Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Television Timeout

Is there a television series on today to which you are completely addicted? One you do not believe you could live without? One that you just have to see conclude to the very bitter end?

For me, it is FX's The Shield. Every Tuesday night at 10:00, when it's back for its latest season, I watch. It is nearly in the middle of its final season. I will certainly miss it when it goes.

Is there a series on today that inspires that kind of love from you? A series whose characters are so fascinating you cannot help but deeply analyze every one of them?

I became hooked on the show after the airing of the first episode, Pilot, on March 12, 2002. I have been with it ever since. If this were a television blog and not a blog dedicated to the riches of cinema, you would be bombarded with posts about The Shield from me every week. Despite this being a movie blog, I would probably give The Shield quite the spotlight here if it weren't so near its conclusion. As it is, it seems like it would be fairly arrogant for me to impose my favorite show on the rest of you.

And that is what would happen. I don't watch much television, especially scripted series. (Don't even ask about "reality TV," yuck.) So it would feel strange for me to open discussions of just one series, which is so close to its very last episode, while not continuing with other television subjects. And I'm not going to join the legion of people waxing nostalgic about HBO shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood. Due to a certain summer film a couple months back, I have commented on my past love for The X-Files series before it choked here and here.

Let me just say this about The Shield. It's sort of the netherworld series, a kind of ideal melange of many of the attributes that make those aforementioned HBO shows so engrossing. When you focus on a series you love, you gradually lose a certain measure of objectivity. So you have been forewarned. However, I sincerely do believe that more than those series, this is a show that has remained true to itself all the way to its current point. Focusing on a beleagured Los Angeles police district, The Shield is a show that is more rewarding the longer you stick with it, and if you are able to appreciate the uncompromising contextural scabrousness of the physically and spiritually perilous drama. Shakespeare is an abused standard, yes, but a certain act of violence representing profound tragedy at the end of the show's fifth season is a dazzlingly perfect illustration of just how wonderful television can be, with a string of circumstances echoing literature as diverse and superb as Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men and others. It's also a fundamentally noirish show, and you may know that I like noir.

So, anyone?

This is a one-time deal at Coleman's Corner, though, so if you want to talk TV, this is your chance. Cinema will be back in full force in the next 36 hours or so with a certain classic Paul Newman picture highlighted.

34 comments:

Alison Flynn said...

This series actually finished this past summer, but I loved Avatar: The Last Airbender. A top-notch, Japanese-anime-inspired American cartoon that features an excellent storyline, terrific and engaging characters who grow through the 3 seasons, beautiful animation artwork and stunning music. The story is set in a universe that is based on ancient Asian cultures - mostly Chinese, but there are also hints of Japanese, Korean, Javanese and Hindu cultures, and the title character's culture is actually based on Tibetan Buddhism. It's got a wonderful mix of action, drama, humor and character interaction.

Even though the final episode aired, it's available on DVD and I highly recommend it. I actually got Craig to start watching it and I know he made it through Book I, which is Season 1 - not sure if he got through Season 2 yet. You can check in with him about whether this might be worth your time. I think it is. :)

Alexander Coleman said...

Wow, that sounds rather fascinating, Alison. Isn't M. Night Shyamalan making a film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender? I've read that was the case--this is the first time someone sat down and explained to me what it really was. Thank you very much.

So it was three seasons long? How long were those seasons? Which network did it air on? (You have obviously aroused my curiosity.)

Alison Flynn said...

My pleasure. I love turning people on to this show.

Yes, Shyamalan is working on a live action version of this. I really hope he does a good job with it.

Season 1 and 2 both have 20 half-hour episodes each. Season 3 had 21 half-hour episodes (though the last 4 were one final movie). It was a Nickelodeon show (it was geared toward children who are a little older, like me). :)

Alexander Coleman said...

Ah, Nickolodeon.

I'm feeling very cartoon kid show-friendly after recently watching some old episodes of my favorite cartoon when I was just a little kid and not a big one, Duck Tails.

