September 2, 2008

Television to Look Forward to: Goodbye HBO, Hello Showtime

C'mon folks, it's not all bad. Not everything that comes out on the glorious idiot box has to be about narcissistic celebrity has-beens reveling in drug rehab or scrawny, pseudo-glamorous housewives and their fabricated beauty. We can escape the horrifying nose-jobs, the 200 calorie-a-day diets, the story lines that offer absolute meaninglessness. Good shows abound.

I've had my reservations about HBO in the past, mostly because they're too chickenshit to see a story through to completion. Too many great pieces have been snipped: Deadwood and John From Cincinnati to name a couple, all due to whatever perceived ratings not being reached. So maybe I should move on to Showtime instead.

Two worthy replacements, though entirely different in content: Dexter and Californication. Both exhibit excellent writing. Dexter's story from season one has been carefully manipulated, each episode a gut bomb of tension. Californication is an absolute clinic in dialog, with complex, deeply-flawed characters that the audience can relate to. The lascivious lifestyles of the main characters are not just mere entertainment, but an interesting psychological examination in addiction, midlife crisis, and trying to find a moral line in an otherwise bankrupt environment. Both shows begin their respective new seasons Sunday, September 28th.

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Colin said...

I read the other day that Duchovny has checked himself into rehab...wait for it... for sex addiction. A play for ratings perhaps?

I agree with you, recently HBO's ambitions seem to extend beyond their willingness to see things through to the end (let's not forget Carnival). I haven't seen Californication yet but am quite impressed with Dexter. 2 successful seasons without the need for cliffhangers! Granted, there are unanswered questions, but what keeps me coming back is the original writing, excellent performances and the fascinating characters not because I "need to know how it will all turn out". Unfortunately, it seems like it takes a lot of guts to base a show on these elements rather than simply taking advantage of people's curiosity. Will so and so finally hook up? Will they get off that bloody island? Who shot JR? I'm pretty sick of this approach. I don't go back to my favorite restaurants again and again because they refuse to serve me dessert until the next meal I eat there, I go for the complete experience knowing that,like before, it is bound to be great.

First time commenting. Sorry it took me so long.

Harry Tournemille said...

I heard about Duchovney's sex addiction admittance. Thought it was a bit of a publicity stunt at first, but it's not getting much news outside of that. Certainly explains the believability of his characters in both Californication and the film Trust the Man (similar character).

Formula sucks. HBO seems to recognize this, but lately they don't have the guts to finish something off. The complex characters we love become meaningless when their stories just disappear. HBO doesn't recognize that they're losing viewers by truncating shows early. These shows require a fair amount of vested energy--they're not bubblegum television. When they viewer is denied the payoff, they go somewhere else.

Of course, Six Feet Under is a good example of HBO doing something right. One of the best grand finale's I've ever seen.

Katie said...

I disagree that it was a publicity stunt. He checked himself in for an addiction to internet porn and sex chat rooms. I think his wife got tired of walking in on him and the computer. Although, he seems to have a recurring issue with sex addiction in his characters. Mulder was also a recovering porn addict and Duchovny played the narrator in Red Shoe Diaries.

As far as HBO goes, the most recent series I watched that caught my interest was Generation Kill. Unfortunately it was a whopping 7 episodes long. Band of Brothers and Rome, specifically, stand out as two series that held my interest enough that I bought the DVDs. Deadwood was good, but dragged after season one. Never bothered to get into the Wire, even though others rave on and on about it. John Adams I have mixed feelings about. The story was good, but Paul Giamatti was a little difficult to take as the title character.

So far the only Showtime program I've been able to stomach is The Tudors and even that often leaves me pissed off at the blatant historical inaccuracies.

Harry Tournemille said...

Guffaw, Red Shoe Diaries. That was before X-Files wasn't it? Corniest show ever to light the screen. But yeah, I only thought Duchovney's addiction was a stunt at first. The lack of press made me think it was legit--an indication he was keeping quiet about it aside from the initial release. Certainly helped his characters though.

Hmm, I found season three of Deadwood to be far superior to the other two. The Tudors didn't work for me at all. I'm okay with historical inaccuracies, as they do little to prevent a story arc, but over-acting will kill me every time. The few episodes I watched had me writhing.

The Wire was most excellent. Some great seasons. Band of Brothers and Rome were also superb, no question. But they also we self contained and tied up nicely.

Kent said...

Hey, check out Brotherhood on Showtime if you haven,t already. I'm half way through season 2 and enjoying it quite a bit.

Sam said...

This is a priori, but...serial killers and David Duchovny are supposed to make up for losing Deadwood and the Wire? Not in my world.

Harry Tournemille said...

What do you do then, Sam? Sit in a corner of your room and rage at the world until someone from HBO hears you and brings your shows back?

Perhaps the new shows are not meant as replacements but as alternatives. I'm looking elsewhere, is what I'm saying. Not waiting for a miraculous second coming.

While I lament Deadwood's disappearance, The Wire's finale was satisfactory in my books--err, make that my world.

sam said...

Actually, I watch this new show. It's called going to the library and picking up a goddamn book.

And as far as raging at They always have great stuff on. Whether it's the new Odenkirk/Cross comedy, or Generation Kill, or what have you. Lots to look forward to. Frankly I'm glad that they bothered to put something like the Wire on in the first place. There's no network that competes with them.

And I'm sure Californication is a fine show, but I won't watch it because David Duchovny emotes like a dead possum smeared across a scarecrow's ass. And now Christian Slater has a new show. How many one-star movies do you have to make before network tv will base a program around you?

We are being sucked into a black hole of talentless, soulless mediocrity, and the only solution is to turn off the fucking tube and demand more. Or do some serious room-corner raging.

Harry Tournemille said...

You're going to lecture me on reading? I read, good sir. Read plenty. And I wasn't a fan of Duchovney until Californication. Never really got into the X-Files, or any of his other work.

My beef is with HBO not being willing to see a project to its completion (Deadwood, John From Cincinnati). Of course their roster is good. But have you seen Dexter? At least the first season. It rivals Generation Kill. Showtime has some good stuff.

Of course this is all empty rhetoric. It's a matter of preference. And who can compete with a guy who goes to a library?

Anonymous said...

How about the new 90210?