were on vacation in Burbank, we caught Nate Bargatze’s stand-up show. It was lot of fun and we had a good time, but our seats were right at the back of the theater. And because tons of people were showing up late (for whatever reason) and negotiating their way through aisles throughout the show, it kind of distracted from the comedy.
So, when Bargatze later announced a show in Denver for late February, I was ready and waiting on Ticketmaster’s website the moment it went on sale. The preparation paid off, as I was able to snag front-row aisle seats for me and my wife (who’s also a fan).
The show was last Saturday night at the Paramount Theater downtown, and though I’d already heard the set (this was part of the same tour as the November show), the laughs came just as easily. My wife especially had a blast, and I’m amazed by how big of an act Bargatze has become. The Paramount is not a small place, and this was the first of three sold-out shows.
If you ever get a chance to catch Nate Bargatze do stand-up, you should definitely take it. His jokes and delivery are so very impressive and relatable, and unlike Bel-Air, it’s a very clean show.
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Obligatory Dog Shot
"I'm flying, Jack! I'm flying!"
In a belated birthday tribute to legendary composer John Williams, who turned 90 years old earlier this month, this week’s featured vinyl is one of his most iconic original film scores.
It’s just about impossible to even think about Raiders of the Lost Ark, without the film’s epic main theme immediately coming to mind. Other powerful music from the movie is also embedded in our pop-culture collective, including the map room scene to the love scene.
Also, I love that movie-poster cover art.
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!