James Garner, who died over the weekend, was perhaps the best TV actor of his generation. He brought intelligence, charm, and wit to a medium that makes those qualities difficult to convey. In the 1950s, “Maverick” did for the western what Monty Python did for humor, redefining how to look at the genre. In the 1970s, “The Rockford Files” took the private detective, a tired and worn out format, and gave it new life.
So what does that have to do with wine and writing? Consider this, from Garner’s autobiography:
“I’m a Methodist but not as an actor. I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth. I don’t have any theories abut acting, and I don’t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn’t take himself too seriously, and shouldn’t try to make acting something that it isn’t. Acting is just common sense. It isn’t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote.”
Substitute wine writing for acting, and the point is clear: We’re not better or more talented than other wine drinkers. We’re just more professional about it. And the minute we take ourselves too seriously, we lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing. And wine writing is not supposed to be difficult, though so many of us try so hard to make it difficult.
A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to my pal John Bratcher, a reformed actor, for pointing out the relationship between Garner’s words and wine writing.