Those Were the Days
A unique perspective on his survival by stroke survivor & comedian John Kawie
Here at Stroke Central my injured cerebrum is on high alert because another season of “Game of Thrones” will be upon us soon. My worry is not that a fresh batch of graphic limb severings or gratuitous breast barings will be unleashed on the television landscape. No, my concern is trying to keep track of the insane number of characters on the show — at last count 150 main ones, not including direwolves or White Walkers. It’s like a New Deal work program for actors, employing more people in one episode than currently live in the state of North Dakota. If non-brain-injured viewers get confused, it’s a cognitive nightmare for stroke survivors. Who can be a couch potato when you’re busy taking crib notes for an hour?
Hell, I can’t figure out who’s who on Sesame Street, and their characters come in colors. Aside from being an outdoorsy bunch, all the men on G.o.T. wear the same hammered metal and leather kilt affair accessorized with lots of Smokey-the-Bear pelts. The eunuchs prefer a Depends variation on the theme. The women are minimalists, with flimsy garments that fall to the floor with the slightest provocation. One cool exception is Daenarys Targaryen, an unforgettable petite blonde who happens to be the mother of three dragons that are essentially fire breathing Boeing 747s with teeth. Get in her way and you’ll end up a charcoal briquette — or a serving of Purina Dragon Chow.
I sometimes wonder if modern TV shows are fast becoming the 21st century equivalent of those lavish Cecil B. DeMille productions. Life was different when the medium was born. It was 1953. TV repairmen roamed the land making house calls, people polished their sets with furniture wax and shows had an average of four characters. Chances are their names were in the title: “Leave It to Beaver,” “Ozzie and Harriet” or “I Love Lucy.” Simple, uncomplicated and perfect for the brain injured. It was SSTV: Stroke Survivor Television. You could skip cognitive therapy for a week and still keep up with the storyline. (However you’d need to double up on your psych sessions to deal with the antenna-fiddling-rage so you could actually see the show.)
Now let’s jump ahead 40 years to when I had my stroke and “The Sopranos” became a hit. The number of characters on that show was oobatz yet I remembered them all — Bobby Bacala, Johnny Sack, Paulie Walnuts. As Shakepeare said, their names were “pronounc’d to me trippingly on the tongue.” Plus those guys ended up whacking everyone else on the show. The upside? Fewer characters to deal with!
Then came the English series set during that European whackfest called World War l. “Downton Abbey,” for all of it’s proper Edwardian etiquette, was stroke survivor hell. Why? Well, Robert Crawley was also Earl of Grantham, Lady Sybil Crawley became Sybil Branson, Lady Edith Crawley was really Edith Pelham Marchioness of Hexham (whatever that is) and … well, you get the idea. Plus, it took me three seasons to even understand what they were saying.
What lies ahead? Maybe driving DeLoreans with flux-capacitors, more-elaborate TV productions streamed directly into our brains, and “Game of Thrones” becomes the new SSTV.
If that’s the case, stroke survivors of the future better have damn good health insurance and the cognitive therapy that goes with it. They’re going to need it.
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