At the end of Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again, our hero, broken in the first act of the story and now painfully reconstituted as a stronger, more focused, more realistic hero and human being, walks into the figurative sunset with the love of his life.
I stopped reading the series at that point. I knew if I continued, it would just go on and on and on: there would be more villains, more life-obstacles – more of the same, but different.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever been a big fan of ongoing serials. My comic collection is made up largely of one-off’s, mini-series and trade paperbacks. As for the viewing library, even though I was a massive fan of Law & Order, it’s taken quite a conscious effort to get myself to buy up to the sixth season of the show, as opposed to the complete runs I have of The Shield, The West Wing, and The Wire.
I think real life is exciting and ongoing enough, thank you.
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?
Six years I’ve waded faithfully – or is it blindly? – through The Shield‘s rising turpitude, its serpentine storylining brushing unseen against my immersed body, the show’s writing satisfying the need to resolve each ep’s crime-of-the-week while each season’s caper escapade escalating crisis builds towards a season ending that’s as welcome – and inevitable – as dementia. Lately I’ve been flashing on Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman‘s comics runs in the eighties and nineties – each and every ep, I’m led down back-of-my-hand familiar back- and dead-end-alleys, and each time I reach the end, whatever I find is a). not what I expect and b). the most obvious or logical thing in the world.
My TradeMe connections brought me right up to Season 6. The final season (Season 7) is half-way through its run in the States as I type this. And thanks to my leetle frien’, I’m just a few days behind them.
It’s all building towards a James Ellroy ending. And just like in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, the following thoughts are uppermost in my mind with this final season:
- no good turn goes unpunished;
- the rule of unintended consequences applies supreme;
- things, no matter the best of intentions, will not – can not – end well.
So often in film and television these days, I recognise the portents and the foreshadowing, and can comfort myself that, even if/when things go bad, I was braced for it. But now, despite six seasons of faithful viewing, and with only seven eps to go, my sleeps in between are fitful with drowning dreams…. I can’t contemplate the show ending. It has to, I know that. I accept it. It’s the how that scares the bejesus out of me.
… Mr Ryan – I’m in. All the way.
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.
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):
- comics: Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ Alias, Charles Burns’ Black Hole, Brian K Vaughan and Tony Harris’ Ex-Machina, Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You, Jimbo’s Pulp Sticktion strip in DMC‘s New Ground anthology, and Alex Robinson’s Tricked;
- scripts: 28 Weeks Later, The Bourne Ultimatum, Casino Royale, Gone Baby Gone, and Perfect Creature;
- books: Carl Hiaasen’s Basket Case, Mike Figgis‘ Digital Filmmaking, Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Rising, Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, and Patricia Grace’s Tu;
- features: The Children of Men, The Departed, Everything is Illuminated, Serenity, and Stranger than Fiction
- television: Burn Notice, Green Wing, Homicide: Life on the Street, The Insiders Guide to Happiness, The Shield, and The Wire.
As for the running, I do it only so that I fit my clothes.
Happy new year.
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.
It was a lean autumn* as the third season of Desperate Housewives lurches from one cliffhanger to another, sometimes leavened only by a game of “Spot the Marcia Cross Stand-In/Body-Double”.
There was a brief flutter of excitement when TV3‘s site FAQ said that Battlestar Galactica was returning to the screen. Unfortunately they meant Season 2, which has been available on DVD for the past year or so (duly devoured only early this year). Which’ll explain the 11:00pm scheduling.
Still, as we enter winter, two household favourites return today: Medium and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Closer scrutiny of the T.V. guides in the next few weeks might be rewarded with The Shield‘s Season 4 and The Wire‘s Season 3.
Hope is a terrible thing.
* For telly maybe – it’s been nice to catch up with last year’s movies.
Fill yer hand, friend, and after a few seconds of blurred action and sharp noises, the cordite smoke lifts… and I’m the last man standing with a television concept I’d been sweet on for a few years.
Back at the saloon, I take a stool at the bar. Two-Fingered Frank serves up a double and, after the barest hesitation, leaves the milk bottle within reach. The shot goes down but I don’t taste it. I begin to pour another but then I stop. I turn the concept over in my hands. I remember the last time I saw it; the amount of work I put into it. I admire the craft and heart inherent and also remember working against seemingly innumerable constraints and frustrations. It was mine now – mine.
The following morning, I need hair of the dog and some several raw eggs before I’m on my way; it’s not until I’ve carefully shaved my tongue that I feel human again. Sunlight glints off something in my saddlebags. Before I realise it, the concept’s in my hands again. Only now do I feel its dead weight. I may be the one-and-only now but it’s been years since I was in that space. After years of wading around in ninety minute-plus stories, packing a decent story into forty-five minutes with beats to match opening credit sequences and commercial breaks is a different beast to tame. And don’t forget story and character arcs to be entwined and paced over thirteen episodes.
When your major television influences include The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, Bodies and, of course, The Shield, you’ve set yourself a freakin’ high bar, friend.
Movement in the corner of my eye and I draw instinctively, ballpoint steady, elbow nice and relaxed. It’s only my reflection in the mirror. Gone is yesteryear’s cocky inkslinger, replaced with a wary, slightly squinty, keypuncher.
So be it.
What’s the point of aiming high if you can’t just shoot for the moon?
I’d spent almost half of my life in thrall of Dick Wolf‘s Law & Order (at least, as much as the local broadcasters allowed) before Shawn Ryan‘s The Shield arrived and pissed and shit all over the television police procedural genre. Cop shows haven’t been the same since then.
Described as a James Ellroy-infused procedural, The Shield shows cops as flawed human beings, most of them driven by some core need to do The Right Thing, each with their own methods and morals, each looking out for their own interests, and each leaving a trail of emotional, psychological, emotional, sexual and physical destruction. I’m a dirty little voyeur for enjoying their mis/adventures for those reasons. (It’s those same reasons why The Goddess won’t watch it with me.)
The fourth season ended recently. Glenn Close‘s Captain Rawlings gets shafted but good by her superiors; I’ll miss her. An Internal Affairs investigation into the Strike Team appears about to change up a gear. And to see the Strike Team end a season with beers and esprit de corps aplenty was a discomfiting sight indeed.
Shows like The Shield and David Simon‘s The Wire have reinvigorated the genre, elevating it above mere ‘procedural’ to give us true ‘police drama’.
And about bloody time.