21 July 2006

everything ends, evidently

For as much practice as the cast of Six feet under had doing it, I think at least half the cast still had trouble convincingly crying even in the show's final season. Or maybe it was me laughing that made their sobs seem so fake.

The show's creators wisely stopped the show after five years, likely fearing the prospects of further catastrophes to heap upon the poor Fishers (and friends). I certainly can't think of many more trials and tribulations they could experience. The writers of the DVD menu summaries cleverly covered many of this season's surprises, but the show's writers could've done them a favor and left some out.

On a technical level the show is quite good. The cinematography features lots of good composition and great shots*. Too bad the plot and characters detract and distract the viewer from noticing.

So why did I watch it? This isn't the sort of 'so-bad-it's-good' fare that would normally attract me. Well, it wasn't always 'so-bad'. The show's first season is quite good, and inconsistent in tone with the res tof the series. Almost every episode of every season begins with a death and fades to white, but only the shows of the first season also featured semi-parodic commercials for mortuary products that were easily worthy of some of SNL's efforts.

In almost all of the early shows the characters find themselves talking to the dead, and early on it's cleverly done. Later on, one episode in five does the same thing and somehow almost always lacks the same punch as before.

Am I sorry I watched the latter four seasons? I don't think so, but I'm not sure. The series last few episodes and finale were highly-discussed on the 'net, and to have missed them left me feeling a little excluded.

That said, I still haven't seen most of the last season of The X-files, and there's a show I enjoyed wholeheartedly for most of several seasons.

Six feet under started out better than many shows, and ended well and appropriately, but I'd like to see more of the sort of effort that went into the very last 15 minutes than the couple thousand that preceded them.

* and many not-so-great ones. For some reason, at least this season, there are a lot of shots of coversations with bright backlighting, giving the impression that the characters are glowing or have halos. And that they're badly, unnaturally lit.

7 March 2006

beeb boys behaving badly

Just because I don't, as a habit, watch regularly-scheduled television shows doesn't mean I never see any; I just don't see them when everyone else does. When the library purchases the DVD sets, well, that's generally when I get to see the shows, new and old. Sometimes I wonder about their choices, though. It took them over a year before somebody (unless it was my requests, late) managed to persuade them to buy Firefly, for example, and that's a show with a fairly decent fanbase. Something like the only-available-on-BBC Manchild seems like it would have an even narrower appeal, but I can't really judge their choices.

I can, however, judge the show. It wasn't all that great. Knowing, as I did, nothing more than what was written on the front DVD cover (I hardly glanced at the back cover), I watched what I expected to be "Sex and the city, but in London, with fifty-year-old men." This didn't sound very appealing, but I know that front cover pullquotes are meaningless at best and more often misleading, so I bascially approached it with no preconceptions.

Well, it wasn't really my cup of tea. While I enjoy seeing an ostensibly all-knowing, well-put-together narrator's life not quite going the way he seems to think it is, I'm not really all that interested in the doings of four upper-crust forty-and-fifty-something men. The appeal isn't universal enough for humor centered around 'male enhancement', the proper selection of paintings as investment, motorcycle brands favorable with today's youth, and the merits of pipe-smoking. More serious bits such as one fellow's mother in a vegetative state seem tacked on to introduce a bit of gravity, and it's not unbelievable just unnecessary. Then again, so's the whole show. For me. There are a lot of boats out there, and it may well float yours.

I find myself preferring the episodes of another BBC series, Jeeves and Wooster, but saying that is like picking between the burnt brownies or the cake with much too much frosting. Both are things that are supposed to be good, but something along the way things have gone wrong. This isn't to say that Jeeves and Wooster is bad, per se, but to say that it's not as great as I'd like it to be.

Again, different boats for different folks, perhaps. For the uninitiated, Jeeves and Wooster is a decade-and-a-half old BBC series adapted from P.D. Wodehouse's turn of the century stories about the British upper class, particularly one Bertram Wooster (played by Hugh Laurie) and his valet Jeeves (Stephen Fry). Jeeves is pretty much everything you expect him to be, from hearing the name: polite, reserved, intelligent and, well, Jeeves-ish. I recall watching Mr. Belvedere as a child and then working at Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips as a teenager, so I can recognize the sort of character Jeeves should be, even though I've never read any Wodehouse.

I'm working on watching the third season right now, and it's something of an improvement over the second. Many of the episodes of the first and second seasons center around the making and breaking of marriage engagements, not normally the subject of shows I watch. Romantic entanglements, tussles with the law (well, minor chicanery like stealing bobbies' helmets) and newts all appear, but what keeps the show going is the good chemistry between the leads. Nevermind Bertie's ridiculous friends (among them we find Stiffy, Gussie, Rocky and Tuppy) or his overbearing Aunt and her near-unreasonable demands; the show is about getting them (and Bertie) out of silly jams with solutions serious and otherwise.

The third season picks up briefly with a change of venue to swinging New York during Prohibition, but sadly that is cut short midway through and its back to soap opera territory. I'll still seek out subsequent seasons, but I'm in no rush.

Frankly, I'd rather see House on DVD*, though it might be a bit jarring to see Hugh Laurie older, speaking with an American accent.

* Sadly, the library hasn't procured a copy of any seasons of House yet. Guess I'll need to put in a request for them to ignore.

4 March 2006

random non-work stuff

It has occurred to me that I haven't mentioned any vanity license plates lately. Today while we were out driving, I happened to see quite possibly the ultimate one again, VAN T PL8 in amongst the ones named for the cars (CMBENZ), their drivers (LEX N ROB) or their hobbies (XBOX360... I kid you not). Every time I see VAN T PL8 I think about writing about it, but only now am I remembering to do so. Sorry about that.

I can't remember everything, after all.

There comes a time in every American's life* when he or she stops watching Saturday Night Live. I can't remember when it happened for me, but I know that it has happened, and that the new cast is over half unfamiliar to me. The humor hasn't improved all that much since I stopped, but as always there's the random funny bit scattered between too-long-and-unfunny skits (any sketch that starts out introducing a home video is a bad one, and now there too lazy even to add the fake camcorder viewfinder stuff to the frame. Tsk,tsk) that makes finding the pearls a question of patience.

Then again, my plan otherwise was to watch half an hour of some bad movie tonight, so, for the sake of research, let's call it, I watched SNL. But I can't really say anymore that I watch it, know what I mean? Because I don't and even though I did for a bit tonight, I won't.

Now, if I could somehow acquire a DVD filled with all of the Smigel cartoons over the years (and yes, I mean every single one) that would be a wonderful thing. The show itself lends itself more to the random rerun or best-of compilation episode, but it wouldn't work well as a full-season DVD set (my TV delivery method of choice). I've enough other DVDs to watch already, anyway.

* Well, almost every American. I may be overgeneralizing. I finished Walter Kirn's excellent Mission to America and its protagonist is a boy who grew up in a secluded Montana town surrounded by religious doctrine but no televisions. I can only assume that, given the fully realized characters and their believable foibles, that the story was a thinly-veiled autobiography. Bravo, Walter, for telling the true tale of what you did before becoming a jet-setter seeking that million miles. If you don't know what I mean, read his Up in the air. You should probably read it anyway, because it's a good book.

7 January 2006

the best TV series I've watched all year

There are so many good things I'd like to say about the old BBC series 'Allo allo..

Too bad I'm too busy laughing my ass off.