Box Watch: Offspring


By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43487416

What possessed me to try this show with The Goddess six years ago? Was it recommended to her and I was humouring her? Was it a weak/apologetic/fawning moment on my part? Was there channel-surfing and we got hooked like I did once upon a Wire?

At first I swore to merely be in the same room with her as she watched it — I’d be doing something (anything) else like knitting, taijutsu or practicing quick-draws — yet as every episode unfolded, I found myself sitting with my beloved as we were pulled into the world of a thirtysomething obstetrician and her family and friends.

Shit ain’t bad, yo.

When it wasn’t renewed after its fifth season we were both a bit bummed at the unfairness of it all.

But ooh, look — and just in time for an anniversary with the Better Half: a sixth season is playing right now.

I suppose the wool, gi and gun leather will have to wait.

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Go To

Contrary to popular belief, when energy, motivation, and/or creativity is low in the Writing Cave Keep, I do not resort to singing along with Ms Krall ad infinitum.

If it’s a technical challenge, I turn to the writing library, top most being William Goldman‘s Which Lie Did I Tell?, Alex Epstein‘s Crafty Screenwriting and Stephen King‘s On Writing.

If a project has certain constraints or is more long-form, there’s these classics to crib from:

  • Joss Whedon‘s Buffy the Vampire Slayer — not just a scantily-clad teen-girl who can kick serious demon ass1;
  • Jed Mercurio‘s Bodies — a visceral and heartbreaking look at just how little separates life and death in a maternity ward; and
  • David Simon‘s The Wire — its novelistic approach to presenting a criminal investigation, showing us every shade of grey between the police and their adversaries, as well as the world in which both operate, is something to which I can only dare aspire.

The words "The Wire" in white lettering on a black background. Below it a waveform spectrum in blue.
And if it’s all too much and/or I want to procrastinate for hours I just need a little kick, I never go wrong with any of these:

  • James Cameron‘s Aliens — a war movie in space;
  • Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown — a small-time crook’s One Final Score;
  • and David Mamet‘s Spartan — a rogue agent’s attempt to Do The Right Thing.

Spartan movie.jpg
It’s not necessarily the story I worry about — it’s how I’m going to make it interesting. I want to grab and hold the reader’s — and, eventually, the paying audience’s — attention, take ’em for a ride, and then afterwards, drop ’em back in their seat, exhilarated, exhausted, and begging for more.

All of the above touchstones do exactly that.

Most times, soon after referring to any of the above, I’m back at the keyboard, writing.

 

1   But oh how The Goddess rolls her eyes when I talk about superior subtextual story-telling amidst well-choreographed ass-kicking.

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Box Watch – The Wire – Seasons 1-5

I was channel-surfing late one night when I stumbled across a scene where a couple of ghetto kids were discussing arithmetic. Then it cut to to an off-duty detective with his sons at a local market and, seeing who I presumed was the show’s villain, used his sons to tail that person. And then it cut to the ‘villain’ attending a community college lecture about business management.

A university-attending villain? A cop who wasn’t above using his own flesh and blood to run surveillance? Kids who couldn’t do maths at school but could flawlessly keep track of the flow of money and drugs when they’re on the street corner?

What. The. Hell?

I watched the ep right to the end and was little the wiser: there was a large cast; the street talk was unintelligible to me; the cops were coarse, profane and prone to disturbingly casual brutality; the drug dealers were disciplined, organised and smart. Each character seemed to have their own storyline. My casual assumptions of baddies being bad and stupid, and goodies being good and smart, did not apply. It required concentration. I had no idea what was happening.

I remember thinking, What the hell kind of cop show is this?

And I knew for sure that I wanted more.

On the strength of that chance channel-surf, I bought the DVD of the first season and never looked back. There’s nothing I can say here about the writing and the acting and the production that hasn’t already been said a hundred times over in the aether.

Creator David Simon‘s assiduously spare approach to The Wirekeep up, bub – was hard work but hugely rewarding, and give me half a chance, I’ll bore you to tears with how much I love the show. Instead, I’ll give the last word to Mr Simon himself, from an interview with Nick Hornby:

My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.

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A Belated Review

And what have I got to say for my reading and viewing for 2008?

Yep, my book readin’s waaay down, but I’ve recently rediscovered it over the break with three (non-picture) books on the go. (But will I finish them?).

Hardcopy scripts were courtesy of the guild‘s Timpson Collection. Softcopies, as always, were courtesy of Don at Simply Scripts.

It was a very quiet year for film watching. How quiet? I’ve only seen two films apiece in Roger Ebert‘s 2008 picks and Lynden Barber‘s faves.

Maybe that was because 2008 was a year for a lot of box watching. While some people mourn the loss of Bionic Woman, and The Sopranos, I’ve got my own problems with the end of The Shield and The Wire. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad they finished when they did: better to choose your terms of departure than overstay your welcome.

The universe shall provide.

