Monday, April 6, 2009

The TV Machine

More and more TV shows are capturing my brain, and fortunately, they're on DVD, so I can (instead of defining a moment wherein I must devote an hour of my day not only to programming but the detestable commercials that come all too often) waste an entire weekend watching one show from beginning of season to end.

That doesn't sound good, does it?

These shows are, in no particular order, Deadliest Catch (crab fishermen in the "Vast Bering Sea"with ice and death!), Burn Notice (ex-spies, Miami Babes, and Bruce Campbell!), and The Wire (for all you Homicide fans, same original writer, David Simon - drugs, cops, cop humor). Last year was the year of Monk and House, this eyar we've moved on to darker fare.

With Deadliest Catch, you'd think it would get dull watching guys do endless repetetive work in a crappy environment, and crustaceans desperately trying to escape their really delicious fate. But these guys are real characters, two or three ex-cons, so far one arrest, and greenhorns, who you'd think would have the humility to realize that what they're about to embark upon is hellish hard work, peopled with testosterone-fueled crazy people, who think nothing of chopping the new guy down to fishbait for simply trying to be one of the boys. When the fishing is bad, you feel the pain coming from every downcast face, knowing that they're risking their lives for a catch that might not be worth the effort. When the fishing is good, the joy comes off the screen in waves. When a boat goes down, or a man goes overboard, these men act as soldiers in war - nothing is too good for a fallen comrade.

Burn Notice is a different animal altogether. The basic premise is that Michael is a spy who has been "burned" i.e., cut off from the mothership, and left to his own devices in, of all places, Miami. This is where his mother & brother live, his ex-girlfriend (a gun-runner and explosives expert with an overactive trigger-finger), and his old pal Sam (Bruce Campbell, in what must be one of the most fun roles of his career). So Michael uses his talents to help people he comes across (to keep himself alive - all of his bank accounts are frozen when he's burned), with occasional help from the ex, from Sam, and from his mother (a cigarette-raspy Sharon Gless). There is a bit of MacGyver-esque stuff that you can learn (like destroying a car engine by melting through it with a coffee-can load of thermite, or attaching the antenna of your cellphone to an ethernet cable to use the Internet as your antenna), and overall the performances are solid. Lots of pretty girls to look at, too.

And the Wire. What can I say about this show, except that in one scene in Episode Five, two detectives work their way through a crime scene, and not a word passes between them except variations of the F-word. 

For. Ten. Minutes. 

You have to wonder what the actors thought of those pages. They like to start each episode off with some sort of joke, and the most memorable one so far is also in Episode Five. Two guys trying to get a desk through a door, and the darn thing won't budge. More guys join in. No progress. The LT shows up, looks at them like, "what a bunch of idiots," and puts his muscle to the task. Still no progress. Everyone gives up. Finally, the guy who was trying to get it through the door in the first place says, "It must have gotten jammed up when I was trying to bring it in." One of the guys who was on the other side of the door says, "IN?" 


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