Weekend Wanderings

Hello, Vixens!!!  Happy Monday!!!

Today we celebrate the life of a man who worked for peace.  Last Friday, there was a funeral for a man who followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr. by becoming a beacon of hope and inspiration for people all over the world.  However, his story began on my old stomping grounds of Long Island.

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Courtesy of Joyful Baptist (original source unknown).  

He followed his father and grandfather before him into the line of duty as a member of the NYPD.  In 1986, while he was still a rookie officer, the 29 year old newlywed was working overtime to help prepare for the birth of his first child when he was shot three times by a 15 year old boy in Central Park.  The injuries from that shooting left the officer paralyzed from the neck down.  That might have been the end of the story for most of us, but for Detective First Grade Steven McDonald, it was the start of something extraordinary.

Less than a year later he offered forgiveness to his shooter and spent the next 30 years spreading the message to children and adults that Dr. King taught-that hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.  McDonald died at the age of 59 on January 10, 2017 and his funeral was held last Friday in St Patrick’s Cathedral.  I listened to it at work and then watched the service when I got home that night.  All I can write here is that it was one of the most beautiful celebrations of life I have ever witnessed.

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The McDonald family:  NYPD Det. Steven McDonald, his wife Patricia Ann & their son, Sgt. Conor McDonald (courtesy WPIX-11 News)

With all the violence we hear about day in and day out, all the hate and ugliness of the Presidential Election and the continued backlash expected on Inauguration Day later this week for those who still refuse to accept the outcome, I think we need to be reminded that there are still people in this world who want love to win-regardless of their political affiliation.  If you are one of them, watch or listen to the service yourself here.   If religion is not your thing, you can just listen to the eulogies starting at 1:31 of the video.  The last one by McDonald’s son should not be missed.

I am not sure if I shared this yet, but I have not made New Year’s resolutions in years because they simply are not productive for me.  I work better by giving myself attainable monthly goals.  For January, one of my big ones is to finish decorating my bedroom.  I put some things in place quickly for the holiday season, but now it is time to complete it.  The entire apartment was freshly painted before I moved in, but this room & the dining room were painted yellow.  I had a yellow bedroom in my house for he entire time I lived there (please don’t judge-painting that room lead to a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome so I avoided painting it again for many years…..which ended up turning into forever).

During the 14 years I lived there, I developed a more neutral palette & an enormous love for the shabby chic look.  So Saturday I went to the hardware store to get some paint samples.  I want the room white and I have narrowed the color choices down to four shades.  I will decide by the weekend because that is when I plan to paint.  I will share the shade I pick when I show you the after picture.  For now, the before picture is below:

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Saturday night my book club met for a movie night based on one of last year’s great reads, “The Light Between Oceans”.  I was able to snap one picture as I was assembling my food contribution to the evening-a turkey meat taco bar-before my phone died.  But I also had cheese, avocados, & sour cream as toppings.  Each of us were required to bring a box of tissues for the inevitable bawling we were anticipating for the really sad scenes.  I did like the movie but since I knew what was coming it made it very hard to watch, but definitely worth seeing……with a ton of tissues, of course.

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After the movie the rest of the women said the last time they used so many tissues was when they watched Tuesday night’s episode of NBC’s new show, “This Is Us“.  I have seen the commercials praising the show & was a little curious, but since my heart is still hurting two years after the finale of that station’s last critically acclaimed drama “Parenthood“, I was not ready to invest my feelings in a new family.  But the girls were so insistent-and did not reveal any spoilers to me just like I will not do here-plus they told me one of my favorite TV guys from my teenage years-Gerald McRaney-(“Simon & Simon“, “Major Dad“) has a recurring role in it, I thought I would check it out.  All the episodes are on Hulu so I was able to start at the beginning.

I could describe the show with one of today’s popular acronyms, but I think the series is good enough to use the actual words…….

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Courtesy of NBC.

OOOOOHHHHH

MMMMMYYYYY

GGGGGOOOOODDDDD!!!!!

