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Wednesday, 27 June 2007

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CR

The show does have some rather uncanny points of similarity to Deadwood, doesn't it? Not only the fact that we've had so far (I think) two actors brought over (the guy who played Charlie Utter and the Hearst's guy who liked to beat up / kill prostitutes, who plays the doctor in John). But structurally as well. The threesome of guys at the motel clearly echoes EB (the hotelkeeper) and his helper - they all seem to share EB's whacked out grandiloquence.

I have to say: I'm not loving it so far. And it's the Xtianity that's responsible, I think, for my feelings. That, and the fact that I smell some serious Twin Peaks irresolvability going on. Can we ever find out what the deal is with John? Is it possible for that to happen without crashing the narrative structure of the show? (And this wouldn't be the first time this has happened to HBO. Carnivale suffered from the "stupider and stupider as the secrets were revealed" dilemma. There's probably something to be said about the incompatibility of magical realism (for that's what it is, right?) and the episodic tv show...)

CR

One other thing, sort of off-topic:

If you want to isolate the formula for the successful HBO show, wouldn't it go something like this: "Take 1 long-standing TV/movie genre, treble the realism, and serve hot."

(By "realism," I mean "realisticness," yes, but more something that we might call "base-superstructuralism," a la literary "realism.")

The Sopranos - mafia movie
Six Feet Under - soap opera / telenovela
The Wire - Cop Show
Rome - Toga Epic
Deadwood - Western
Band of Brothers - WWII flick

You could probably make a case for Sex and the City as well in this model... But Carnivale missed the boat (circus epic?) and while I know there used to be such things as surfer-movies, I'm not sure that they're quite as persistent as the other inhabited genres above.

SEK

Yes, you're right about the appearance of Ellsworth and Utter, both of whom are playing roles which extend their Deadwood characters: Utter the postman's now a drug currier, Ellsworth the itinerant miner's now a shiftless Vietnam Vet ... and then there's the doctor, who's harder to pin down because he played both the man who shot Hickock and the serial murderer. (I think he's playing straight here, however.)

That said, I don't mind the Christianity, because really, who better than a Miltonist to show us a compellingly modern version of doctrine? I do think we'll figure out what's up with John—after all, the pace of revelation (pun intended) on this show is far more frequent than, say, Lost. I've been avoiding reading anything about this, as I'm particularly keen on avoiding all spoilers—I've also not read a whit about The Wire, which I've just started on—but I think we're headed for a John as the Baptist scenario, such that he's not The Savior so much as His Herald. Again, I could be wrong, but here's what this series has going for it:

It's about G-d but is penned by a Miltonist, meaning he'll have no qualms dramatizing prophesied events; and it's David Milch, whose ear for dialogue is whatever the opposite of tin is on the periodic table: the man has an ear for the contrived poetry of the everyday, and he's not afraid to showcase it. In short, worst case scenario is that we have world-class dialogue, rehashed Milton and much entertainment. The usual caveats apply, however: foremost among them, I'm always disappointed. Still, in these early stages, I think we can accentuate the positive—ignore Milch's sad Eastern streak and focus on the possibility of real ambiguity ... because as lamented as the demise of Twin Peaks is, it did conclude with a pissy Lynch blowing up his characters. Sure, super-meta-fun, but narratively, not that entertaining. I think Milch might be able to deliver a War in Heaven, and to be honest, I'll take a stretch—a strain, even—over another entry in the Law & Order franchise.

SEK

Didn't see your second comment when I responded to the first ... that said, let me think about it. I'm not sure Deadwood was a western, generically, anymore than I think The Wire a cop show. The latter better resembles Homicide, which, while a cop show, persistently pushed the limits of the genre, such that at times it took on the feel of Beckett or Sartre ... esp. Sartre, who's invoked by name in the second season when Bayliss and Pembleton corner people in the box for entire episodes. "No Exit," indeed.

CR

I'm not sure Deadwood was a western, generically, anymore than I think The Wire a cop show.

Well, they're both really really displaced versions of those genres. You can even see it in Deadwood during the first few episodes as Swear. replaces Bullock at the center of the show. I have no insider information, obviously, but it feels like it was discovered on the fly, that the series wasn't really going to center on a retired lawman taking up the badge again (which surely fits the Western bill, right?) but rather, what, how to describe what it became...

