“All television is educational television.
The question is: what is it teaching?”
~Nicholas Johnson

Hi all,

So what happens when in the course of a month I read/watch Jane Eyre, there's an explosion of celebrity adultery coverage, I make TLC my default TV channel, and I feel like my personal life is being invaded?  All while still nursing an over a decade long crush on the Lovely One... who I happen to think would make an absolutely wonderful professor, vastly preferable to my own Media Studies prof?  This happens.  Enjoy!  Or, if not, wait til two weeks from now when I will hopefully produce something slightly less whiny.  Although... if you enjoy cheesy sci-fi films you might want to wade through the whining til you get to the end of this story.  ;-)

God bless,

And now... another "Moment with Andrew" story...

Andrew Watches a Bunch of TV

Angels work on a need-to-know basis.  That was a fact that Andrew had never questioned and had always known.  He might find himself standing outside a hospital, second-guessing the location of the superior vena cava.  But the minute he walked in and introduced himself as the visiting heart surgeon, he could perform triple bypass with relative ease.  As a lawyer he could quote precedents that a week before might have been completely foreign to him.  Because of those assignments and so many others, Andrew had assumed that upon being given the task of leading a college class entitled "You and the Media" he would be granted endless knowledge about movies, TV shows, music, and more.  And he had found himself possessing a greater than usual number of facts about the history of each.  But as he flipped through the agendas left by the regular professor, the angel of death realized he didn't have a clue on how to discuss the present media.  There weren't any TV shows he watched, generally the only movies he saw were the ones the Dyelanders showed him, and while he tried to keep up to date with music he knew his knowledge there was lacking.  He considered plopping down in front of a TV and cramming as much viewing in as he could in the next forty eight hours.  But the prospect of sitting alone in a strange apartment in the light of a television wasn't very appealing to him.  He implored the Father for help, gently suggesting that the need-to-know basis hadn't been completely passed along to him. 

He smiled, shaking his head and laughing as he did, when the answer came.  For once, Andrew's preparation for an assignment seemed as much about *who* he knew as what he needed to know.  A moment later the apartment that would be his home for the duration of the assignment was empty.  The angel was on his way to a far more familiar, beloved locale.


"I really need you to watch TV with me, please.  For a few hours.  If you could."  Andrew held a (decaf) frozen chai out to JenniAnn.

A simpering JenniAnn crossed her arms over her chest and suspiciously eyed the angel of death on her door step.  "Because you've decided that nothing would make you happier today than to get irritated and kill some brain cells?  That's some awesome multi-tasking."  Her gaze traveled to the delicious drink and, not taking her eyes away from the angel of death's, she accepted it.  "And you've resorted to bribery."

Andrew sighed dramatically and began fiddling with his pocket watch, staring down at it.  "Well... if you don't think it's a good idea then I'll just go on back to my tiny, lonely apartment near the campus I'm working at and watch all by lonesome... and you can think about me being there... alone... as you drink your chai..."  Grinning, he looked back up at his friend.

JenniAnn laughed at his charade and ushered him into Willowveil Castle.  "Like I'd really say no.  Chai or no chai.  But... explain.  I've never known you to watch much TV except what you were requested, by us, to watch.  Or when there's some big news event but even then you seem to prefer the papers.  Well, and you've watched some sports stuff.  Other than that
I didn't even think you liked it.  But now all of a sudden you want to watch hours of television?"

"It's not really a matter of wanting to but needing to."  Andrew knelt down to greet Fawn and Lulu, continuing his explanation as he pet and hugged them.  "You see, I've been given this assignment as a fill-in professor for a class called 'You and the Media.'"

"Oooh..."  JenniAnn perked up at the subject.

"Yeah, interesting.  And usually I just know what I need to know for an assignment.  And I do.  In a way.  Historical, technical, statistical knowledge.  But those classes tend to involve a lot of 'I saw this show once and...' or 'I was watching this with my friend and she got angry because...' type of discussion."

"And I take it angels don't spend their time in Heaven watching and dishing about TV, movies, etc.?  And, further, you don't want to be left recalling solely your friends' reactions to your depiction on Touched?" the woman asked, laughing at the idea.

Andrew chuckled at the absurd image of himself recounting the Dyeland ladies' enthusiastic responses to his TV self to a classroom of strangers.  "Not exactly.  So the Father suggested I talk to my friends about this."

JenniAnn's laughter continued.  "It's a strange feeling... being requested, by God via an AOD, to watch TV!  But, yeah, of course I'll watch with you!  But what about the other stuff?  Ya know, movies, music, etc.?"

"I'm planning to ask Yva to work with me on the movie part since she always picks great films for us to watch.  Then Rose seems to know a lot about modern music and Yva can pipe in about that, too.  I think I can handle books.  So that left TV.  And I remember you taking a media class in college and
just last week you'd been talking about 'all the junk on TV' so I thought..."