Sounds like tackling the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender would not be too difficult. Thanks very much for the additional information, Alison.

Unfortunately, hoping for a good movie from Shyamalan these days is, well, at best a shaky proposition.

K. Bowen said...

As promised, AC, going through the X-Files seasons that I missed. Love season 6. Extremely imaginative and meta. Seven could use some work but has some very good episodes.

K. Bowen said...

I'll probably post about it on Anti-D at some point. But I need to set aside some time to do it.

Alexander Coleman said...

When I saw your comment, KB, I decided to go look at an online "episode guide" for The X-Files.

Here's the one I'm looking at:

http://www.tv.com/the-x-files/show/61/episode_guide.html?season=5&tag=season_nav;next

Looking back on The X-Files, and thinking about it... I think the series kind of "Jumped the Shark" (in the classic definition of a show that begins to go downhill from that moment onward) with Season 5. To me, you can still find some solid episodes in the fifth and sixth seasons, but it was definitely already in decline.

Seasons 1-3 I still consider classic, beautiful... Season 4, I like as a whole. Season 5 has about half a dozen really good and interesting episodes, but frankly the jump from Season 4 to Season 5 is where the show started to seriously lose its way for good in my honest opinion. The real dividing line for good was "Christmas Carol" in Season 5. The mythology was already becoming kind of maudlin by mid-Season 4, but that's where it went really bad.

Season 5 and even Season 6 still have a certain recognizably X-Files-ness to them, though, I'll say that. Season 7 is absolute crap.

I'm currently watching all of the mythology episodes from the very beginning into Season 4, when it still made some sense.

I look forward to your post about it at Anti-D.

chemikalman said...

I was very glad when a friend told me I should watch the pilot episode of a new show. It was The Shield. We chatted after it ended and within an hour we had a Yahoo! message board up and running for the show. I guess you could say the show grabbed us.

Ever since Pilot, The Shield has been part of my life, on and off and in several different ways. I've known Alex for a few years now, since we both belonged to a different forum for the show. And we currently belong to yet another forum. What amazes me is the devotion this show conjures in people. The posts are almost scarily eloquent. And there is a small community of posters at that level, some with aspirations to be writers, others simply inspired to write, analyze, disect, extrapolate, interpolate, deviate, speculate, masticate and generally toss it all together like a salad. I know some of the show's writers and I sometimes wonder what it must be like when they realize the effect their work has on others. Sort of like when you find comments of high praise from a writing instructor for a paper you wrote, raised to a power of 10? Do the writers feel like a captain of an airliner while landing his plane? That power, hard to define and manifested in very different ways.

nick plowman said...

The main show I cant live without is Grey’s Anatomy. The day that show ends is the day a little piece of me dies. Melodramatic, but its true. A lot of shows I also thought I couldn’t live without, that eventually ended, were The O.C. and Veronica Mars, but I have all the episodes ever on DVD – so I’ll live. I’m a huge TV fan, and some days I even like TV more than film. Other shows I love with all my being are: Mad Men, 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, Firday Night Lights, Saving Grace, Brothers and Sisters, Gossip Girl, Weeds, Ugly Betty…Im also a fan of The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, The Shield, Little Britain, Saturday Night Live, Prison Break (only the first season), Californication and, um, yeah…so I’m obsessed ;)

Alexander Coleman said...

Chemikalman, thanks for coming by and commenting. Don't be a stranger to Coleman's Corner, haha.

Yes, The Shield has inspired many tremendous examinations from many a fan. Your story of your falling in love with it, and the growth of that was terrific.

Wow, Nick, you like TV a lot. Grey's Anatomy is a show I dismissed just from the ads back when it was debuting ("Another hospital soap opera?" I scoffed) but if you love it, you love it. The great irony about TV shows is that they consume infinitely more time for their fans than a film, but I think once someone falls for that show, it's almost no use trying to dissuade them of their position on it. (Which isn't to say you can't have great, multi-faceted discussions of those shows, with varying points and disagreements involved, either.) Thanks for the long list.

