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By Joyce Sáenz Harris

Even for fans who are well-acquainted with the work of Dallas native Stephen Tobolowsky, his new book, My Adventures with God, is a bit of a surprise: an exploration of his midlife return to the Jewish faith.

Tobolowsky 2017My Adventures with God







PHOTO: Jim Britt

Tobolowsky is a graduate of Justin F. Kimball High School and Southern Methodist University. In the past three decades, he has become a beloved character actor who displays both comedy and drama chops in more than 100 films as diverse as Groundhog Day and Mississippi Burning. He’s been on more than 200 TV shows ranging from Deadwood to Glee, most recently Silicon Valley and The Goldbergs. He also tells stories on the popular podcast The Tobolowsky Files.

Tobolowsky, who lives in Los Angeles, will return to his hometown to celebrate the publication of My Adventures With God (Simon & Schuster, $25) on Tuesday, April 18, with an appearance at the Dallas Museum of Art as part of Arts & Letters Live. He answered questions by email; here are highlights.

Like your 2012 book The Dangerous Animals Club, My Adventures with God is a memoir with a lot of Dallas and many laugh-out-loud moments. But the spiritual aspect often takes it into a more serious realm. 

Simon and Schuster asked me if I could write a book on faith. When I was grasping for a premise for My Adventures with God, I came up with something that turned out to be truer than I first imagined: Our lives often fit the template of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.

We all have a Genesis. This is usually what we talk about on a first date: who we are, where we came from, our aspirations. Then, like in Exodus, we go into slavery. Instead of building pyramids, we lose ourselves in the desperation of first loves, first jobs. Some are trapped by drugs and alcohol, others by graduate school.

Then we escape and have our Leviticus moment. We stop and say, “This is what I am.” This is when I married Ann. When I became a father. When I returned to Judaism. Then we are shaped by mortality, as in the Book of Numbers, as we lose family and friends. And finally, we get to a place of perspective: Deuteronomy. It is here when we tell our stories to our children and try to make sense of the journey.

You were in seventh grade when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and you write that “for those few days, history pulled back the curtain and showed us all how close we are to the edge of nothing.” Have you had any other occasions like that, such as 9/11?

Once you are aware of how delicate civilization is, you see its potential downfall everywhere. Usually in lies. They can be big lies from people in power — or the lies we tell ourselves. It doesn’t take anything as cataclysmic as 9/11. As my mother said, “Don’t break your word. You only get one. When you break it, it’s hard to get it back again.”

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Special Contributor

Post-apocalyptic literature may be as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh, but in the postwar years it became a midcentury-modern, atomic-era genre all its own. Where it once was considered the province of pop and pulp, this branch of fiction achieved considerable critical acclaim in 2006 with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. By late 2012, The New Yorker was calling the genre “postapocalit.”

Nuclear annihilations, climatic or ecological collapses, pandemics, technological failures, fascist dystopias, zombie plagues and alien invasions: Each disaster category has its subgenres and its enthusiasts. And, with more postapocalit novels now being written by women, readers are finally getting more end-of-days stories with principal characters who are female.

In Jenni Fagan’s second novel, The Sunlight Pilgrims, melting polar icecaps have cooled the Gulf Stream, and the world may be facing a new Ice Age. Coastlines are vanishing, and the British Isles are frozen over, with temperatures already below zero and falling week by week in the autumn of 2020.
Yet humanity shuffles doggedly along; after all, the internet works, and while ever-grimmer news is being reported on TV, electric power still exists and transportation has not yet come to a standstill. How bad could things really be? Surely this is just an unusually severe winter looming.

So orphaned misfit Dylan MacRae, with nothing left for him in London, travels to a small coastSunlight Pilgrimsal town in the far north of Scotland, lugging the ashes of his mother and grandmother. He settles into his mother’s shabby old caravan and makes fast friends with his neighbors, who dominate much of the narrative: free-spirited Constance Fairbairn and her trans daughter Stella, who is almost 13 and struggling for acceptance as a goth girl who likes boys.

