Sunday, March 29, 2009

Golden Age

Sitting on my desktop tower this moment - and for the last month - is a copy of Shotgun Stories, ranked as one of Jeffrey Overstreet's favorite movies of 08. I wanted to see if it'd be one of mine too. After all, he has helped to shape how I view movies over the last few years (in particular, looking for moments of grace) and introduced me to personal favorites like Paul Thomas Anderson (via Magnolia), Krystof Kieslowski (who's Bleu I finally watched for the first time late last year and have added to my faves of all-time), and Stevie, by locals Steve James and Peter Gilbert (whose Hoop Dreams is within my top-five all time).

But yet I'm not watching Shotgun Stories. I tried a couple weeks ago. Had me a brewski, a man's dinner, a night alone before my birthday. Neighbors downstairs were partying with their frat-friends in anticipation of St. Paddy's Day (because you know how those Irish like to get down...). And I made it a couple minutes in.

But I just wasn't in the mood. Still not in the mood. Not that I don't trust that it will be an experience to remember. But then I realized something.

I. Like. TV.

I'm watching a lot of tele these days, which is remarkable for a guy who doesn't even own a tube. And all this tv viewing can eat at chunks of whatever other time that I might have for quality film viewing. And it's high-quality stuff (well, maybe with one cheesy exception). I'm not dumbing down (for the most part); I do believe that we've only got so many hours of time for consumptive viewing and that we shouldn't waste it on trivial garbage. But TV is not what it was a generation ago. One needn't resign to PBS to purify oneself anymore. Even FOX has some quality (albeit stuck in Friday night limbo now. Remember when Sunday nights were the golden nights at Fox?).

But there's something to be said about the serial and the linear progressions that happen with a multi-year series like "The Office" can produce. Have you seen it recently? The last three shows were golden and belong in the pantheon along with much of seasons 1&2. You witness cyclical changes (Michael has a boss. The boss is a jerk/tight-wad. The boss starts to upset the weird status quo in the office. The boss starts to show fissures. Status quo is resolved) that really demonstrate how complex social interactions can be and how deep human psyches are. In a movie (as in a novel), you would see a character change through crisis, in serials, you see the character flesh-out in numerous crises - perhaps grow, perhaps not.

Another example would be Joss Whedon's series The Dollhouse. Not heard of it? Not seen it? That's a crying shame. Because the mid-season replacement is now on its seventh episode, and Hulu only carries five at a time. Who knows how many more will come out of this tenuous and stressed-filled relationship between the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly" and the network responsible for "COPS" and "When Animals Go Berserk!" marathons. For the time-being, every episode, every moment of Dollhouse is riveting smorgasbord for the mouth. It's an enigma wrapped in bacon-strips and dipped in fine, dark chocolate. It is to be slowly savored over a long period of time.

I can only hope that it lasts longer than "Firefly" did. Or, for that matter, than "Chuck" will (yes, that is my guilty pleasure).

Tv. Watch it.

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