Monday, August 27, 2012

The Booth At The End Is Back

The Booth At The End Is Back

The Booth At The End is absolutely my favorite telecommunications drama. It is not on television but on the internet at  This is the second season and I said in the first season that it is a combination of “My Dinner With Andre” and “The Twilight Zone.”  So you should get the message that what makes this show so great is not the flash bang of explosions or the titillation of sexual suggestion. No, this is scriptwriting for the intellect and imagination at its best. 

The action sequences consist of people walking into a diner and sitting down at the booth at the end in order to make a deal with the man sitting there with the mysterious book.  The drama is entirely played out at the booth in two dimensions. First, there is the seeker who wants something and is willing to make a deal to get it and that person’s interaction at the booth with the man with the book.  He asks what they want and they tell him. On the principle of being careful about what you ask for because you just might get it, the man at the booth then asks follow-up questions, sometimes hinting and sometimes stating directly, that it would be a good idea to be specific about what it is they exactly want to get from the deal.  He then looks into the book and it tells him what the deal is in exchange for what the seeker wants, that is, it states what the seeker must do in order to get what they want.  There are no external moral commandments involved here.  If you want this, then you must do that.  Sometimes what the person must do seems to be relatively easy, but more often it is something that directly challenges their self-image and their own moral identity.

The second dimension of drama comes from the part of “the deal” that requires the seeker to return to the booth and give updates on how they are progressing toward fulfilling their part of the bargain.  We then get to hear the story of what is happening away from the booth, but we are still at the booth.  Also, this is when we get to see how the deal is affecting the seeker in unanticipated ways.  Sometimes the seeker realizes that they made a bad deal, and if so, they are free to walk away from it. The man in the booth simply says if they do what is asked then they will get what they said they wanted, and if they don’t do it, then there is no guarantee, but perhaps they may still get what they want from some other source or avenue, but not from the deal. 
So the great mystery is who is the man at the booth and what is the book?  In the first season we had very few clues.  But the story is enigmatic enough for everyone to fill the void of the unknown with our own imagination. For example, some people may think he is the devil while others may think he is an angel. For me, the mysterious book is all about karma. The book tells us what actions we can take that will definitely get us what we want. But the morality of the whole deal is not about what actions we must take as much as about what it is we want and why. 
One of the pleasures of the series is in seeing how some of the deals fit together.  One woman is told that to be able to learn unconditional love she has to disappear without a trace for three weeks. Then two boys are told that in order to get the absent father to show his love for one of the boys that they must find someone who is missing.  Of course after looking for an appropriate missing person to find and passing over some candidates, the two boys hear about the missing woman.  Will they find her?
If you like what are conventionally called cerebral dramas with a metaphysical context about the deepest issues of life and death, then you should love The Booth At The End.

The first episode of season one is titled “Start. See what happens.” and may be viewed at Hulu at,vepisode,1,0


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