The T.V. Week is Filling Up Nicely

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.


Careful What You Wish For

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?


Something Old, Something New

Jed Mercurio, creator of the excellent, visceral, Bodies, wrote this about adapting novels for the screen. What I found most interesting was –

Cynics argue that drama adaptations for television demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm for original material or, worse, a lack of quality in original scripts. I disagree with both propositions. Commissioners crave original drama, and many (if not most) writers prefer to create their own material, and most (if not all) of them feel more attached to their original script than an adaptation. But marketing original drama isn’t easy. … The audience doesn’t know the story or the characters. That’s hard to explain in a trailer or a billboard poster.

As an audience member, I must confess to a double standard: I want more of the same – but different.

I work hard at trying something completely new though. How else could I have found and sworn by Bodies or The Wire – or even Green Wing or The Insiders Guides to Love and Happiness?

What I admire most about these series is the sheer depth, and complexity of story and character that’s packed into each forty-five minute episode. It didn’t matter if it was a procedural or soap. The writing, directing and acting is so good that the underlying structure is barely noticed.

Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are my poster boys for giving more of the same… but different. They showed that even the tired superhero, horror and fantasy genres of comicdom – and their audiences – could be treated just as seriously as any other form of ‘real’ literature – with maturity and intelligence.

I returned to comic-reading in the last few years – one could hazard that it was a precursor to my true return to reading. And upon my return I’ve found the pleasures of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson‘s blistering Transmetropolitan, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon‘s heart- and gut-wrenching Preacher, and David Lapham‘s mindblowing Stray Bullets. These – and more – are just proof-positive that, just as the good doctor purred,

It is important to always try new things.

(Heads-up courtesy Lee Thomson.)


I Heart “The Shield”

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.