Friday, February 15, 2013

The Medium has a Message: a guest post by E.J. Copperman

eta: Jessica Brooks (coffelvnmom) is the winner of Sara J. Henry's A COLD AND LONELY PLACE! Jessica, please contact Sara with your info. Congratulations!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We here at Jungle Red love the elusive E.J. Copperman (most frequently seen in the company of notorious Barry-Award winning author Jeffrey Cohen.) The latest book in Copperman's Haunted Guesthouse series, Chance of a Ghost, has just hit the shelves, so of course E.J. is here to tell us all about...
...watching television. 

Which I guess leaves it to me to say you should all  check out Copperman's funny, fantastical mysteries. I know I'm going to pick up Chance of a Ghost. Just as soon as I finish this House of Cards marathon...

I love people who say they don’t watch television. I think they’re lying, but I just love them to pieces. They’re adorable.

People who say they don’t watch television (the really hardcore ones will tell you they don’t own a television) are subscribing to that hoary old notion that because television comes into your home and arrives on a screen smaller than the one in your local movie house, it is somehow an inferior, cheap, dirty conveyor of entertainment. They truly think that reading Mickey Spillane is a more highbrow experience than watching The West Wing. (I’m not discussing Downton Abbey, because I haven’t imbibed the Kool-Aid on that one yet.)

That’s just cute, is all. What decade is this?

I never disparage reading anything, because I think reading is an unparalleled form of entertainment and information gathering. I read for pleasure and I read for work. But I also go to movies and I surf the web and I play stupid games on my Kindle Fire (I read paper books almost exclusively, but you can’t play Scramble in a book).

And I watch television. Yeah, I said it. I watch television and I like it.

Indeed, as a student and (hopefully) practitioner of comedy, I think the best work being done today is on the old box (now really more a rectangle). You think Ted is higher class than the late lamented 30 Rock because the screen is bigger? I don’t.

Somewhere in this country (the USA, for our readers from elsewhere) is a household in which the author of such excellent crime novels as Every Secret Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere and By A Spider’s Thread is coexisting (one assumes peacefully) with the creative force behind such cheap television entertainment as The Wire, Treme, and Homicide: Life on the Street. Is one’s work by definition more worthy because it is presented on the printed page and not the small(ish) screen?

When I was a young and struggling writer, I went through a period of unexpected unemployment (that means I got fired from my job and couldn’t find work, kids). It was a very difficult six months, the closest I’ve come to honest-to-goodness depression in my life. Two diversions got me through that time: Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels, which I had just discovered, and the television series M*A*S*H, brought to television by the genius writer/producer/director Larry Gelbart.

I don’t discount Parker for a moment—the man was a master at what he did—but I think the endless reruns of the Korean War dramedy did more to keep me sane. Seeing the cast go through their trials and maintain a sense of humor kept me grounded. Cheap entertainment? I’d have paid twice as much for it.

This is not a diatribe against books, movies or opera (although I’m not a fan if Groucho, Harpo and Chico aren’t on hand). This is a defense of that underdog of the entertainment business, the boob tube, or as a government functionary famously called it so long ago, the “vast wasteland of television.” 

And he said that in the era when the writer’s room at Sid Caesar’s weekly live program included the wonderful Gelbart (who became a long-distance friend of mine years after saving my sanity), Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Lucille Kallen, Sheldon Keller, and some kid who called himself Woody Allen.

That’s some wasteland.

(To be fair, it’s also the time when they told us watching TV was bad for our eyes, that radiation from sitting too close would give us some unspeakable disease, and that seeing all that suggestive material on the airwaves would turn us into a nation of depraved sex addicts. And only one of those things turned out to be true.)

So don’t feel inferior when your friend tells you he or she doesn’t watch television. Consider that means your friend isn’t seeing things like The Daily Show (the smartest comedy done anywhere in decades), Homeland, Mad Men, Arrested Development, The Newsroom, The Colbert Report, or if they subscribe to Netflix, reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Star Trek, 30 Rock, The West Wing or… pretty much anything.

I watch television. I read books, too. Each has a great deal to offer. One night when you can’t find something you might enjoy on television, you might want to take a look at one of my books. I’d be grateful, and sincerely hope you’d enjoy it.

After all, you don’t want to watch TV all the time. That’s bad for your eyes.

I KNOW you have opinions on the boob tube, dear readers. Jump on the back blog to dish on your must-see TV, and one lucky winner will win all four of the Haunted Guesthouse books!