"Don't say that.  If I start to think my occasional curmudgeonliness will win me an afternoon with you then I'll just have to start acting embittered all the time," JenniAnn teased.  "So, come, let us take in hours upon hours of junk for intellectual purposes."

She led Andrew into the TV room, each of them claiming a spot on the couch with the two dogs excitedly plopping into place with them.  And so their mission to study television began...


JenniAnn glanced at the angel of death seated on the other side of couch.  Lulu's head was resting on his right knee, a pad of paper on the other, and he was alternately scribbling notes and eating trail mix with his right hand.  His left remained poised over the remote control she'd willingly handed over to him.  If he was going to do a study of the media, then she was going to do a study of him studying the media.

"What's an A-line skirt?" the angel queried as he watched an episode of a make-over series play out.  "And why do those two people really want that woman to buy some?"

"An A-line skirt basically means that the skirt flares out at the bottom but is smaller at the top.  Like the letter A.  And it's considered very flattering.  So I assume that's why they want their victim... I mean the person they are helping... to get some and let go of her yoga pants and broomstick skirts."

Andrew smirked.  "Victim, Laja?" 

"Well... I mean these shows are decent to a point.  I've watched before when they've really helped people.  Like, I'm sorry, but if you're wearing a bedazzled baby tee reading 'Hot Stuff' then you probly do need a talking to.  So there's that and then they've aided ladies with bad body image issues who hid behind their clothes.  But not everyone who wears baggy, flowy clothes does it cause they're down on themselves.  Maybe they just happen to like the flowyness and the softness and the color.  Sometimes a particular style might look better, but it might not really express the person, ya know?  And you can't cocoon a dog in an A-line skirt."  JenniAnn smiled at Fawn who had made something akin to a hammock for herself out of her owner's ample skirt.

The angel looked fondly at his friend.  As unknowledgeable as he was about fashion, he did recognize that she was wearing a broomstick skirt.  And Fawn did look awfully comfortable tucked in its myriad folds.  He spoke, hoping to quell any offense JenniAnn was taking from the show.  "I think I prefer the expressive style choices myself and I'd be very sorry if those two dragged you into their consultation room and tried to get you to throw away your clothes and wear A or B or any type of line skirts.  Same with the other ladies.  I'd miss Rose's bell bottoms and Yva's Victorian accented clothes.  I may not be as attached to those items as you are to some of my shirts... by which I mean I don't 'borrow' any of you ladies' clothes the way my flannel shirts tend to get 'borrowed.'"  Andrew smiled, proud of himself for making JenniAnn blush when usually it worked the other way around.  "But don't think I don't notice and have sentimental attachments to your styles.  I think I'd be a little sad if you started wearing that all the time."  Andrew pointed to the fashion advisee on screen sporting a ladies' black pinstripe suit.

His declaration of sentiment over style was rewarded with a hug from JenniAnn.  "That's from all of us."  She moved away to write in her notebook.  "Subject remains intensely empathetic and observant even while watching TV.  Observer realizes she has no hope of staying objective.  Love the lovely..."

"Oh, you're taking notes, too?  Can I see them when you're done?  They might help."

"Umm...  We'll see."

Andrew shrugged and turned his attention back to the TV show, writing.  "I feel ambivalent about this show.  Sounds like Laja does, too.  The hosts seem helpful and caring.  But what message is it sending?  What if someone can't afford designer clothes?  What if a girl just doesn't like them?  What if she doesn't want to be 'feminine and sexy'?  Or what if she thinks she already is in her own clothes and likes them?  And how would I feel if I knew my friends conspired to get me help because they hated my clothes?  I think that would be hurtful.  Am I making too much of this?"  He looked to JenniAnn.  "Okay.  So what message do you think is being sent by this type of fashion make-over show?"

JenniAnn sighed.  "Conform and life will be easier for you.  Which, I think, is true.  The question for me is... should it be true?"

Andrew shook his head.  "No, I don't think it should be.  Some of the greatest artists and writers were eccentric.  I'd hate to think what the world might have lost had they focused their energy on conforming instead of creating art.  Besides, some of my closest friends are eccentrics."  He smiled at JenniAnn then tilted his head to a large photograph she'd hung of the gang on Halloween.  "Scratch that, I think all of my closest friends are eccentrics," he teased.

"Takes one to know one," JenniAnn responded in a sing-song tone.  "Anyhow, what do *you* think being a first-timer to the world of women's make-over shows?"

"I think I'm glad I'm a guy.  And I'm a little concerned about whether it's trying to put women into particular boxes.  At the same time, they said that lady was looking for a job so maybe some guidance on clothes will help her?"  Andrew winced as he looked back to the screen.  "Does mascara hurt?  It looks like it hurts."

Giggling, JenniAnn watched Andrew's eyes go wide as the makeup artist on the screen came at her subject's eyes with a wide variety of brushes and tweezers and cosmetics.  "I'm allergic so it hurts me but typically speaking, I don't think so.  At least I hope not.  And, for the record, I happen to be very glad you're a guy, too.  And not just cause it means you're spared all of that."  Her own eyes widened with a sudden thought.  "Although... I know in some times and cultures it was very common for guys to wear eye make-up for health reasons.  Like kohl.  So did you?"  She looked eagerly at Andrew... a little too eagerly.

