Odds, Sods & other Ephemera

                     THE NEW AGE OF……TELEVISION?

LIKE MANY IN OUR GENERATION (X), WE CAME OF AGE WITH A CERTAIN DISDAIN FOR TELEVISION.  WHETHER IT BE OUR PARENTS UNABASHED LOVE OF PBS, THE INFANCY (OR COST) OF CABLE NETWORKS OR SIMPLY THAT WE COULDN’T STOMACH ANY MORE PROGRAMS LIKE THE COSBY SHOW OR THE DUKES OF HAZARD, MANY OF US ENTERED OUR TWENTIES OR THIRTIES NOT OWNING TELEVISIONS AND PREFERRING FILM TO WHAT THE NETWORKS HAD DECIDED TO FORCEFEED US THAT YEAR. BUT THEN THINGS…..CHANGED.  THE GROWTH OF THE INTERNET, THE ABSURD RELUCTANCE OF MOVIE STUDIOS TO SERIOUSLY BACK MUCH THAT ISN’T SUPERHERO/FRANCHISED-BASED, THE SHIFT OF CREATIVE TALENT FROM FILM TO NETWORKS…… SUDDENLY WE’RE FORCED TO RE-EVALUATE WHAT IT MEANS TO WATCH ‘FILM’ OR ‘TELEVISION’ AND HOW WE WATCH IT.  INTERNET STREAMING HAS PROVIDED A VIRTUAL TABULA RASA, SHEDDING MUCH OF THE BAGGAGE THAT WAS INHERENT, AND TEDIOUS, IN HOW WE VIEWED ENTERTAINMENT.  NO LONGER ARE WE MADE TO ENDURE COMMERCIALS INTERRUPTING OUR SHOWS, NO LONGER DO WE NEED TO RELY ON WHAT THE LOCAL THEATRE IS SCREENING OR WHAT THE LOCAL VIDEO STORE HAS AVAILABLE…… IT SEEMS AT THIS POINT THAT A GREAT LEVELER HAS BEEN TAKEN TO THE ROCKY GROUND OF WATCHING THINGS, AND THE RESULTS ARE SOMEWHAT SURPRISING.  AND FERTILE.                                                                              FOR US HERE AT THE AURAL DUSTBIN THE LAST FEW YEARS HAVE DEMONSTRATED THAT WE ACTUALLY CAN LIKE TELEVISION, THAT THE LACK OF OWNING A ‘TV’ DOESN’T HAVE TO KEEP US FROM ENJOYING PROGRAMMING THAT WE ONCE MIGHT HAVE SCOFFED AT FOR NOT BEING FILM.  OF COURSE THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SERIES-BASED TELEVISION THAT ATTRACT LEGIONS OF FANS; DR WHO, MONTY PYTHON, TWIN PEAKS, STAR TREK, NORTHERN EXPOSURE, THE X FILES, ETC., ETC.,  BUT WE HAVE BEEN PLEASANTLY SURPRISED AT THE NUMBER OF DECENT SERIES THERE ARE OUT THERE NOW TO EITHER STREAM, RENT OR (AT LEAST FOR US HERE IN NEW ORLEANS) ARE AVAILABLE THROUGH OUR PUBLIC LIBRARY.  BUT THEN THERE IS THE ETERNAL QUESTION,  WHAT IS A GOOD SERIES TO WATCH?  AS TASTE IS SUBJECTIVE, IT IS HARD TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT THEY WILL LIKE OR NOT, BUT WE’RE TAKING THIS CHANCE TO OFFER UP OUT OWN SHORT LIST OF SERIES, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, TO TRY OUT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY:

SPACED  ONLY ON FOR TWO SEASONS, THIS BRITISH COMEDY SERIES WILL SEEM SOMEWHAT FAMILIAR FOR THOSE WHO ALREADY ACQUAINTED WITH THE BLOOD & ICE CREAM TRILOGY STARRING SIMON PEGG AND NICK FROST.  BOTH ARE HERE ALONG WITH JESSICA HYNES AND A FANTASTIC CAST UNDER THE DIRECTION OF EDGAR WRIGHT.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.   FANS OF NICK FROST MIGHT ALSO ENJOY THE BBC SPACE-SERIES SPOOF HYPERDRIVE.

