Thursday, September 08, 2005

TV: Navel-Gazing

Now that the cable networks’ coverage of Katrina is back in sensationalized, personality-driven mode – and plagued by the excesses itemized by Slate’s Jack Shafer here and here – I am once again someone who doesn’t watch TV news. I get by just fine without it. If there’s an emergency, I’m sure one of those nice people in the torch-wielding mob will fill me in on the details.

So I’m back to my usual TV diet: shows about show business.

HBO’s ENTOURAGE has been dismissed as shallow. Salon’s Heather Havrilevsky even said that the Katrina coverage pointed out how useless the series is. All I know is that a program where the biggest problem was whether a movie star would be able to commit to James Cameron’s AQUAMAN after Mandy Moore broke his heart came as sweet relief.

ENTOURAGE’s accuracy has never been in doubt. It’s also one of the best depictions of male friendship on TV. And Jeremy Piven continues to dazzle as superagent Ari Gold, particularly now that he’s no longer on top of his game.

I stuck out THE COMEBACK for Lisa Kudrow’s performance and the show’s hypnotic level of insider’s self-loathing. The later episodes tapped into some truly dark emotions and complex relationships, but the finale struck me as obvious.

It’s interesting to note that THE COMEBACK’s reality show within the show bears a striking similarity to Kathy Griffin’s MY LIFE ON THE D-LIST. Sitcom actress struggling to stay in the spotlight, wryly supportive civilian husband, gay best friend, fabulous house ... it’s all there.

My favorite thing about the slight but amusing HOPELESS PICTURES, IFC’s animated series starring several members of the Christopher Guest Repertory Company, is that each episode is only twenty minutes long. It’s like something on the old Dumont Network.

The best program about this business of show – and right now, the best thing on TV – is set in the theater. And in Canada. SLINGS & ARROWS, on the Sundance Channel, is about backstage shenanigans at a Shakespeare festival. The cast is stellar: DUE SOUTH’s Paul Gross, a young Rachel McAdams, Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney (also one of the writers). So is the breadth of its subject matter. It’s about art, commerce, drama, comedy, love, madness and ghosts. The series is available via On Demand, and Sundance will run a season one marathon on September 17.

SLINGS has me in the mood for the Bard lately. I finally got around to watching A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, which has been parked on the DVR for weeks. Rosemarie insists she recorded it because she’s a student of Shakespeare, not because it stars Christian Bale and THE WIRE’s Dominic West. I have every reason to accept this as the truth.

It’s a fun adaptation with a buoyant spirit and at least one instance of magic. Sam Rockwell, as an actor in a play that has gone off the rails, somehow goes from buffoonery to breaking your heart in a single take. The mystery of how he did it is why acting continues to fascinate me.

Miscellaneous: Links

I’ve put bullets in plenty of unproduced screenplays. I didn’t know you could get paid for it.

Here’s how writing for reality TV works. Personally, I’d rather sell Lady Kenmores at Sears.

This article on the zombification of grasshoppers freaked me out, and proves that if intelligent design is true, the intelligent designer has a warped sense of humor.