Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Some thoughts on some television

The advantage of having a blog is that I can write down random, half-formed thoughts and keep them forever, as if they were important. So here's some words on two things that have no connection other than being here on the same page.

Boardwalk Empire
This show is still a mystery to me. It's on its fourth season now, and it's pretty good, but I completely forget about it when it's not on. Completely, like I hadn't been watching it for thirty hours. And then there's new episodes, and I'll watch them and enjoy them and be reminded of all these men in hats. I still don't know some of their names, but a lot of them want to murder each other. Often in very stylish, violent ways. The problem is, I wouldn't mind if I never saw another episode, even though it's impressive. I don't know what it's doing wrong. It has some of the best performances on television (Michael Shannon, in particular, always looks like he's about to burst) and some of the most intelligent, thoughtful writing. Maybe I'd enjoy it more if it was focused on one tight group of characters. Having a vast and separate cast can work brilliantly, like in The Wire or Game of Thrones, but here it might be too big for its own good. I want more of Richard's story, and Nucky's relationship with his brother and Margaret, not more conversations with gangsters I'm not sure I recognise, who mention other gangsters I don't think I know. I will watch every episode and enjoy them, I just wonder if, outside of a few brilliant characters, Boardwalk Empire will be remembered as one of the greats.
The Newsroom
I liked the first season of The Newsroom. I wrote a long defence of it, which usually happens when I'm annoyed that other people have different opinions to me. It was a show that had problems, but I thought it would be better in the second season, when it could really settle in. Now, after nine new episodes, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that the second season is a huge improvement over the first, and one of the most enjoyable pieces of television this year. The bad news is that I have to praise it rather than rant about it, which is less fun for me, and makes shorter blog posts. So this time there was a proper running storyline, less focus on real news, and no silly love stories. We've spent time with these people now, and they're still a family. Don and Sloan, who weren't much of anything before, become two of the most likable characters. And that's it, the whole thing is likable. It would be easy, and boring, to over-analyse the politics of it, and miss how much fun it is to spend time in Sorkin's fantasy newsroom. There needs to be more.

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