Since my last blog past was, how you say, a rather heavy affair, let's dumb things down a bit to a more acceptable level of nonsense, shall we? Let's talk about television. Actually, I have already tricked you, just one sentence in, because while I do think that most television is nonsense, and will rot your brain out, and will turn you into a slack-jawed, drooling nitwit who can recite 30-year-old TV jingles by heart but can't even name your own state senators, there is plenty of great stuff, too. Living in Berkeley as I do, I occasionally run into one of those pompous, clenched-buttocked snobbier-than-thou types with the "Kill Your Television" bumper sticker, or who proclaim, "I only watch PBS," but, ya know what? It's their loss. Really, the only two words you need to say to folks like that are "The" and "Wire." Because if you haven't watched that show, then you haven't seen one of the great, extended storytelling feats of the past 50 years, in any medium.
So, yeah. I like television. And I'm not sorry. Heck, if you wanted to, you (not me, because I'm too lazy and want to play Batman: Arkham Asylum soon) could probably write a pretty persuasive essay on how television is producing more quality work these days than film (at least in this country.) But actually all I wanted to do here was tell you what I'm watching right now. Which I shall now do, forthwith!
1. Glee. It's not fully formed yet. I think they're still in that freshman season tentative state of trying to find their proper voice (just like Buffy season 1), but there enough moments of greatness and, err, glee, to have high hopes. If nothing else, they have comedy goddess Jane Lynch, who steals every single scene she's in, almost as if she wandered in off another set, and whose presence ensures I'll never miss an episode, as long as she's on.
She's not the only good thing. The premise itself--about this group of high school misfits (HEY WAIT A SECOND!) trying to make good in the Glee Club--is solid enough, but distinguishes itself with its presentation and style, with the show busting out into full-on, joyous musical production numbers 3 or 4 times per episode. If you are even mildly predisposed to like musicals, you just can't not like this show. (I went from "like" to "love" after last week's production of Queen's "Somebody to Love"). Still, there's the tone issue. I'm not sure how hilarious teen pregnancy is, for one, nor am I too thrilled that there doesn't seem to be any female characters--at least so far--who aren't either villains or schemers of some sort. The show has handled the issue of homosexuality with surprising grace, so it's clear the creators don't lack sensitivity. So here's hoping they humanize some of the girls/women as the series progresses.
2. Top Chef and Project Runway. I know what you may be thinking now. "Is Jeff Green gay?" No, I am not, and if you need to immediately see some sign of my hetero/testosterone-driven self, you may skip down to the Sons of Anarchy entry below. I really try hard to limit my intake of reality TV (though, yes, I will slum with the worst of the worst, like, oh, I dunno, C.O.P.S or Tool Academy) if my brain demands such medication), but these shows, for me, distinguish themselves and have a strong attraction for me personally because they are both about the same thing: Creative people being forced to create under pressure.. Yeah, sure, I like all the catty bickering and snarkiness and all that other good stuff too, but at root the reason I can handle these two reality shows rather than most of the rest is because of the respect I have for (most of) the contestants, as well as just the thrill of watching what they come up with under severe time constraints and often ridiculous circumstances. And, yes, I have a crush on Tim Gunn just like everyone else. Which, again, does not make me gay. (Not that there'd be anything wrong with that.)
3. Mad Men For the same reasons that everyone else watches it, and why the critics love it, and why it wins boatloads of Emmys (which, actually have zero credibility for All Eternity anyway since they failed to recognize The Wire). It's brilliantly written and sublimely acted. Some people have been bitching about this season being "slow," or that "nothing is happening," but I submit that if you feel this way, you're either not watching it the right way (patiently) or are conveniently forgetting the first two seasons. This show has always been a slow burn. (Kinda like The Sopranos often was.) The show spends a ton of time setting everything up, letting characters and situations simmer, not having everything HAPPEN right away--just like in real life, hey! I think this show, almost more than any I've seen, really bears repeated viewings, because it's only then that you can see just how much care is going into every aspect of it, how much nuance and playfulness and foreshadowing is going on in the writing. I do know it's the one show I won't watch if I'm at all tired, because I know I'm going to miss too much, waiting for "the action," when, really, the action in Mad Men is all about the inner turmoil of the characters, their struggles to make sense of a world that is changing all around them, a sense of freedom and release for some, and of doom for others. Also, the clothes are awesome.
4. Sons of Anarchy Okay, dudes--happy now? Yes, I love the violent motorcycle gang show. A lot. I missed the first season entirely, but now not only am I on board, but it's the one show that I realized I started actively anticipating and getting impatient for. For me, it's the new Oz: Bad men behaving badly and violently, a super tough soap opera for guys, a fantasy trip about power and dominance, with bursts of yeehaw action and bloodshed for us cheering but harmless plebes in the bleachers. Oh yeah, for the snobs in the house, it's also been explicitly stated by the creator that this is all based on Hamlet , if you must know, but that's just if you want to not feel guilty for watching. It's also not really about the motorcycles,either, which is fine, because even though I ride one, I obviously couldn't identify less with these characters. It's not about a middle-aged Jewish guy commuting to his job in the videogame industry. Ron ("Hellboy") Perlman is great as always, doing that gigantic guy with a heart thing he does so well--but the writers are also clearly muddying things up, as he does some extremely bad things that, like Tony Soprano, would make him a villain in any other story.
Adding even-worse bad guys this season--some despicable white supremacists led by Adam Arkin and former Black Flag lead "singer" Henry Rollins--makes it easier to root for our motorcycle gang heroes, but, again, like The Sopranos, and The Shield, you're constantly being forced to consider just who and what it is you're rooting for. Even though you do hope they kick ass.
So that's my Now Watching list. Mostly. Needless to say, there's still The Daily Show and Colbert Report, though not as daily as they should be. And House, because Hugh Laurie can do no wrong.
Really, though, all this stuff? Just biding time until Lost returns.