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Susan Kelechi Watson & Sterling K. Brown from “This Is Us” (courtesy of NBC).

Despite my emphasis, that does not even begin to explain the greatness of this show.

I am not even kidding.

I started watching the pilot at around 11 pm Saturday night.  Then I binge-watched the next 10 episodes.

For eight hours straight.

Then I re-watched my favorite episode-“Pilgrim Rick”-two more times.

(Side note:  The last four minutes of this episode bring a whole new meaning to the word “dysfunction”).

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A scene from “This Is Us-Episode 8:  “Pilgrim Rick” (courtesy of NBC).

I was in serious need of an intervention.

That is how addicted I became almost instantly.  It was scary.

Then I fell asleep.

When I woke up, I started the series all over again.

Is there a 12 step program for binge watching addiction???

But first, where do I begin to explain how much I adore this show???

The writing?  Think verklempt times infinite.

The acting?  Superb.

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Mandy Moore & Milo Ventimiglia as Rebecca and Jack Pearson in “This Is Us” (courtesy of NBC).  

I already loved Milo Ventimiglia from his role as know-it-all-chip-on-his-shoulder Jess in “The Gilmore Girls”.  But here he is just as perfectly cast as a good guy who turns into an absolute superman of a father and husband.  Unbelievably, the performance did not garner him a nomination at last week’s Golden Globe Awards but the Hollywood Foreign Press did recognize the show as a whole and two other actors from it-Mandy Moore & Chrissy Metz-who were each nominated in the best supporting actress in a drama category. Moore really shines here, too.  If you have seen any of her movies over the years (I had not) or her three episode arc in “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2010 (I had), then you knew she had some serious acting chops.  She uses them in this show beautifully.

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Ventimiglia & Moore at the Golden Globe Awards (courtesy of Zimbio -original source unknown).

And the music?  Profound.

Episode three (“Kyle”) featured one of my all time favorite songs ever:  Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home“.  It also introduced me to a song from 1965 that is now haunting me.  It was written by a man who had such a sad life yet wrote something so mesmerizing and excruciatingly beautiful that it is almost  too hard to listen to.  In my opinion, that is art at its best.

Jackson C. Frank:  “Blues Run The Game“.

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Jackson C. Frank circa mid 1960’s (original source unknown)

Episode 9 (“The Trip”) introduced me to another old song-this time from 1974-that I never heard before.  The vocals do not start until 58 seconds in, so if you do not like the intro of the song, definitely fast forward to the singing because it is so worth it, I promise.

Richard and Linda Thompson:  “The Calvary Cross

Now that I gave  you the pros, it is only fair I give you the cons of the show:

  1.  Waiting an ENTIRE week for each new episode (there are six left for the season).  It will be torture.  I guess re-watching the previously aired ones will have to fill the void (if you do not subscribe to Hulu, you can watch a few episodes at NBC.com).
  2.  Gerald McRaney is not a series regular.  He is still so handsome and a hell of an actor.  He is one of TV’s best –  right  up there with Tom Selleck.
  3.  Despite the superb writing, the show already borrowed a pretty recent story line from another show.  One of the female characters  has a serious weight issue, so she attends a meeting for Over-Eaters Anonymous where she finds a boyfriend. That is exactly  how  the  characters  on “Mike & Molly” met.  While I think it is wonderful that  Hollywood is  now  embracing  overweight women (thank you, Melissa McCarthy), to suggest the only  place they can find love is in a support group is myopic, not to mention unrealistic.

If you like feel good dramas, “This Is Us” should not be missed.

So, how was your weekend???

Until next time, fellow Vixens, happy digging!!!

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It Was 30 Years Ago Today

Picture it:  NBC, 8pm, 30 years ago.  We heard that now famous theme song, “Thank You For Being A Friend” for the first time when the pilot episode of “The Golden Girls” premiered on September 14, 1985.  History and legends-not to mention a strong craving for cheesecake-was born.

