In Which I Talk To Chester About Drugs, And Other Thoughts About Television.

We probably watch more tv than we should (thank you, tivo, for making me feel so gol-durned efficient while doing so!), and as the boys get older I have to be aware of what’s on when they’re around.

I was reminded of this the other night when Peanut was playing with his cars and as one was driving away from the other, he yelled, “Get back here, you b****!”

We had a talk.

I think I’m done with My Name is Earl. I absolutely loved the first season — it was funny and quirky and creative — and the second and third were pretty good, too, but still not quite up to the level of the first season. So far, however, this season has replaced innuendo with a bit more explicit language, and with an eight-year-old around, that can raise questions that just don’t need to be asked yet.

One show that’s on the explicit side — not sexually, just in general — is The Cleaner. Unlike Earl, it’s the kind of explicit that, in moderation, is good for Chester to be exposed to.

It’s a show that took a couple of episodes to hook me, but it’s really well done. The acting is great, the writing is great, and they don’t hold back in their depiction of drug use and its consequences, not only for the user but for everyone around them as well.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief description: The show is based on the life of William Banks, a recovering addict (played by Benjamin Bratt) who made a deal with God that if God let him get clean, he would do everything he could to free others from addiction. Each week William and his crew find themselves working for a different client to get a loved one the help that they need at any cost.

The show is frank in its portrayal of how people get hooked — from heroin-smuggling surfers to prescription-abusing housewives — and the desperate actions people will take to get their next high.

One recent episode followed the story of a teenage boy who had watched his mother overdose on heroin, and was now addicted himself.

I watched it with Chester, and while there were some pretty graphic scenes, particularly one scene showing him shooting heroin for the first time, it was, I felt, an honest portrayal of addiction and maybe would open the door for some good conversations. And it did.

He’s 8. I keep thinking about how young he is, but then I think back to how young I was when first exposed to the things I want to protect him from.

In fifth grade, my best friend spent the night, as he often did. We slept outside on the deck and stayed up late, as we often did. But this time, he had a bag of pot with him and he went behind the shed and rolled a joint and smoked it.

Over the next few years, I watched him progress from an occasional joint to harder and more frequent use, to the point where, by high school, we rarely spoke and every time I saw him he looked strung out.

It was hard to watch — he was a phenomenally talented drummer (when we were in grade school he built himself, out of coffee cans, a replica of Alex Van Halen’s drumset and could play nearly every song on every album beat for beat) — and a good friend, but it was also the best anti-drug lesson I could have had. I never touched a drug, never tried a drug, and by high school, where drug use was everywhere, I had no problem saying “no.”

“Chester, do you understand what’s going on?”

“Yes, he’s using drugs.”

“Did you see what he just did to get those drugs?”

“No.”

“He stole his grandmother’s medicine and her money. Did you see him do that?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t understand that’s what he was doing . . . Dad, why do people do drugs?”

“Because they make you feel good. For a while. But then it goes away, and you feel worse than you did before you took them. So you want them again to make you feel good, and pretty soon you feel like you can’t feel good unless you are taking drugs. That’s why people lie and steal and do things they know are wrong just so they can get drugs.”

The conversation continued from there, and it was a good one. I hope it opened the door for more like it, as often as possible.

Other random (navel-gazing) thoughts about my favorite television shows:

  • Heroes is on my top-20 list, although it’s more of an honorary mention. This season, so far, isn’t as bad as last season, but it’s not as good as the first. I’m still watching it, but more for how good I know it can be than for how good it is.
  • Reality shows that I love to watch with my boys: Survivor (of course), Wipeout (“Good night, and big balls” was a common phrase around our house this summer),  and The Amazing Race (still my favorite reality show by far, and a great, if brief, introduction to geography and different world cultures for the boys).
  • Apparently I like shows with spiritual undertones, as three on my top-20 list deal with angels, demons, or visions from God: Eli Stone, Reaper, and Supernatural.
  • Apparently I also like shows where characters randomly break out into song, because along with Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies is also on my list.
  • I’m a big fan of Shawn Ryan, writer and producer for two of the shows on my list: The Shield (finally, the last season is on and the drama is fast and furious) and The Unit (one of the best overall casts on television, led by Dennis Haysbert, who I would still vote for if he ran for president).
  • USA has some good shows: Monk and Psych (other favorites to watch as a family) and Burn Notice are all on my list.
  • Continuing the spy/government/secret agent theme (The Unit and Burn Notice), Chuck is near the top of my list; this season has been just as entertaining as the first, so far.
  • Damages was fan-diddly-tastic and I’m really eager to see if the second season is as good. Two well-deserved Emmys for Best Supporting Actor (Zeljko Ivanek) and Best Lead Actress (Glenn Close).
  • Speaking of Emmys, the winner for Best Drama this year is a regular appointment for me: Mad Men knocks it out of the park almost every week.
  • As I’ve blogged before, I loves me some Lost.
  • I’m embarrassed that there are as many reality shows on my list as comedies, but TV comedy is pretty weak these days. My favorites: SNL (especially Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin and anything Kristen Wiig does), 30 Rock (which fills the Arrested Development-shaped hole in my heart), and The Office.
  • Last, but not least: House. It’s so formulaic it should be bad (1. Patient gets sick; 2. House tries one treatment and almost kills them; 3. House tries another treatment and almoster kills them; 4. House has a brilliant insight and either heals them or diagnoses them and tells them they’re going to die; 5. Everyone thinks House is a genius). Consequently, it’s all about the acting. Hugh Laurie is brilliant, and Robert Sean Leonard? O captain my captain.

What are you watching?

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Filed under boys, meanderings, pop culture, tv

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