Culture

5 Most Memorable Television Moments of 2015

Image courtesy PBS.

Here come the year-end retrospectives — on pretty much every subject imaginable.

The only way to escape these journalistic reviews is to go off the grid, and even then it’s possible that three guys who remind you of Larry, Darryl, and his other brother Darryl will wander into your campsite and apprise you of their Ten Best Road Kill Meals of 2015.

But seriously, a good retrospective is a good thing.

At the Portland Oregonian, TV critic Kristi Turnquist has revealed her picks for the year’s best television moments, a list that includes something for everyone. Two that particularly resonated with me were Mr. Carson’s proposal to Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey and the David Letterman Late Night finale.

This year I’ve decided to highlight the five most memorable television moments of 2015, ranging far and wide to do so.

5. Karen Carpenter, “For All We Know”

Photo courtesy AP Images.

Photo courtesy AP Images.

Death from anorexia nervosa is one of the hardest to understand for many people. It’s too easy to say, “Why don’t those afflicted allow themselves nourishment to save their own lives?” The question is as ultimately unanswerable as any question about the labyrinth of the human mind.

When in November PBS rebroadcast the documentary Close to You: Remembering the Carpenters, the performance of signature hit “For All We Know” was mistakenly touted as previously unseen, but had actually aired on a 1971 Andy Williams special and again in the documentary when it originally aired in 1997.

No matter; the footage freshly captures the loveliness of Karen’s voice, and reminds listeners anew of the enduring catalogue created by the famed pop duo, and of the tragic loss Karen’s death was to the popular arts.

4. WWE Tribute to Rowdy Roddy Piper

Rowdy Roddy Piper

You can yak all you want about professional wrestling not being a real sport, and demean its fans as one of culture’s lower common denominators. But humans crave passion plays, and for wrestling fans the fact that a 290-pound man jumping from a top rope onto an opponent’s throat would in real life kill that opponent is secondary. By acting out the aggressive feelings all of us harbor, pro wrestlers (and their scripts) provide an emotional relief valve to masses often unable to clearly resolve the conflicts in their own lives.

I wrote about my meeting with Roddy Piper on this site when he passed in July. But it was the WWE tribute that transitioned me from an earnest writer to guy sitting in a chair going verklempt.

It’s the bagpipes, baby, the bagpipes. RIP.

3. Rodgers to Rodgers Walk-off Win

Photo courtesy AP Images.

Photo courtesy AP Images.

Moments like these are why we put up with phalanxes of chowder-headed commercials. Why we’re willing to watch three hours of ticking clocks and huddles for mere seconds of live action. Plays like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary pass to Richard Rodgers on the final play of their December 4 regular season game against the Detroit Lions make it all worthwhile.

Hail Marys are always potentially game-changing. Hail Marys that win games in the last possible second become part of the professional football canon.

There’s lots of talk about the injuries in the NFL, the concussions, and how the players’ lives are impacted years down the line. Fans of the game want the players protected as much as possible, and we are concerned about the aftereffects of participation in such a physically challenging sport.

The Rodgers to Rodgers Hail Mary walk-off win recalibrates the discussion, and reminds us of General Patton’s famous line about glory being fleeting. No guts, no glory.

2. Bill O’Reilly and Kate’s Law

Bill O'Reilly Kate's Law

Not really a moment, more of a movement. Fox News host O’Reilly’s campaign to honor the memory of the slain Kate Steinle crystallized how badly our immigration system is broken in a poignant and personalized way. A nation grieved when the young woman was cut down by a multiply-deported criminal alien who randomly shot Kate on a San Francisco pier.

Almost as appalling is how the establishment political class ducked and covered when it came time to do something to address the madness with Kate’s Law. O’Reilly is correct when he says, to paraphrase, that if this isn’t something we can get done as a nation, there is little hope. Cue Donald Trump.

1. Downton Abbey: Edith’s Baby

Image courtesy PBS.

Image courtesy PBS.

I agree with Turnquist that the proposal from butler-in-chief Carson to head housekeeper Hughes was a wonderful moment. You don’t really think much about what retirement looks like for these dutiful domestics, and the thought of Carson and Hughes walking hand in hand into a fogbound British sunset together is comforting.

More edifying for me in the next-to-last Downton season was the moment when Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, signals that he will accept and love the illegitimate child of his daughter, Lady Edith.

If you, like millions of viewers, have become hooked on the PBS series, you understand the scandal such an out-of-wedlock birth brought to a royal family. The willingness of conservative and tradition-bound Robert to bring Edith’s daughter into the fold represents a quantum moral leap and, at least until the final season starts on January 1, a welcome turn in star-crossed Edith’s fortunes.

The look of admiration and love that Edith’s mother, Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, gives Robert upon this acceptance reflects the highest endearment a wife can bestow upon a husband.

What were your most memorable TV moments? Let us know in the comments below!