To me, there aren’t a whole lot of things that beat a really good movie. A film that’s well written, directed and acted is simply a thing of beauty. I want to use the word ‘natural’, but I don’t think it’s fully accurate as I love a great deal of movies that are supernatural, even unnatural. But it’s close to describing the differences between most — and I mean most — films and television; television always has this way of feeling slightly false, and that’s in the best cases. Even what’s considered good television, say CSI (the original one, not one of it’s fifty spin-offs) or Dexter, are very entertaining on the surface, but when viewed with any regularity and really analyzed, show considerable problems. Whether it be hugely inflating the capabilities of technology, characters that serve typical cliche roles (the ‘token’ guy), or dropped plot details, most television ultimately leaves me wishing for a little more attention to detail. (I will declare there are currently two exceptions that I’m aware of on cable TV: Mad Men and Breaking Bad, two series that, at least in their first seasons, are quite brilliant.) And then HBO walks in and changes everything.
I’m sure enough praise has been said about many of their series, but I just can’t help but declare how much they simply rock the flippin’ house. The sheer volume of incredible work is overwhelming. I mean, I personally own probably a dozen individual shows… Wait, let me count that… Make that fourteen. Fourteen different programs, including miniseries, that are almost completely engrossing, and often brilliant. From more serious dramas like Rome and The Wire (more on The Wire in a bit), to laugh-out-loud comedies like Flight of the Conchords and Extras, the by-order-only channel has a wide gamut of incredible quality. I don’t mean to sound like someone with a gushing crush, but they’re amazing. The writing, direction, acting; it’s almost always solid as a rock. Some of it is even the most amazing stuff I’ve ever seen.
I can’t say enough good things about The Wire. Honestly, I think it may be the best thing I’ve ever seen. How something so incredible cooked so quietly in the background, I don’t understand. (I guess The Sopranos was the favourite child for a long while.) The intricacies of the show can be a little daunting, but it’s one of those things that rewards for every bit of attention you give. For example, there’s a lot of ghetto street lingo used and never defined. Being a child of the gangsta rap era, I was fortunately familiar with many of the words already, but there were definitely a few that I had to figure out by paying close attention. It’s not one of those shows you can pick up and drop as you please, not that I can see that being possible once you get into it. (I’ll admit I felt the very first episode a little slow, but it’s a necessary setup).
Well, I’ve reached my seeming 500 word limit, so that’s all for this one. Plus I think I’m all out of adverbs. I’ll leave you with a few recommendations off the HBO playlist: Deadwood is an excellent program if you can get past the frequent dropping of the f- and c-bombs, which I honestly found a little off-putting at first; Rome’s first season is amazing; Flight of the Conchords, of course; and the miniseries I own, Band of Brothers, Generation Kill and John Adams, are all outstanding. So if there’s anything I can recommend, it’s a good dose of HBO. Look at that, another hundred words.