Friday, July 18, 2008

React Quotes

Usually I try my damnedest to give BBC2’s The Culture Show a wide berth. After all, there’s nothing worse than an arts programme that tries to be “artsy”. Especially since unnecessarily tarting things up or simply pratting around usually suggests the programme makers have no confidence in the content.

What The Culture Show has going for it is having film critic Mark Kermode and art critic Andrew Graham Dixon as presenters, two men who seriously, and eloquently, know their onions. Unfortunately the show’s main host is the totally pointless Lauren Laverne who comes across as an irritating scrubbed-up skank-whore that should just be just taken out and broken.

That’s really a shame. Especially since last night’s edition had an interview with David Simon, conducted by Laverne. Sitting him down and discussing The Wire would, of course, be too simple. Instead they had to fanny about with Simon coming in handcuffed to be interrogated by her after being “accused of breaking the laws of writing for TV.”

We can only hope that Mark Lawson managed to interview David Simon while he was over in England. In the meantime he does at least play along and we get some interesting comments from him. One of the best has to be Simon’s response to Laverne suggesting that, with its novelistic approach, The Wire has contempt for the average viewer:

“Fuck the casual viewer. Who wants a casual viewer? If you’re a writer, do you want a casual reader? I don’t want those people. Don’t want them, throwing them back. They’re like the little fish on the hook. I’m throwing them back. I want the guy whose coming in who wants to be told a story with a beginning, middle and end.”

He also has a great answer on how to deal with exposition. The whole edition of the show is available on the BBC’s iPlayer for the next week. If you want to go straight to the interview it’s on The Culture Show’s website.

All this of course is preamble to the arrival of the fifth and final season of The Wire on FX on Monday night. After last season’s examination of the city’s failing school system, this time the spotlight is firmly on the ailing press in Baltimore.

In the week that America’s Academy of Television Arts & Sciences continues to show no love for the series, with only one Emmy Award nomination this year (making a grand total of two over the five seasons), a question and answer session on the Entertainment Weekly website reveals the latest fan of the show.

With the San Diego Comic Con only a week away now, and with the first trailer for Watchmen now available to view online, the magazine catches up with its writer, Alan Moore, the comics world’s favourite curmudgeon, to talk about his views on the upcoming adaptation, working with Malcolm McLaren and upcoming projects like the next instalment of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

With that out the way the following exchange takes place:

Do you ever relax and just watch television?
Selectively, mostly on DVD. The absolute pinnacle of anything I've seen recently has got to be
The Wire. It's the most stunning piece of television that has ever come out of America, possibly the most stunning piece of television full-stop.

That's a great example of storytelling that takes its time.

Absolutely, that is grown-up television! It's novelistic. You get to find out about all these tiny different aspects of Baltimore, to build up a huge picture of the city with all of its intricacies — from the wharf side, to the kids in the projects, to the power structure with the boardrooms and police department and governor's office. And it's got some great writers: It's got George Pelecanos and David Simon. And so many wonderful characters, Bubbles, Omar. So yeah, everything else looks pretty lame next to The Wire.

If you are one of the idiots who still wasn’t watched The Wire, instead happy to snuggle up to the palsied crapola blocking up the schedules, how many more fucking endorsements do you want? If you start now and really make the effort, you should be able to get through the DVD boxsets of the first four seasons before Monday night.


At 6:40 pm, Blogger qrter said...

Alright, alright, calm down..!

If you and all those other people who keep going on about The Wire keep shouting about it, I'll end up in the same predicament I ended up with The Sopranos - never watched a single episode because I got fed up with people going on about it!

(Well, that and I don't have that thing that every other male seems to have, a love for everything maffia-ish..)

But seriously - I have season 1 on standby, I'll start watching it and if I find I don't absolutely love it I'll jump into a river, my legs tied down with a complete 6-season boxed set of The Sopranos.

At 9:40 pm, Blogger Ian said...

Yeah I'm one of those idiots too. Got the first four seasons on DVD, with the fifth pre-ordered but they still haven't made it to the top of the pile. Had hoped the recent BFI night dedicated to the show might incentivise me, but then I managed to forget to order a ticket.

I'm just going to get Prison Break Season 3 (not very promising so far) and Oz Season 5 (seems to be past its prime at this point) and then I'll dive in. Looking forward to it after so many rave reviews.

So what was your take on "Mad Men" which won all the Emmy nominations and, by all accounts, is proving even better in Season 2 than in Seasson 1?

At 10:33 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

If you like good storytelling, you’ll love The Wire once you get stuck in. The one thing I’d warn you about it that the darn show is addictive. I’ve lost whole weekends to watching a couple of seasons, pretty much in one go.

I think it’s better than The Sopranos because it’s not so polished and the emphasis changes each year. I still think David Chase’s drama is still great television, but it went longer than it should have. Toward the end it was treading water. Though that last episode and last scene was brilliant.

Ian, I missed the David Simon interview at the NFT as well, which was irritating. Prison Break I pretty much gave up on after the first episode. I just thought it was a bit silly. I’m having great trouble trying to remember the fifth season of Oz. It’s trying to think back to whole was trying to kill who and who succeeded.

I thought Mad Men was terrific right across the board and it certainly deserves the Emmy nominations. Great that Battlestar Galactica was recognised as well, although the cast needs to be shown the respect they deserve. Oh, and Breaking Bad. It also shows that, while America makes great drama, a lot of the really interesting and challenging ones are coming from not just the premium cable channels like HBO but the basic cable as well. And cable dramas have the best title sequences.

I don’t know if you read the comments on the previous post but good old Jaded and Cynical wrote:

On a side note, those stubbornly clinging to the notion that British TV is world class, should reflect on the fact that while US cable shows can recreate, in mesmerising detail, Madison Avenue of 1960, Coronation Street still can't make a modern corner shop look real.

...which really says it all.

Anyway, I’m three episodes into Band of Brothers at the moment. If I hadn’t chosen this, I know I would have gone back to The Wire and that really would be this weekend gone.

At 11:34 pm, Blogger qrter said...

Mad Men is absolutely fantastic. May be the best I've seen this year, I was really impressed - by the writing (very devious), the casting, the infamous set dressing, everything, basically.

At 12:24 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

Fuck the casual viewer. Who wants a casual viewer?

That's a great line.

He might have added, who wants to be a casual viewer?

At 9:55 am, Blogger Ian said...

Indeed I did read J&C's comments. I love "Mad Men" for all the reasons stated above. The whole thing is just so damned classy (from those Saul Bass-inspired titles to the period authenticity) but also for the cinematography. Quite a few TV shows have appeared on high definition formats but this is probably the first one that actually demands to be seen on high definition (of course we Brits got screwed again - it's DVD only here, although you can import the region-free Blu-Ray with far more extra's than are on the DVD set for less than the UK selling price).

"Prison Break" is nonsense and complete tosh, but has some sort of weird soap-opera "Footballer's Wives" (but with better writers and a decent budget) guilty pleasure to it. I've just watched an episode where totally out-of-the-blue the hero's girlfriend's severed head has turned up in a box. It's WTF moments like that (she had been a main character for the previous two seasons with no real lead-in to what happened) that keep me watching. It's the sort of "tosh" that Torchwood promised but spectacularly failed to deliver on (both in terms of the writing and the acting talent on display).


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