The Boyfriend of the Week

January 30, 2005

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching one of my favorite guilty-pleasure television shows when a new character appeared. He was a school counselor, and he was not only amazingly good looking, but he had this VOICE that totally made me melt like. . .well, like "buttah," as Linda Richman would say. Then, just as I was turning into a pool of melty golden goodness, he did something that made it all ten times worse -- the man made me laugh. And, kids, that was pretty much it for me, I'm afraid. He just absolutely had it all -- sarcastic, funny, witty, sexiest voice of all time next to James Earl Jones. And very, very cool.

The actor was Peter Dinklage and the television show is a little teenage melodrama called "life as we know it."

Now, let me begin by saying that, ordinarily, I'm not a huge fan of teenage melodrama.

And let me continue by saying that, in actuality, the above statement is a complete and utter lie. Wow, I mean, paragraph three and I'm already making this stuff up! When did I turn into such an unabashed fib-teller? I am both amazed and saddened by this. It'll be straight to Hell for me. Because the truth is, quite simply, that I LOVE teenage melodrama. I find it irresistible and I always have. So, when I heard there was a new one starting up on ABC this season, I eagerly tuned into the premiere, expecting lots of really tremendously overacted inanity, the hallmark of ANY great teenage melodrama.

Instead, I was kind of floored (and, I'll confess, slightly disappointed) to discover it's actually a pretty well-thought-out program. Though the main characters (three male best friends and three female best friends) spend 99% of their time talking about and/or having sex, they do it with such humor and such gusto that you can hardly judge them for it. The characters are fun to hang out with, and I'll be darned if it's not just very, very cleverly written.

Now, before I get too much further with the praise, I feel like, in the interest of honesty and at the risk of sounding like a geezer, I have to say that I heartily and humorlessly disapproved of the way the show handled a plot line involving a relationship between one of the teenaged boys and his English teacher. I tend to find that stuff slightly sexist (if it had been about a teenaged GIRL and her MALE English teacher, it would've been scandalous, but a teenaged BOY obviously can't be victimized sexually since that's all he ever thinks about anyway, right?) (say what?) and the show handled it pretty remarkably irresponsibly, in my honest and geezerly opinion. The teacher gets off easy and the boy gets a talk from his father in which the father confesses with a gleeful wink that when HE was the boy's age, he too had sex with a much older woman, and boy, was it ever great!

Uh, garçon? When you have a moment, could you get me and my friends a FRIGGIN' BREAK? Thanks.

Despite this flaw, however, I was still enjoying the show quite a bit. And then they went and added Peter Dinklage, and I'm sorry, for a few minutes there when his character was talking about Joy Division, I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven.

Which is particularly sacrilegious given the fact I started this write-up off with a big fat lie. For this I apologize to all religious people and to my own personal god, who I call "Pete" (no relation to Dinklage). As in "for Pete's sake," and from there branching into "thank Pete," "Pete Almighty," and. . . well, no "Petedammit" just doesn't really have the same ring, does it?

Alas, I digress.

Okay, so, Peter Dinklage was the good news. The good news made all the better because they added his terrific character right at a time when the show was starting to get bounced around in the schedule, never a good sign.

My immediate response to encountering that school counselor character for the first time (after a loud exclamation of "yum!") was to race right out and rent a Pete movie (that is, a movie starring Peter Dinklage, not a movie about my god, who is only coincidentally also named Pete). I wanted to pick a movie in which he did NOT play an angry midget –- which is, I fear, the role he may often be typecast into (see "Elf," for example). Yes, Peter is a dwarf -– I may have neglected to mention that earlier (primarily due to the fact that it hardly seems to matter). And in my experience, and probably also theirs, there tend to be limited roles for dwarves and those that do come up tend to be always the same TYPE of role. Which is ridiculous, as Peter will shortly demonstrate to us.

The movie I picked was called "The Station Agent," and it's an independent film you've probably never heard of. I wasn't sure what to expect from it myself, but I'll be darned if I didn't just love it. And Pete (no relation to God) for starring in it. And Pete (no relation to Dinklage) for bestowing upon us humans the ability to be creative and think up such imaginative and sweet stories.