Not a great deal happens in The Sunlight Pilgrims, but Fagan draws an unsentimental, bleakly realistic picture of ordinary people refusing to believe the worst actually is at hand. Instead, they persist in living their everyday lives, worrying more about sex than about planetary doom, as they wait for the springtime that has always come before.

This is, we understand, how many humans cope with death: by believing that it can’t really happen. Not to us. What, after all, is the world without people in it? A depopulated Earth is almost beyond our imagining.

As intimate secrets slowly are revealed, winter closes inexorably upon Dylan and his little surrogate family. The mercury drops and drops, snows become impassable, food becomes scarce, and finally a drifting iceberg the size of a mountain looms off the Scottish coast.

Fagan is good at capturing the delusions allowing her characters to fool themselves that everything will be just fine if only they can find ways to cope until the vernal equinox, until the spring thaw that surely must arrive. This numbing, killing cold can’t last forever … can it?


Alexandra Oliva’s debut novel, The Last One, is the perfect postapocalit novel for people who watch reality TV. But even if you don’t follow those shows, you’ll be able to appreciate Oliva’s cleverness in creating a fictional TV series called “In the Dark” that seems every bit as “real” — that is, just as fake, manipulative and shrewdly edited — as the network shows that actually appear on our flatscreensThe Last One.

A young woman, named Sam but nicknamed Zoo on the show, is one of a dozen contestants competing for a million dollars on “In the Dark,”the series that is part Survivor, part The Amazing Race and all cynicism. Oliva invents a diverse cast of competitors and a self-obsessed host for the reality show, as well as a Greek chorus of snarky viewers commenting online (including an apparent Firefly fan using the handle LongLiveCaptainTightPants).

The reader knows something is up from the opening sentence: “The first one on the production team to die will be the editor.” But Zoo and her fellow contestants don’t have a clue that while they are busy trekking for dollars through the countryside, cut off from everything familiar, something strange and scary is happening in the outside world.

The contestants know that many of their encounters in the forest will be set dressing: scenes realistically faked for maximum impact, designed to cause emotional upset and create alarmed reactions for the cameras. But the reader begins to suspect, long before Zoo and the others do, that some of these horrors are more real than others.

Hungry, thirsty, stressed by competitive challenges and worn down emotionally and physically, the contestants are slow to realize that they are walking through unplanned dangers. Their survival game now includes uncontrollable risks that were not mentioned on the legal releases they were required to sign.

The Last One is psychological suspense skillfully played out for modern electronic media, and it just might keep you glued to your e-reader all night.

Joyce Saenz Harris is a Dallas freelance writer.

The Sunlight Pilgrims
Jenni Fagan
(Hogarth, $26)

The Last One
Alexandra Oliva
(Ballantine, $26)


Photo: Robert Trachtenberg            

The average American woman probably has more than she thinks in common with five-time Emmy Award winner Candice Bergen.

Love, marriage, motherhood. Widowhood, grieving, remarriage. Midlife illnesses, aging parents, terrible losses. Career hiccups. Extra pounds and the realization that, after age 45, even famous beauties become mostly invisible in a society fixated on youth.

Bergen turns 69 next month, but retirement is not on her to-do list. Her second memoir, A Fine Romance (Simon & Schuster, $28), was published Tuesday, and on Wednesday evening she will appear as part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live series to talk about her life in and out of the limelight.

Bergen, a one-time model turned actress, grew up in Beverly Hills, the child of Hollywood royalty. Her father, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, was a huge star of radio, film, stage and early TV screens; his most famous dummy, Charlie McCarthy, is in the Smithsonian Institution. Candice Bergen’s first memoir, Knock Wood, covering the initial decades of her life and career, was published in 1984 to critical and popular acclaim.

