Television’s Last American Aristocrats

By Bradley Anderson

CBS’s Blue Bloods remains an unexplained anomaly. Now in its improbable eleventh season, a television show less suited to the ruling zeitgeist can hardly be imagined.

As the double meaning of the title indicates, the Irish-Catholic Reagan family are law enforcement aristocracy in New York City, with police commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) as paterfamilias. One of his sons, Joe, has died in the line of duty as a police officer before the series begins, oldest son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is a senior detective on the force, daughter Erin Reagan (Bridget Moynahan) is an assistant district attorney, and in the pilot episode, Harvard-educated youngest son Jamie (Will Estes) decides to give up a promising law career to join the NYPD. Living with the widowed Frank is his father Henry Reagan (Lou Cariou), a former police commissioner himself who is there to provide historical perspective and grandfatherly advice.

Any aristocracy is an affront to modern sensibilities, but what makes this a peculiarly old-style American one is that it is self-made; its scions don’t live off of trust funds. Frank has as his personal sidearm a revolver carried by his father Henry before him, who in turn inherited it from his own father. Each of the Reagan men have followed the path that Jamie embarks on at the beginning of the first season: starting at the bottom as a rookie beat cop and expected to work his way up on his own, albeit aided by that most precious of family inheritances, wise advice born of experience.

What the late producer Leonard Goldberg created in Blue Bloods is an atmosphere with a satisfyingly biblical sweep, conveyed through impressive production quality, sterling writing, and fine acting from the cast. Television series have mastered a multi-episode story arc concept that suits both broadcast needs and streaming services, and the layered Reagan family allows such arcs to follow unpredictable paths that include not only crimes, but also New York political conflicts, legal wrangling, police corruption, social disruption, and family crises. Blue Bloods touches on contemporary issues, to be sure, but without the tiresome didactics to which lesser series fall prey.

Beyond all of that, the tight Reagan family bonds create emotional arcs that hold the viewer’s attention more closely than any storyline. To be sure, portraying healthy nuclear families is older than Leave it to Beaver. But showing the dogged work that goes into creating and maintaining a close-knit multi-generational family in a modern urban world is something only a decade-long series could do, and it is a brilliant accomplishment. (As a side-note, how deliberately subversive was it to choose the name “Reagan” in 2010?)

After an uneven first few episodes, the show relaxed into a comforting and almost liturgical feel, with a sweeping aerial shot of New York City immediately after the opening credits and with each episode containing a Sunday dinner at which attendance by all family members is obligatory. Goldberg reportedly had to fight CBS executives to keep the latter element, but it quickly became the show’s iconic …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Sally Pipes: Biden’s health care plans – this is what Americans can expect from Democrats

By Sally Pipes Last week, President Joe Biden signed executive orders that will re-open ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges from Feb. 15 through May 15 and direct federal agencies to re-examine some of the health care rules enacted by the Trump administration. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: Clean energy – Biden and Republicans can work together. Here’s how

By Chuck Fleischmann If President Biden reached out to Congress, he may be surprised to learn that there is a large coalition of lawmakers from across the political spectrum who are eager to get involved in the fight to reduce carbon emissions. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Newt Gingrich: Biden says ‘unity’ but he really means ‘conformity’ – here’s what the real deal would look like

By Newt Gingrich Biden is quickly learning it will be tough to balance the wants of the radical left and those of more traditional working-class Democrats. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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E.E. Cummings in Love and at War

By Micah Mattix

The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War, by J. Alison Rosenblitt, (Norton: 2020), 327 pages

There hasn’t been a ground-breaking biography of E. E. Cummings since Richard Kennedy’s 1980 Dreams in a Mirror, which was a response to Charles Norton’s 1972 paean to the poet, E. E. Cummings: The Magic-Maker. Norton believed Cummings was a great talent. Kennedy did, too, but unlike Norton he offered an unembellished account of the poet’s life and an exhaustive reading of his work. His argument that Cummings rivals Eliot and Joyce failed to convince, but his account of Cummings’s life was immediately definitive.

There have been two biographies since, Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno’s E. E. Cummings: A Biography (2004), which relied heavily on Kennedy, and Susan Cheever’s effusive E. E. Cummings: A Life (2014), which is in the spirit of Norton. Now we have J. Alison Rosenblitt’s The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War.

Rosenblitt, who has written previously on Cummings’s debt to classical literature, isn’t trying to displace Kennedy or Sawyer-Lauçanno, but she is trying to shake things up. She focuses exclusively on Cummings’s early life and service in the volunteer ambulance corps in the First World War.

Rosenblitt argues that previous biographers have failed to take seriously Cummings’s relationship with a French prostitute called Marie Louise Lallemand, and that this relationship—his first love, Rosenblitt tells us—had a serious effect on his work. Previous biographers have minimized Cummings’s experience in the war, she writes. “We do not normally think of Cummings as a war poet . . . My argument is that Cummings is indeed a war poet, and that we must understand this period of his life if we wish to understand his ideas about love, justice, injustice, humanity, and brutality.”

The first third of the book focuses on Cummings’s early and college years. Here, Rosenblitt shines. She offers a careful account of Cummings’s relationship with friends and family, his summers at Joy Farm, and his time at Harvard, focusing in particular on his often difficult relationship with his father.

Rosenblitt is far more critical of the Reverend Edward Cummings than previous biographers, and rightly so. Cummings’s father ran a progressive household and espoused the “new” thinking on most controversial topics—the decriminalization of debtors, liberalizing Sunday restrictions, world peace—but was a controlling, self-righteous prude at home. The Reverend’s “moral authority,” Rosenblitt writes, “was only made all the more tyrannical by his genuinely liberal and thoughtful side: the parade he made of his own righteousness was bolstered by the legitimacy of his claim to be regarded as an upright and progressive man.” As he grew, Cummings chafed at his father’s self-righteousness and his bullying of Cummings’s mother, whom Cummings adored.

Frequently ill as a child, Cummings nevertheless loved the outdoors. He loved adventure and had a natural instinct to protect. Cheever argues in her biography that he changed suddenly from a submissive son to an angry poet when he was forced to drown his dog, Rex, one summer. His canvas boat turned over …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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