Where is The Shield at in South Africa? I ask simply because of the horror stories I've heard about Germans recently seeing Season 2 or something, but my knowledge of international television show airings is practically zilch.

Nick Plowman said...

I have no patience for the slow South African TV services, much like our film circuit, so I just download it most of the time. I’m not even sure what channel it is on here!

K. Bowen said...

Alex, you're a noromo. Of course you think X-Files jumped around season 5. ;)

While I think Season 6 is lighter in tone, I also think it makes a good and necessary trade for more imaginative and narratively complex storylines, with a pretty heavy dose of metafiction. I know it's noromo doctrine that the relationship development killed the show, but I think the ship prolonged it, actually, in terms of quality. You see in the weakness of the monster of the week episodes of season seven that that approach had worn out and making fifteen of them wasn't going to work anymore. Although there are some good episodes in season seven.

Alexander Coleman said...

Yes, I'm a noromo, KB. Though I think I've been able to roll with the romantic developments so long as they were done well (like in the two movies, actually). :)

I can't resist discussing The X-Files, even though it's become so fruitless in so many ways.

The Season 5 episodes I like: Detour, The Post-Modern Prometheus, Kitsunegari (or, Pusher: Part II), Mind's Eye, All Souls, The Pine Bluff Variant and Folie a Deux.

The Season 6 episodes I like: Drive, S.R. 819, Trevor and Milagro.

Looking at the Season 7 page of the episode guide, I find a disturbing and grim reality: the only episodes I actually vividly remember are memorable because they were so remarkably painful. It had really become self-parody, and had been on the road to that point since at least the first movie.

At the time, I actually thought bringing in Robert Patrick as Doggett was the freshest thing the show could have done. Unfortunately, the writing wasn't there to back that character, and actor, up. Duchovny had become visibly bored seemingly the moment they wrapped production on the 1998 movie.

Alexander Coleman said...

Haha, that's funny, Nick. I've heard many people do that around the world.

Sam Juliano said...

Wow, this is a super-successful thread, and Alexander must be thrilled as he should be!

I'm afraid I am out of my league here with recent television, although my site colleague Allan would be in his element for sure, as I know he loves DEADWOOD, which I find interesting but not sensational. I did like SIX FEET UNDER, but NOT THE SOPRANOS! I regret to say that I have never watched any of THE SHIELD at all.
I love stuff like BLACKADDER, THE OFFICE, KEN BURNS' THE CIVIL WAR, DENNIS' POTTER'S PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, OUR FRIENDS IN THE NORTH, HEIMAT 1,2,3, THE BILL DOUGLAS TRILOGY, as well as old television anthologies, like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS and THRILLER, all four STAR TREK series, as well as classic stuff like THE HONEYMOONERS. And of course, I CLAUDIUS and THE CAESARS, FAWLTY TOWERS, BLEAK HOUSE, VANITY FEAR, GORMENGHAST, GBH, BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF, Ken Burns' BASEBALL, OUR MUTUAL FRIEND, THE WORLD AT WAR, ELIZABETH, MONTY PYTHON and much more BBC stuff.

Nice, diversified change of pace, and the inspiration for a superb thread of responses.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you, Sam, and you're right, this thread has been mightily successful, and I'm pleased.

I Claudius is terrific. As I've discussed before with you--here--I love the old Rod Serling Twilight Zone as well as The Outer Limits. I'm also a rather avid fan of The Honeymooners, and own the 39 classic episodes. Great picks, Sam!

darkcitydame4e said...

Hi! Alexander Coleman,
I am so sorry! to say, but my television is just used as a "portal" for me to stop!

and watch my dvds on such as: films that are considered noirs, current films such as Clooney's recently released flick, The Coens' films, classic films boxset, etc, etc, etc... and it's also used to listen to my cds.
After all it's a choice..."mine," but,

I really hope that my local and cable TV (stations) can "win" me back one day!