In A Fine Romance, Bergen writes that when Knock Wood was a success, she had “trouble enjoying it.” The next year, she had her daughter, Chloe, with her first husband, French film director Louis Malle. With the birth of her child, “my writing fuse shorted out,” Bergen said in a recent telephone interview. “I didn’t write again for 30 years.” Thus, tackling a second memoir required her to retrain what she calls her “writing muscle.” She blew three deadlines for A Fine Romance, “managed to drag it out over four years … and wrote the book, stupidly, on my iPad.”

A Fine Romance is, like its predecessor, an engaging read: smart, funny, highly personal and surprisingly candid. It covers her unconventional marriage to Malle, who died of cancer at age 63 in 1995, when Chloe was just 10; her delayed introduction to motherhood at 39; her rocket ride to TV stardom in 1988 with the hit CBS comedyMurphy Brown; the perks and perils of her subsequent fame; the difficult days of Malle’s illness, his death and her widowhood; and the happiness she has found in her second marriage, to New York businessman Marshall Rose.

Daughter Chloe is the constant of A Fine Romance’s narrative, the centerpiece around which Bergen, in motherhood, constructed her life.

“She’s probably much more like her father than like me; she has his dynamism and his intellect,” Bergen says. “Like him, she can never do less than two or three things at a time. She was born a multitasker. But she gets her sense of humor from me, and also partly from my brother,” Kris Bergen.


Photo: Mia McDonald

Now 29 and the social editor of Vogue, Chloe is engaged to financial analyst Graham Albert, and her mother is busy planning a summer wedding — “very small, only 50 people” — at Louis Malle’s cherished French country home, Le Coual. Right now, Mom is still trying to figure out where all the guests will stay for this destination wedding deep in southwest France, a half-day’s journey from Paris. “I’m just turning it over to the Fates,” Bergen says. “I can do no more.”

Malle and Bergen adored each other, but they were from very different worlds. For the first five years of their marriage, she concentrated on being with him wherever he worked, which mostly was in Paris; even after Chloe’s birth, they managed to be together more often than not. “Up until Murphy Brown, we were rarely apart,” Bergen says.

In Los Angeles, Bergen’s mother and brother lived only a few minutes away, and Murphy Brown’s schedule was flexible enough to accommodate Chloe’s schooling and a normal family life. But the show’s success and its long run on TV meant that Bergen’s life with Malle became a trans-Atlantic commuter marriage, with her husband bearing the brunt of the travel.

It might be the world capital of film, but Malle didn’t like living or working in Hollywood. “He was convinced they put something in the water in LA,” Bergen says with a laugh. “It never would have been home for him. I certainly understood that. Anyone who does what we do has to deal with this.”

Though she enjoys visiting Paris and loves Le Coual, Europe could never quite be home for Bergen, either. While she does speak French, “I’m an American girl … and culturally, France is very different.”

Having the Bergen family in LA “was great for Chloe,” Bergen says. “But it was not great for her not to have her father always there.” Malle and his daughter had to work harder to maintain a close relationship, and “it was anguishing,” despite the fact that Chloe was mature beyond her years. Later, she had surrogate father figures, such as her Uncle Kris and her adored godfather, the late film director Mike Nichols, whose presence in their lives was, Bergen says, “a great gift.”

Bergen married Marshall Rose in 2000, and they make their principal home in New York City, not far from Chloe. He was a widower with grown children, and he proposed to Bergen after only three months of dating. She still has a pied-à-terre in LA, as well as Le Coual in France, but she concedes that “travel seems less appealing” at this more settled stage of her life.

“It’s been a very traditional marriage,” she says, “and I am still getting used to that.” He is “the most attentive and loving” husband, and she treasures his companionship all the more because she didn’t always have it before. At this age, she says, it feels good to have that.

“I probably enjoy my time alone a little less,” Bergen says. Being married “is like having radiant heat next to you in bed, and I get used to that.”

Candice Bergen will discuss A Fine Romance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church, 1835 Young St., Dallas, as part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live. Tickets are $15-$65. or 214-922-1818.

Papa'iloa Beach: Can't you almost see Sawyer?

Papa'iloa Beach: Can't you almost see Sawyer?

