Saturday, March 15, 2008

Appointment Television

In many ways we are currently witnessing the golden age of American television (reality TV included – the concept of that, at least, is brilliant. No expensive actors, no expensive production and/or location costs and no headaches of storylines and script coherence. Of course, for most of us this is one of the signs that civilization is in decline). On Sunday last, one of the best TV series ever, “The Wire”, ended after 5 seasons on HBO. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s probably the best TV series ever – in terms of topicality, believability, acting and dramatic thrust. The first 2 attributes might not be apparent to someone without a basic awareness of the peculiar brand of American urban decay that is intimately linked with the underground drug economy that powers inner-city life (in this case, the city of Baltimore). But in different shapes and forms, these problems have been faced, or will be faced, by most major cities around the world. One of the things that makes “The Wire” great is that while showing on a premium cable channel, it actually built up a vast following amongst people who otherwise might not have cared for the characters that make up its cast. Maybe it’s the “train-wreck” mentality at work, maybe deep down viewers felt empathy, maybe it was just good old, old-fashioned storytelling (though story-telling of the highest caliber). Whatever the reason, while watching this series one felt that this was the work of somebody (David Simon, the creator and writer for many episodes) who had spent a lifetime preparing for this show’s 5 seasons.

HBO has redefined TV series. Along with their no ads policy on their TV shows, it just makes it almost impossible for one to watch regular television once one has got hooked onto these channels and/or their shows. The novelistic quality of the programming is a great stand-in (and I emphasize, its just a stand-in) for actually reading the Great Authors. With shows like “The Sopranos”, “Deadwood”, “Rome”, “Oz” (in its first 2 seasons), even “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and of course “The Wire” this has been television like you never imagined it could be. If that sounds like a promotional bit for HBO, then I blithely admit to it. Like B’bay Addict maintains, TV series, done right, gives the writer/director that much more space to really explore different subjects in depth, over a longer period of time and hence do more justice to his storyline than movie directors/movie scriptwriters. As its TV commercial says: “It’s not TV, it’s HBO”.


Blogger Bombay Addict said...

Hey thanks for the link dude! Socker post, couldn't agree more. HBO has really taken TV series to a totally different level of the viewing experience. I hope this golden age lasts really long in the US. At least we're getting to see some of the stuff back here in India. If you have any one of the DVDs of the HBO TV series, I'm guessing you've already seen the Tracy Chapman song "Change" which comes in the start. They've got the song playing in the background with scenes of all their hit shows and their names and stuff. It's just amazing. Always great to see you writing ma man!

March 16, 2008 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Purush said...

Hey, thanks for the comment buddy! Yeah, I hope this lasts at HBO, though with Albrecht, their ex-CEO resigning some time in 2007, still to be seen if the quality of the programming suffers in the long run due to he no longer being around. About the Tracy Chapman song, haven't seen the song, though I can imagine it must be pretty neat.

March 16, 2008 at 9:31 PM  

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