"I think you're less interested in whether or not I ever wore make-up and more interested in using my response to gage my age based on whether or not I've used kohl.  But if I say no maybe that just means I didn't work in the places that used it even if I was alive when they were.  And if I say yes, maybe it just means I played Pharaoh in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat twenty years ago.  So it wouldn't help you, anyway.  But I do think that's what you were going for.  Am I right?"  Andrew cast his friend a devilish smile.  He knew he'd trapped her.

JenniAnn looked at Andrew with admiring surprise.  "You've gotten way, way too good at figuring those traps out."

Andrew smiled.  "I'll admit, it was a good one.  But you and Rose both get this certain look in your eyes when you're scheming for my age."

"Betrayed by my own eyes..."

"I'm afraid so."  The angel tilted his head back to the TV where the make-over recipient was showing off her haul.  "Look, their 'victim' seems very happy."

"So she does.  I'm glad for her but I think we've had just about all of this we can take.  Unless you want to watch the next episode?"

Andrew shook his head with out hesitation.

"Good.  And I think you deserve an escape to the sports channel or something."

Andrew nodded gratefully and changed the channel.  For several minutes he watched with interest as the sportscaster showed highlights of several games.  At times he tried to explain the finer points of the depicted sport to JenniAnn but she only smiled politely and let him talk, occasionally jotting notes on her paper.  Or so he thought until he caught a glimpse and saw his name written in stylized letters with the last stroke of the "w" morphing into a heart.

JenniAnn noticed she'd been caught.  "Well, it's pretty!" she defended in response to his arched eye brow.  "Watch yourself or I'll get that tattooed somewhere, mister!" she teased.

Chuckling, Andrew shook his head.  "Oh, your grandma would *love* that.  You know, if I didn't know how much you don't like needles I might actually worr..."

"A spat of high-profile cases of infidelity haven't fully deflected attention from him and we're left to wonder how it will impact his game.  Let's go now to our viewer poll and comments..." the voice on the TV stated in a tone too gleeful to be appropriate.

"Oh boy..." JenniAnn muttered, her cheeks burning.  She knew the wretched, crude direction that segment could go!  And in mixed company...

Andrew groaned as he scrambled for the remote which he'd set down while he and JenniAnn joked around about her hypothetical tattoo.  His whole purpose in wanting the remote was to keep her from seeing anything too troubling or bothersome.  Well he knew she'd sit there and watch anything with him if she thought it served a purpose and helped him with his assignment, even if it went against her sensibilities.  But he was drawing the line at *that*.  He was relieved when he found the controller between Lulu's chin and the cushion and could turn the racket off.  As soon as he had he began to jot notes. 

"I've been bothered by the sensational aspect of the 'news' for a while," he wrote.  "But it takes on a whole different dimension when you find yourself at least semi-responsible for what someone else is seeing and taking from it, too.  How do parents do this?  One minute their kid is watching a game and the next...  It's such a skewed view of reality.  And I know it affects how some people come to think about others, I know it does!"

"Andrew?"  JenniAnn waited as the angel kept writing. 

"I just want to get some thoughts down."

"And if that was a pencil instead of a pen, you'd have broken the tip by now the way you're writing.  If it's something you think you can discuss with your students... I think you can discuss it with me."

Andrew set down his pen and looked at his friend.  "I just don't want you to get upset.  It's really not a big deal."

JenniAnn pointed to the paragraph on the top sheet of paper.  "I'm thinking it is if you wrote all of that."

Knowing he was caught, the angel complied.  "You know what I wish TV did?"


"Highlighted the good things more.  Like 'This guy volunteers weekly for Big Brothers.'  'This guy talks to his sick grandmother every night.'  'This guy is devoted to his wife and children.'  But instead there's hours of... of that!  And eventually it starts to affect some people's psyches, making them distrustful, bitter, angry.  It just... it makes me sad."  Andrew shook his head, looking down at Lulu and running his hands through her fur.

"Do you... feel you have to deal with the repercussions sometimes?" JenniAnn asked, half-dreading the answer.

Andrew shrugged.  "Sometimes, I guess.  I mean some of them... they watch that junk... and I'm not downplaying adultery.  You know I think it's... well...  hurtful and a betrayal and I can't imagine doing that to another person who trusted me and loved me.  Not to mention the Father's clearly stated opinion on the matter.  But I don't think all the coverage helps anyone.  Especially not his family. 
And for others it feeds into a cynicism that can make it awfully hard for me or any man to get through to assignments who wind up thinking I'm angling for something that I'm definitely not angling for!"

"Poor love," his listener cooed, hugging him.  "But... I can see it all too well.  I mean the pundits say things like 'he's just a man being a man' and from so many people I hear 'typical man!' but gosh... I hope not."  JenniAnn wrinkled her nose and shook her head.