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Resuming

You’ve watched all of The Wire – Season Four that you bought with your Borders voucher (chur Ash). There’s no more of The Shield until next week. The toilet’s clean and sparkly. You’ve been for a run, and The Dog, at least, is happy.

Time to write.

This is worse than starting with a blank page – most times I bring up a blank screen, I’ve an idea of what I’m writing. No, this is when you have to pick up from where you last left off – a day, a week, a month, or years ago.

You’ve had some time-out, right? You’re refreshed! You’re raring to go! Bring it on!

Except… the last CUT TO: sneers at you from it’s right-alignment: And then what happens, sparky?

You open a NeoOffice window and your fingers, previously frozen, erupt onto the keyboard:

Okay. Okay. Back to basics. Whose is the dead body in the alley? H. E. Roe.

How did s/he die? S/he did the right thing.

And what was that? S/he stepped up. S/he took a stand. S/he took a chance (and lost – but the point is that s/he backed hirself).

Anything specific? … Nothing comes to mind.

You don’t know, really, do you? … Nope.

How’s your Christmas shopping going?

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Box Watch – “Mad Men”

When watching movies, I know I’ve found a new personal favourite when I’m grinning from ear to ear as the credits roll. It’s a recognition of the craft – the art – that went into what I’ve just witnessed. It’s the realisation of how slickly I’ve been played as an audience member. And the jaw-stretching grin is all the more sweeter if my expectations were pretty high beforehand.

In the last five years, that credit-roll grin has been hurting my face after just an hour – sometimes only half that – of television drama. From the oh-my-gods-I’m-exhausted elation/relief of The Shield and Bodies, to the what-the-heck-happens-next-gods-dammit addiction of The Wire and Sports Night – and let’s not forget the hot-damn!-that-was-good enjoyment from The Closer, The West Wing and the occasional Burn Notice episode.

So what is it about Mad Men that makes me griiin and whine cry out Finished already? each week?

Nothing happens. It’s about relationships – between a bunch of distinctly unlikeable rogues bastards in an era where women were little more than chattels, blacks were invisible, and every damned one of the characters smokes.

It’s those very things that I savour about Mad Men.

Nothing much may happen in an ep but we’re learning more and more about Don and Peggy and company – and what we learn not so much answers questions about them but deepens what we know about their characters. Where most other television dramas would portray the dick-swinging camaraderie with a post-Top Gun homoeroticism or symbolic gunfights and car-chases, the male relationships in Mad Men are so finely detailed that even The Goddess is forced to ask me What was that all about? And as for the show’s portrayal of the time and place: I salute creator Matthew Weiner‘s unflinching lack of gloss or veneer – ‘S how it was, baby.

In portraying a period of history as unflatteringly as one might cover current events, Weiner’s genius is in showing us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Where the choice on the box is usually between procedural (or procedural with a twist) and soap (or soap with a twist), it’s great to have a drama that – just like its characters toil at in advertising – gives more of the same, but different.

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100

Gosh.

Hundredth post.

I may not have written as much as I wanted to since 1 January 2007 but I’ve –

  • run a total of 558kms (97kms of that sans mongrel);
  • picked up 170 books, comics and scripts, and read 137 right through;
  • and sat down to watch 128 films, DVDs and TV series, and watched 105 right to the (sometimes bitter) end.

‘S not bad. And because it’s that time of the year, I give you a list of notable and recommended reading and viewing experiences (in strict alphabetical order):

As for the running, I do it only so that I fit my clothes.

Happy new year.

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Box Watch

It’s pretty quiet on the box at the moment. The last few months were very pleasantly crowded with:

Most of them have finished now (or in the case of Studio 60, I stopped watching). The Goddess and I have tried some new and returning shows, without great success.

  • Despite the presence of Six Feet Under alumnus Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters tried so hard to stop us from switching channels, we turned the box off completely.
  • Having read somewhere that Hu$tle had shuffled up to the big con in the sky, I was surprised to see it return – only to find that it was sans Adrian Lester. Who cares about a bunch of grifters, no matter how funny (Danny), pretty (Stacey), reliably versatile (Ash) and wizened (Albie) they are? We want the cool black guy back!
  • Saving Grace looked very promising with Holly Hunter in the lead. Unfortunately, for us, yet-another-cop-show with a smart-mouthed, promiscuous, boozin’, law-bendin’, gun-totin, ass-grabbin’ protagonist who happens to be female just doesn’t wash.

 

So far, not so good. Still no sign of my beloved Shield or the satisfyingly dense Wire. And waiting for us on the trusty VCR are the pilots for The Street and Burn Notice. The Law of Averages is on our side.

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Point & Click

I managed to get the number of Unread posts down to less than 200 when I add a few new feeds – and phwappp as the Unread posts leap gaily to 315. Fine. I can keep up with my essential daily reading out of the way. If I don’t sleep.

Enjoy.

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