If you have read my earlier blogs, then you know I have an utter disdain for television in its current form, especially those shows that travel under the guise of "reality" shows. Most of the programming America has come to love and cherish over the last decade is embarrassing at best, with a scant few really good offerings that fall through the cracks now and again.
HBO has created a good array of shows to fill up their library, and at one time had what I consider to be the finest 3 television shows ever to air - all running at the same time. "The Sopranos", "The Wire", and "Deadwood" were remarkable feats of entertainment, unsurpassed at any time in televised history. Not everyone saw these shows, or their brethren, such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Six Feet Under", "Oz", "It's Garry Shandling's Show", "The Larry Sanders Show", and "Sex and the City" because you had to pay for them. I found it to be more than worth it, even when I couldn't afford it.
While network or regular cable television has had its hits over recent years ("Arrested Development", "Rescue Me", "Sons of Anarchy", "The Office", "Mad Men", etc...), there seem to have been more misses - especially since the turn of the century, and I have found myself turning more and more to the pay-cable stations for good TV.
HBO has kept things going, though not quite as well as during their heyday, with "True Blood" (which I love), "Big Love", "Real Sports", Entourage", and my personal favorite, "Flight of the Conchords". Starz has jumped into the act with "Party Down", "Crash", "Head Case" and "Hollywood Residential". All good shows, with some trailing off the past few seasons ("Entourage", anyone?)
Showtime is the king right now, though. Hands down.
"Weeds" is classic. "Californication" is tremendous. ""The L Word", "The Tudors", "Nurse Jackie", "Brotherhood", "United States of Tara" - all heavy hitters with something original to say. But the best of all, and I think the best show on television right now, is "Dexter".
Michael C. Hall plays a great serial killer. And a great blood-spatter analyst, nerd, jock, combat expert, and bowler. He has the look, the brooding mystery, the awkwardness, and the physicality to pull off all of Dexter's flaws and attributes, both as the tortured killer and as the burgeoning family man employed by the Miami PD. He's a marvelous actor, and he has carried over from "Six Feet Under" with another challenging, career-defining role.
Hall's real-life wife, Jennifer Carpenter, plays his sister Debra on the show, and has become one of my favorite actresses in a very short period of time. She has taken her character from humble beginnings as an annoying and incompetent little sister, and has created a multi-layered young woman, driven by a desire to succeed and be accepted by a predominantly male police force. She is the real deal, a beautiful young actress who is seemingly at ease both in a starring vehicle or in a supporting role.
The rest of the cast is amazing, with Julie Benz gaining more attention daily, Lauren Velez showing her tough exterior and soft side simultaneously, David Zayas and James Remar showing why they are two of the best character actors alive, and plenty of side players who bring it every week. There are also the guest stars who appear and put in some of their best work, like Keith Carradine, Jimmy Smits, and John Lithgow, who is as good a creepy serial killer as you will ever find.
With all this going for it, it should come as no surprise that the writing is first rate, and the story arc keeps you moving along at a brisk pace. Plot lines and circumstances are often implausible and far-fetched, but the actors and episode directors always seem to pull it off without a hitch. This is a seriously good show, and no punches are ever pulled. Ever.
That aspect of the show is why I keep coming back to it, and why it didn't surprise me that this current season ended the way it did, by allowing the Trinity Killer (Lithgow) one final blow against Dexter - the taking of his wife in a ritualistic bath of blood. While I was incredulous that the show's creators would so abruptly and shockingly remove rising star Julie Benz from the mix, and throw the next season of the show into certain chaos, it is the series' confident embrace of risk-taking and suspense that keeps me glued every Sunday night.
"Dexter" goes out on a limb, and sometimes it doesn't make it all the way back without a sidestep from the path of practicality, but the chances it takes are exciting. The situations and predicaments of the main characters grow more perilous with each episode, each scene - no one is safe, no one is given a pass. The show's creators expect their audience to think, and expect them to grow each season as the characters themselves develop; a concept which seems altogether foreign to mainstream television.
The season finale this past Sunday night left me depressed and taken aback, watching Dexter cling to his blood-soaked infant son as he cries, having just seen his mother alive for the last time. At that moment I thought I didn't want to see Dexter any time soon, and perhaps never again. I felt that the show's writers had pulled a dirty trick of sorts.
A few moments later, though, that anger, resentment, and sadness just made me want to see it more. I can't wait for the next season to begin.
I hope that broadcast TV comes back to form one day. I hope that the era of "reality" wears itself out. I hope that the next great wave of creativity is just around the corner.
Till then, however, I will simply wait for another "killer" season of cable shows. I'll keep my subscription up-to-date.
|Johnson City Christmas Parade|
|The Annual Christmas Parade In Downtown Johnson City, December 3rd 2010.|