We got back last Monday from a trip to Maui. On the way back, we had a 24-hour stopover on Oahu… meaning we were in LOST territory.

Unfortunately, I did not run across any LOST shoots that Sunday. Nor did I bump into any stars in the airport or in Waikiki — unless you count spotting the Searcher, aka Penny’s boat, in a Honolulu marina.

But I did persuade my indulgent husband to drive us to a couple of LOST sites in the brief afternoon we had to explore the North Shore, in the area around the cool surfer town of Hale’iwa.
Papa'iloa Beach on Oahu's North Shore, a backdrop familiar to LOST fans.

Papa'iloa Beach on Oahu's North Shore, a backdrop familiar to LOST fans.

First we checked out Papa’iloa Beach, where a lot of LOST beach camp scenes have been shot. We were very near the actual shooting site, but not as close as we would have liked. We didn’t have the time (or the energy; it was hot) to trudge a mile south, down the beach and around the point, from the public-access spot where we could legally park.

But the mountains were there as a green backdrop, the beach looked a whole lot like the beach we all know and love… and if you used your imagination, you could almost see a shirtless Sawyer sitting on the rocks, looking out to sea. (Well, at least I could almost see him. My husband was probably imagining Kate or Juliet.)

YMCA Camp Erdman welcomes LOST fans.

YMCA Camp Erdman welcomes LOST fans.

Next we went up the Farrington Highway to YMCA Camp Erdman, also known as the Dharma Barracks or “New Otherton.”

Almost nobody was around Camp Erdman that day, and even before we checked in at the Welcome Center, no one seemed to mind that we parked and walked around to shoot photos. As you can see from their sign (above), they seem to welcome LOST fans.
Kate was held captive in Camp Erdman's Assembly Hall.

Kate was held captive in Camp Erdman's Assembly Hall.

We spotted the gazebo and the Others’ recreation hall (above), sometimes used as their temporary jail. You’ll recall that’s where Kate was kept prisoner when she tried to rescue Jack, who didn’t really want to be rescued.

The yellow cottages of "New Otherton," aka the Dharma Barracks.

The yellow cottages of "New Otherton," aka the Dharma Barracks.

The mustard-colored cottages (above) were unmistakable, although the campgrounds didn’t look nearly as green and pretty as they do in the show (I suspect the LOST crew does a lot of set dressing beforehand). It’s obvious that the cottage interiors we see are sets; the real interiors are much more spartan.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon. If we’d had a few more days in Honolulu, we might have taken a pricey tour of Kualoa Ranch, a private estate where many LOST shoots take place, on the windward side of Oahu. Or I might even have contacted Grass Skirt Productions to see if I could finagle a backstage, on-set visit.
But for the brief time we had on Oahu, it was enough to know that we were as close to the Island as we were ever likely to get. Now when I watch the reruns and see the Barracks, I can think: “Wow…I was there!”
Quinn Cummings at 10, backstage in a dressing room, 1977.

Quinn Cummings at 10, backstage in a dressing room, 1977.

If the name “Quinn Cummings” sounds vaguely familiar to you, it’s probably because in the back of your mind, you have a memory of a precocious child who played Marsha Mason’s daughter, Lucy McFadden, in 1977’s The Goodbye Girl. She got an Academy Award nomination for that role, in which her comic timing rivaled that of Richard Dreyfuss. Quinn also was the girl who in 1978 joined the Aaron Spelling drama Family in its third season, playing Annie, the adopted daughter of Sada Thompson and James Broderick.

Quinn Cummings (Photo by Donald DiPietro)

Quinn Cummings (Photo by Donald DiPietro)

That child grew up a long time ago. Thirty years have passed; she’s almost 42 now, and she has acted only occasionally since her teens. Now Quinn’s a businesswoman with her own company (she invented the HipHugger baby sling), and she’s a mother. She always loved to write, and for the past several years she has been blogging on The QC Report

Notes from the Underwire

Notes from the Underwire

The success of her blog led to Quinn’s first book, the just-published Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life (Hyperion, $14.99). Technically speaking, it’s a collection of first-person essays, a sort of episodic memoir, although that description makes the book sound way more serious than it really is.

