Sunday, September 10, 2017

[TV] Toob Notes

Game of Thrones has become an exercise in fan service. It was good fun, but not great TV. The nihilistic, amoral, unjust show of the first five seasons is gone. Going forward, we can feel safe that in the end, the good guys will win, the bad guys will get their comeuppance, and Westros will become a beacon of Democracy and Civil Rights. Ah well, I suppose it was inevitable. In the immortal words of Ian McShane, "It's just tits and dragons, baby." Still feels like a missed opportunity to me. Won't stop me from watching.

Twin Peaks: The Return is beyond me. I chose that word "beyond" carefully. I'm tempted to say there is no point, or it doesn't make any sense, but some people seem to see a lot of substance and artistic value, including some people I know to be thoughtful and reasonable.

In a way, it reminds me of the free jazz of Ornette Coleman or the atonal classical music of Philip Glass. I hear little snippets that seem like something coherent but the general effect is random noises. Again, I have no doubt this is a shortcoming in me. The people who do see artistry in this sort of thing are not posers. They are often studied and skilled in music, they just hear something that I cannot.

Twin Peaks makes me feel the same. I see some cool stuff. The astonishing, haunting images; the otherworldly soundscape; the archetype characters (and wonderful casting). It can be an arresting experience at certain moments. But I couldn't follow the plot or even tell you what it was about. Characters appear as deus ex machina, some seem to start character arcs only to be abandoned, some seem to have no relevance to anything going on. If there is meaning in the odd special effects and strange forms that appear to be embodied beings I couldn't figure it out. Some of it was maddening. The camera could linger on the expressionless faces of the actors long after a scene was over. There were extended repetitive shots of the mundane -- a forest clearing or a passing road. Those stretches would have me turning to my laptop to check facebook.

But enough of what I read about it -- from solid, unpretentious sources -- seems to indicate that there is a substance, just in a form that doesn't touch me. Fair enough, but, in my own defense, my taste is not entirely prosaic. I am one of the 5 people in the world who understood and appreciated John from Cincinnati.

FWIW, This is the Water and This is the Well is perhaps the creepiest thing I have ever seen in any medium, yet I have no idea of its dramatic purpose.

Halt and Catch Fire is back and it has started at pantheon level quality. In its last season, it is the best show on television, not to be challenged until Better Call Saul comes back. If you haven't seen it, binge it from the start and be patient -- the first season is only sort of good, then it takes off like a rocket.

The Defenders benefitted from having the correct expectations set. It was going to be an entertaining binge-able, with many cool moments but enough glaring thuds in plot and dialogue to fall short of being anything special. It was an exercise in puppeteering characters around so they could get in cool fights and say cool things to each other. That's fine. We knew it would be little else. But the fights themselves were flat, uninspired, and borderline incoherent at times. The cool things they said were, really just sort of dull, although the actors usually nailed the timing. In the end it left me wondering why, if the bad guys were going to destroy New York City, why didn't someone just call the Avengers and be done with it.

Episodes, a Showtime comedy, just started it's fifth season. You've probably never heard of it. It has no buzz. There is no stylish concept. It is fictional story of a couple of fish-out-of-water British screenwriters who get intertwined with a fictional Matt LeBlanc, played as a total asshole by real Matt LeBanc. The series has its ups and downs but it never fails to crack me up at least once an episode. The scripts approach absurdity, but the comic acting is absolutely first rate. Not worthy of legend, but worthy of much more than it gets.