Monday, July 31, 2006

TV Review: Summer Shows I'm TiVo-ing Week!

It's me, Chris, AV blog team member, with a few words about TV.

OK, I realize that:

1) not all of you have TiVo, and
2) few of you may have cable with 5 billion channels. No worries.

To those in category 1: For God's sake, get it. It will change the way you watch TV, and I mean that in a completely shallow and entertainment-junkie-ish way. Words cannot describe the feeling of being able to fast-forward through commercials, rewind to a great moment, pause whilst you use the bathroom or fix a snack, or simply relax in the knowledge that there's always something recorded that you want to watch, no matter what time of day.

Seriously. It's that good.

To those in category 2: Basic cable with a couple premium channels and one obscure one will still fit the bill. Listen, you're already going to get TiVo, right? RIGHT? Then go ahead and spring for the deluxe channel package, since your provider of choice will probably give you a price break at the same time.

(I recommend DirecTv personally. The TiVo box is $100, payable in installments, and the service itself is something like 5 bucks a month.)

Anyhoo: given the doldrums of summer network TV, which uniformly sucks in the summer, here are 5 shows worth watching, renting previous seasons on DVD, and are generally "all that and a bag of chips", as the kids use to say three years ago. We start with #1 today, and I'll do one per day all week.

1. Deadwood
Channel: HBO
Genre: Western
Season: 1 and 2 on DVD, 3 currently airing

This show is really "the dog's bollocks", which is a phrase I understand to mean "outstanding" but sounds vaguely like genitalia reference nonetheless.

Based loosely on real-life events in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the late 1800s, it's an unflinching look at the growing pains and characters that populate a rich-in-gold mining camp/town/metropolis.

Forget the cliche Westerns: everyone here is flawed with a capital "FLAW", and everything is painted in shades of gray. Outstanding performances from Ian McShane as town crime boss/master manipulator Al Swearingen, Timothy Olyphant as ostensible good guy sheriff Seth Bullock, and Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane.

As if that weren't enough, we get Gerald McRaney (Major Dad, himself), as George Hearst, land baron, this season, as the evillest, most driven manipulatin' mutha you've ever had the misfortune to cross, in an absolutely priceless piece of casting-against-type.

And surprisingly, it's the best political drama I've seen since the first two seasons of West Wing. Because it's not about shootouts, Injuns, or bank robbers: it's about commerce, annexation, race relations, and underhanded backstabbery.

With, of course, the occasional gunfight, beating, F!#$ Yeah! moment, and great, great acting throughout.

One warning: David Milch of NYPD Blue fame writes/produces/created the show, and whereas on network TV he worked under censors, on pay cable he's ... um ... unfettered. Which means a lot of filthy language.

I mean, a LOT.

As in, "I used to work in a Mexican kitchen that acted as a safehouse for the latest car thief to get parole in Tucson", and STILL was taken aback by the frequency and vulgarity of the language in Deadwood.

Still: it may be the finest show on TV right now, and it's miles better than the Sopranos ever was (sorry, Sopranos fans -- and yes, I'll post about why that show's overrated later).

RECOMMENDED FOR: Western fans, political science drama junkies, fans of incredible acting and intricate gamesmanship, people like me who remember Lovejoy fondly.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Those with a distaste for vulgarity, well-drawn characters, or plots that take multiple episodes (or years) to resolve.

A(rtistic) V(eritas) Rating: 5/5. Rent the first two seasons (don't worry, they're short) before tuning in now, or you won't receive the delicious payoff that we get currently. Also, it's one of the few shows that gets exponentially better with each episode. Seriously. Critically acclaimed for a reason.


Blogger Sara J said...

We have TiVo - but I have to say I prefered the DVR we had with COX back in Tucson. All this BS of calling the service and whatnot is annoying. But, I totally agree on the whole skipping commericals and such - we TiVo all of our shows and then we wait about 10 minutes into a show and watch it commerical free. It's fanatastic. I still can't believe there are suckers out there watching the commericals!

2:59 AM  

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