"I've never understood why people think generalizations and stereotypes about some groups are okay," Andrew agreed.  "They just make it difficult for members of those groups to get a fair chance at proving themselves.  And I don't think it's new.  I have a feeling Kate... you know, that scientist I went out on a date with, had some presumptions about me."

"Believe me, I know who Kate is!  I only spent 3 years madly envying her," JenniAnn responded with a laugh.  "And I probly would still if you hadn't come along.  But I decided to take ten years and counting of having you here in Dyeland with us over one, solitary date as wonderful as I'm sure it was."

"Well, thanks.  I'd take the ten years myself," Andrew agreed, thankful for the smile he felt creeping back to his face.  He twirled the remote around in his hand.  "I don't know.  Maybe the media doesn't have anything to do with it.  And I know there are some very hurtful, very disrespectful, very selfish men out there.  And... and I know that there are some men who do terrible things to women."  He paused and bowed his head, trying to push away certain memories.

Blinking, JenniAnn reached for his hand. 

Andrew snapped back to the present, smiling gratefully at her for a moment before continuing.  "Don't think I don't get very upset with them.  Media or no media, their actions are hurtful and they do make people worry about their own situations.  But I refuse to believe they're the majority.  My experiences tell me they're not the majority.  But knowing shows are airing segments like that," the angel of death waved his hand at the darkened television, "I can see why some people think they are."  He sunk back against the couch cushions as Lulu, Fawn, and JenniAnn all looked at him with concern.

"I never thought anything negative about you when we met.  I trusted you.  I know the others did, too," JenniAnn assured.

Andrew forced a smile, squeezed her hand, and patted the dogs' heads.  "Thanks.  But you also knew I was an angel."

"True but for what it's worth, if you were human... I'd stake my life on your being monogamous."

Andrew truly smiled, touched by her unshakable if ungrounded trust.  "Thanks.  Although I'm not sure what you have to base that on."

"Life!" JenniAnn cried.  "Sure, you're not married to anyone but you have entered into a commitment of some sort.  And since then you've had ample opportunities to cut and run when things got strained or even hurtful.  Yet... here you sit.  Ten years later.  And you've also had opportunity to be disrespectful.  Sure, not in some glaring way that would end with you being sent... away."  JenniAnn shivered at the idea of Andrew in a barren, chilly no man's land.  "But in small ways.  You've never used our affection for you to get us to do or not do anything that might hold us back even if it would make things less worrisome for you.  Because I think it's outright impossible for you to act without thinking of the repercussions for everyone else."

The angel blushed.  "Maybe it's just impossible for me to turn my back on love and friendship when I've found it."

JenniAnn wiped her sleeve across her eyes.  "Crikey."  She picked up her notebook and began to write.  "Perhaps subject should have his own show... again and for real this time.  Certainly makes me have a better outlook on life.  Also, am dropping 'subject.'  Too formal and scientific for Andrew."

"Crikey good or crikey bad?" Andrew checked.

"Crikey 'this guy will turn a compliment directed at himself into something completely sweet and modest.'" 

Andrew smiled.  "You ladies do all help, you know.  Your trust and friendship mean a lot to me.  And they give me hope that I will get through to wary assignments.  And so does your willingness to spend time with me even if that means watching me get whiny about TV."

"You say that as if it's a sacrifice.  I happen to find you very cute when you're whiny," JenniAnn protested with a grin.  She glanced at his notebook.  "I spose we better get back to that... although maybe we should go back to the make-over channel.  Inanity seems better than gossip just now."

"I agree!"  Andrew turned the TV back on and promptly returned it to the previous channel.  He took a moment to make a note for himself.  "Even bad TV can be a source for good discussion," he wrote.  "Especially with a friend.  It makes me wonder what's been lost in the shift away from viewing shows as a family to people watching programs alone on their computers.  Maybe I never liked TV before because I didn't have anyone to watch and discuss it with?  If this is any example, I think it'll be great to go over music and movies with Rose and Yva."

Setting down his pen, Andrew looked up to see the make-over show had ended and given way to another program.  "How do you feel about a wedding show?" he asked as a woman on screen sashayed through a dressing room in a white gown.

Shrugging, JenniAnn agreed.  "Could be fun.  Let's give it a try."

The two sat and watched the program, JenniAnn enthralled and Andrew spooked.  He began to write in his notebook again.

"Weddings seem to be a contest of some kind here.  There are a handful of women and they go to each other's weddings and critique them.  Like a matrimonial Olympics.  Why?  Do they know each other?"  He glanced back at the screen, his eye brows arching.  "What are those two people doing on that dance floor???  There's a child present!" he scrawled into his notebook.  "But mostly I'm confused by the idea of a wedding as a competition.  It makes me sad."