How do I love these women?  I cannot even count the ways.  Three decades later, they remain my surrogate mothers/grandmothers.  As the saying goes, nearly everything I needed to know about life I learned from the Golden Girls.

The Golden Girls                                                                                          Photo courtesy of NBC.

They taught us all that life didn’t end at age 50 or older, or when your husband died and your kids left home.  That you stayed active, tried new things (remember Rose’s self-esteem class “You’re Special”, or performing in community theater, or when she took classes to learn Spanish, or when she finished high school in night class with Dorothy as the teacher), you always volunteered, you embraced gay rights (true, Blanche had a hard time when her brother came out, but it was when he was 45 years old & divorced, so it was understandable that she was a little thrown.  But she eventually accepted it) and you always practiced safe sex.

A few years ago, the Jelly Belly Candy Company launched a contest to the public to pick a new jelly bean flavor.  My suggestion?  Golden Girls Cheesecake, of course.  It did not win.  😦

The kitchen table or the couch from the set should be in the Smithsonian.  It is as important to television history as Archie’s chair or Fonzie’s jacket.  If it wasn’t, would Lego be “toying” with the idea of a Golden Girls set?  (Sorry, I had to!!!)

We must give props to Susan Harris, the creator of this iconic show.  Not to mention all the producers, writers, directors, guest stars (hello, George Clooney!) and everyone else who had a hand in the magic.  And can you picture someone else in the role of Dorothy?  Well, Elaine Stich was contacted first to audition for that part.  Picture that.

Recently one of my cousins, who is as insane about the Golden Girls as I am, sent me the following picture of a bumper sticker she spotted on someone’s car:

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If that is not a solid way of life, I do not know what is!!!

Their friendship was phenomenal.  It turned them into family which led them to fight over men (Sophia & Blanche over Fidel), dresses (Dorothy & Blanche, then Blanche & Sophia) sisters (Dorothy & Blanche telling Rose her sister was nice when all the while she was backstabbing Rose), kids (Dorothy & Rose when their children slept together after Blanche sent them on a date) and food (Rose’s chipped beef vs. Sophia’s marinara sauce).

I also loved how they reeled each other in when they each ran off the rails with comebacks delivered to perfection that have become classic comedy moments.

Dorothy to Blanche:  “Pull yourself together.  You’re in a psychiatrist’s office!”

Sophia:  “My heiny’s asleep.”  Dorothy:  “Fine.  We’ll keep our voices down.”

Sophia, in response to Dorothy’s threat to beat her mother at cards:  “Ooooh,  I’m so scared my dentures are chattering!”

Blanche’s date:  “Can you believe they gave us the same table?”  Blanche:  “Well why would they seat us separately?”

Rose via Dorothy to Blanche:  “You’ve been under more drunken sailors than a nautical toilet.”

Dorothy:  “I never heard of anyone named Mammy before.”  Rose:  “What about Mrs. Eisenhower?”  Dorothy:  “Mammy Eisenhower?  I think only the Nixon kids got to call her that.”

Blanche to her daughter Becky, who was in labor & wanted to stop pushing and hold the baby in:  “No, it’s a bad look.  Now you know I’ve never been real strict with you, Becky, but you have to.”

Blanche to her gentlemen caller in the wheelchair, who turned out to be married:  “I thought you were noble.  It never occurred to me you could be a jerk in a wheelchair!”

It was fitting Dorothy was a teacher because she mastered the art of tough love.

To Rose, who was scared to be intimate with her new boyfriend:  “If you take a chance in life sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen.  But if you don’t take a chance nothing happens.”

Her advice to Blanche about giving her grandson chores:  “You do what is best for David, not what is easiest for you.”

Dorothy to Blanche’s grandson who wants to leave because he has “all this crappy stuff to do,”

“Life is full of crappy stuff to do.  It’s everywhere so you better get used to it.  The President has crappy stuff to do.”   I learned a lot about life from my grandmother, but Dorothy’s words in this scene are probably the greatest definition of what life is all about in the history of ever, in my very humble opinion.