Tks, dcd

Alexander Coleman said...

Dark City Dame, no need to apologize!

I suspect that once The Shield concludes in about eight weeks, I'll be done with television shows as well. (Though I do want to check out this Mad Men so many are talking about.)

I love your description of your television as a "portal" for your film-viewing. :)

nick plowman said...

Yes, please check out Mad Men, and if you don’t like it, I’d be surprised, but it cant be for everyone. Like I’ve said, I love it.

Tony D'Ambra said...

I am mad about Mad Men, simply the best drama on television.

But, I also must admit to being keen on Roswell, The 4400, and Prison Break...

darkcitydame4e said...

Btw, The quote below is verbatim directly from T.S., blog.


"According to Fancast, ("22 September, 2008) The sleek
60s drama Mad Men made history Sunday as the only basic-cable show to win a top series award...
...the show creator Matthew Weiner won a emmy for best drama series on television."


Alexander Coleman,
It looks like that I am going to have to jump on the "Mad Men" "bandwagon" too!..not because the show won top awards, but to find out what the "buzz" is all about!


dcd ;)

Alexander Coleman said...

Well, that does it--I must become more serious about seeing Mad Men!

Evan Derrick said...

Great little post, Alexander. One of the things that saddens me a bit about frequenting movie blogs (and running one) is that we talk about television so rarely, and there really is a lot of great stuff on.

You know, I struggled through the first 3 episodes of Airbender and am not yet hooked. I know people swear by it, but I'll probably only give it a few more shows before I give up. Too little time.

And I'm with Sam on all of his British picks. Fawlty Towers is brilliant stuff.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned some of the best shows currently airing on television, like Battlestar Galactica, Dexter, or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I love all of those, and I'd toss in The Office as well.

But If you're talking drop-over-dead-fawing-adoration, then I'd have to go with Lost. If I could only watch one show, that is it, and I'm fully committed through both the ups and the downs. In addition, even though it's off the air, I'm a die-hard Arrested Development enthusiast. It's shameful what Fox did to that show, but I'm thankful they let it breathe and struggle on for the 3 seasons it managed to survive. Pure brilliance.

Also, I have to mention The Wire, which I consider to be the Best Television Show Of All Time. It is brilliant and plays more like literature than television. Out of all the things mentioned, Alexander, if there was one show I would point you to, it would be The Wire. Don't hesitate to dive into it. I think you will absolutely love it.

However, The Office

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you for the many offerings, Evan.

I recently tried to get into Battlestar Galactica but for some reason it just never grabbed me. I know many people rave about it and call it the best thing ever, but it never hooked me despite giving it a fair shake.

I've been interested in Dexter, which is a show I saw a couple of the first episodes of, only to lose track of it. I've heard that it has become even better as it has gone, which is always encouraging.

Lost seemed interesting but I've chosen to stay away: too many easily made comparisons to The X-Files for me, with the mythology continually frustrating many of the most devoted fans, much less those less knowledgeable about it. That said, as I've said throughout this thread, I respect anyone's love for their show, through ups and downs, so that's great that you're in the tank for Lost, Evan. :)

The Wire is a show I've watched, catching up with it a few years back during its longest hiatus. I personally love its second season the most, though I know that is not a popular position. As great a show as I believed it to be, I was, frankly, very disappointed with its final season, which I believed suffered from David Simon's vendetta against his former bosses at The Baltimore Sun, and the series lost some focus there, but it still remained strong overall.

Very interesting round-up of shows you gave us, Evan!

Evan Derrick said...

I have yet to catch Season 5. Out of all of them, I think I enjoyed, like you, Season 2 the most, although I found the 3rd season the most fascinating. The idea of a drug free zone as a tactic to combat drugs was dangerous, risky, and compelling.