The movie's about a dwarf named Finn, who has a pretty decent life -- he works at a model train store owned by his closest friend (the two share a love for trains) and has settled down into a fairly comfortable routine. The only downside to it all is the fact that, as a dwarf, Finn is constantly subjected to stares, taunts, and jabs from all the strangers he encounters every day. Everything changes, though, when his friend dies suddenly and leaves Finn a piece of property. It's a block of land in a little town in New Jersey on which there is a small train depot next to a set of working tracks. Finn promptly moves into the depot, relieved to have finally found himself a place of complete solitude.

Unfortunately for him, that solitude doesn't last long. The next day, two remarkable locals (played by Bobby Cannavale, a future Boyfriend, and the great Patricia Clarkson) take an interest in Finn. In fact, they pretty much refuse to leave him alone. And slowly, Finn starts coming out of his shell, sharing his love of trains with his new friends and gradually opening up to them, taking on some of their interests -- and problems -- himself.

What I loved about this movie was its quiet gentleness. And, okay, I'll come clean -- the fact we get to see Pete do some serious smooching didn't hurt it any either. Oh, smoochin' scenes, how I love you. How you make me wish I were an actress. Anyway, this is a really sweet film and Pete is just phenomenal in it. When I finally turned it off, I was all abloom with crushdom, rosy cheeks and all. I started humming little ditties to myself, walking around with a little crush-happy spring in my step, and saying to everyone I met, "La la la, life is so good." (Well, I was thinking it to everyone I met, anyway.)

But then, a couple of days ago, something happened that totally shattered my crush-happy spirit. The way it happened was a little uncanny, actually, though why these things continue to amaze me, considering how often they occur, I have no idea. It started with me sitting peacefully on the couch after work, preparing to watch that day's episode of "Third Watch" taped off A&E (I've been catching up on the seasons I missed). I was sittin' there all relaxed and watchin' when, all of a sudden, who should appear onscreen but PETER DINKLAGE! Right there on "Third Watch"! The very week I'm working on his write-up!

I'd think he was a mad, crazy stalker if it wasn't for the fact he probably actually made this episode three years ago. You know, and the fact he has no idea who I am.

So, I was all excited and bouncing around with glee, and when I was done bouncing, I promptly pulled out a notebook and started writing about how great his voice was again (man, his voice is just sooooo great –- I was not kidding when I said it was one of the sexiest voices of all time, and I could listen to him talk all day every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it). Only, in pulling out my notebook, I happened to accidentally flop over the newspaper sitting next to me, and as I glanced at it I noticed the teaser line of one of the articles in the entertainment section. Said teaser line contained the words "Life As We Know It" and "cancelled."

First thought: Dudes, it's actually "life as we know it," spelled with all lowercase letters. And here I went off on a tangent that went a little something like this: Technically, I hate it when people do the all-lowercase-letters thing because it's so often out of some weird e.e.cummings-esque attempt at coolness and it even more so often fails where e.e. so more-times-ten often succeeded. Ya follow? But since I had a certain fondness for the show, I was able to forgive it it's transgression. And then after I got a couple of episodes into it, I realized how completely perfect it actually was. Because, I mean, what is more accurate in regards to teenage melodrama than slightly pathetic attempts at coolness like that one? When I was in high school, for example, I penned more than my fair share of bad poetry that didn't involve capital letters, including a very dramatic poem that applied elements of calculus to the theme of torturous, unrequited love, the only line of which I can now remember is “solve for x." Talk about realism. Those lowercase letters in the title speak volumes about the show. VOLUMES, I tell you. It's GENIUS!

Second thought: GODDAMMIT! (as word "cancelled" finally sinks in)

Third thought: This is what I get for frickin' liking a stinkin' TV show. What's next, they axe "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives"?! And how am I supposed to live without seeing D.B. Sweeney's really really SAD little bowl-cut hairdo every week? I was just getting used to it! I was just starting to become fond of it! This is just not fair!

Fourth thought: But, but, but, PETER DINKLAGE!! You didn't even give him a chance!!