And when things get really bad for me, I take solace in the fact that I am not in Blanche’s shoes (“I lost Anderbo and her beau!”)  🙂

This was excruciatingly hard, but I narrowed down my top 10 shows from seven seasons and 180 episodes.

  1.  Room 7 (Season 7).  Why?  “I see London, I see France, I see Blanche’s underpants.”  And Sophia jumping off the roof.
  2. Mary Had A Little Lamb (Season 5).  Why?  I desperately wanted to be Mary-not pregnant-but taken in by those wonderful women when my life was falling apart.  In the unedited version of the episode, we learn Mary spent the nights with the GG’s after visiting her dying mother in the hospital.  What a haven that girl found.
  3. Beauty & The Beast (Season 7).  Why?  One line:  “What the hell goes on at night in this house?”  Runner up:  “I remember spending that quality wharf time with my Grandma.”
  4. Isn’t It Romantic (Season 2).  Why?  Blanche’s irate reaction upon learning that Dorothy’s lesbian friend Jean prefers Rose over Blanche.  Simply priceless.
  5. Goodbye, Mr. Gordon (Season 7).  Why?  Rose tells her co-workers and all of Miami on her morning TV show that Dorothy & Blanche are lesbians.  And Sophia asking mean questions from the audience to rub salt in the wound.
  6. Dorothy’s New Friend (Season 3).  Why?  Blanche & Rose resorting to childhood antics like giving Dorothy the silent treatment when they are jealous of her relationship with a snooty author.
  7. To Catch A Neighbor (Season 2).  Why?  George Clooney.  And Rose upset that they would miss watching the movie “In Cold Blood”, inciting Dorothy to hit Rose over the head with a TV Guide.
  8. Old Boyfriends (Season 7).  Why?  One, when Sophia refers to Dorothy as her lesbian lover.  Two, when Sophia refers to herself as an unsuspecting cutie being lured into a web of sex games.  Fantastic!!!
  9. Grab That Dough (Season 3).  Why?  Blanche’s description of herself (“An artist with an incredible body, runs her own museum, speaks Chinese…”) and Sophia telling Dorothy she was the biggest disappointment since the AMC Pacer.
  10. End Of The Curse (Season 2).  Why?  Rose:  “We had a pig on the farm who got pregnant, and we never knew who the father was.”  Dorothy:  “Oh my God, Rose, what did you do on Father’s Day?”  Plus the visit to the psychiatrist’s office.

As a Springsteen fan, the references to him were an added bonus and showed just how cool and current these ladies really were.  In “The Truth Will Out” (Season 1), Rose’s granddaughter, Charlie, is telling her grandmother about her boyfriend, who reminds her of Rose’s late husband.

Rose:  “Does he look like Grandpa?”  Charlie:  “No, he looks like Bruce Springsteen!”

In The Competition episode (Season 1), Dorothy said no to Sophia’s request for money to buy airline tickets.

Sophia:  “I can’t believe you’re denying your own mother!”  Rose:  “Denying her what?”  Dorothy:  “Springsteen tickets.”

The only episode I cannot watch over and over again is the final one.  Despite the fact that these women live on in repeats several times a day (thank you Hallmark, Logo and TV Land), it is still too painful for me to accept the fact that their story ended, even if it was in a wonderful way like Dorothy finally finding happiness in love.  The end of the Golden Girls was like leaving the gang in Oz all over again.  Sigh 😦

Four years ago, I was lucky & blessed to see Betty White in person at a book signing.  I had the chance to tell her that being introduced to her was like meeting one of the Beatles, and that she and the three other Golden Girls were my surrogate mothers.  She patted my hand and gave it a squeeze.  Life does not get much better than that…..unless I am watching an episode of the Golden Girls.

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COPYRIGHT 2011 BY Michele Antonio

Thank you, Ladies, for being so much more than my friends all these years.  You are beloved!!!

Goodbye To Late Night As I Knew It…..