That's too bad about Lost, Alexander. Let me say that it plays quite well on DVD, when you don't have to wait a week between episodes or (even worse) 7 months. I would recommend it on DVD, and I'm confident the creators know what they are doing, as they frequently cite the way the X-Files ended as inspiration to NOT do it that way. Yes, the mythology is deep, but it's the characters who continue to bring you back in. Don't write it off just yet - at least file it away in the back of your mind as "need to check out when I have the time."

Alexander Coleman said...

Very interesting, Evan. One thing about The X-Files is that it offered a great, thorough example of what not to do. I didn't know that the people behind Lost said that they didn't want to go that route.

I'll probably give it a better, fairer shot on DVD one day. Thanks for the advice, I say in an Ahnuld voice.

nick plowman said...

A friend of mine is actually a staff member of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” he’s named Sonny Lee and one day he is going to have his own show and be HUGE. He wrote the episode "The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis."

British comedy is tops: Little Britain, Ab Fab, Faulty Towers, The Office, 3 Non Blondes, Extras…American comedy has nothing on the folks behind those shows.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thanks to Sam, Evan, Nick and others for the pointing to those British comedy shows.

American comedy sitcoms are almost uniformly awful, at least these days.

Daniel Getahun said...

I'm a little late on this one, but let's see if we can bust it over 30 comments.

I haven't watched a TV show with regularity since "Seinfeld" ended a decade ago. Those first few post-Seinfeld years I was in college, and somehow never home during the primetime hours that everyone was watching this new show called Sex and the City. I started missing all of these shows until it got to the point a few years ago that I realized, "Actually, I guess I could make time to watch these shows, but do I really feel like it?"

In this span, I've missed out on everything from The Sopranos to Lost to Rescue Me to 24 to Gray's Anatomy to The Office and every popular and Emmy-winning show in between, including everything listed here. You name it, I haven't seen it. Maybe some clips here and there, but rarely a full episode and never a full season. Doesn't mean I don't KNOW about them - after all, everybody talks about them non-stop.

What's my problem? Am I afraid of commitment? I don't think so. Am I really THAT busy? Mmm, maybe, but not really. After all, I see plenty of movies at the theater during the week.

I think what it comes down to is the investment. In order to get the most of Show XYZ, I'm going to have to devote maybe 18 hours a year for several years. Certainly a way to build a relationship with a character, but if I have those hours to spend, I guess I'd rather touch on as many different characters in movies as I can.

Maybe one day I'll settle down and move my interest to TV. Just hasn't happened yet...

Alexander Coleman said...

Ha, I find all of that remarkably understandable, Daniel. I myself am afraid of investing so much time into something that inevitably requires it if you are to continuously follow it.

As sad as I'll be when The Shield ends, I have to admit there will be a certain part of me that will say, "Well, that's one less obligation." Sad but true. Television in many ways is becoming an increasingly engrossing medium, at least in numerous instances, which have been named in this thread.

Thanks for coming out with your strong statement of non-involvement in television series, Daniel--I'm just marginally more TV-friendly than you and I could easily slip back to where you are very soon.

Sam Juliano said...

I must say Alexander, I enjoyed reading all these posts, and I congratulate you on modestly presenting a post that has generated remarkable resiliency. I think you should consider an occasional television thread her at Coleman's Corner.

Daniel Getahun said...

Just to be clear, I'm not trying to come out against TV here, just explaining why I have nothing to add to the conversation. :)

Alexander Coleman said...

Sam, you may be right. Perhaps a periodical look at television, and asking for more perspectives and TV-based advice would not be a bad idea. Then again, maybe this thread has received such a strong turnout because I stipulated this as a one-time occurrence. In any event, I'm happy to see so many people get their proverbial licks in.

Daniel, don't worry, your message came across loud and clear! No "Kill Your Television" bumper stickers on you. :-)

Alexander Coleman said...

So, I'm looking at Amazon's page for Avatar: The Last Airbender, per Alison's recommendation. 40 dollars for the first season.

Evan, Alison, Craig... anybody else... Is it worth the dough?