In fact, while there are some serious moments in it, this is one very funny book.

Notes from the Underwire covers everything from Quinn’s acting career to her stint as an AIDS hotline volunteer, from her Significant Other (known here as Consort) and their daughter (known here as Alice) to the perils of homeownership and the bloodthirsty habits of their cat, Lulubelle, a nonpareil predator who is supposed to be catching only mice and rats:

I measure the advent of spring not with the first crocus but the first bird skull. I long to explain to Lu that we only wanted the ugly and verminous eaten, but that would have been like asking Godzilla to stomp only Tokyo’s less popular neighborhoods.

Quinn tells us why she never got to go to her prom, how she spent a couple of years as a talent agent, and how she realized she was not meant to be a sitcom writer. She also opens up candidly about the most terrifying time of her adolescent life, when she feared losing her only surviving parent to cancer.

Here’s Quinn Cummings on Notes from the Underwire.

* * *   

Hi Quinn: Unlike some of your blog-tour reviewers, I’m coming to Notes from the Underwire as a newbie to your blog. So please forgive me if some of these questions would have obvious answers for a longtime reader of The QC Report.

How much of the book came directly from the blog? Did you do much rewriting of original blog posts for book publication?

Very little is from the blog. This annoys me tremendously, as I am lazy and hoped to cut-and-paste my way to being a published author. Mercifully, my editor had other plans. What little was originally in the blog has been edited and, one can only hope, improved to a fare-thee-well.

As a cat lover, I nearly laughed myself sick over “A Nice Big Fat One.” Is Lulubelle still living with you and paying her rent on time?

Lulabelle appreciates your interest but isn’t surprised by it; without ever understanding the idea of the Internet, she’s always assumed she’s world-famous for her beauty, charm and killing skills. Just last month, I was outside watering the plants when she trotted by me in a casual yet purposeful gait. A second later, she leapt into a bush and emerged with something wiggling in her jaws. I shouted “LU!” impotently, and she sneered at me before snapping the neck of the mouse. I think I was to understand that’s what would happen to me if I continued to be a buzzkill.

How grateful are you that so very little of your “child star” past is readily available on YouTube?

I don’t know how much of my earlier life is on YouTube because I’m too fearful to look, so I’m going to say that if very little is on there I am VERY GRATEFUL and yet wish there was a little less.

“Like a Tattoo on Your Butt” was a heartbreaking chapter, especially because I lost a brother (at age 34) to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He left behind two very young daughters whose whole lives thereafter were changed by his death in 1995. I couldn’t help wanting to know: What happened to your mom? What happened to you?

I’m so sorry about your brother; I’m so sorry for his kids. My mother defied the odds and was able to recover from Lymphoma with only a single round of chemo. She’s here in Los Angeles, still leading an interesting life and adoring her granddaughter. What happened to me? I got over it.

At the end of that chapter, you say you told your vice principal  that you didn’t “plan on getting close to anyone.” But now, of course, you have Consort and Alice. When did you dare to let yourself hope that you could, in fact, be close to someone again?

As I said, I got over it. I didn’t go through Sarajevo; I had a sick parent who then got better. Eventually, I defrosted enough to realize that caring for other people might put you as risk of loss, but not caring for other people sapped most of the color and the flavor out of the world. It’s frightening to imagine losing either one of them, but choosing to participate in the world is infinitely better than sitting in the bleachers.

Quinn, I enjoyed the book tremendously, and you have made a new fan. Thanks so much!

Thank you for such thoughtful questions. Let me know when it’s up and I’ll link to it.

Walter Cronkite in 1991 (Washington Post photo)

Walter Cronkite in 1991 (Washington Post photo)

Today I’m thinking about how, back in the summer of 1992, I had a phone conversation with Walter Cronkite.

