The Art of Knowing When To Call It Quits: Dexter, The Talking Heads and The Brunch That Binds

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Hi there, welcome back and Happy (day after) Halloween! For this entry we are going with a Halloween theme and discussing the following frightening topics: When a good television show doesn’t know when to call it quits; when a culturally significant band leaves their fans wanting more; and how easy it is to make brunch.

In case you couldn’t tell, the television show I am referencing is Dexter. Airing on Showtime from 2006-2013, Dexter focuses on the titular character, a vigilante serial killer with a dark past. Dexter is also a loving husband, doting father and moonlights as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. Before we go any further, let’s make a drink – you’re going to need it.

Slice of Lime Bloody Mary


Named after Dexter’s boat (which he uses as a mobile murder shack and body disposal device) Slice of Life, this drink honors Dexter’s pathological need to see blood. Bloody Marys are simple, flavorful and a must have for any brunch.

Ingredients:

  • A SLICE OF LIME!
  • A protein (we will be using summer sausage)
  • A cheese (cubed cheddar)
  • A pickle (kosher)
  • 3 parts Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
  • 1 part mid-shelf vodka

Instructions:

  1. Add mix and vodka to shaker with ice
  2. Shake
  3. Serve
  4. Garnish

Alright, now lets talk Dexter and how one singular show can completely run the gamut in all aspects of quality.

The story begins when Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is orphaned as a toddler after his mother’s gruesome murder. Miami Metro Police Officer Harry Morgan (James Remar) is the first person on the scene and finds young Dexter in a pool of his mother’s blood. Harry does not have the heart to turn Dexter over to social services, so he uses his law enforcement connections to pull some strings and quickly and quietly adopts Dexter.

As Dexter ages, Harry recognizes the fact that Dexter has tendencies that are consistent with serial killers (due to his mother’s violent murder) and teaches him how to harness his urges for ‘good.’ These urges are harnesses by becoming a vigilante and doling our murderous justice to criminals who ‘fit a code,’ outsmart the justice system and deserve to die.

In humorous turns, Harry also teaches an awkward and socially inept Dexter how to fit in among the crowd and be a ‘normal’ person so that he does not draw attention to himself or his murderous tendencies. These lessons are darkly funny, well acted and showcase the chemistry between Michael C. Hall and James Remar.

Eventually, Harry passes but through flashbacks and appearances as Dexter’s conscience, has a recurring role.

As Dexter ages, he keeps Harry’s lessons close to his heart and eventually becomes a blood spatter analyst for Miami (FLA) Metro Police Department. This occupation gives Dexter access to computer files, backgrounds, rap sheets and other plot armor that keeps him one step ahead of the law and other enemies and makes sure his victims fit Harry’s ‘code.’

This feels like an appropriate place to point out that the viewer needs to suspend their disbelief to become (and remain) a fan of this show.

Dexter has a non-biological sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) who follows in their father’s footsteps and becomes a Miami Metro police officer. Deb is foul-mouthed, uncouth, brazen and the moral compass of the show. Her character is often used for comic relief, but certainly is used for touching moments as well.

Miami Metro is filled with other paint-by-number police types. The cop shop contains a sultry boss, a hard-living womanizer, the calm and cool veteran, the nerdy analyst and the detective who goes by his gut and is onto Dexter’s secret.

Somehow, all of this works … for four seasons. The show is funny, touching and quirky. As more of Dexter’s past is revealed and it becomes easier to root for him – especially as he becomes a husband and father. At a certain point, Dexter becomes Who’s the Boss, if Tony Danza was a murderous psychopath.

The fourth season would have been a great place to end the show as Dexter’s character arc is completed. Dexter learns to accept who he is, develops empathy and is in control of his ‘Dark Passenger’ (this is what he calls his need to kill). The season also featured John Lithgow, who makes EVERYTHING better.

Maybe the reason that the show starts to stink after 4 seasons is that a show this outrageous has to run out of steam and plausable deniability. At a certain point, a show like this has to up the plot ante with it’s level of tight-rope walking to keep the viewer interested. This was no easy task and eventually the show became so unbelievable that it became unwatchable.

My official recommendation is to watch the first four seasons of Dexter and pretend the show ended with the mysterious phone call during the season finale.

Okay, let’s make a drink and some brunch!

Miami Dade Mimosa


Mimosas are perhaps the most universal and easy of the brunch drinks to make. Don’t use a sweet bubbly – choose something more dry (Brut) as the orange juice is already sweet. Also, don’t use anything too expensive. I used some inexpensive BAREFOOT and no one was the wiser.

Ingredients

  • 3 parts orange juice
  • 1 part inexpensive champagne

Instructions

  1. Pour orange juice into champagne glass
  2. Top with champagne

Personally, I don’t like to have breakfast without an egg and/or potato dish. For this entry we are making an egg, tater tot, ham and cheese casserole. This is EXTREMELY easy to make, kid friendly and filling. Let’s get started.