Newly divorced Alison Kerby wants a second chance for herself and her nine-year-old daughter. She's returned to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to transform a Victorian fixer-upper into a charming-and profitable-guest house. One small problem: the house is haunted, and the two ghosts insist Alison must find out who killed them...

Find out more, and read excerpts, at Copperman's website. You can also  friend E.J. on Facebook, follow E.J. on Twitter as @ejcop, and yes, there's even a blog: Sliced Bread.



  1. You mean there’s a mystery series that takes place on the Jersey Shore, and I’ve missed it? Goodness, I must have been watching too much television . . . I definitely need to check this out --- it sounds absolutely perfect to this raised-on-the-Jersey-shore gal . . . .

    As for that television, I’ll admit to a certain fondness for what used to be euphemistically called “escapist television.” [Maybe it still is, but I haven’t heard the term tossed about for a while.] My current “guilty pleasure” is a nightly dose of “Emergency!” where you’ll find the very best inside-joke line ever written: John Gage says to Nurse Dixie [played by Julie London] “Know anything about music?” She dryly replies: “A little bit.” Cracks me up every time . . . . I’ll watch “Star Trek” anytime, anywhere --- Gene Roddenberry, in my opinion, belongs right up there with the rest of those television writer giants . . . .

  2. Justified and Southland are my favorite TV shows. Gold Rush is third with a bullet.

    Love your ghost series, E.J. Say hi to Jeff for me.

  3. I also love Lucille Kallen's series set in Western MA.

  4. With all due respect, Joan (and I hope you do enjoy the books!), the very best inside-joke line ever written was on a show I actually don't watch, NCIS, when someone asks Mark Harmon what Ducky (played by David McCallum) looked like when he was young, and he says, after thinking about it, "Illya Kuryakin." Brilliant.

  5. Ok, I didn't get either of those jokes:). I guess I need to watch more TV...

    My favorite show right now is NASHVILLE--great music and plot twists and Connie Britton! I had to stop watching Homeland because it got too tense. So John watches and then tells me what happened.

    Off to read a ghost story!

  6. Yep, the Illya Kuryakin joke was perfect. I also like the inside jokes on Castle - Nathan Fillion often works in Firefly references, to the delight of the die hard Browncoats.

    In a similar "unplanned unemployment" situation, for me it was books that got me through. But I was officially dealing with depression, and the commercials took me out of the story too much. I seldom left the recliner, and read close to 50 books in 3 weeks.

    Even if I don't like a particular show, I think any FICTION on television is okay, it's the "reality" that drives me nuts. Most of that is truly garbage. My favorite really bad for you comedy today is - brace yourself - 2 Broke Girls. It's poorly acted (or maybe just heavily tongue in cheek), cheesy, and "nice" to see that level of raunch from a woman's perspective. It's okay, though - I also like Downton Abbey.

  7. 30 ROCK was not funny. TED was. Your perceptions may vary.

    Over the years I worked with far more folks who claimed to not read anything than those who claimed to not watch TV. Neither group seemed to have a clue what was happening in the world, country or the local area.

  8. Some of the best writing appears on television. Certainly more so than at the movies.

    I think a healthy combination of reading and watching is best. It's all about balance.

    As for must-see-tv. The Walking Dead tops that list. Followed closely by Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and Homeland.

    I also recently streamed the Netflix original show "House of Cards" (though calling it original is a misnomer, since it is a remake of the British show of the same name). Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are both excellent and I high recommend the show. (The whole first season is available now for binge watching).

  9. I try to balance my reading and TV watching with TV winning out a bit because it is on while I'm on the computer, wasting time on things like Facebook.

    I much prefer TV to most movies now, I just don't get the humor in a lot of the movies that depend on bathroom jokes and cruelty to others.

    M*A*S*H is always in reruns and I watch it often, it never gets old. Favs from today include The Big Bang Theory (hey, I work on a science/technology/engineering campus, and it is true to life for me), The Daily Show, and Elementary. Never got into 30 Rock or Community.

  10. So here's the thing - I really like television. I like it enough that I probably have to ration myself just a bit. This might be a reaction to living in a place where the only television available was one channel of the AFRTS (armed forces radio television service). It broadcasted most sporting events, Leno, Letterman and a seemingly endless stream of episodes of Walker Texas Ranger. No disrepect, Chuck, but once was enough.