Fifth thought: All of you who didn't watch "life as we know it" are responsible for it getting cancelled and you better not email and tell me who you are unless you want to be the recipients of a smackdown the likes of which none of us has seen since Jon Stewart's appearance on "Crossfire." I'M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR MONKEY!!

Sixth thought: [insert sniffles and puppy-dog tears here]

Seventh thought: Bwaaaaaaaaa!!!

Now, in retrospect, what's interesting about the above seven-step progression is how closely it matches my reaction to the 2004 presidential election. First, the refusal to accept what's happening by going off on a tangent about something irrelevant. Denial IS a river in Egypt and it's also, coincidentally, my favorite state of mind. Then, anger. Followed by a brief burst of denial redux (but, but, but, maybe they didn't count ALL the votes in Ohio yet!) that is quickly followed by intensifying anger and threats of smackdown (GODDAMN YOU, OHIO!). Followed by gut-wrenching sobs and wails of "It isn't fair!" Oh, we Democrats. We can be such sore losers.

Anyway, as with any tragedy, life must go on. And so, let's get back to business. Because, "The Station Agent," "Third Watch," and "life as we know it" are not the only places you can experience the joy that is Pete (no relation to God). In fact, you can also experience said joy in movies like "Elf" (a funny, but VERY cheesy holiday movie in which Pete has a small role as a children's book author with a mighty temper), "Human Nature" starring Tim Robbins, and "Oz," where he apparently did stunt work (though, I've seen the first three seasons of "Oz" and I can't imagine where these stunts would've been -- so, clearly, he's an incredibly stealthy stuntman, which is probably a really good stuntman quality).

Pete (no relation to God) hasn't actually been an actor for all that long, oddly enough, and most of his parts have been bit roles in which he was primarily cast to "chew the scenery," as he himself put it. He was born on June 11, 1969 in Morristown, New Jersey, and all I could find out about his early years was that he attended Bennington College in Vermont, graduating in 1991 with a degree in drama. His debut film performance was as Tito in "Living in Oblivion," and he's also had a pretty solid career in theater as well, both as an actor and as a playwright. But that's it -- that's all I know about the guy. There just isn't that much information about him on the web -- there weren't any fan sites that I could dig up, and I only found a handful of interviews and other miscellaneous things.

However, all this will change in the next few years, I suspect, because it looks like Pete's career is really starting to take off. He's got four more movies in the works at the moment; three in 2005 and one in 2006. The first one will be "Little Fugitive," in which Peter will play a husband and father who gets sent to prison, leaving his drug-addicted wife to raise his two troubled sons. After that comes "Find Me Guilty," about a mobster who opts to go to trial instead of ratting on his friends in exchange for immunity. Then we'll get "The Baxter," a romantic comedy about the twists and turns of a young man's life in the two weeks prior to his wedding. And then finally, "The Dwarf," in which Pete will star as Piccolino, a dwarf who commits heinous, vile acts on behalf of his master, an evil Prince (it's set during the Italian Renaissance, by the way).

Go, Peter Dinklage, go!

And, hey, while I'm making orders: Go, Readers, go! Go and rent "The Station Agent." Go and petition ABC to bring back "life as we know it" just so we can see more Peter Dinklage. Go and find Peter Dinklage and get me his autograph. Go and write a screenplay that features Peter Dinklage and me in a romantic love-triangle with MacGyver. Just go and do something more productive than reading this ridiculous web site, for the love of Pete!

(Or, you know, you can just ignore me and stick around here to see who I feature next. In fact, yeah, know that I think about it, that's EXACTLY what you should do. Seriously. I mean it. I never was much good at this "bossy" thing anyway.)

MacGyver Factor Score: 99.79%. I LOVE this guy! And that's all I really have to say on the matter. Take THAT, all you tall people! I want me this scruffy short guy with a deep voice that makes me go all bloomy, dittie-hummy, and la-la-la-life-is-goody. Peter Dinklage, take me away!

Boyfriend-Related Links

Peter's IMDB Page
An interview with Pete at the BBC
The Station Agent web site
Another interview with Pete

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