The Short Season and Short Asides
I’ve got a few random thoughts that have been piling up without sufficient mass to justify a full post. So here’s a compilation of stuff passing through my mind, Larry King style.
– I’ve not tried to do a full account or analysis of the network upfronts or planned 2009-10 season. But in reading about the shows and plans, the one thing that struck me and gave me hope was a seeming embrace of the short season. More than any thematic, tonal, or narrative development from the rising success of cable drama/comedy series, I think the most important lesson for networks to embrace is that 20+ episodes is simply too much expect sufficient quality from a new show, especially one that aims to be innovative. So more shows (both new and returning) are being picked up for shorter runs, which bodes well for their creative success. And with the aftermarket of DVD boxes, it could be an economically wise move as well to help build and sustain a series for the long haul.
– Breaking Bad‘s second season was as good as anything I’ve seen on TV short of The Wire. The first season was a good show surrounding Bryan Cranston’s brilliant performance, but getting cut short by the writer’s strike was the best thing that could have happened – based on comments on the excellent producer podcast for the series, they’d planned to make the final episodes of the first season highly explosive, escalating the stakes in more sensational ways. Once they came back to plot out season 2, they embraced a lower-key approach to charting the minute details of the characters’ lives, a tactic that has made the series leap into the upper echelon of televisual excellence.
This season broadened the depth of the rest of the cast – Cranston still shines brightest, but the other actors and performances are now almost as good, especially Aaron Paul’s Jesse. Individual episodes were little etudes of emotional intensity, especially the ones with Tuco in the desert, Jesse in the house-of-meth, and the mind-blowing final two episodes of the season. The show consistently manages to confound my expectations, deliver on its own promises, and create truly powerful emotional moments that I can’t shake for weeks. If you haven’t watched it, dive in before you fall too far behind.
– The other show I’ve recently completed is In Treatment‘s second season. I missed the first season, in large part due to the daunting scheduling – even with a TiVo, 2.5 hours a week is a lot of TV to keep up with. After reading a bit of advance buzz, we signed on for season 2. The scheduling was certainly a challenge, as we ended up falling behind and finishing a couple weeks late. But we were glad that we did – the show is all about the performances, with Gabriel Byrne carrying the series on top of a number of excellent supporting performances, especially Hope Davis and Alison Pill. At times the show becomes a bit too painful to watch, as characters having emotional breakdowns or self-destructing can become tough to take; likewise, the show’s stylistic and temporal realism sometimes runs counter to the clearly compressed pace of therapy portrayed over 7 weeks. But the show was sufficiently compelling as to suggest a true innovation in how to program and schedule a series, one that it would be interesting to see other shows mimic.
– I haven’t yet watched tonight’s inadvertent finale for Pushing Daisies, but watching the previous two episodes from ABC’s summer burnoff created wistful glee – utter joy from the show, tempered by outrage from the injust way that ABC treated my beloved pie hole. Kristen Chenowith singing Lionel Ritchie was simply too beautiful to live…
– I see almost no films in theaters anymore, but my daughter and I both adored Up. Like Wall-E, it starts stronger than it finishes – for once, can Pixar make a film without a climactic chase/battle? But the photo album montage sequence is simply perfect. And I’m glad that another generation has the opportunity to appreciate Ed Asner.
– I’ve been on Twitter for about a month. Haven’t quite figured out how I’d most like to use it, but I feel obliged to be familiar with trending technologies. It’s best use for me has been during conferences, where a group of people document and discuss an ongoing event, bleeding the boundaries of the conference into a larger community. But more often than not, it’s just another drain on my attention.
That’s all for now. I’m still working on a larger post wrapping up my course on The Wire, but it’s taking too long to become articulate.
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Tags: breaking bad, in treatment, pushing daisies, up