Wednesday, December 08, 2004

HBO Roundup: A lot of reviewers panned the Peter Sellers bio, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, that came on HBO Sunday. I thought it was good. They took a lot of chances dramatically, in fact using so many different creative devices may have come off a bit gimmicky, but I liked it. It couldn’t have been easy to biograph Sellers, who was practically an empty shell for his characters; especially without making him seem either heartlessly evil or helplessly sad. Sellers just was.

It won't be a grand revelation, but the movie is worth seeing. It's especially poignant if you remember some of the old British comedies that are recreated in part. Fascinating to be reminded of Sellers' performances in these films and have them put in the context of his personality (or lack thereof).


The Sellers flick pre-empted The Wire, which only has two shows left on the season.

If you ask anyone what the best cop show ever made was, and they say anything but The Wire they probably never saw it. If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother watching the last two episodes. They will be meaningless to you. The first two seasons are out on DVD. You should rent them so you get the full effect, but even if you do, bear in mind that The Wire isn’t paced like a typical TV show. It is very possible that you could look at an early season episode and think absolutely nothing is going on. The Wire is intentionally paced to build slowly over the season. In this fascinating interview, done sometime during the second season, series creator David Simon explains in some detail about the artistic philosophy behind the show and how it steps beyond a standard cop show. It actually explains the show better than I can.

I should point out that even though it is a gritty adult show, in contrast to a lot of HBO drama, there is no preponderance of violence or nudity. It really is carried by the plot and the characters.


Once The Wire ends we'll come to the second season of Carnivale. If you have broadband you can get the trailer here. This will be a make or break season for Carnivale. Last season was visually stunning, and eerily atmospheric, but a little light on plot structure. The challenge is simple. If they build a compelling storyline or two they'll have a winner. If they fall back pretty pictures and reed thin stories propped up by Deus Ex Machina, it'll be a write off.

It's interesting to contrast this interview with the Carnivale's creator, Daniel Knauf, with the above interview with David Simon. Knauf is all about find the right way to keep the audience passionate and keep "blowing their minds." Simon doesn't give a rat's pistachios about the audience; he only cares about the story. There's an awful lot that could be said about that contrast.

Rumor has it that Carnivale was looking to cast a multiple amputee for the role of Management for the sake of realism. Whatever the case, let's hope he (or she) can act.