It’s Not Just TV…

If you know me in real life, you know that I watch a lot of television. I write about it on occasion, but I figure it has been a while since I’ve written anything truly substantial on the topic. Since I will be watching this season’s final three episodes of my favorite show Breaking Bad, I thought I would spend a post or two discussing some of my favorite shows. With the fall television season upon us in a few weeks, future posts will be my thoughts on upcoming shows this fall, both what I am excited to see return, as well as new shows that I might be checking out. But first, as the title implies, I will be spending the first post discussing the awesome network that is HBO.

I haven’t had direct access to HBO since I left Virginia in December, so there have been a handful of shows that I have missed in the meantime. Fortunately, I have a couple of friends that have been able to give me access to the various programs through different means, allowing me to catch up on some of the critically acclaimed — or panned — shows. This post will generally cover the five shows that I went out of my way to watch over the past couple of months. Personally, I think that all five shows are pretty decent, although one of the shows has devolved into campy humor at its finest.
Game of Thrones – I have to admit. Last year during the debut season of Game of Thrones, I couldn’t watch it for some reason. HBO went out of its way to try and get me to watch it, including massive marathons over all six versions of HBO — save HBO Family — that I had on my AT&T U-Verse service at the time. I typically like fantasy things, but I never got around to watching it, distracted by other things at the time. However, when I finally got around to watching the first season earlier this year, I jumped in with both feet. I have now read all five of the currently published books and I am eagerly awaiting the next books, as well as the next few seasons of the television adaptation.

HBO does a decent job in adapting the books to television, though they may have limited themselves by trying to jam each book worth of material in 10 episodes. This is changing by next season, with the third book’s content being split over two seasons of the television show. Hopefully, this will allow for them to do more with the story. It is odd to see a lack of certain special effects with the budget afforded to them by HBO. The first season was lacking in a battles, and the “Mother of Dragons” seemed to lord only over baskets that held dragons. March 2013 cannot become soon enough with the debut of the next season.

Girls – I honestly don’t think Girls was written for me, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy it. Admittedly, it started out slow, but as the season progressed, certain characters began to stand out from others. I hated Adam in the first episode and much of the next handful, but by the end of the last episode, he was probably my favorite character. Adam Driver‘s performance probably had something to do with it, but Adam became a more sympathetic character. Lena Dunham‘s Hannah, the main character and played by the primary writer on the show, really started to grate on me by the end. You start to feel pity for Hannah, but she gets kind of annoying.

The other supporting characters each have their individual moments to shine, except maybe Shoshanna. Jessa gets a short block in the middle, and Allison Williams‘ Marnie starts to shine once she dumps her loser boyfriend and comes to grips with her singledom. Again, I don’t think I am the target audience, but I can appreciate strong writing and performances.

Veep – I think this is a show that uses its presence on HBO to full effect, with plenty of four-letter words thrown in for effect. I think that it could have been done on another network, but other networks passed on it before HBO decided to air it. There are some great performances, especially from Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the title role, but Tony Hale, Matt Walsh,  and Anna Chlumsky are strong in supporting roles. One thing I like about the show is that it doesn’t try to fit itself into real life like the next show on this list. It is truly a farce about how things would be in the Vice President’s office if everything was patently ridiculous. I’m interested to see what direction it takes next year, but I could also see it not sticking around for much longer.

The Newsroom – As much as I appreciate Veep for taking place in a fictional timeline, one of the things I don’t really like about Newsroom is its place in our timeline, though a few months behind as they happened. The pilot episode takes place when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, and the final episode takes place between around August 8, 2011. Other events covered are the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, Anthony Weiner’s wiener, the Casey Anthony trial, the rise of the Tea Party, and other events that occurred during that time frame.

The reason that this is a problem is because of Aaron Sorkin‘s heavy-handedness with the material. I personally don’t find “talking head” news that compelling, and to think that there is as much posturing going behind the scenes seems a little far-fetched. Like every other Sorkin project, it gets a little preachy and tries to make the characters more important than they probably should be. Similar to Studio 60 on the Sunset Stripall the character’s personal lives are more important than the fake program that is being put on the air. Plus, there is an awful lot of cursing that wouldn’t normally be tolerated in the workplace, so it doesn’t feel as authentic as what I think a show would truly look like. Other small quibbles, like why is Don Keefer always working with the fictional News Night crew even though he works on a different show is hard to understand.

That all said, based on the coverage of the Tea Party by “Republican” Will McAvoy, I will be interested to see what they do with the 2012 presidential election when they get around to it. I also like the developing relationship between Lisa and Jim, and any show with Olivia Munn automatically gets bonus point in my book. It will be interesting to see what news they cover next year when it returns, i.e. what happened in the fall of 2011 that will be important enough for Will McAvoy to cover on his pretentious news program.

True Blood – Another admission about an HBO show: I used to actually look forward to my weekly dose of True Blood. However, over the past couple of seasons, it has become patently ridiculous. When it was just about vampires trying to “mainstream” in America, I bought it. When Sam Merlotte was revealed as a shapeshifter, I could deal with it. Werewolves? Werepanthers? Fairies? A Vampire Goddess? Djinns? Enough is enough. By introducing all the supernatural characters they could, they end up elevating characters that had no business being elevated to “star” status — I’m talking about you, Terry Bellefleur — and taking away from the central story line.

Yet I watch. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the absurdity this season. Between all the supernaturals and corny lines, it is still somewhat enjoyable. I would have liked to see Tina Majorino stick around for a bit longer, and the flashback to Pam’s origins is something that should be done with most of the vampires, though we have seen the origin stories of our primary vampires already. With Nora, Eric the Viking’s sister/love interest, sticking around for next year, it will be interesting to see if Godric shows up again in her origin story sometime next year. Hopefully, they will wrap everything up next year and focus more on Thrones, but I guess we’ll see.

Next week, I’ll recap Breaking Bad with a look forward to the handful of shows I am looking forward to in the fall. That should be fun!

Until next time…

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