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Saturday, November 10, 2012

TV thoughts

So here I am, wading throughall 56 episodes of SyFy channel's TV series Sanctuary, which ran for four years from 2008 to 2011. I'd never heard of it before reuesting it for review over on PopMatters, but the synopsis on Amazon sounded like it had potential, and I do love me a cheesy sci-fi TV show now and then, so what the heck. I requested it and it arrived soon after, all 18 DVDs' worth, and now I'm about halfway through. It's okay. It's fine. It's a bit silly, and there's too much CGI for my taste, but it's not horrible by any stretch.

The thing is, watching this has got me thinking about TV in general, and how far it's come in some ways since I was a kid, and how little it's changed, too. And I started thinking about my favorite shows. So here's my top five, for what it's worth.

(For the record, I never got into The Sopranos, or Mad Men, so they're not on here. I've never seen True Blood or Deadwood either.)

#1. Game of Thrones

A while back I wrote up a fun little blurb on Game of Thrones, which easily ranks as the most popular post I've ever written for this blog. Over 4500 people have read it so far, accounting for something like 10% of all the hits I have ever gotten on this blog. Which is sobering in a way... but then I figure it's because Game of Thrones is the best TV show ever made, and I feel better.

So then. An incredibly intricate fantasy world, terrific acting, snappy dialogue, great visuals and intelligently rendered themes. Yup, plenty here to like, and not much to dislike (though maybe some of the nudity gets gratuitous. No, really).

#2. The Wire

A close second would be The Wire, which I think is still the #1 choice for plenty of people, including my lovely and discerning spouse. It's hard to think of a show more unlike Game of Thrones: after all, The Wire is gritty and grimly realistic, with its thematic concerns firmly rooted in the criminal world of Baltimore, Maryland. King's Landing this ain't! Yet there are similarities too, namely excellent scripting spiced with mordant wit and numerous "oh shit!" moments, plus a terrific ensemble cast of mainly unknown actors who manage to inhabit these diverse characters and bring them to life.

And yeah, Omar is the coolest character in the history of TV. Cooler than Tyrion Lannister? You betcha.

#3. Breaking Bad

While the first two shows were sprawling ensemble pieces, featuring maybe a dozen or more significnt characters and nearly as many storylines at any given time, Breakign Bad is a show that stays focused on its twin protagonists of Walter and Jesse. The story chronicles the downfall of high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who learns that he has terminal cancer and decides to posthumously provide for his family by making a pile of cash in hurry by cooking anf selling crystal meth. Hilarity ensues. Except that really, it doesn't, and everything just goes to shit, inexorably.

It's pretty much impossible to stop watching once you've started. Great acting, riveting performnces, etc.

#4. Battlestar Galactica

Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, and probably not as objectively good as the above shows--I mean it's about killer robots from outer space, what do you want? But it creates a terrifically effective visual feeling of claustrophobia and doom--which is probably a fairly accurate representation of what it would be like, running for your life in outer space--while at the same time keeping the storyline (mostly) compelling. The show pretty much runs off the rails in its final season, but until then it's pretty compulsive viewing. Edward James Olmos oozes gravitas as the commander of the fleet, which almost makes up for the watery performances of some of his supporting players.

Shakeapeare it's not, but a good time nevertheless.

#5. Spartacus

And while we're on the subject of guilty pleasures, here's mine. Plenty of greased-up Roman gladiators? Check. Plenty of horny Roman nobles? Check. Plenty of over-the-top, ludicrous violence? Check. A storyline that, ludicrous or not, still manages to get its hooks in you? Check.

If you're not afraid to be seen enjoying something like this, then you owe it to yourself to check it out. Oh and the first two or three episodes of the first season are lame. Get through them and things get better. Promise. Oh and in case the above clip doesn't make it clear enough, this show really isn't for kids.

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