Sunday!

The Dead Zone between “Blockbuster Summer Movies!” and “Let’s Get That Oscar!” is also called “New Television Season”.

There are, apparently, 44(!) upcoming comic book television shows. Now, not all of them are showing up in September 2015 and not all of them are based on Superheroes but I find myself somewhat taken aback at the sheer number of properties that are zeroed in on what would have once been my target audience.

I was about to write a “and out of all of them, I only watch…” and then once I saw that there was a list (and a “ooh, I can’t wait for that”), I realized that I am still smack dab in the middle of that same target audience.

What surprises me is that Sturgeon’s Law seems to be holding up despite the sheer amount of content being created. Instead of having the Big Three producing television, we’ve now got the little billion and, even so, over and over and over again, I hear how we’re in a “golden age” with so many quality shows being created.

Of course, I thought Dukes of Hazard was part of the not-crap back in the 70’s and it’s pretty much unwatchable today and so I’m not entirely certain that we, here and now, are able to accurately judge what will hold up in the future. (For example: I don’t think that The Sopranos holds up. I don’t see people watching past the first two seasons in 10 years if they watch it at all.) As such, I don’t know that we’ll be telling our kids or grandkids that they need to watch half of our must-watch television today (The Walking Dead, for example, will be unwatchable in fifteen years because of the horrible decisions being made by pretty much everybody. It’s like an unfunny Gilligan’s Island.)

And so, as I look at the Golden Age before us, I’m trying to figure out what will hold up 10 years and I’ve got no idea.

I’m pretty sure that we won’t be watching our Superhero television shows but we probably will be watching House of Cards and Breaking Bad. (Will Portlandia even make sense in a decade?)

And we’ll still talk about All in the Family.

So… what are you reading and/or watching?

(Photo is “Movie Night“, taken by Ginny, used under a creative commons license.)

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46 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. I just started The Luminaries by Elanor Canton.

    Yesterday I got KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps by Nikolaus Waschmann from the library. We shall see if I am in the mood for 626 pages of depression.

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  2. Two points: Yes, we are in a golden age in the sense that a comparatively large number of providers and producers are trying to create good, or even great, shows. This is not the historical norm. Back in the day, providers were perfectly happy to put out a mediocrities that would each take in their one-third share of the audience. It doesn’t follow that uniform wonderfulness results, but that is to be expected. The creation of a quality show is hard. There are going to be more misses than hits, even with the best of intentions.

    Second: being good and holding up are not the same thing. It is perfectly legitimate to be tied to the moment. You may be right that The Sopranos hit at a certain point in history, and won’t age well. But that doesn’t mean The Sopranos wasn’t as good as we thought. Just that the show was tied to its moment.

    Finally, my third of two points is that I’m not sure re-watching is a correct criterion here. Modern TV series is a long-form art. We no longer expect a self-contained 30 minute (22 with the commercials taken out) episode with its beginning, middle, and end standing alone. We have season arcs lasting many hours. I might rewatch a movie, but that is only a two hour commitment. I have a hard time finding time to watch series the first time. There are very few that I even consider watching again. This is not a quality judgment so much as a resource allocation matter. (It also saves money since I rarely buy the DVD sets.) I own and have watched several times the complete runs of Buffy and Angel. Oh, and Xena, my guilty pleasure. But these are about it. I am considering investing in Dr. Who.

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    • But let’s swap out “Dukes of Hazard” for “The Sopranos” in your middle second point. Can we still say the same thing?

      There’s a very particular kind of “good” that transcends cultural moments (I mean, we could watch The Godfather (1972) again this afternoon and it’d still be awesome while “Butterflies are Free” (also 1972) would… well, it wouldn’t be awesome. (Though there are some very interesting conversations we could have about it… but we’d be talking about the culture rather than the movie.)

      This kind of good is better than the good that requires you be in the cultural moment, it seems to me.

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      • Many people who watched The Sopranos also spent time thinking about it afterward: What did it mean, what was Chase going with it, what did it tell us about ourselves and society? I doubt this was true of Dukes of Hazard.

        Related: At the time, I thought the first two seasons of Six Feet Under were some of the best TV I’d ever seen. (Three started to drag, and four was just awful.) I’m a bit reluctant to rewatch it and see if I was right.

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      • But let’s swap out “Dukes of Hazard” for “The Sopranos” in your middle second point. Can we still say the same thing?

        This would seem to be moving toward Timely=Good, which in turn is at most barely distinguishable from Popular=Good. This is certainly not my position. Rather, I consider Timeless to be a subset of Good.

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  3. I finally finished Burqa de chair. Next up will be a collection of Joanna Russ’ critical essays. I’m also dipping in and out of Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013.

    I’m watching the Man in the High Castle pilot right now, and have also been watching Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in bits and pieces.

