Monday, April 09, 2007

Senatus Populusque Romanus

Sometimes friends try to tell me that television sucks now, and that television was much better when we were kids. That's utter bullshit. I grew up on wretchedly bad TV shows like Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, etc. I suffered through a spate of variety shows--including Donny and Marie, Captain and Tennille, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Sonny & Cher--and still bear the scars. There were good shows when I was a kid, like All in the Family and pre-maudlin M*A*S*H, but those were rare bright spots cancelled out by insufferable pap like I Dream of Genie and Gilligan's Island.

Of course I'm comparing apples and oranges, because my argument that TV is much better now rests firmly on the strength of several HBO series I've watched lately on DVD, including The Wire and Deadwood. I don't know that broadcast TV has better shows than those when I was a kid because I don't watch broadcast channels often enough. But at least one pay channel is cranking out damn good series.

We finished Deadwood's amazing second season and eagerly await the third on DVD. I love the way expectations are foiled, and how calamatous Fate can claim seemingly vital characters without warning. I love this show for its Shakespearean subplots and its operatic intensity.

I watched HBO's Rome after Julio recommended it, and was completely blown away. The subject matter is perfectly honed for our era of executive over-reach and imperial wars. I don't think television had ever before made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, but the finale of the penultimate episode of Rome's first season did just that. Puts that Russel Crowe Gladiator crap to shame. This is really clever television, dramatizing history in an engaging and realistic manner. It's brutal, bloody, and damn sexy to boot. Like, totally awesome.

I need something to watch now while we wait for The Wire season 4, Deadwood season 3, and Rome season 2 to come out on DVD. I suppose Battlestar Galactica is next? Might as well find out what all the fuss is about.


John Vondracek said...

Rome's second (and final) season was equally fantastic

we LOVED watching it every week and sure will miss it
:) jv

geoff said...

It's a shame it was cancelled. I'd have loved them to go past Augustus and into Nero/Claudius/Caligula--or perhaps they do?