What’s on the DVR – Spring 2011

“Game of Thrones” on HBO

Sword-slashing power grabs, decapitated heads, randy dwarves, busting bodices, psychic wolves, tattooed horsemen, incest and bastards … It’s Sunday night in the family room, but this is definitely not The Ed Sullivan Show or America’s Funniest Videos. But wouldn’t you just love to hear the wrinkled, square Ed introducing these acts? “Tonight, on our really big sheew … we have a brother fondling his sister’s breasts before offering her in marriage to a barbarian hun, a lusty queen getting it doggy-style from her brother … and for our big finale … a monkey-climbing kid prince shoved to his death off the castle tower. But first …  those brash young new sensational White Walkers from the North … Let’s hear it for … “The Beheaders!”

But you have to dig it. It’s the new Sunday night on HBO and this is their medieval version of The Sopranos.

“The Borgias” on SHOWTIME

An hour later you have the 15th Century Roman Catholic costume version of The Sopranos, where the Pope is the scheming variation of the godfather. And when he goes, “Say hello to my little friend,” before dispatching his enemies, he’s not talking about a multi-round shotgun, but a small vial of poison. No one wants to get any blood on the lovely ornate gowns and vestiges the pope and his cardinals fashion about in. It’s too bad. By the time you’re done with Game of Thrones, your appetite for true blood can only be satisfied by something like, well, True Blood. Returning soon, we expect. Showtime always tries harder, but hasn’t quite got the color, consistency, and sticky thickness of True HBO down yet.

“Nurse Jackie” on SHOWTIME

But Showtime has Mrs. Soprano herself, Edie Falco, playing a drug-addicted, adulterous-but-saintly emergency room nurse. And they took the show to the edge of complete meltdown in the second season last year, where Jackie’s infidelity and addictions were exposed and exploded. And then …ffftttttt. They pretended like it never happened. No evolution, no new direction, no redemption, no pay-off. It all just got rebooted back to square one where all the characters were when they started the series. Huh? If I wanted to watch a formulaic, predictable sit-com, I’d turn on that Charlie Sheen Tiger Blood shit on CBS.

“The Killing” on AMC

As if all that wasn’t bleak enough, our other offering is a thirteen-week series on the week-long investigation of the killing of a popular high school girl who was raped and tortured before being drowned in the trunk of a car driven into a Seattle lake. It’s Twin Peaks without the backward-talking, slow dancing dwarf or the cherry pie. Or a thirteen-hour episode of Law and Order as directed by Ingmar Bergman.  It’s a dark, drizzling, plodding, realistic crime procedural without any make up or smarmy partner wisecracks. But maybe it’s moving too slow, because I start thinking about things like … what a miserably hard acting gig it would be for the two actors playing the grieving parents of the murdered girl to have to stay in that first week mood of shock and tragic loss for the entire thirteen or so weeks of the production schedule. I know, maybe I’ve been in the business too long thinking about such production details, but it’s easier than thinking about what the reality of that situation would really be like.

Okay, I admit it. My DVR has seriously got me depressed now. And this from a writer who used to worship Edgar Allan Poe as a kid. It seems like the culture has finally and completely caught up with the moods or obsessions of melancholy 10 year-olds. It’s no wonder I’m scrambling for the 1964 escape innocence of a classic series like The Andy Griffith Show on DVD. The most depressing thing that ever happened in Mayberry was Opie accidentally killing a bird with his sling shot (or was it Gomer with a B-B gun from behind the grassy knoll?) and getting a tensed eyebrow and a long hard lecture from his ‘Pa.’

Back in 1964, I actually was Opie, and life was so magnificently boring and innocent, we over-thinkers had to find our escape in the dangerous visions of Eddie Poe or Alfred Hitchcock. Today, swamped in dangerous visions on the news and without any escape in our entertainment programming, I find myself longing for mindless, happy nonsense.

Which is the only explanation why I’m all over American Idol by Wednesday night.

— A. Wayne Carter

P.S. Hands down, the best show on this Spring was Justified on FX, but it was so damn good, I took it off the DVR schedule and had to watch it first run every Wednesday night.

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