Well Vixens, I am finally ready to address the end of “Late Night With David Letterman”.  Yes, I am aware his show ended almost a month ago, but since I am still processing his decision to retire it should be no surprise I cannot handle the finality of the situation.  😦

caption: LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman. 6/18/2002    copyright: Photo:JOHN P. FILO /CBS ©2003 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved

caption: LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman. 6/18/2002
copyright: Photo:JOHN P. FILO /CBS
©2003 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved

Here is a not so fun fact about me:  I get very attached to things and people and change is very difficult for me.  I am not sure why since I am as spontaneous as they come.  Perhaps it is part of my Pisces swimming in two different directions personality, if I believed in such things.

But Dave is a hard one for me to say goodbye to.  You see, he was my roommate (figuratively speaking)…..my first roommate by which the rest would be judged and fail to compare with.  When I moved out to my own place I had a job working 4-12 in a call center (say it with me:  EW!!!).  So I got home around 12:30am and I was totally alone.  No friends to see or even to call since they were asleep to accommodate their 9-5 lives.  I had my prime time shows taped on my VCR, but since it was the summer they were repeats.  I loved living in my own place but I had not counted on the loneliness my different schedule would bring.  I loved being up in the middle of the night when I lived at home and when I was in the dorm at college, so this was unfamiliar territory for me.  To coin a phrase, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

So I started off on my own yellow brick road.  In my world that meant turning to one of my consistence forms of comfort since I was a child:  the television (my version of Toto).  And there was David Letterman-my Scarecrow, from 12:30am to 2am.  These were the glorious days before infomercials, so there were actual programs on for the whole night.  Dave was followed by three episodes of one of the greatest shows ever-“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (the Tin Man)-from 2am-3:30am and two episodes of “The Bob Newhart Show” (the Lion in the Chicago show, not the Vermont show)-from 3:30am-4:30am, after which time I was ready for bed.

But I digress.

Dave was like that one friend in college who pulled all nighters with me and introduced me to a whole new world I not only loved, but one in which I belonged.  It was sarcastic (Question:  If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, what would he be doing?  Answer:  Clawing at the inside of his coffin trying to get out), and silly (Dave going into a “Lamps Only” store and asking if they sold t-shirts), had experiments with Chris Elliot and skits with Larry “Bud” Melman (a/k/a Calvert Grant DeForest), not to mention great music, courtesy of Paul Schaeffer and the Band and a slew of phenomenal musical guests.

The first part of Dave’s career-the NBC years- also brought:  Stupid Pet Tricks, Rocket Chair Races and of course, the Velcro wall, the Alka-Seltzer suit, the sponge suit, the Magnet suit and the Rice Krispies suit.  We also watched Dave throw things off the roof of a five story tower, crush things with a steamroller, play the “Will It Float” game and of course introduce us to many gifted comics as well as his nightly Top 10 list.

The move to CBS gave new life to his career (and to the legendary Ed Sullivan Theater) thanks to an 11:30pm time slot.  During these years we also saw the more poignant moments:  Dave’s first night back after the September 11 attacks with Dan Rather, Dave’s return after his open heart surgery with the Dr.’s and nurses who were at his side, talking to Warren Zevon about his impending death, Dave becoming a father and his subsequent marriage to his son’s mother and visiting his own mother’s home for periodic segments.  It was difficult to watch him try so hard to be Oprah’s friend (she already has Gayle & her dogs), but then he was right back to his zany self musing about the meaning of “sod busting” with Paul after he and the band played “Wildfire” during a commercial break.  And true to form, Dave finally brought on Michael Martin Murphy to perform the song as a great climax to the running joke.

One of my favorite memories was a joke by Pee Wee Herman.  It may not be your taste, but it made me roll!!!

My favorite guest:  Richard Simmons.  His interaction with Dave was too hilarious for words so watch for yourself here.

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Photo courtesy of CBS.