JenniAnn was writing, as well.  "Eeek!  Did NOT need to see that whilst watching TV with an angel... never need to see that, come to think of it.  Andrew dances so much more nicely..."  Once out of her brief day dream, she looked over at the frenzied angel. 
"You're writing very furiously again."

"Oh, I just..."  Andrew tilted his head as he continued to watch the show.  "This just seems kind of, I don't know... mean-spirited?  Weddings are about bringing family and friends together to witness two people who love each other embark on a new life together.  But suddenly there's a chorus complaining about linen colors and the ice sculpture's design and rating them?"

"Yeah...  I'll admit I've watched this before.  We'll chalk it up to my fascination with multi-colored linens, dresses, and floral arrangements.  But the competitive aspect... not that I wanna get married but if I were I think I'd want to spend that day thanking God and being blissfully in love with my husband... not worrying over what a team of judges thought."

"Speaking of the husband... where is he?"

"Ha!  The great mystery of wedding television!  He typically only makes a token appearance at the end of the show.  Otherwise it's all about the bride.  Not in all shows... but many.  I mean I guess in a way it's good."

Andrew looked curiously at JenniAnn.  "How's that?"

"In a world where privacy is lessening and people's marital and relationship problems are splashed every where, as witnessed earlier," JenniAnn wrinkled her nose once again, "maybe it's best to focus on the surface things and leave the actual bond between the couple private and sacred.  This show seems pretty shallow but I think the really intrusive shows that follow the people's every move are worse.  Not even just with marriages.  I mean... would you want our private conversations broadcast for all to see and muse on?  Just think, there could be message boards dissecting our pre-Valentine's Day showdown!"

Andrew thought about the content of all those conversations and the depths of emotions they'd often betrayed. 
He looked with concern at JenniAnn whose voice had taken on an agitated pitch.  "I think some times things that are said and done are so special and so sacred, like you said, that they're best kept between the people they involve and, of course, the Father.  So, no, I wouldn't want people prying into our conversations.  God gives us beautiful, meaningful moments together.  Moments that I can promise you I'll never forget.  To put them out there to be picked apart like a scene from a play... no thanks."

"And that's healthy, obviously.  But I think many people just don't think anything of prying these days.  I mean it'd be one thing if it was limited to those select few who volunteered to be on such shows... who invited prying, in other words.  But it seems like the genre is knocking down barriers in general... and not in a good way.  I mean people with whom one has only a superficial acquaintance will ask personal questions that have absolutely no bearing on whatever your role is with them."  Despite her growing agitation, a smile flickered across JenniAnn's face when Fawn nuzzled closer to her and Andrew affectionately squeezed her hand. 

"And now, I believe, it's your chance to unload," the angel prodded, gently.  "We can join in on the debate over the value of a plated dinner over a buffet line later."  He muted the wedding program and gave his friend all his attention.

"Well... I dunno.  Maybe it's an old problem and I'm just misplacing blame.  Or maybe it's more the informality and weirdness of parts of the Internet than anything stemming from reality TV.  Or maybe it's just... people.  I've seriously met some who five minutes into our introductions will tell me I've really got to start thinking about having children.  God directed us to be fruitful and multiply, don't you know?" she mimicked.

Andrew nearly choked on the ginger ale he'd sipped.

JenniAnn looked with alarm at him.  "Alright there?"

The angel nodded.  "Stunned but alright.  Five minutes?  And talking about... fertility?  I mean I know some people are a little too free with that topic but... five minutes?!?"

"Yep.  And I just thought he... and a he at that!... was loony.  But I've seen it happen so often since.  And I just laugh it off.  I'm happy.  My students are my children and for now at least I'm very content with that.  But sometimes I wonder... what if I did want to have a kid right now but couldn't?  And here are these smiling, teasing people pestering me."  JenniAnn rolled her eyes.  "Prying and cluelessness are a bad, bad combo."

Andrew grimaced.   "I've been assigned to couples who were struggling to get pregnant.  Some end up driven to depression and those comments... they hurt.  Or sometimes they miscarried and then those comments tear at them even more.  Imagine desperately wanting something and having to deal with someone who acts like you've chosen against it or are just being wishy-washy.  And I don't mean a simple, casual comment like 'Do you plan to have kids some day?'  But it's the prying that bothers them, like you said."

"Exactly.  Back when I worked in Joe's office... I saw it happen to a girl there.  I was horrified by what some of the other ladies said to her.  And they weren't just hung up on baby stuff cause like when..."  JenniAnn pulled herself back from a near slip.  "Well, romantic matters!  I mean I know gossip has always been with us but Catherine managed a decades long romance without too much prying.  I've sometimes wondered how much more difficult things would have been for my cousins had they met after the dawn of the Internet and reality TV and blogs."  JenniAnn shook her head then shrugged.  "So yay for Dyeland!  Huh?"

Andrew nodded.  After another moment, it occurred to him that an assignment had brought him to the district attorney's office during part of JenniAnn's time there.  He hoped that hadn't exacerbated the problem for her.  Although thinking back, a few comments he'd overheard that had confused him at the time were becoming a little more clear.

