The Unbearable Lightness of Choosing
Television, as we all know, is a 'selected' thing. You 'choose' what it is you want to watch. You pick it. You read the advanced press. You see the previews, and the print ads. You sift through, you figure out time slots, match a show against the other shows, against the amount of time you have, against the demands of your life, and you choose. You do. You pick. Or you channel surf your way through the 40 or so shows you're NOT going to really watch, that evening.
In Pre-Internet 1987, TV Guide was the bible, for television. You searched through it, and scanned the grids, and made your selections. Eyed the print ads, and read the synopses, and the reviewer's comments.
And that is how it is. Or was.
Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time.
If enough people agree with your choice and support it, the show stays on.
If they don't, it disappears, usually in its maiden season. TV is a numbers game, and those numbers reflect choice. Your choice. My choice. The choice we make every time we turn on the set.
So it's an easy thing to say, "I chose this show." It is. I did. I distinctly remember choosing it. I distinctly remember hearing "the buzz" about it, in the weeks before it aired. It was the new "Best New Show On Television According to the Critics," and I was fine that it was. (Some show had to be that, each year. Might as well be this one.)
So I chose this show. I chose to watch the pilot, and chose to watch the encore performance of that. And as more episodes came, I chose to run home to it, tune into it, and get swept away by it. I liked the fantasy of it. The richness of it. I wanted to believe.
What I'm not sure of, (and have never been really sure of) is that at what point it was that I stopped "choosing the show" and the show started "choosing me."
At what point did I say I was "captured?" (Because when you're "captured" by something, you don't have it. It has you. By definition.)
At which episode did I change from "interested" to "enchanted?" From "curious" to "charmed?" At what point did this change from "might be good TV on, tonight," to "I absolutely must watch this?" Was it the pilot? Shades of Grey? Was it the first time I heard Ron Perlman's voice in the opening credits, (so sensual a thing i was caught before I even saw Vincent's face)?
Did I drive, or was I driven?
Did I pick this beautiful thing Ron Koslow created, or, as I came to feel that "enthralled" way, did it pick me, and seemingly sweep me right along with it?
It did, didn't it? Wasn't it like a ... a song someone was singing to me, each episode? Wasn't I the enraptured audience, anxious to hear each next verse? Didn't I pine for it when it was pre-empted? Didn't I all but chafe at the summer hiatus? Wasn't it the first date I was interested in, when the new season premiered? ("When does the season start for CBS, and more importantly, when is Beauty and the Beast coming back on?" When?" Will it be on the same night? How much longer must I wait?")
Did I choose it, or did it choose me?
Because somehow, something in this little world Ron Koslow dreamed of (and I play in, along with so many of you), something felt just that way.
I wasn't on the outside looking in. I was on the inside, looking deeper. Loving it more and more. More than I should, perhaps. It was, after all, "just a TV show." Until it wasn't.
Were you in the tunnels, too?
Of course you were. You know you were. We're all still there, twenty years and more, later. We write for it, and read for it, draw for it and think about. We're still opening that tunnel gate, and setting off to wander. Still standing on that balcony, listening to Vincent and Catherine. And more. Lots more.
We explore all those places, places both dark and light. Both the outside ones of those, and the inside. We "push" Vincent, to see just where he'll take us, and teach us what we think he knows. We push Catherine. We push Father, and Mouse, and Jamie and Joe. And sometimes, we feel something wonderful. We feel them push back. We feel ourselves realizing something. About them. About ourselves. About the human condition. And the inhuman one, sometimes.
And it's that sensation of depth, of understanding, of exploring what love is, and what it means to the different people it touches that brings me in. That sensation that brought me, to begin with. What will they all choose? And what will choose them?
Because we weren't watching them all "be," I don't think. We were watching them all "choose."
The world Father guided, the world Vincent protected and Catherine sheltered in was about so many things. Freedom, and safety. Love and sanctuary. And it took me a long time to understand this, as I thought about what it was that drew me, but after a while I figured out a tiny part of it.
It's about "choice."
The incredible lightness of some of those. The terrible weight, of others.
About how everyone makes those, and that they can either elevate what you are, or destroy it. Sometimes both.
That those choices, and the power that they can unlock, can uplift you, and touch something in you that feels half divine. Those were the worthy choices we all had, from the simple to the far more profound.
Shall we read? Choose Shakespeare, then, or Byron. (Vincent does.) Shall we listen to music? Schubert it is. (And while you're there, kneel in the rain, and let it cover you. Cathy does.) Choose to be gentle. Choose to be kind. Don't accept those limitations you thought you had. Make choices that push those, that push you. Be better. Explore. Love. Love more. Choose.
And as I walk around the character Ron Perlman wanted me to see, I watched Vincent make his choices, and I'm aware he had few. That there is no one more tied to that place, that magical place, than he is. Even Jacob leaves it, in Song of Orpheus. Even Laura does. Kanin will, as an act of justice. Catherine will, as an act of becoming. Devin will, as an act of growing up, and of defiance.
But as we watch Vincent make every choice he can, for his life, (and forbid himself to curtail the choices of others), and we see him standing in his tunnel home, he makes the same deal with others that I made with the show.
I'll choose you. Will you choose me?
On January 12th, an unexpected rescue was undertaken. A strange, special child was saved from a hard fate, and the tunnel world was never the same. On January 12th, we're told, a baby was found, and a series of events set in motion. A series of events that got told to all of us in roughly one hour increments, each week.
Were there choices to be made? Yes. So many of those. So many which seemed easy, but which were really hard. So many that seemed hard, but were actually quite simple. But we watched people struggle with those choices, and watched that struggle ennoble them. We watched Vincent, and his limited life, and came to understand the one thing he abhorred being, to Catherine, was a "limit." We watched him resist that role, and we watched it change both of them into something better than each of them were, when the pilot started out.
They were transforming, and so were we. Or at least, I was.
So I decided, all these years later, that it was indeed all right if watching Vincent and Catherine grow and change, as their love changed them, was a good thing. It was an uplifting thing to watch Vincent struggle with the choices others made, and what those choices meant for him. It was amazing to watch him stand in the middle of all of it, needing to be chosen without ever once applying pressure to that end. (Not once. Not one time does he say "Choose me," out loud.) He just asks it every time he says her name, and you knew it, because you heard it.
It's a line he never speaks, and a message he can't help but deliver.
And we all did.
And we watched Vincent and Catherine, as they did the same.
It's the realization they reach, by both great leaps (some across broken tunnel paths) and by small degrees.
Do we know what their limits are? We have no idea. Is there a world of wonders out there, waiting to be discovered? There absolutely is. From the skyscrapers "where the wealthy and the powerful rule" to the depths of a river that was nameless, there it was, and it was all there for our characters, and it was all there, for us.
All we had to do... was choose.
I'm so glad we did.
And as Vincent's birthday comes around again, the notion that struck me when I thought about how powerful "choice" is, when it comes to this show, remains.
I am positive that there was a night when I chose this show.
I'm just not positive which night made me feel like it chose me, in return.
Happy Birthday, Vincent. Thank you for the choices you made. And the ones you didn't.
No matter where you are in your own fairy tale, I wish you love, ~Cindy
January 12, 2016