I know, who am I to make a TV reference. Especially not even owing a TV?
Well, we’ve been watching some shows lately. Enough that I felt compelled to broach the subject.
First off, the standards… We do regularly keep up with The Office, Lost, The Biggest Loser, Flight of the Conchords and Big Love. I doubt that much needs to be said about these. But here’s a little something.
Flight of the Conchords is the most important of these. Sure, the 2nd season isn’t as good as the first, but it is still good. There have been fewer great musical numbers, but some of them have been really great. Just a show (and an album) that I can’t do without.
The Office is pretty funny, now that I have gotten over comparing it with the incomparable British original.
Lost sucks, but… The way that they overstuff it with ridiculous story-lines and terrible acting is somewhat entrancing (though admittedly, it is all about Ben Linus… If it weren’t for that character, I never would have made it through a whole episode).
Big Love is just plain good. It didn’t grab me right off like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, in fact it took watching more than a whole season before I got interested. Sticking with it was certainly worth it, as it is quite good… Though I feel like I am watching Harry Dean Stanton slowly die before my eyes.
The Biggest Loser I have no excuse for. This is the first season that I have watched every episode. I think that I’m really just waiting for Ron to get booted off. That will be my dream episode.
We also watched the first two seasons of Mad Men. And that is a very good show.
Past those though, with some seasons ending we have stepped up to the plate to try some new stuff, with generally good results. First off I must mention the unmentionable.
We have had so many people tell us how good The Wire was. A couple of years back we rented the first disk and couldn’t even get through the first episode. I remember it being so bad that I felt like we were watching an episode of that terrible police drama with Ice-T! Well, Caitlin talked me into trying it again and, you know, it didn’t seem like that at all this time. I won’t say it’s the best show, but we watched an episode or too and it is quite watchably good.
We also watched the first 2 episodes of True Blood. This vampires among us drama is alright. I couldn’t really buy it. I mean sure, vampires are an implausability I could watch in a show. But Vampires accepted into society would be such a ridiculous thing that I can’t even go for it in a show. I mean, they are super-strong, immortal, shape-shifting hypnotists who, by their history and nature, kill people and drink their blood. Just getting the blood thing out of the way I don’t think is enough to make them seem acceptable.
We also started watching Spaced. I heard many positive things about it at my old job and I am a big fan of Pegg and Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz that I really wanted to check it out. It is quite funny. Very silly and goofy and filled with film references. Each episode seems to have at least a few scenes that were taken out of films. But they are so obvious that even if you don’t recognize the scene, you still can tell that it’s a homage of sorts to some film out there somewhere. While Pegg is good, I find that his co-star/co-writer Jessica Hynes is effin brilliant!
Personally the high point of this recent spate of TV discovery would have to be Breaking Bad. The story of a 50 year old family man (whose wife is expecting) and high school chemistry teacher who, when he finds out that he is suffering from terminal cancer decides to go into the crystal meth business to raise some money. It is really darned funny, in a black comedy kind of way… And surprisingly violent.
I guess we feel the air of election time approaching, so last night we re-watched Orwell Rolls in his Grave. Part of the flood of political documentaries that sprouted up after George Bush was, um, elected in 2000, it is one of my favorites of that genre. An all-encompassing movie, as its subject is the control of the media, media consolidation and the role that the modern media plays in the government. As the cover says, it explores what the media doesn’t want to talk about – Itself.
It is a serious documentary, being primarily just interviews, but these are interviews with some great folks: Charles Lewis (formerly of 60 Minutes), Mark Crispin Miller, Bernie Sanders, Greg Palast, Vincent Bugliosi and more! Filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas continually reminds us of the dangers of the national dialog being not just presented in the forms that they are, but with the control of that presentation in the hand of too few corporations whose agendas are more and more hand in hand with the government, rather than serving the public interest to inform us about the actions of the government and corporations.
The movie has extensive quotes from both Nineteen Eighty-Four and from Joseph Goebbels, I imagine in the hope of shocking the viewers in either awareness or an actual sense of caring about any of this. But as Caitlin said, the people who would watch this aren’t the people who need to see it. But would those people care anyway? Probably not.
Orwell Rolls in his Grave goes into the deregulation of the media, the removal of the fairness doctrine, the FCC lack of interest in the public good and the effects of all of those. It is scary stuff, rather aggravating with some great scenes… Especially the FCC committee hearing where they are planning on basically throwing out all ownership rules, hearing one board member make an extensive and intelligent argument against relaxing these rules, and then having another one make an terrible argument for it (against the first amendment rights of the corporations, and some chatter about media ownership limitations deny the citizens their right to choose?)… They also look at the power of the Media’s lobbyists in Washington (personally, I’m not ever sure why any lobbyists are allowed at all).
As with most of these films, it is frustrating and maddening, but also filled with though-provoking and valuable insights and it is all something that is good to keep in mind. And a reminder that though we are made to read Nineteen Eighty-Four in jr. high as (I imagine) some kind of warning, some of those kids took to it as a “how to succeed” guide.
Especially me. I am still around, but with the wife working full-time now and on an alternate schedule to mine, spare time seems sparse and the movies just aren’t getting watched too much. One thing that is getting watched is Perry Mason. Now I imagine I haven’t said this here before, assuming that it goes without saying, but Perry Mason is more that just a great Ozzy song, it is unquestionably the best TV show ever made! Due to KPTV, what used to be our local independent TV channel, Perry Mason has been on TV every weekday at noon for my entire life. Or at least 30+ years. That being the case, entire summers would go by when Perry at noon and Star Trek at 5pm (thanks again, KPTV) were the points to my day. I watched god knows how many hundreds of episodes over the years. Though every show follows the same story (murder/Tragg gets it wrong/Burger gets it wrong/Perry knows they’re wrong, but just doesn’t quite know what’s right/at the last minute Perry gets someone [usually someone who wasn't even a suspect] to confess from the stand) the show never gets tiring! But back to the present. A good while back we got ourselves all 10 DVD’s of the First Season of Perry Mason and, wow, what else can I say, it was the best and now it’s even better!
Certainly the best DVD buy I’ve made (well, except for maybe the UK Russ Meyer boxed set and the Blind Dead coffin set), I am continually being re-amazed. These are the full original episodes and as such they are 10 or so minutes longer than the ones I’m used to. And those minutes are put to great use. I don’t recall ever seeing so much of Paul Drake (and his office and his sports car and the way he works), Perry comes across as much tougher and sneaky (law-breaking even) than I remember… They’re just great. They look good, the Gardner stories are still a lot of fun and the added time adds a lot of character and depth to these already great shows.
Oh yeah, we’re about half-way through and the best episode so far has been episode 11, “The Case of the Crooked Candle”. When two women are waiting at the beauty parlor and it’s time for the next appointment… For Mrs. Bradford. Strangely, they are both named Mrs Bradford. They then learn that their Mr Bradford’s both have the same first name… And in fact, both of these women have the same address! Then Mr. Bradford turns up murdered… Obviously, something funny is going on in the state of California!