It seems I made something of a promise with the last “Park” in that I would try to keep things light-hearted through the end of the year, what with the holidays and all. In the interest of keeping that promise for at least one week, I hereby present you with the TV series that Terry and I currently bingeing or recently binged. I will do my best to keep things politically-neutral, void of soapboxing, and free of poignant nostalgic tales of my childhood wherein things did not go my way and I was bitter about the not going. Of course, me being me, I probably won’t make it three words before I veer left. And here we go…
This series is based on the “Green Arrow” hero from DC Comics. Fair Disclaimer: I have never read the comics and I know nothing about them. (Comparative Note: I’m a big fan of “The Walking Dead”, the TV show. I do have some of the graphic novels on my Kindle, but I have only glanced at them. To be honest, when I’m talking about the TV show with folks and they want to whine about where it differs from the novels, I want to slap those people a little bit. Nothing fatal, of course, just enough to make them shut up. The entertainment industry is littered with examples of producers picking and choosing when it comes to transforming a great book into a completely different movie. I don’t like it, either, but it’s the nature of the beast. Just let it go and move on.)
See? It only took me three seconds to get bitchy. I definitely have issues, mmm hmm.
In any case, the TV show is a hoot. We have dual storylines, past and present, so it’s somewhat important that you pay at least minimal attention to the details. (This is refreshing, compared to so many shows that have been dumbed down to the point where every plot development is telegraphed way before those developments happen.) The characters are flawed and messy (everyone has a secret or a misunderstanding or an addiction), the story arcs are sometimes absurd but still entrancing, and the action sequences are the kind where you can actually follow what is happening (instead of the randomly-vague, rapid-fire editing on some shows where you have no idea who is winning or how).
Perhaps the most admirable element of the show? The episode-ending hooks. Somebody up on that production team knows what they are doing. You can swear to yourself that you’re going to bed after the current episode, but in the last twenty seconds they will snag you with a new twist, making this a prime candidate for binge-watching. In the last two days we have watched 12 episodes, and I have no shame about that.
TWO. “Battlestar Galactica”
With this entry, I’m talking about the “reboot” that ran from 2004-2009, not the late 70s incarnation. (Perhaps the original version had its merits, don’t know, never watched it.) The very basic plot here is that, sometime in the future, mankind has created machines which then revolt and turn on mankind, much like teenagers do when they learn that the world does not end if they violate curfew, emboldening them to reach for stars that smell like teen self-absorption. End result, a ragtag fleet of starships just wants to get back home (Earth?) where everybody used to know their name.
Now, before you respond with “I’d rather hurl myself off the cliffs of Dover before I watch a sci-fi geekfest”, let me point out that this series goes much deeper than that. Yes, we have lots of techno-babble (“Engage the Chlamydia Transponder!”) and there are too many instances where a single jetfighter overcomes all odds (“Corporal Bucktruck just destroyed seven evil galaxies using only an emery board and some grape jelly!”), but the focus is on the human story, our frailties and yearnings and fumbling attempts to connect and prove worthy.
My only real quibble with this series? The pivotal character of Gaius Baltar, a scientist who is truly mad, constantly conversing with an (imaginary?) companion/love interest/scheming tart who only exists in his head. On a paranoid battlestar where even the tiniest whiff of odd behavior can get your ass exiled into deep space, freefalling with Tom Petty and Major Tom forever, it’s unlikely that no one would question the innumerable times that Gaius has been discovered copulating feverishly with nothing but net. Perhaps he will eventually be called out, but we’re on the third season and nobody has raised an eyebrow.
THREE. “Nashville Flipped”
I have a love/hate relationship with the various “house flipping” shows on HGTV. For the most part, I am enraptured when the flippers can take a dump and turn it into something orgasmic with creativity and flair. On the other hand, the shows can make me depressed as hell about my own comfy but “sure could use a spruce up” dwelling. (I don’t have 30,000 dollars to spend on the bathroom alone. If I had that kind of cash lying around, I’m going to buy a car, not some fancy river rock tiles for the floor of the shower so I can get a foot massage whilst scrubbing my bits.)
Still, the host of this show, Troy Dean, who specializes in restoring historic homes, is infectious with his charm and his ideas. He gets so excited about his projects that you almost want to wet yourself for him. And the best part? He sets a modest budget, sticks to it, and then resells the home at minimal profit. (This is considerably different from many of the HGTV glamour shows, where the spokesmodel flippers make more money in one conversion than I made from 1983-1997.) Troy, at least on camera (he might be a total pig when the spotlight is off, who knows), really loves what he does and it shows. If only we could all have careers that we actually enjoy. Wouldn’t that be a finer world to live in?
FOUR. “American Horror Story: Roanoke”
This is one that we intended to watch “live”, but we never got around to it and suddenly the entire season was piled up in our DVR, winking and beckoning. We finally gave in a few weekends ago, and we blew through the whole thing in roughly a 24-hour period. (Yes, we still managed to bathe and eat, as we’re not completely irresponsible, although we often poke at the threshold.) If you’re not familiar with AHS, each season involves a different “story”, although the core cast remains relatively the same, with a few changes here and there. (We miss you, Jessica Lange. Please come back to the Five & Dime.)
This season’s murky tale proffered a haunted house, and that’s about all I can say. To mention anything more would dispel the mystique of the “cold opening” the series had, where the producers intentionally kept publicity to a minimum and no one knew what to expect when the premiere aired. (In a surprising twist on the old adage, sometimes the best publicity is no publicity at all.) The conceptual structure of this season actually works, with a strong nod to the dynamic acting which is a trademark of the show. Until we get to the midpoint of season, when the producers introduced… something new. The new did not work for me. Some viewers and critics loved it, and the producers almost pulled me back in with the final episode, but the taste in my mouth was still too bitter.
FIVE. “Being Human” (UK/BBC Original Version)
A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost walk into a bar… and the next thing you know we have a TV series filling a void that no one knew we might have. Yes, there are some supernatural elements to it (how can you avoid it with such a casting call?) but those angles are kept to a minimum. Instead, the focus is on folks who are just trying to make a life when they are different from others, and the stories are honest and messy. Naturally, this rings some of my bells and pushes some of my buttons. What is it going to take for society, as a whole, to reach the point where we understand that every human life has value?
And thusly, I’m on the soapbox again, despite my intention to avoid. I just can’t help it. Well, I probably could, but I really don’t want to, not until each of us finds a place we can call home…