Why I Pay For Showtime
Since the success of HBO’s Six Feet Under, many series on subscription based networks (HBO, Showtime, etc) have continued to up the ante on the theatrical and conceptual possibilities of episodic basic television. Though I do not envy the production team’s task on these projects- attempting movie-level quality at the pace of television- I have very much enjoyed the results. There is little doubt that the ad-based major networks have been scrambling to produce their own brand of edginess, but from what I’ve seen it simply can’t compare, thanks to boardroom and FCC restrictions, to say nothing of the restrictive lash of the advertiser’s purse strings. House is a good example of this kind of show, a mind-numbingly formulaic foray into the hospital drama milieu that is only saved, partially, by Hugh Laurie‘s gravitas. (It does help that his character pops vicodin, LSD, and just about everything else he can get his hands on, and then operates on patients. To that point, Hunter would be proud.)
So, to follow up the recent article on Dexter, (New American Hero, by Jason Stackhouse), here are some other series you really should check out.
Weeds: Maybe it’s just because I made the horrific mistake of living in Orange County California for over a year, but this series had me hooked from the get-go. There’s enough pointed cultural satire to go around, especially when it comes to displaying the hypocrisy of suburban faux-Christian culture, but at it’s heart this show seems to be the R-rated answer to the situation comedy. You get no laugh track – except on the bonus Good Morning Agrestics – but this is a satirical comedy that gets most of its humor out of the zany antics that ensue when a woman’s husband dies and she goes into the drug trade. So much for the cliches of the sit com era. Thank fucking God. (Also, a dark secret of mine: I’ve found Mary-Louise Parker totally enchanting since I first saw her on the West Wing several years ago. There. I’ve said it.)
Rome: though this show was mysteriously cut by HBO towards the end of it’s second season, I still include it in the lineup. Why? Because they did an incredible job presenting the psychological reality of Rome in a way I had never really seen before, at least in mass media. You may get a taste of the same aesthetic, the grand display, in Gladiator, but that script was too married to the Hollywood formula to really let us glimpse into the minds of a civilization that believed it was their right to dominate the World. (Wait, that sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?)
Historians will undoubtedly gripe about the accuracy of the fresco’s or the type of parrot they used in the third scene, but this is a show where you really believe that the characters exist and live in this reality. It is a reality where people owned and for the most part dominated their slaves, where they found it perfectly acceptable to kill their wives and children if that wife had committed adultery, even though sex below one’s station was not generally considered adultery, where, at the end of the day, reality was what you could get away with.
The problem of producing a show like this, of course, is in developing pathos. It may be hard for many of us to associate with this mentality, (being a pirate of teh Internets, I do it just fine.) Thus enters the unlikely but oddly symbiotic friendship of two legionnaires as they Forest Gump through Roman history. I’ll leave the rest for you to explore.
Californication: Several months ago, a friend of mine told me that there was a show with David Duchovny coming on Showtime about the post- “fall from grace” of a bitter, wise-cracking author of the fictional God Hates Us All (made into a film, much to his disgust, with mega-actors “Tom” and “Kate” as A Crazy Little Thing Called Love). He now bides his time drinking, chain smoking, getting paid to write for a blog, and fucking nearly anyone who finds his shortcomings endearing. This was obviously a hard sell for me, since the two of us have so few personality traits in common, but eventually I relented. It’s nice seeing David acting in something episodic without the manacles on. If you still have your doubts, consider this: the protagonist has already done several lines of blow off of a hookers ass, and they’re only 9 episodes into the series. How can you argue with that?
Flight of the Conchords: if you’ve ever been in a band and tried to make it to the top from the very, very bottom, watch this show. That is all I can say.
Carnivale. This show was also killed off before it’s time by HBO, though it remains an excellent work of modern mythology. Unfortunately I have to admit that I’m only two episodes in, so I don’t want to comment much- but it deserves to be in the lineup.
Finally, a note about the title. Yes, you can download the torrents for these shows right here. But goddamnit that’s not fast enough. I need my fix.