The occasion was a High Profile cover for The Dallas Morning News, a story about author James A. Michener, then 85 years old. I had spent an amazing day with the hospitable Mr. Michener — just the two of us, talking, having lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, then talking some more — at his summer home in Brunswick, Maine.

By the time I went home, I had a list of his friends and associates I wanted to chat with. And the one I was most eager to contact was Mr. Cronkite, then 75 and still busy as ever, though retired from the CBS News anchor chair for 11 years.

Over the 10 years I was a High Profile reporter, I often placed such phone calls to secondary sources who were as famous as, or even more famous than, the people I was profiling. Cesar Chavez, Lady Bird Johnson, Dan Rather, Ross Perot, Lloyd Bentsen, Barbara Walters, Franco Zeffirelli, Dame Joan Sutherland — ordinary folks like that. There were only a few times when I was a little nervous about making those calls.

The call to Mr. Cronkite was one of those times.

I mean, this was Walter Cronkite. How many times had I watched him on our family’s TV set as that deep, reassuring voice informed me about the tragedies and triumphs of the 1960s and ’70s? How often had I heard him introduce himself: “This is Walter Cronkite…”? Or sign off with, “And that’s the way it is…”?

Thousands of times, surely, over some three decades. I probably knew that voice as well as I knew my own father’s.

So yes, I was nervous. But I called his office at CBS and left a message for him. And a few days later, my phone rang, and that unmistakable voice informed me: “This is Walter Cronkite.”

So hypnotized was I that I had a little trouble remembering to scribble my notes. But he was kind and patient, and we talked for 10 or 15 minutes, mostly about Mr. Michener and their friendship. Among other things, he told me that his favorite Michener book was Chesapeake.

In the story I wrote (published on Aug. 16, 1992) I ended up using an anecdote about one of their adventures aboard Mr. Cronkite’s beloved sailboat, the Wyntje:

“One time when we went sailing on Chesapeake Bay, we picked Jim up in Oxford, Maryland. We were sailing to Annapolis, and it got nasty out there. Jim was getting pretty wet, and I was worried about him, so I asked if he’d like to go below. But he wouldn’t.

“Eventually the storm passed, and I told Jim that it was lovely of him to insist on staying with me.

“He said, “Walter, I couldn’t afford not to stay on deck. The State of Maryland just made me an honorary Admiral of the Chesapeake. How would it be if they heard I went below in a storm?’ “

I went home that day and told our then-13-year-old daughter (who had met Mr. Michener on our Maine trip): “Guess who I talked to today for my Michener profile?”


“Walter Cronkite!”

“Wow!” Pause. Puzzled look on her face. “Who’s Walter Cronkite?”

I then realized that Mr. Cronkite had retired from the anchor desk when she was only two years old. “He used to be the anchorman on CBS,” I told her. “He’s really iconic, really famous and respected among journalists. Well, among everyone who’s a grownup, really. I can’t believe I got to talk with him!”

All these years later, our daughter is now 30, married and the mother of two small children. I know that Walter Cronkite will never mean to her what he meant to my generation, or to her grandparents’. She’ll never think of any news anchor as “iconic,” really. The communications world has changed so radically that there will never be another news figure with the kind of respect, authority and clout that Mr. Cronkite had.

He was a serious journalist, a real newsman. He did his job well, he loved his work, and he helped to change the world and make it a better place. That’s the best way any journalist can hope to be remembered.

Home is the sailor, home from the sea. Godspeed, Uncle Walter.

Anyone who knows me probably knows about my obsession with Lost (currently airing Wednesdays at 8 on ABC).  There are a number of TV shows I like a lot, but only one to which I am an abject slave. This happens to me every once in a while, pop culture-wise. It’s kind of like how I was hopelessly hooked on Harry Potter from Book 1: I was fixated on Lost from the pilot episode on. As a result, I have spent the past four and a half years either (a) watching Lost or (b) waiting like a lost puppy for Lost’s next season to start. Yeah, it’s utterly pathetic. I know.

