First post of the year. Yikes! I’ve had nothing to say – been too busy muddling my way along in a limbo between thinking the New Age positive thinking/Law of Attraction/pray-to-the-relevant-angels school of thought is mumbo jumbo, and then, on the flip side, thinking what if the judgemental Christian God is real? And he really does favour certain people and punish others and we really do just have to accept our fate and not fight to change our station.
Author Jeff Brown said it well here:
The idea that there is an interface between our thoughts and a responsive universe is a vast improvement over the belief that we are alone down here and that no one is listening. But the suggestion that all we have to do is change our thinking, without doing the deeper work to actually alter our consciousness, is a backward step that has led many of us astray. If the universe responds to anything, it is authentic expansion- not feigned positivity, not flights of fancy, not wish-full thinking with no ground to support it. I have known too many good souls who lost their footing by buying into the pretend positivity movement. Many of them lost everything while chasing a dream before they had built the necessary foundation to manifest and sustain it. It is time to ground our spirituality in good ole common sense. There are no magic potions on the trailways of transformation. One foot in front of the other, one learning at a time, from sole to soul.
In the meantime, I have made slow progress writing a difficult novel, devoured The Goldfinch in four days and Beautiful Ruins in three, and been blown away by the quality of modern television. Not the reality dross, or the creepy crime procedurals, or the narcissistic 1% shows like Revenge. (Have you seen it? It is atrocious. I only watched an episode in sick awe because I had been a fan of Brothers and Sisters).
Anyhow, like every other discerning viewer, most of the shows I like began life on HBO or something similar. This list will be standard knowledge for most as it is not current, but in case you’ve missed a couple, you should commit to watching them without delay.
Some of the uninitiated still may not get why this show is so great. For me, it was always because of the contrast between Tony’s professional life and personality, and the soft guy he could be at home. Those charming moments when the whole family was happy were always so fleeting, between the thuggery and the aimless adultery, but I always hoped he would find a way to make them last forever. (As an aside, I watched Enough Said recently and it was something of a consolation prize to see Gandolfini almost entirely in soft mode, with just a few flashes of Soprano anger).
I blogged about this at the time I watched it but even so… Season One is a little amateur and seedy so I recommend starting at Season Two, where you’ll get hooked into the port/union plot, if drug dealers and cops aren’t really your thing. I loved every single main character, and it was heartbreaking when some of them died. The show posed a bunch of profound social questions and enacted scenarios so we could see what could happen if the powers that be took some risks to fix the deeply rooted problems that matter. Kids falling through the cracks in the system. Drug addicts treated like calculating criminals, instead of sick people. The show is heavy and funny and sad and witty. My favourite part is that they remixed the theme tune every season. I still get excited when I see a Wire alumni in another film or TV show.
This is modern day Shakespeare. Actually the three-season series is set in a 19th century gold-rush town but the writers are alive now and I think they’re brilliant. So much innuendo. So much rich language, long neglected. There are villains and heroes, soliloquies and sonnets. It’s swashbuckling and restrained at the same time. It’s sit on the edge of your seat, laugh out loud funny. I love the fact the people you want to die, do. Of course they kill off a few favourites along the way but there’s nothing like hating a character and then seeing him get his just desserts in an old school brutal fashion.
I was reading an interview with the creator Matthew Weiner in anticipation of the seventh and last season, due to air soonish, and realised I had missed the sixth. And so I’ve just demolished 12 episodes in a week and they were all staggering. The one where the whole office gets a jab of vitamins and amphetamines in their ass? Genius. But the stand out character for me in this series has been Pete Campbell, who I still rather detest but I think gives incredible insight into what it’s like to be born into a respectable, rich family – and then fall indignantly short. Not only is he failing professionally, but morally. If I were a married man, the show would definitely make me think twice about cheating on my dependable wife, with whom you have children, to chase a piece of skirt. It doesn’t seem to be working for any of them.
I hope to be a screen writer one day but I also hope the people responsible for these shows keep at it. Such wicked, gripping, thought-provoking entertainment is a wonderful reprieve from the mainstream.