Sometimes you have to plan a little treat for yourself in order to get yourself to complete a task. It’s a delayed rewards thing. Many of us learned how it works at our mothers’ knees.
Eat your vegetables, then you get desert. Clean up the puzzle you are playing with, then you can get out your paints. Put on your hat, mittens and boots, then you can go outside.
Some of us got money after we got good grades. Others got better jobs, after we completed training. Like that. Some folks hit their kids; others are positively reinforced. That works better.
Smoking cigarettes was a great reward. Do the dishes, clean up the kitchen, quick-mop the floor—then sit down and have that cigarette. Those little ice cream tootsie-role -like treats were great payback for vacuuming. A gin martini was a fine reward for just about anything. Unfortunately those treats are off of my personal “can do” list.
So where does one find delayed rewards when you realize that all your old ones were really, really bad for you? Netflix. I know there are other on-demand collections of movies and television shows like Amazon, Roku, Hulu, X-finity, and there probably will be more.
Lately, for me, it’s the amazing number of English-language series I find on the Netflix. England, for sure. But you won’t believe what they’ve been up to in Canada, Australia, Scotland and Ireland. Last week I stumbled upon my favorite delayed reward of all time: “Outrageous Fortune” from New Zealand. This series ran for six seasons for 107 episodes. That’s one hundred and seven hours of commercial-free hysterically funny and kind of raunchy viewing of a show with great acting and writing which regularly surprises and delights. It’s kind of a drama and comedy combined. I personally allow myself one or two per night—after I brush my teeth—and boy, are they lots of fun.
I found “Outrageous” looking up an actress who was terrific in the Australian series “Rake”—which was one of the best naughty-nice shows I’ve seen in awhile—Robyn Malcom. In 2005 (when the series started) she was in her 40s and played a mom with four children (a lawyer, an “intellectually challenged” low-level thief, an 18-year old girl who only wants to be famous, and an overly-bright high school girl who manages to pay someone to go to school for her.) Malcom’s character, Cheryl, is a bit of a floozy, who tries to steer her family away from the crime life they know, when her husband is sent away to prison.
These people are not necessarily victims of a bad system., and they don’t seem to create victims in their wake. But when the jobless, penniless son tries to buy a house for the gal he loves or Cheryl tires to get a new business going, we get a sense of how hard it is for people with no assets at all to get a toe-hold in the middle class.
In so many ways, these folks are like the rest of us. They have tendencies and complexities. The mom is not ready to give up on life in her mid-forties, but she worries about how her love life is affecting her children (they don’t like it, partly because she falls for a cop, who personifies everything they don’t believe in).
In a very smooth move, her twin sons, Jethro and Van are played by the same fabulous actor with fantastic eyes, Antony Starr. Jethro is willing and able (actually loves) to twist legalities for those he loves. Van is a bit hapless, but loyal and when he falls in love, absolutely determined to succeed in making his beloved happy.
Daughter Pascalle (Sibohan Marshall) at first seems to be just another uninformed and self-centered hot chick cipher on the Aukland scene—but then, surprise surprise, she turns out to have a talent working with the elderly. (She’s sentenced to community service in a retirement home when she’s busted for shop lifting).
Her little sister, Loretta (Antonia Prebble) seems like a nerd, whose major talent is telling lies, until she seduces her sister’s boyfriend and starts writing screenplays. Then there’s the going-senile, safe-cracking grandpa, the policeman-boyfriend, the crime-bent dad, and an assortment of hangers-on and couch-sleepers, recognizable to anyone who remembers growing up and being the one who had a job and an apartment when many friends did not.
“Outrageous Fortune” won every award possible after its first 2005 season and most seasons after that. Co-creator Rachel Lang, (with James Griffin) says part of her idea for Outrageous came from the a low-life family that energized “Mercy Peak”, a previous long-running show she created. The Wests are Faulkner’s Snopes down under.
All the shows are named with quotes from Shakespeare and there’s more than enough here to make us think. There’s also more than enough sex to make us realize how relatively sanitized U.S. shows are—and to make us feel a little guilty about watching it. It’s like a very smart “Married With Children” crossed with “The Sopranos”, the flip-side of “The Waltons"—a martini, a Marlborough, or one of those little ice cream things.