May 8, 2011

∴ A Vast Wasteland

Newton Minow, once chairman of the FCC, called television a “vast wasteland.” He was mostly correct. Completely correct if you consider the seventies, and he was speaking in 1961.

But over the past ten or so years we’ve enjoyed a bit of a renaissance on the small screen. You must sift through the detritus, read the terrain, search for signs of passing (to paraphrase Justine Hanna in Heat) to find the good stuff, but it’s there. I’ve slowly accumulated hours of viewing a few gems among the detritus. Herewith, my slowly-budding list.

  • Battlestar Galactica. The first outing for this show’s namesake was hokey crap. As a kid I watched it anyway. The second time through was gritty, harsh, sexy, redeeming; what you’d see at the near-end of humanity’s run when our now-sentient machines have had enough of us.
  • Arrested Development. This is not slapstick. Not quite highbrow, either. Just funny, in a perverse sort of way. You know all the actors. See them make television worth laughing with, because they’re in on the joke. A follow-on movie is in production, for 2012 release.
  • The Wire. Oh. My. God. The best writing and teleplay I have ever enjoyed. Bonus points because I unknowingly drove past the towers (after they came down) and the low-rise on my way to visit my sister’s family in Bal’mer. Multiple times. (David Simon is making Treme right now.) Omar comin’, yo!
  • Firefly and Serenity. Joss Whedon’s scifi. Just starting out on this one. There’s a cohesiveness to the cast that’s hard to define. A milder grittiness, akin to Battlestar, but without the impending doom. BTW, he wrote The Avengers, in production now for a 2012 release, starring Robert Downey and Scarlett Johansson, among others. (Scarlett can do no wrong for me after the beautiful, evocative, vacant Lost In Translation. I loved that film.)

In current production,

  • Community. Any show that mixes a crew of community college no-accounts with a replay of My Dinner With Andre is doing something interesting. This show’s drama/comedy writing is among the best in contemporary broadcast. Give it a couple of episodes, it’ll grow on you. Bonus points for snagging Chevy Chase.
  • Big Bang Theory. Chuck Lorre’s other show. A show in which I finally feel at home. These are my people. At least insofar as I can finish their sentences. Bonus fashion points for Sheldon. And for giving name to this blog.
  • Archer. Rude, crude, funny. Archer is a hard-drinking, hard-womanizing, clueless not-so-secret agent. Animated. Swill a martini with this one.

Netflix rents some by the season. Most get at least a 9/10 on imdb.com. You could look it up.

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