    It was more a social week than a reading and watching week. :)

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  4. I had been in a “pickup and start, then put aside after 100 or so pages” reading groove, and even with by bad habits (having 10-20 books going at once) it was getting out of hand, as the bedside table was getting overloaded.

    So, time for a change up. Tried a little SF (Blindsight, but, Vampires? no…) a bit of classic English crime or some Wodehouse, nope. Then I hit on some French trash! Syndrome E ! Fun, not really trashy, somewhat modern french politics, decent thrills, mediocre translation… Just what I needed.

    Watching, slowly as I don’t binge, Top of The Lake which is OK, decent acting, a bit mumbly but not bad for the location. So far a solid B.

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    • I was in a rut of not much enjoying the books I was reading, and so finding reasons to do something else (e.g, hours of surfing the ‘net), when I picked up Fire in the Hole, a collection of Elmore Leonard stories (the title story being the basis for the TV show Justified.) It was immense fun, and rejuvenated reading for me.

      Now I’m back to the full Discworld read (just finished Monstrous Regiment: 9 more to go), and going to make another attempt on the latest Tim Powers, which I’ve never gotten more than about 50 pages into.

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      • The last Powers book I read was Three Days to Never, while not his best, was quite good, and I always love Leonard (last I read was The Hot Kid.) I had been in a big 20th century English phase (Greene, Maughm,Waugh etc.) and I think I just burned out. I thought SF would do it, and Blindsight is supposed to be top notch, but Vampires… It just took me right out of the picture. Hence the French thriller, total left field move, and it is working so far, making me look forward to reading again.

        Surfing the ‘net can be so dangerous… as it allows the mind to wander out to instant gratification. I tried reading Ebooks, but it just allows me to go down to many rabbit holes, and I find myself not reading anymore but, well, surfing the ‘net.

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        • For whatever reason, the vampires in Blindsight actually worked for me – it was such a fun WTF-is-this-even-doing-in-here? element that I think it paradoxically made some of the headier stuff go down easier.

          Before I read the book, I had seen some faux-academic and -marketing materials, purportedly from the genetic engineering firm that would soon re-create the sub-species, on Watts’ site. Fun PowerPoint conference presentations and stuff. So they weren’t a total surprise, which probably helped.

          Ah, it can still be found:

          http://www.rifters.com/blindsight/vampires.htm

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  5. I’ve been slowly working my way through The Prefect, the last remaining Alastair Reynolds book I’ve yet to read. I keep getting distracted by games (first Shadowrun: Hong Kong and now Dragon Age: Inquisition thanks to the fact that I picked up an Xbone the other day). Any other Alastair Reynolds fans here?

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  6. Also, of the “Golden Quad” of TV shows of the last 15 years (The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men and Breaking Bad), I believe the latter two will still hold up. The Sopranos, ironically because it was the progenitor of the others, will be seen as too “primitive”, if that makes any sense. The Wire will still be amazing, but it will be too anachronistic for future modern viewers.

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    • RE: Wire being anachronistic – you mainly mean the tech (like beepers and such) and slang/fashion? Because I don’t see the main problems depicted in the show going away any time soon in the US (weed may be more or less legal in some places, but the hard drugs featured on the show probably won’t follow; and poverty and corruption and bureaucratic inertia and capitalistic/democratic pressures we will have with us always).

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          • Period Pieces, it seems to me, tend to age better than their “in the moment” cohorts (unless, of course, they’re so very “in the moment” that they become Period Pieces in their own right (e.g., All in the Family)).

            The exceptions tend to be when the writers put characters from The Modern Era into period costumes and have them judge the characters from the past as being backwards.

            Those irritate the ever-living crap out of me.

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            • I disagree. Period pieces tend to age less well because they are filled with the conceits and prejudices of the age in which they were produced, and normally more pointedly so than the in the moment pieces.

              Like, the ur-example of this is Birth of a Nation – a technical marvel with a horrid thematic thrust. Bringing it down a few notches, most people think Dances With Wolves has not aged well either.

              Also haircuts. Too many period pieces are filled with coiffs of the decade they were filmed, and not the decade they occurred. M*A*S*H, I’m looking right at you on that one.

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    • Also, I tend to think Sopranos will hold up, only because people can’t get enough gangster pictures. It’s kind of an evergreen genre. Scarface isn’t even very good, yet that thing is still on all the time and people still watch it.

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  7. Has anyone been watching Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel?
    I adored the books but am terrified of even considering looking at the TV series.. it seems to me the books are so slow and faux-academical that it’d make awful television. Opinions?

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  8. Meredith Gray may be the least sympathetic name character on a TV show this side of Seinfeld and Hannibal. I am struggling to think of a time when she got into a feud with another character and she was in the right. I can’t.

    So yeah, still on Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve decided I’m just going to knock it down and get current on it before moving on to Richard North Patterson.

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