The Wire, to my eyes, is simply a cop show that doesn't skip the part of the story that every other one seems to do, which is the socio-economic and macro-governmental dysfunction which gives the cops the bad guys to chase in the first place. Which, yes, makes it not so much a cop show as an animated David Harvey treatise. Which is, of course, what makes it the most shockingly good tv ever to appear on the screen... Just about anyway...

(How good is it? So good that it is utterly unimaginable that its creators will have to knock off the audience in the final shot, as did Chase with the Sopranos. Who could possibly feel bad about making or watching The Wire?)

But come on - you know what I mean with my little rubric above. They clearly are systematically inhabiting the popular genres. "It's not TV. It's HBO."

CR

On the other hand, I will admit that your reading of the strange contradictions that might ensue if this does become the most Xtian of all shows is very persuasive. Although that's always been the case with this sort of thing, right? Last Temptation of Christ is one of the more persuasive renderings of the Passion that you can find, but of course it drew the most virulent ire. Etc etc etc.

KA

I'm not ready to say Christian yet, just spiritual. These days Christian is too fucking restrictive. Plus, I'm not sure hovering constitutes a mircle.

Then again, WTFDIK?

Sisyphus

Haven't seen it yet, and if it goes too Christian I may not want to.

On the other hand, it sounds like a mix of Flannery O'Connor's _Wise Blood_ and Nathaniel West's _Day of the Locust_, which sounds like it's great.

Of course, _Carnivale_ was going for that flavor too (I liked it; guess I'm glad I never caught the later seasons if CR is right ... in fact, it sounds like _John from Cincinnati_ is most like that show, what with the flat affect and the mystery ... hopefully they'll add freakishness and freakish sexuality.)

SEK

The Wire, to my eyes, is simply a cop show that doesn't skip the part of the story that every other one seems to do, which is the socio-economic and macro-governmental dysfunction which gives the cops the bad guys to chase in the first place. Which, yes, makes it not so much a cop show as an animated David Harvey treatise. Which is, of course, what makes it the most shockingly good tv ever to appear on the screen...

The rest of this paragraph belies the "simply" at the beginning. Which was, if I remember, my point: you can transcend the genre you inhabit, I think, a la "Naussica."

I'm not ready to say Christian yet, just spiritual. These days Christian is too fucking restrictive. Plus, I'm not sure hovering constitutes a miracle.

Hovering, no; resurrection, yes. That said, you're right that, at this point, it's not identifiably Christian. But I mean, the initials, man, the initials.

I liked it; guess I'm glad I never caught the later seasons if CR is right ... in fact, it sounds like _John from Cincinnati_ is most like that show, what with the flat affect and the mystery ... hopefully they'll add freakishness and freakish sexuality.

First, YOU">http://mthollywood.blogspot.com/2005/06/looking-at-sean-mccanns-courses-ii-im.html">YOU MISSPELLED NATHANAEL WEST'S NAME YOU MUST BE A HACK! (Wow, doesn't that bring me back.) Second, I think the West reference's a good one, but the obvious flat-affect weird-occurrences show John deserves comparing to has got to be Twin Peaks (minus the catchy soundtrack). That said, I think it's more compelling Carnivale (which I only watched a few episodes of) if only because of the dialogue. Very rarely will I watch something on the strength of the way the words sound -- Mamet's the only other thing that comes to mind -- but I'll watch any show Milch writes.

Wax Banks

I feel obligated to do my periodic Carnivale putdown: strong premise, neat milieu, dull acting, clunky writing, glacial development, curiously thin development of the fascinating historical/social setting. A squandered opportunity nowhere near the level of the top-tier HBO shows. (It remains to be seen whether John belongs there either, though only a fool would bet against Milch with the freedom HBO has given him.) It's interesting to me that Ron Moore was one of the producers on that show - he's apparently the main reason Galactica is such a bold risk-taking show (and such a crowd-pleaser) - considering the way Carnivale went. I wonder what he thought of that show (which wasn't his baby).

Sisyphus

Dude! First of all, I followed your link and then followed another link on that page and then before I knew it found your head!

Second, I have a long and embarrassing history of troubles with Na ... Mr. We ... that dude's, the one who wrote _The Day of the Locust, name. I had an ID on a final with that book (this is senior year, undergrad), and had everything right except could not, for the life of me, remember his name. I was ten minutes in a battle of wills against myself and the clock, unwilling to leave without dredging the name from my memory. At last, as the professor called last call for the third or fourth time, I had a flash, scribbled, and made my way out.

Back home I saw my books still neatly stacked on my desk. Nathanael West????? I had written Adam. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.

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