Over the years my life and my schedule changed.  I lost the Tin Man and the Lion along the way, but Dave remained a constant in my life.  There were times I could only watch his monologues (or would only watch them, if only to avoid sitting through interviews with “reality stars”).  But except for his health related absences, Dave was a fixture in my life for decades.  I will and do miss him very much.  😦

It’s been a year of very sad TV goodbyes but I think I will miss Dave most of all.

Ciao, Scarecrow.

“…May your song always be sung…”

This week I, along with the rest of their fans, bid a very sad farewell to my extended family-the Bravermans of NBC’s “Parenthood“.

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Photo courtesy of NBC.

I adored this show. The entire cast was outstanding, but any scene Craig T. Nelson was in was his-period. How this man was not even nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance as family patriarch Zeek Braverman is beyond me.

And for anyone who thinks of Ray Romano as a mere comedy actor needs only to watch one second of any of his scenes on this show to realize how wrong that thought is. Romano’s portrayal of Hank Rizzoli, a man who realized he had an undiagnosed case of Asperger’s Syndrome and how it had damaged his life was simply stunning. As was his relationship with Sarah Braverman (the very entertaining Lauren Graham).

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Photo courtesy of NBC.

It was one of the first honest portrayals of a couple over 40 who learned how to navigate the murky waters of a real adult relationship by owning the mistakes that led to where they were in their lives, and where they wanted their cautiously optimistic hearts to take them in the future.

The other thing I have loved as much as the diverse group of characters on this show is the music. The series had the perfect backdrop for it because one of the characters, Crosby Braverman (the adorable and funny Dax Shepard) was a music engineer and spent the last seasons as co-owner of the Luncheonette, a fictional recording studio that saw the likes of people like Janis Joplin in its heyday.

The show also paid homage to the 60’s in many other ways: The family lived in the Bay area of California (home to the Flower Power origins, Haight-Ashbury and many other iconic 60’s movements); Nelson’s character was a Vietnam Veteran; his grandson, Drew, was a college student at Berkeley; Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” as the show’s theme song, to name a few.

The musical directors of this show did a phenomenal job with the songs they hand picked for each episode (see list HERE), but two Dylan covers win my praise for the best songs of the show’s varied soundtrack (honorable mention to Cat Steven’s “Wild World” performed by Jimmy Cliff as heard at Hank & Sarah’s wedding).

To conclude season five, Richie Haven’s raw and beautiful acoustic version of “The Times They Are A Changing” sent the Bravermans and their fans off to uncertainty about whether or not there would be a sixth season, but not without the benefit of closure and resolution for all of the characters.

For the last song of season six, the series finale, the producers and writers took us on a flash forward a few years into the future to the beauty of Dylan’s “Forever Young” sung as an exquisite duet by Rhiannon Giddens & Iron and Wine (Sam Beam).

That in and of itself would have elicited enough tears, but just prior to this song, Zeek died. My heart sunk. I predicted this from the first episode of this season when he fainted from a cardiac event and many on-line reports had speculated all season that this death was coming. But I hoped for a happy ending…..a real happy ending, where I could imagine Zeek’s expression when he heard the song his grandkids promised to record in honor of his 80th birthday, or how his eyes would well up with tears at the sight of his oldest son Adam (Peter Krause) walking his daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) down the aisle.

But sadly, happy endings are not real, and what made this show so damn good was that it was about a real family with real life issues. Which is what life is. And that includes the bittersweet ending as opposed to the happy ending. For anyone of us who has said goodbye to someone in our own lives, we are all too familiar with the bittersweet. So there really was no way for Zeek’s death not too happen, which is why it hurt so very, very much.

A lot of people do not live to see their 80th birthday. Some people will not have their grandparents present when they get married-or even their parents, for that matter. And like real life, no matter how much time you have, it is just never enough. Six years was not nearly enough time with this family. To borrow a line from Jimmy Webb, “endings always come too fast”, whether they occur in real life or on TV.

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Photo courtesy of NBC.

So goodbye, my beloved Braverman family. I will miss the heck out of all of you.