I am a television addict. At this point in time, I have two DVRs set to record 18 hours of programming each week. It used to be that television was considered a “vast wasteland” but it has graduated to the big leagues. Some television is now as good as any feature film in story, acting, and visuals. There is still a lot of crap out there (I am addicted to Donald Trump’s Apprentice and Gordan Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen, mostly to feel superior to the so-called geniuses that are booked to appear on those shows).
Every once in a while a show comes along that is so good, that when it finally ends, you feel that a part of your life has been ripped away. Most of these shows are not ratings winners, never coming close to the ratings that Jersey Shores or the Hills get. But for sheer quality, they can’t be beat.
My all time favorite show was Homicide: Life on the Street. At the end of every hour, you just wished for 15 more minutes. Nobody really famous in the cast (except that Andre Brougher and Melissa Leo are now doing some great stuff on television and in films) but just great writing and cinematography.
Then came two shows that ran around the same time: The Sopranos and The Wire. David Chase wrote a family story that lasted about 5 years on HBO that just coincidentally happened to be about a mafia family in New Jersey. Someday when I am old and gray, I will sit down and watch all of the Sopranos back to back- one giant great movie! David Simon, who also is one of the creators of Homicide: Life on the Street, created, with The Wire, a cinematic masterpiece about the City Of Baltimore. Using some of the greatest living cinematographers and a cast of mostly unknowns, he created a 60 hour film that touched on all corrupt aspects of Baltimore city life, from politics to dockworkers to drug dealers and police officers, finishing up with an entire season based on the newspaper world. This one I did watch as a movie, watching all 60 hours in the month of January, 2010 on DVD, sometimes 5 hours a day!
Now we come to another great one, which just aired it’s final episode this week. In 1988, Buzz Bissinger worte a book about the 1988 season of the Permian High School football team from Odessa, Texas, called Friday Night Lights. ESPN called Friday Night Lights the best book on sports over the past quarter-century. Shortly after that, writer/director Peter Berg (Bissinger’s cousin) and producer Brian Grazer released a movie based on the book, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Tim McGraw. It was very successful, and gave then the idea to do a television show. In October of 2006, the series premiered on NBC with almost universal apathy by the viewing public. With a threat of cancellation over it’s head, the show motored on, telling an amazing story of a small Texas town and the lives of it’s citizens (a sub story was also a great football story of the fictional Dillon, Tx. Panthers). The acting was first rate, the cinematography was great, and the writing was exceptional. It was threatened with cancellation last year and Direct TV stepped in to pay for half of the production costs, in return for airing the last two seasons first.
This is what James Poniewozic of Time magazine said about the show last week:
“This brilliantly written and acted drama- about high school football- and much more- has been a moving, regionally specific but universally true portrait of America.”
That is what I finished watching this week. The story was great from start to finish, but I now have a hole in my schedule on Wednesday nights that will be hard to fill!