Stray Observations: Media

I’ve been trying to cobble together a few blog posts in my mind about a variety of topics but never seem to find time to develop a full, detailed post about them.
So I’ll just throw together some musings in one post and justify an update. 😀

I very strongly hold the opinion that we live in a golden age of entertainment. The advent of cable television has given rise to programming with grand, sweeping aspirations that is endlessly fascinating. Often, new cable series don’t just feel fresh but are endlessly self-referential and enjoyed on multiple levels. Attention to detail is literally astounding. A simple example of this is what is likely my favorite show, Breaking Bad, where I recently noticed that any time Walter White is operating from his Heisenberg mindset in the early seasons he is almost always viewed through reflective surfaces. A simple example of this that I can remember is the first meeting with Gustavo Fringe at Los Pollos Hermanos in Season 2. This was something I didn’t know about the show until after it ended, which fuels my desire for rewatching.

Every type of genre is seeing a renaissance on cable television. Case in point: the mundane cop show. Network television has been saturated with many terrible procedural dramas with no overarcing theme or story; they only exist to be sold in syndication and have no running plotlines so the show can be picked up and abandoned at the start of a dedicated programming hour. There are endless examples of these dull, plodding shows: Law & Order, Blue Bloods, Grimm, NCIS, … repeat ad nauseum. It is extremely irritating that we still live in a world where [Insert Thing Here] of the Week occupies a half hour on television. There’s no real audience involvement; no expectation of a growing story with evolving characters and elevated circumstances … just repetitive drivel. One could argue this is an allegory on life — that we can’t expect weekly excitement and often things are the same week to week. I disagree; when you can literally interchange episodes and not miss a single beat about what’s going on then it is not a commentary on life. I could not exchange weeks of my life and expect everything to line up, and that’s true for most anyone. That’s why True Detective was such a refreshing cleanser for the procedural palate. This was a deep, complicated, and multilayered cop drama that extended way above all the network rubbish to tell the story of both a meaningful hunt for a killer and the devolution of its two main leads. Truly inspiring.

Even the soap opera has renewed vitality on cable. The titillatingly titled Masters of Sex is one of the most pleasant viewing surprises I’ve had in recent memory. I went in expecting absolutely nothing and got really layered, attention grabbing detail and development of the lives of these characters in cloistered 1960s society. Will Masters continues to be one of my favorite leads on current television, played awesomely by Michael Sheen (whom I loved in Frost/Nixon). Lizzy Caplan is similarly a delight to watch on television, and their exchanges are endlessly interesting. What I find most impressive is the fact that, after some reflection, what I was effectively watching was a highbrow soap opera. And I’ll be honest: I still really enjoy it even after the fact. I suppose this feels as new to me as soap operas did to housewives way back in the ’60s. 😀