    This is perhaps why I adore the good writing of Castle, Big Bang Theory, Gilmore Girls, Downton and many other shows. They are often good enough to pull me out of a book for an hour or two...but not always.

  11. I really am working my way through HOUSE OF CARDS (I agree with Kristopher, the performances especially are excellent) as well as ELEMENTARY. I don't follow too many shows because I have this quirk (is it a quirk? Are any of you like this as well?) in that I won't watch TV alone. That includes watching streaming on my laptop. For some reason, if I don't have one of the kids or Ross watching along with me, I'm not interested.

    I used to be a dedicated CASTLE and WALKING DEAD viewer along with the Smithie, but then she left for school and that fell apart. We'll probably do all-season binges in the summer, when she's home.

  12. Okay, I faithfully watched "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." when it originally aired and I have to agree that the Illya Kuryakin line in NCIS [which my Navy husband and I watch faithfully] was indeed a brilliant line. The "Emergency!" line is, I suppose, a more personal choice given that I knew of Julie as both an actress and as a singer. I think the inside jokes are generally rather brilliant pieces of writing . . . .

  13. I watch lots of TV series on DVD (Downton Abbey right now) but don't watch live/broadcast TV. I have a little guy and wasn't crazy about exposing him to all of the commercials and violence on TV. Not that he can only watch peaceful shows or anything-- we have a serious stack of Pokemon DVDs from the library. I miss watching political and sports events live but not enough to justify the cost of cable.

    And now on to your books! I just finished Chance of a Ghost on my Kindle and really enjoyed it. Thanks for making a stressful time a bit better!

  14. I am a book addict, but I like TV - a lot. I like Castle, and Elementary. And my secret is Duck Dynasty. It is funny. And Mr Cooperman, when one thinks of the writing staff on "Your Show of Shows", the only thing even more impressive would be Sid Ceasar and Imogene Coca, with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris bringing those funny skits to life.

  15. Glad I'm not the only one that gets slightly annoyed when someone tells me they never watch

    I do like Castle, but right now my faves are Downton Abbey and Once Upon a Time. And I have a serious addiction to the Investigation Discovery channel. I guess it's kind of like watching a mystery novel. True crime fascinates me. I am often amazed at what people are willing to kill for.

  16. Kimberly,

    Oh, I am addicted to the Investigation Discovery channel as well.

    I am always amazed by the coincidences that occur in those cases (how someone involved in a case looks like a suspect because of something in their past that ends up having nothing to do with the current case).

    If I was reading a book, I would think such things unrealistic, but yet here we have true crime that involves all kinds of strange connections.

  17. Happy to do what I can, Trisha. Hope things are getting better.

  18. In order to watch TV,y our TV needs to be hooked up to something, or so I hear. That something would be cable or a satellite dish, or through some sort of arrangement with your phone company. I currently have none of these arrangements, so I have no TV to watch at home. When I am at the gym, I try to make sure I'm on a treadmill that has a personal TV attached when The Big Bang Theory is on. A couple of weeks ago I thought I'd fall off the treadmill from laughing at hose geeks!

    And you know how sometimes an Amazon reviewer will say "I really wanted to like this book"? Well, I realy wanted to HATE Two Broke Girls. But I don't. It's another of my treadmill faves. Let us keep this a secret from my more conservative friends and relatives, okay?

    On DVD, I enjoy Downton Abbey, Bones, Firefly, all of which I own. Then there are some borrowed DVDs that I have enjoyed: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, some program about dead people (I can't remember the name but Mandy Patinkin is in it), Ballykissangel, Doc Martin, and I could name more if I could remember the names:-)

    Books I have enjoyed include some by some guy named Jeff Cohen and set in NJ. You think you may know him, EJ? I own all of your,uh, Jeff's mysteries. I would love to win the ghost books!

  19. Oh, good Lord! My fingers goofed again! "THOSE" geeks is what I meant to say!

  20. I used to be a one show kind of gal (only one show could hold my attention for the life of the series.) After The Sopranos, I was lost. Then I found Weeds. Now that I have finally learned to work the remote - I still don't Tivo, there are just so many hours in the day - and I've discovered the On Demand button...oh my. Yes to DA and TWD as you already know, but loving Homeland and The Borgias. Tried Copper but episode number one was pretty predictable. Does anyone know if it gets better?

  21. I just found out there are some mysteries by Jeff that I have not read-the theater ones! Something to look forward to!

  22. I watch a lot of TV! Reality shows - DWTS and different Chef series are fun.

    Emergency/Julie London - I remember watching that and laughing myself silly while the kids wondered what was wrong with me.