The Geronimo Jackson ladies' T
The Geronimo Jackson ladies’ T

There’s no really good way to explain my infatuation with Lost. Well, of course there’s Josh Holloway, who plays James “Sawyer” Ford, and Henry Ian Cusick, who plays Desmond Hume, and Matthew Fox, who plays Dr. Jack Shephard. They’ve got some mighty good-looking men on that show, and they’re good actors too. Among the women characters, my favorite is Dr. Juliet Burke, played by Dallas’ own Elizabeth Mitchell. And then there’s a whole raft of other characters: Kate Austen, the former fleeing felon and freckled femme fatale; Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, the large and lovable slacker and lottery winner who calls everyone “dude”; Sayid Jarrah, an Iraqi who was tinker, torturer, soldier and spy for the Republican Guard in the first Gulf War; John Locke, whose paralyzed legs and broken back are miraculously healed as soon as he lands on the island; and Sun and Jin Kwon, the Korean couple with gorgeous looks and ugly personal secrets. Then there’s Daniel Faraday, the mentally fragile physicist and time-travel expert; Miles Straume, the sarcastic “ghostbuster” who talks to dead people; and Frank Lapidus, the ace pilot who becomes quite the expert at flying to and from a mysterious island that doesn’t show up on any charts or maps.

The premise of Lost is well-known by now: In September 2004, an Oceanic jetliner breaks apart over the South Pacific en route from Sydney to L.A. A few dozen people from the plane’s midsection and tail section wash up on an island and await a rescue that never comes. Three months later a freighter arrives on an ominous mission, bringing the news that the world believes Oceanic 815 to have been lost at sea with no survivors. Eventually six of the Oceanic castaways return to civilization, a media army and worldwide fame — while telling no one about leaving behind a group of friends who must fend for themselves as the island goes skipping through time.

But the rest of the Lost universe is what makes most of us fans so happily mental. “The numbers”: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. The smoke monster. Dead people who don’t seem to stay dead. The island’s unseen ruler, Jacob. The gigantic remains of a statue with four toes. The hippie-era Dharma Initiative and its indigenous opponents on the island, “the Others.”  Richard Alpert, the Others’ shaman, who never ages.

On Lost, even the good guys aren’t all good, and the seeming bad guys aren’t all bad either. Flawed, complicated, devious and ruthless though they can be, Lost‘s villains are some of the series’ most interesting people. Billionaire Charles Widmore, who used to be the Others’ leader, can be appallingly cruel or astoundingly kind, but he’s never predictable. And Benjamin Linus, the rival who ousted Widmore as leader of the Others, is one of TV’s great bad guys. As played by the amazing Michael Emerson, Ben is bug-eyed and shrimpy, but also steely and manipulative. He looks like a complete milquetoast, yet he commands respect, fear, hatred and loathing. Ben can’t be trusted. Ben lies. Ben kills people. Yet the show wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without him.

One of the show’s little in-jokes is Geronimo Jackson, a fictional 1970s-era band whose name keeps popping up throughout the past few seasons. Right now you can find their single “Dharma Lady” on iTunes (they sound a lot like the Grateful Dead), and you can buy Geronimo Jackson T-shirts online at the store.

Although I love reading and participating in Lost fansites and blog discussions, I’ve never bought any Lost magazines or action figures, Dharma Initiative-logoed merchandise or other diehard-fan paraphernalia. But for some strange reason, I decided that I wanted a Geronimo Jackson T-shirt, and the other day I got one. Somehow it appeals to me — maybe because I came of age in the ’70s. If Geronimo Jackson had been a real band, I probably would have listened to them back then. Heck, I’d probably still be listening to them: I’ve got early David Bowie in my car’s CD changer right now, and he still sounds good to me after 35 years. 

After this current season, Lost has one more season to go, its sixth, before the series wraps up. I have no idea how the story of the island and its inhabitants will end.

But whatever happens, at least I’ll always have Geronimo Jackson.