I have a habit of binging without purging - but rather than tell you how much pasta I can eat in one sitting or how it takes me about a commercial break to eat lunch, I’ll let you in on my recent TV binges.
Most days the television is ALWAYS on - mostly on daily garbage, meaning nothing that I really need to pay attention to - court shows, Cops, Love it or List It. A look or two up from my computer is all I need to get a better picture and then I can continue to grade, write, or whatever. It has become a habit of sorts - a quick way to de-stress and think “What the fuck is happening to popular culture?” before going back into the confines of my computer screen (aka playing Criminal Case on Facebook).
Once classes ended, I started catch up on shows I wanted/needed to finish. I went through about six seasons of Law and Order: SVU, two seasons of The Wire, and the most recent season of New Girl.
Law and Order: SVU
It started when I ran into a marathon on USA and realized I needed to start creating my own marathons. While KB and I still roommated, we started to go through all the episodes of SVU, chronologically. After a hiatus, I went back to it and unearthed an entire world of a Stabler-less sex crime investigation and D-ramamama
The concept of the show is bizarre - at some point, Dick Wolf had to sit down and tell NBC execs, “Listen, you know what I think I could sell in that 9pm block? Sex … crimes. The sponsors will go wild.” Yet, every time I hear that BONG BONG, I get settled in, ready to solve some crimes like a goddamn German Shepard. Stabler and Benson are such a great team, and then you have the crustiness of Richard Belzer and Ice-T that really rounds out a pretty great cast and sets up solid relationship structures. Flawed, complex characters within a fairly formulaic, simplistic narrative.
Once season 8 hits, the world of SVU gets a bit weirder. The producers and writers try to milk as much drama as possible - at the end of the 9th season, a lot of the final episode is dedicated to the jaws of life cutting Stabler’s pregnant wife out of a totaled car - and the will she/won’t she death predicament (of course she didn’t, because it’s NBC and America). Once Stabler leaves things get weirder - the narratives becomes more complex as we introduce more characters and go into their rabbit hole narratives. They must have also gotten a new crew, because even aesthetically the show has changed - weird filters, flashbacks, shaky tracking shots - somebody just got down watching some Bunuel films and they have some things they’d like to try. The show also relies more on spectacle than it used to, which for a show about sex crimes, gets a little iffy. For a program that uses “escalation” to discuss dangerous behavior, it seems like they should follow their own advice. Sometimes these spectacles work - like the Pablo Schreiber’s creepy serial stalker which reminds us all of chaos and broken systems (though my mother disagrees, ignoring the his return this season. I admit, I may be a bit dickmatized by Pablo Schreiber - which considering his characters, reminds me that I need to set up an appointment with my therapist).
I am television scholar. I have a PhD. I only started watching The Wire last year. I feel like the Keyser Soze of scholarship right now. It’s like studying film without having seen anything made before 1980 or saying “You know what FUCK Citizen Kane. Orson Welles can suck dese nuts!” I didn’t really care when The Wire was initially on - I was in my room watching Terror Firmer on repeat like a sicko - not watching quality television.
What kept me from watching The Wire? People who LOVE The Wire. There are those who love the show and those who are denial that the show ever ended. I was at a conference where we were discussing racial diversity on television and this dude spoke IN THE PRESENT when talking about The Wire. It had been off the air for four years. I acknowledged that it was important show - helping to usher in “quality” to television - that television had the capability of addressing institutional problems - broken politics, broken schools, racism, sexism, challenging stereotypes - but not in a “very special episode” type of way. I started watching last year, but this past two weeks I blazed through the last three seasons.
I get it. When it’s great, it’s great and even when it’s ok it’s pretty good. I can imagine watching it ten years ago and thinking “holy shit,” but starting after watching contemporary shows build off the legacy alters the viewpoint. It’s solid, but does indulge in some Sorkinesque pedantic proselytization. I also hate McNulty - the central figure from which the narrative pivots - I hate him as a character, I’m not a super fan of Dominic West (I guess… I’ll have to do more research)…and shhhhhheeeeeeeeiiiiiitttt there needs to be more hon talk and filth.
It only took a day to get through the most recent season of New Girl. I was going to watch it as it happened, but the first episode put me off that it took me awhile to get back to it. I loved the crushing that went on between Nick and Jess - mostly all things Nick I’m a fan of (because who isn’t in love with Jake Johnson. I called it after watching Paper Heart, folks…so get in the back of the line).
But the first episode this season, was a bit disappointing, mostly because it moved the narrative to surround their status as a couple. It was no longer about Jess as a individual, nor Nick as a dude, but more about their coupling. It’s just a slight difference, but one that makes the entire series’ focus shift. The series eased up a bit on their romance, though most scenarios placed stress on them, causing them to deal with it by the end of the episode, hug it out, make out, and go to bed. It also seems as if they upped the fat jokes this single and also made a caricature of Winston being a single dude. I kind of just wish he and Ferguson were just the happier ever after we wanted, though Winston and Ferguson ARE pretty much me and my cat, so perhaps this critique is mostly a knee jerk reaction for “SHUT UP, MERIWETHER AND LEAVE US ALONE.”
Their breakup by the end of the season has some potential fun for next season with whole range of awkward emotions like lingering lust, jealousy, and pretend “give a fucks” that turn to secret range. Hopefully this doesn’t lead its way into Ross and Rachel: The Millennial edition.