"Have you run into it much lately?  The romantic assumptions and prying, I mean?  I hope not." JenniAnn asked, seeming to read his mind.

"Actually, I thought I was running into it less.  I mean when I worked cases with Monica, yeah, some people made assumptions, asked questions.  Now that I work alone usually, people tend not to get too personally invested in my life... there are notable exceptions, sure.  But mostly I'm left alone.  Although now you have me thinking about my assignment in Joe's office..."

JenniAnn laughed.  "Yeah, right after I brought that up I realized that wasn't the wisest example to make.  Oops.  Too late now.  So, yes, there was some gossip but I think knowing I was Catherine's cousin and that Joe was rather protective... it was at a minimum.  But it did make me realize how miserably annoying the whole thing can be for some people.  We had an escape in Dyeland and image control in the persons of Catherine and Joe."

"And we both left after a short period of time, really short for me," Andrew pointed out.

"Right.  Which is maybe partly why I didn't do much to counteract it myself.  I mean, believe me, if anyone insinuated something questionable about you... my responses would have made Tess very proud."

Andrew chuckled.  "Well, thanks.  I think I can imagine how those conversations went.  And maybe that deflected attention away from the girl who was trying to get pregnant."

JenniAnn sighed.  "I truly hope so.  God help the discreet introvert in the office!  And... geez... how did we get from the ideal wedding to this?!?"

"I believe we started talking about reality TV in general.  I'll give 'the tube' one thing... it can sure fire up discussion," the angel mused.  He realized he'd neglected his notes but the conversation seemed far more valuable.

"That it can.  And primetime is gonna begin in an hour.  What fun!  So I vote we grab some dinner, get these two outside," she indicated Lulu and Fawn, "and take a break.  This TV watching is exhausting!"

"I think that's an excellent idea.  So, should we have a plated dinner or a buffet line?  Which do you think is better?  And what color tablecloth should we use?  And we better use real silver or else those ladies might come out of the TV and give us both measly 4's for meal presentation," Andrew joked as he turned off the TV, stood up, and stretched.

JenniAnn laughed as she roused a dozing Fawn.  "Plated, green, and I got rid of all the real silver utensils after we had Mick and Beth over to celebrate your pool championship and Mick tried to clear the table."  She shuddered at the memory.  "I wonder if that show would consider adding a category for vamp-friendliness?"

"Maybe you could write them and make the suggestion."

"They'd think I was one of those Twilight fans swooning over Edward but, alas, my heart's already been quite stolen by another type of immortal entirely.  And he's much better looking and, more importantly, much nicer."

Andrew blushed as he smiled.  "'Quite stolen,' huh?"

"Quite."  JenniAnn smiled beatifically at the unwitting thief.  "
And quite contentedly."

Andrew hugged her.  "Good.  Thanks for watching with me, Laja.  It wouldn't have been as much fun on my own or as enlightening."

"Aww, Andrew, there's no reason to thank me any more.  Even when the TV itself wasn't enjoyable... you were.  And your opening up to me when you didn't absolutely have to... it means a lot."

"It means a lot to feel like I can," Andrew responded, taking a moment to thank the Father for the confidantes he'd found in Dyeland.

For her part, JenniAnn offered up a similar prayer thanking God for Andrew's confidence in herself and their friends.

With their prayers said; the angel, woman, and their two dogs left the room with all thoughts of dallying celebrities, the breakdown of boundaries, and A-line skirts left behind them and replaced with gratitude.


Upon their return to the TV room, Andrew and JenniAnn spent three hours watching the career struggles and romantic entanglements of a variety of doctors, lawyers, and investigators.  An hour into primetime, Fawn and Lulu snuck off to bed to leave their keepers to their critiquing.  Andrew looked down at his note pad which was filled with observations as varied as "I hope that's not really happening in hospitals... it's not very professional" to "If only solving murder cases was always that easy..."  Guessing that no one would enjoy a media class taught by a professor who had only complaints, he made sure to take down positive notes, too.  "Good to see the diversity of characters on TV has increased" and "Whatever else, I am glad some shows highlight social issues that people need to be aware of," were added easily enough.

JenniAnn, too, had pulled herself away from writing lyrical notes about Andrew's eyes and pondering how often he got to wear a uniform long enough to start another sheet of notes she felt comfortable giving to him.  "It's a shame that so much of TV can be crude and crass and yet... if you look... there are still moments of stirring genius and glimpses into the resiliency of humanity," she'd jotted down for him.

When the last primetime credit rolled at 9:59 PM, Andrew glanced at the newspaper JenniAnn had given him with the listings.  At the late hour, he wanted to be sure his channel-surfing didn't land them any where questionable.  He smiled when he noticed one program in particular and clicked over to it.