BLACK BOOKS   ANOTHER SHORT-LIVED BRITISH SERIES,  THE COMIC EFFORTS OF DYLAN MORAN AND BILL BAILEY (ALSO REPRESENTED IN THE BLOOD & ICE CREAM TRILOGY) ARE FANTASTIC AND POSSIBLY CHALLENGING FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T INTO THIS STYLE OF ENGLISH COMEDY.  WE SAY TRY IT, WHY NOT?

DEADWOOD   WE TEND TO AVOID ANYTHING THAT ROMANTICIZES THE ‘OLD WEST’ LIKE THE PLAGUE, WHICH IS WHY IT TOOK YEARS OF FRIENDS’ RECOMMENDATIONS FOR US TO FINALLY WATCH THIS DELIGHTFUL HBO SERIES.  THE CAST IS (MOSTLY) SURPERB AND THE WRITING IS ALMOST SHAKESPEAREAN IN ITS’ COMIC COMPLEXITY.  AN INTERESTING CHARACTER STUDY SET AMIDST THE GROSS EXPLOITATION OF THE BLACK HILLS.

THE KILLING  ‘DETECTIVE SERIES’ IS ANOTHER TERM THAT WOULD USUALLY MAKE US RUN FOR COVER, SO IMAGINE OUR SURPRISE IN ACTUALLY REALLY ENJOYING THIS SERIES.  NOT YOUR TYPICAL ‘MURDER MYSTERY’ OR ‘COP SERIES’.  WELL ACTED, SHOT AND A PLEASANT DIVERSION FROM THE TYPICAL POLICE CLICHES.

SHERLOCK  GROWING UP HAVING DEVOURED CONAN-DOYLE AT AN EARLY AGE, ALL  ATTEMPTS AT CAPTURING SHERLOCK HOLMES IN FILM ALWAYS FELL FLAT.  IMAGINE OUR SURPRISE WHEN THIS NEW BBC SERIES CAME OUT AND KICKED OUR ASSES.  BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH AND MARTIN FREEMAN ARE SPLENDID AS HOLMES AND WATSON AND THE ‘MODERN’ SETTING IS LESS OBTRUSIVE THAN MOST OTHER VICTORIAN COSTUME-PIECE ATROCITIES.

MAD MEN   YEAH, WE KNOW, YOU’RE PROBABLY NOT INTERESTED IN WATCHING A BUNCH OF MISOGYNISTIC DUDES DRINK SCOTCH IN THEIR HIP 60’S NEW YORK AD AGENCY.  GOOD THING THIS SERIES IS NOT ACTUALLY ABOUT THAT.  A PROP STYLISTS DREAM.

BREAKING BAD   YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD SO MUCH ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT IS ACTUALLY GOOD.  SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT IN A LONG TIME.  IS IT “ABOUT DRUGS?”.   NO, NOT REALLY.  IT IS ABOUT CHOICES AND THEIR RAMIFICATIONS.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT  AND   STRANGERS WITH CANDY    TWO COMEDY SERIES THAT ARE FAIRLY HILARIOUS AND WERE JUST A LITTLE BIT AHEAD OF THEIR TIME, HENCE THE CULT FOLLOWING AND REDUX OF BOTH.

PBS   REMEMBER THEM?  YEAH, THEY’RE STILL BRINGIN’ IT.  DOWNTON ABBEY, A NUMBER OF GOOD SERIES BY KEN BURNS (PROHIBITION AND THE DUST BOWL), PBS IS STILL CAPABLE OF DRAWING US IN ON THE STRENGTH OF CONTENT.  

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK   ADVENTURES IN WOMEN’S PRISON DOESN’T SOUND LIKE FODDER FOR A GOOD TIME TO SOME, BUT THIS NETFLIX COMEDY SERIES IS FAIRLY FUNNY AND ENGAGING THUS FAR (EVEN IF ITS’ ADAPTATION FROM PAGE TO SCREEN REDEFINES “ARTISTIC LICENSE”).

AND TO FINISH OFF OUR SHORT LIST ARE A FEW THAT WE WOULD CONSIDER RUNNER-UPS, THE ONES THAT ARE ENJOYABLE FOR WHAT THEY ARE BUT PERHAPS NOT OUR FIRST RECOMMENDATIONS: AMERICAN HORROR STORY, LOST, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA AND THE WALKING DEAD ALL SUFFER FROM MOMENTS OF EXTREME CHEESINESS BUT STILL HAVE SOME SOLID ENTERTAINMENT VALUE.  WORTH CHECKING OUT IF YOU’RE HARD UP.  GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY VIEWING.

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