Sunday, 11 December 2011

Television

I haven't watched much broadcast television since I started graduate school. In the first few years in Pittsburgh we didn't have a TV in the house and I fell out of the habit. About ten years ago my wife and I started buying or borrowing DVDs and working through particular shows that I'd heard were good. The first was Mad About You, followed by Buffy The Vampire Slayer, 24 (season 1 only; my wife found the cliffhanger endings intolerable), Fawlty Towers, Band Of Brothers, Angel, new Doctor Who, new Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, and a couple of Hong Kong kung-fu shows that I can't explain. We started a few other shows and then abandoned them after discovering that my wife or I didn't like them.

Most of those shows are very good. The Wire is exceptional. Lots of other people have written about it more eloquently than I can. I can understand why the mayor of Reykjavik semi-seriously demanded his allies watch all five seasons. Anyone interested in politics or social institutions should watch it.

However, the best of the lot is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It starts as silly fun --- and remains so --- but as it progresses, it constantly reveals new levels of creative genius. The imagination, writing, execution are staggering. It's not flawless, but it's the only show I seriously consider watching again. It's not for everyone, but it is undoubtedly great art.

5 comments:

  1. You should really try the West Wing.

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  2. I get the impression that we have a lot in common whenever you write about yourself.

    I'd like to recommend you a show you might like as well: Babylon 5.
    The story spans all five seasons of the show, has exceptional writing and was thorougly planned through the end before the show even aired.

    The downside is the first season that leaves a rather weak impression at first glance. However, it is vital for introducing the characters, their point of view and some important concepts of the story you'll be able to appreciate when looking back. Nobody I know ever regretted watching this show.

    Like B5, the younger series Lost is also structured like a novel. However, the legth of the series was not planned equally careful, so the middle part of the story has some weaknesses. I still like it.

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  3. if you liked Buffy, check the other two Joss Whedon's shows: Firefly and Dollhouse. both are sadly short (1/2 seasons), somewhat silly, but creative and thought-provoking..

    also, in similar vein (and inspired by Buffy somewhat) is Eureka, just substitute silly fantasy with silly sci-fy..

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  4. Daniel: thanks for the tips.

    Tom: I like shows that form a coherent whole. Shows that got cancelled halfway through, or that imploded on their own (see X-Files) are unlikely to appeal.

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  5. Firefly is just excellent. It's a shame it got cancelled, but that doesn't stop what there is of it being amazing. It's only like 12 episodes, so it's not a big time investment compared to all those other long-running shows.
    The feature film "Serenity" does provide some kind of conclusion. I have no idea if it's the direction the show was originally aiming in though.

    Dollhouse is actually two full seasons. It's kind of obvious when they found out they were going to be cancelled, because the story progression speeds up a lot, but I think it does manage to form a coherent whole. (Firefly is better though).

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