‘Moon Over My Hammy’ Tater Tot Casserole






Ingredients

  • 1 lb sliced ham
  • 1 dozen eggs (beaten)
  • 32 ounces tater tots
  • 4 cups shredded cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Spray 9 x 13 baking tray with cooking spray
  3. Line bottom of tray with tater tots
  4. Top tater tots with ham
  5. Top ham with eggs
  6. Top eggs with cheese
  7. Bake for 1 hour

Let’s also make some biscuits with sausage gravy. It is easier than you think and is always great reheated. We will start with the biscuits.

Dexter got the ‘DROP’ on you Style Biscuits


Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup 2% milk

Instructions

  1. Cut butter into very small pieces and THOROUGHLY mix together all dry ingredients in large bowl.
  2. Add milk to dry ingredients and mix with hand mixer until dough is soft. This should take roughly 1 minute.
  3. Drop biscuits onto lightly floured baking sheet.
  4. Insert pan into 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Psychotic Sausage Gravy


Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk (don’t be a wimp, get the hard stuff)

Instructions:

  1. Thoroughly cook pork on stove top
  2. Add flour and stir until pork is covered
  3. Mix in butter until melted
  4. Slowly stir in milk and bring to a boil
  5. Simmer for 5 minutes
  6. Reduce heat to low for 10 minutes
  7. Serve

I find that Steigl Grapefruit Radler goes well with this dish.


It is a lower abv (2.5%) drink and compliments the taste and texture of the biscuits and gravy. It is always good to have a few of these bottles on hand for those weird individuals who don’t drink traditional beer.

Also, you can’t have brunch without bacon. The trick is to buy THICK cut bacon from the butcher counter and to cook it low and slow. It’s just that simple.

Okay…now that we have finished brunch, let’s pour a Baileys and coffee, have a donut from Amy’s and listen to some Talking Heads.


If you regularly read this blog, you know how big of an Amy’s fan I am and if you watch Dexter, you know that he often brings donuts into work (a trick Harry taught him) to seem like a ‘normal’ member of society. If one of my coworkers was a serial killer but brought Amy’s to me everyday, I might look the other way.

STOP MAKING SENSE


When I contemplated the theme of this entry, I racked my brain trying to think of an album about Halloween and scary killers. I then remembered STOP MAKING SENSE and it’s lead single Psycho Killer. My thought process was also justified because after four seasons, Dexter literally did stop making sense.

For those who are not familiar, STOP MAKING SENSE is a concert film/soundtrack released by the Talking Heads in 1984. Directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) the film is truly an avant garde cinematic masterpiece that proved the Talking Heads were one of the most important, smart, talented and gutsy bands of the 1970s and 1980s. Don’t believe me? Check out the trailer.

At the beginning of the film, lead singer and songwriter David Bryne walks onstage solo and plays Psycho Killer. As the set progresses, more band mates and touring musicians eventually join Byrne on stage until the entire ensemble is featured during a rousing rendition of Burning Down The House.

Other highlights include hits you are familiar with (Once In A Lifetime), hits you wish your favorite artist wrote (This Must Be The Place), hits you know your favorite artist CAN’T write (Life During Wartime) and even a hit that Mariah Carey sampled (Genius of Love), which was actually a Tom Tom Club song, but let’s stop splitting hairs.

The beauty of this film/soundtrack is that the band, already together for 10 years at this point, knew that level of critical and commercial success is fleeting and that their time on top of the mountain was finite. As a result of this awareness, and many other issues, the Talking Heads would go on to release only three more studio albums.

Sure, lead singer and songwriter David Byrne was burned out and probably a bit of a jerk, but the band could have kept on cranking out music, touring and cashing checks, but they had the wisdom and integrity to know when to call it quits.

The first rule of showbiz is ‘Always Leave Your Audience Wanting More.’ Thank God the Talking Heads had enough sense to follow that rule.

So, there you have it. Make some brunch and listen to some good tunes, have some good drinks and start Dexter. Just remember that you are under no obligation to finish it.

ADDITIONS & SUBSTITUTIONS

  • I feel like I should mention the 40-year strong marriage between Talking Heads members Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums). If they can make a show business marriage work for that amount of time AND put up with David Byrne’s ego/genius, they should start a marriage counseling business.
  • A much shorter show business marriage was the marriage between Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter. Their short marriage (no judgement here) and divorce led to some great chemistry in later seasons.
  • Jennifer Carpenter was nominated for seven Saturn awards for her work as Deb Morgan. Carpenter was great in this role – not quite Emmy great, but definitely Saturn great.

 

 

 

 

 

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