JenniAnn immediately looked up.  "Jane Eyre!  And I love this mini-series adaption of it!  Although... you could make mention of this: in the book Jane is plain and Mr. Rochester isn't very attractive at all.  And yet... look at them!"  She waved to the screen.  "She's adorable and he's super hot.  Surely that expresses something."

Andrew burst into laughter.  "You want me to announce to my students that the televised version of Rochester is 'super hot'?  I don't think I've ever heard you use that phrase."

His friend shrugged, giggling.  "The men of my acquaintance just seem more suitably described as 'lovely' and 'luscious,' I suppose.  Although I could quite happily and truthfully substitute in the other if you'd prefer."

Andrew blushed.  "I'm okay with maintaining the status quo."

"Good.  I prefer it myself."  JenniAnn grinned at him then turned back to the TV.  She sighed dreamily, knowing that in another moment Rochester would be proposing. 

"What's wrong with this guy?" Andrew wrote.  "He's trying to make Jane think she'll be sent away so he can push her emotionally then gauge her reaction in order to determine if it's safe to speak up about his love.  Why not just tell her and risk being hurt?  At least it would spare her feelings."

Unbeknownst to Andrew, JenniAnn was jotting her own reflections about the moody Brit in her private notes.  "Mr. Rochester is one of my favorite book characters... of males, at least.  And I think it's cause I sometimes glimpse Andrew in him at odd moments.  But not here.  Andrew would make his feelings known and risk having them trampled upon rather than put anyone to the test."

"I've never really understood why so many women like Mr. Rochester," Andrew confessed after finishing his written observations.  "I mean he seems... kind of manipulative."

"He's not perfect.  That's definitely for sure.  But he recognizes that and works towards bettering himself, eventually turning towards God.  And he does, in a big way, learn to sacrifice his own good for someone else.  And I like that.  And I like that for all his bravado... he has a modest soul.  Of course, it probly vexed Jane at the end to have to stress to him, when he felt decrepit and cast-out, that she loved him still... always had and always would."  For a moment JenniAnn felt herself going back several months to a dirty, damp alley where she and Rose had found Andrew. 

"I'm sure he regretted the pain he caused her in doubting her affection for him," Andrew murmured, interrupting his friend's troubled recollections.  He knew that her last words had been as much about them as the Bronte twosome.  After a reassuring smile from her, Andrew turned to his notebook.  "Maybe this is one of media's greatest strengths: to remind us that we're not alone in our experiences.  And maybe simply to remind us of them and what we learned from them."

Calmed, JenniAnn continued.  "Anyhow, even though I relate more to Jane... some of the things Mr. Rochester says sound like my own inner voice."

Perfectly timed, Mr. Rochester piped up with his views on his bond to the governess beside him.  "When we are parted... when you leave me... I believe that bond will snap.  And I will bleed, inwardly."

Andrew looked at the woman beside him in alarm.

"Well, perhaps I wouldn't put it so violently," she demurred.  "Maybe I would have said it more like... 'When we are parted... when you leave me... I believe that bond will snap.  And I will be weepy which will make my make-up bleed and probly all over whichever of your shirts I've managed to steal most recently.  So, uh, just don't ever leave permanently.'"

Andrew laughed with relief.  "I'm still not happy about you being weepy but I will take it over internal bleeding so thank you, Laja, for the rewrite."  After bestowing a bemused smile on her, he looked back at the on-screen couple.  "She's only supposed to be 18, isn't she?  How old is he?"

"I can't remember exactly.  Upper thirties, early forties or so."

"That's a pretty big difference."

"But the point is that they're emotionally, spiritually, intellectually matched.  And, besides, I happen to know that sometimes relationships work out just fine even if the fellow is far, far older... and not just in romances."  JenniAnn cast a sly look at Andrew.

," the angel responded, amused by the unspoken comparison.

They watched, each jotting notes until it came time for Jane to leave Rochester behind.  Andrew noticed JenniAnn begin to sulk and handed her the remote.  "You can change if you want."

JenniAnn happily pounced on the offer and turned to a different station.  "We've not caught any sci-fi.  You really should include it.  Ya know sci-fi stuff often explores culture clashes and societal mores and stuff like that so..."  She laughed, noticing the old, cheesy movie that was on.  "Okay, and sometimes it's just stupid.  But fun!  We can watch and make fun of this... this... 'Attack of the Killer Frog People from Planet Z,' she finished, looking at the listings.  "Right up my alley!  Frog people!"

In her glee, JenniAnn was completely oblivious to a flinch from Andrew at her mention of the title.  He watched the screen, aghast, for several moments before turning to the girl seated next to him.  "Laja, it's late.  Maybe I should let you go to bed."

"It's not even 11:00.  Andrew, they're just about to show the War-like Frog Queen!  You can't deprive me of that!"

"Earlier you were concerned about me killing my brain cells but, Laja, trust me... yours are seriously in danger.  I've seen this movie.  It's beyond bad.  And it is a movie, by the way.  We were going to focus on TV, remember?" the angel of death tried.

"It's a movie on TV.  It counts."

