Saturday, January 30, 2010

Must-See DVD

I read something when I was in my teens (oh, those halcyon salad days of youth!) that basically posed the question, why is it that people are supposed to respect you when you're well-read, but they're supposed to look down on you when you've watched a bunch of TV? Why is there no such thing as "well-viewed"?

Which, after a couple weeks of getting caught up with Weeds and getting to know Californication, and talking about Lost, is a timely question. There's a sense of televisual urgency at my address. My mom got my dad season one of The Wire for his birthday. I've been reccommended by at least two people in the last two weeks that Dexter is must-see TV. I finished off the rest of Glee and read the recaps of Freaks and Geeks on Television Without Pity, the incomparably excellent source for amazing retellings of episodes - imagine your pithiest friends telling you watch you missed when you went to go visit your sick aunt in the hospital (you idiot) and missed the finale of Chuck because you were busy being a human, with emotions.

Remember "Must-See TV," the Thursday-night lineup on NBC? It had Seinfeld and Friends, which are now almost quaint in their straightforward approach. They're still excellent shows, but in the face of those rowdy cable channels, the networks just can't compete. The TV on the upper channels is so good: fresh writing, interesting actors, and multiple storylines that don't treat the audience like we're morons who can't follow an episode of Starsky & Hutch without getting confused. Television's always been entertaining; now it's got a certain amount of critical and artistic heft to it as well. I'd guess it started when The Sopranos made HBO, just, like, a major player (although that might just be my perception. HBO's been around for a long time, and The Sopranos began when I was in my early teens and just starting to pay attention to this kind of thing. However, I do feel that HBO used to a synonym for "boxing matches and soft-core porn"); it also has to do with DVDs and renting things by the season instead of waiting around at home like a jerk every week. I will gladly give up a couple days in order to power through a season of Big Love, because it's fun and funny and feels like a movie instead of a TV show.

I think that's the appeal in this new generation of TV: it feels like a movie. I don't really watch all that many movies, because movie theatre seats are supremely uncomfortable and I can't lie down, plus 120 minutes is just a little bit outside my attention span but anything less and I feel ripped off. TV, on the other hand, gives people both more and less: shorter little bumps of TV, but longer overall storyline. The episodic nature of TV is what makes it appealing, because you don't have to commit to a whole nine hour block - you can do it in 22-minute chunks.

TV used to be gauche, this lowest-common denominator experience that both united the masses and made us feel stupid. With this fractured explosion of cable channels, however, network TV is over: they're littered with identical procedural shows (CSI: What?, etc.) and dumb-ass reality tripe. But the real action is just starting. This is a new generation of whip-smart and sexy TV, TV that swears and fornicates and shows some T and A and brings us great actors and great writers and over-the-top set design and lush family drama: this is must-see TV.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Winter Of My Discontent

Right now, I have a bunch of tulips sitting in a vase on a side table. They look rough - obviously, they're dead, with the tips of the leaves all dried up and the petals on the floor. And that's sort of how I'm feeling today.

Even though the weather has been amazing and warm, I'm still getting all winter-blah feeling up in here. It's awards season in Hollywood, and while they're off wearing gowns and being tanned, I'm marooned in my house with only my sweatpants and a freezer full of Rolo ice cream to keep me company. I guess it's better than last winter, when my walls were infested with raccoons and they kept having passionate, soap-opera sex and domestic disputes that were clearly audible through the plaster and lathe. Audible, and frightening when they started screaming at each other at three in the morning and it sounded like a horror movie was happening on the other side of the (thin!) wall and it was dark and I was roused from my pre-slumber drifting with icy-cold hands of fear throttling my gut. That was fun.

Winter is just a blah time for some people. That whole Seasonal Affective Disorder - which I don't suffer from, thank god, or else I would be permanently parked under on of those embarassing UV lights that are supposed to "cure" or "fix" your winter blues by bombarding you with vitamin D, or whatever folderol voodoo science it does - is very relatable. I'm less interested in doing things like riding my bike. My metabolism suffers. Everything just sort of winds down. In the summer, people are excited! To be out! Of the house! But come January, most folks hunker down and wait it out.

It's not helping that I've gone out twice in the last two days. Alcohol is a depressant, and while it may get the party started in the evening, it totally bums me out the next day. All I've done so far today is watch episodes of Glee and take a bath. That's not productive. It's not exactly a hangover - I'm not wrapped around the toilet or sweating out vodka or anything - but it's a subtle unbalancing of the day. It's like walking on a big ship. You know something's a little unsteady, but everything looks normal, so it feels extra weird when the looks and the feeling of reality don't quite overlap.

Booze or winter blues, the feeling's the same. There's a frustrated urge to sleep through most of the day, to spend all my time wrapped in a duvet and sighing. That's what I'm doing right now, actually. It's not helped by moaning about it, either. Unlike spats with friends or trouble at work, the feeling of discontent that happens in the short winter days isn't one that can be talked out. We just have to wait. Wait until the buds are on the trees, the grimy snow finally melts away, the clocks have been adjusted, and the parkas have been stashed in the closet for the season. Winter is a waiting game, and unfortunately, today I feel like I'm losing.