    Blue Bloods, The Closer reruns, history channel, A&E - all get a workout from me. I miss the West Wing and Gilmore Girls reruns.

    Looking forward to the latest book in your series - may it not be your last!

  23. I'm hooked on Arrow--and not just to watch Stephen Amell work his way up a salmon ladder. FYI: The salmon ladder has nothing to do with fish.

  24. Hey, Jeff - I'm glad to see you're bringing such a highbrow discussion to Jungle Red! (And congratulations on the new book!)

    I confess I love TV. The Good Wife. The Hour (a PBS show that's amazing). The DCI Banks series also on PBS. And every once in a while I trip over a MASH or Star Trek episode I haven't seen and I'm ecstatic.

    Nashville is too soapy... and yet I love Downton Abbey.

    What I wouldn't have given to have been a fly on the wall of Sid Caesar's writers room. Nice to see these days women firmly enthroned in the TV comedy writing business, too.

  25. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Someone who enjoys TV and doesn't claim it will rot your brain! I love TV and I love reading and the two do mix! I have trouble keeping track of my must see TV because of the split seasons. So my recording list includes Longmire, Justified, Masterpiece Theater, Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Warehouse 13, Haven, NCIS, Once Upon a Time, Fringe. And probably others I can't remember. See what I mean?
    I watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert every night. And old movies, like TCM old.
    Anyway EJ, I will look out for your books. They sound really interesting.

  26. I'm sure there aren't many people who don't watch T.V. I heard the librarian here at the library say she doesn't really watch T.V. My mother hardly ever watches T.V. (but then again she's mentally ill).

    I watch a lot of T.V., but sometimes I'm doing something else while it's on. I'm also an avid reader. I balance the two.

    I watch game shows such as Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I like dramas: Downton Abbey and Once Upon a Time. Sometimes I watch others on ABC, the CW, and ABC Family (Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, etc.). I can catch up on shows on V.O.D. (not the CW, though). Modern comedies are usually vulgar so I just watch the ones on the Disney Channel. I don't watch those dramas on FX and other channels that are rated mature. No D.V.R. Sometimes I watch old shows. I watch the Science Channel (How the Universe Works is one I like) and Discovery America. Of course I love ghost stories such as Paranormal Witness (SyFy) and A Haunting (Discovery America). I like Extreme Couponing and Extreme Cheapskates.

    I like movies. They're no worse than T.V. I get movies from the library (recently watched two Midsomer Murders and The Possession) and watch movies on Starz and Encore.

    Deb Romano, maybe you can just plug your T.V. into the outlet and it'll work. You could probably get local channels. It was a few years ago when they switched from analog to digital when they said you'd need a special box. If your T.V. is older you might still need that, but maybe with a newer one you wouldn't.

    I don't like the Big Bang Theory. I thought it was the stupidest show ever. I tried watching it once, during the first season, I think. I don't like trashy reality shows.

    I bought your first book in the ghost series when it came out but haven't read it yet. I promise I'll read them if I win them here! I love to read true ghost stories, too.

  27. I actually didn't watch TV (other than rented movies/series) for a couple of years, but it had more to do with time constraints, a weird schedule and no money (for cable access), than it did with snobbery. Since the advent of Hulu and Netflix, I'm watching more TV than I have in a decade. Nashville (Yep, Roberta, I adore Connie Britton too!) Glee, Smash, (are we seeing a trend here?) and of course Sherlock and Downton (E.J. you really should try that Kool-Aid). I still don't watch a ton of it (I still have a weird schedule) but I enjoy what I do watch!

  28. EJ, thank you. I love television, at all levels of brow.

    Illya Kuryakin. Of course. My then boyfriend would not return home from a weekend with me until Illya Kuryakin had done his bit for Sunday night TV. We still watch the show when available and sing along with that damn music continuing to worm around in our ears. That earworming thing got us married.

    Now our favorite is Nashville and, Like Lucy, I've stopped watching Homeland for the same reason. I have to admit a huge addiction to Downton Abbey. My other current favorite is Sherlock. Yes, I am a Cumberbitch.

  29. Well, with Downton, I've sipped some
    Kool-Aid, but it hasn't taken complete hold. And I agree with you
    about that Gibbs' line. Falling off the sofa funny.

  30. YAY! Quite excited about winning A COLD AND LONELY PLACE! :) Thanks guys,