"But it's really stupid.  Laja, the stupidity might give you nightmares and I don't want that on my conscience," Andrew continued as the movie made a rocky transition into as regal a looking court as black and white cardboard sets could provide.  He looked over at JenniAnn, pleadingly, but she was completely oblivious.  In fact, she seemed oddly entranced upon glimpsing a close up of two frog-men royal guards chatting.  "Uh oh," he scrawled onto his note pad.  He turned back to his friend, gently shaking her shoulder.  "Laja, earth to Laja."

JenniAnn roused and blushed.  "Sorry.  Craziest thing.  All of a sudden I just found myself completely focused on that Frog People guard guy in the upper left corner of the screen there.  The one on the left."

Opting against a response, Andrew sunk back further into the couch cushions.

"Ha!  That actor must be a bit of a nervous fellow.  Did you see his right pad just go up to his froggy cranium?  In real life he must have run his hand through his hair like..."  JenniAnn glanced over at Andrew.  His right hand was rifling through his hair.  "You," she finished.  She looked from the frog man on the screen to Andrew and back and forth again.  Suddenly her unfounded fascination with a character she could only assume was named Frog Guard #2 was beginning to make sense.  "You?" she echoed questioningly.

Andrew cringed.  "Ribbit."

JenniAnn dissolved into giggles and enthusiastically embraced the embarrassed angel.  "Aww, Andrew, don't make that look!  I think it's great that you were in some B... or maybe C... movie!  And... well, just think of it this way: my reaction is clearly a testament to the awesomeness of your eyes.  They still make me swoony even in black and white and when surrounded by gobs of cake make-up.  So... what were you doing... oooh."  She pulled away from Andrew just enough to glimpse Frog-Andrew as he began to duel with an over-sized squid-like person. 

Seeing her delight, the angel of death began to overcome his horror at his Hollywood past being revealed to JenniAnn. 

"So what were you doing there?" she asked, once assured that Frog-Andrew was triumphant.

Andrew pointed to his fellow guard.  "Helping him comes to terms with a death in his family."

"Oh..." JenniAnn looked sympathetically at the other frog-man.  "Did he?"

"I think so.  As much as a person can.  After I left he stopped acting and became a pastor.  It gave him more time with his family which he realized he wanted more than fame or fortune."  Andrew's face lit up at the recollection.  "Actually, I came to him again last year and took him Home.  He was one of those people who sing and dance when they get Home.  I love those cases.  And it was great to see him again... and we both agreed we looked better with out the make-up."

"I've never seen that guy without it," she waved towards Andrew's assignment.  "But in your case, I definitely agree!" 

They continued to watch the film's illogical and hackneyed plot unfold.  Andrew cringed many more times at its ridiculousness but couldn't be completely annoyed when it amused JenniAnn so and reminded him of his former assignment.  When it went to commercial, she turned to him.  "So now, Professor Andrew... what do you think about the state of television?"

Andrew smiled.  "I'm thinking that TV, and maybe all of media, is what we make of it.  Sure, maybe there are some things better left off TV and out of the newspapers and their web sites.  But even the shallow-seeming shows have their upsides.  And while some shows may have encouraged people to connect to the point of prying, maybe with some work on mutual respect we can channel that into keeping people from feeling isolated and unsupported.  And maybe the words of writers, whether they express themselves on TV or in movies or in books, can help us to express our own feelings and concerns.  And even terrible old movies can make a person reflect on how far we've come... both in special effects and personally."  He laughed and shook his head as "Killer Frog People" returned from its break.  "And so what are you thinking, Laja?"

JenniAnn beamed at him.  "I'm thinking I agree very much.  And... I think I know how I knew that was you."  She inclined her head towards the TV.

"I wondered about that...  I thought maybe it was a little divine inspiration or something," the angel mused. 

"Maybe.  But if it was then I know the means by which God made me recognize you.  It was the way your eyes light up when you're talking about an assignment or even talking to an assignment as you were in the movie.  It makes me feel good to know that in fifty or sixty years that light hasn't dimmed or changed."  JenniAnn looked up at those very eyes and smiled lovingly.

The angel of death hugged his friend.  Over JenniAnn's head, Andrew watched his younger self on the screen: the self who had viewed himself as a loner and an outsider, to some extent.  He didn't regard himself as either any more.  His friends had repeatedly proven they would be there for him even during the bad times.  And if JenniAnn's continued presence in the TV room was any hint, he also knew they'd be around during the incredibly stupid times.  Ten years in, they'd left him with memories of so many wonderful times, too.  So it was without any reservation that Andrew could make his friend a promise. 
"That light won't change or dim, Laja.  Not ever.  I have too much to be grateful for to let it."  At that, the angel lifted his eyes and once again expressed his gratitude to his Creator.

The End

Notes: The Jane Eyre quote, though very close to what Mr. Rochester says in the book by Charlotte Bronte, is from the 2006 mini-series written by Sandy Welch and directed by Susanna White.

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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)