What Miz Anna is about to start running in her blog is a series of short fiction pieces I plan to create under the heading “Reruns.” At her behest, I’m taking a moment to explain to you, dear reader, what they are and how they came to be in the first place.
This started for me in December of 1986, when a grocery store chain called Steven’s (“A fun fresh food store!”) opened in Nashville, and my parents were eager to try it. As I recall, it was an unusual grocery, in that (among other reasons) it also sold books (which is now the norm, even if that does mean 903 James Patterson titles and Romance of the Amish Templar Vampire). In 1986, however, this was new, and as such, the titles available were off the beaten path.
The book I found myself reading while my parents shopped was a tome called Suspects, written by an English film critic named David Thomson. It was, I thought, one of the best ideas for a book I’d ever heard of: 85 biographical sketches of characters from classic films, mostly from the noir canon. The sketches touched on the films, to the extent that they would have to for the character to still be the character; from there, Thomson takes off running with the characters, giving them incredible backstories, and, in most cases, post-stories, informing what happened to them after the narrative of the film (unless, as is often the case, the character dies in the film). Thomson even lets the characters cross paths: Noah Cross from Chinatown has an affair in the 1920s with Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. Mary Kane, the mother of Citizen Kane, uses her part of the family fortune to build Colorado’s best-known hotel—the Overlook, from The Shining. Travis Bickle, late of Taxi Driver, is really Travis Bailey; his father is George, of It’s A Wonderful Life. And so on.
I enjoyed the book as a 14-year-old, but hadn’t seen most of the movies in it; now, I have, and when my lovely wife found a copy in the Amazon River (so to speak), I was joyfully reunited with an old friend…and an idea formed in my head.
My wife and I are “cord-cutters”, part of a growing movement to eschew paying for any form of television. Cable? Satellite? Internet bundle? We have none of the above, relying instead on an antenna and the digital channels that have been the norm since roughly 2009. A surprising number of these channels—particularly MeTV, Cozi-TV, and Antenna TV—run nothing but older shows. I genuinely mean older; while your CW or Fox affiliate is content to run Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld (when not running Sinclair propaganda), these channels are showing All In The Family and The Rockford Files. Quinn Martin and Mary Tyler Moore are still showrunners on these channels. For those of us for whom nostalgia is heroin, these channels are Mother Superior from Trainspotting.
Thus it was that the idea formed: what if I wrote my own version of Suspects, based on my own mental wheelhouse—classic television? Could I create something nearly equal to Thomson’s work (I won’t say “equal”; no delusions of grandeur here) but draw from sitcoms and mysteries? I would not know, of course, until I attempted it, and that is what I am now doing. I’ve created a handful of pieces so far, and intend to create more. It is my sincere hope that you enjoy them.
Now, last week, loyal viewers will recall…