Monday, January 07, 2008

Back in the Game

Exciting weekend past, but even more excitement coming up in the next two weeks. A bit about The Wire and newspapers, then onto randomness…

The Wire premiere last night

It’s amazing to me the amount of love that exists on the internets for this show, and I couldn’t be happier. Each season of the show addresses another layer of Baltimore, and for the fifth and final installment, David Simon has targeted the media. Not surprisingly, the newspapers are unhappy they’re being portrayed in the same light as corrupt politicians, ineffective police and murderous drug dealers. David Zurawak of The Baltimore Sun – the real one, not The Wire version – makes a completely off-base criticism of the show’s look at newspapers, writing “the newsroom scenes are the Achilles' heel of Season 5 - with mainstream entertainment sacrificed to journalistic shop talk, while fact and fiction are mashed up in the confusing manner of docudrama.”

One of the main trends in the show is that there are all kinds of “shop talk,” whether that be about drug distribution, political campaigning, unions or test scores. The entire point of the show is to introduce, with great depth and realism, issues that normally would not be encountered by your average citizen. Answers Simon in an interview with Nick Hornby you should probably read:

“Which brings us back to Average Reader. Because the truth is you can’t write just for people living the event, if the market will not also follow. TV still being something of a mass medium, even with all the fractured cable universe now reducing audience size per channel. Well, here’s a secret that I learned with Homicide and have held to: if you write something that is so credible that the insider will stay with you, then the outsider will follow as well. Homicide, The Corner, The Wire, Generation Kill—these are travelogues of a kind, allowing Average Reader/Viewer to go where he otherwise would not. He loves being immersed in a new, confusing, and possibly dangerous world that he will never see. He likes not knowing every bit of vernacular or idiom. He likes being trusted to acquire information on his terms, to make connections, to take the journey with only his intelligence to guide him. Most smart people cannot watch most TV, because it has generally been a condescending medium, explaining everything immediately, offering no ambiguities, and using dialogue that simplifies and mitigates against the idiosyncratic ways in which people in different worlds actually communicate. It eventually requires that characters from different places talk the same way as the viewer. This, of course, sucks.”

(This sounds a lot like one of Steven Johnson’s argument in Everything Bad Is Good For You which leads to the passage you find at the top of this blog. Speaking of Johnson, I just finished Ghost Map, which is a great narrative nonfiction about the 1854 cholera outbreak in London and the discovery of how the disease is contracted. It also weaves in how this discovery helped to make urban living better, how bacteria spread and how groups of smart people can talk themselves into completely illogical concepts. Great stuff.)

I won’t get into great detail about The Wire, but over the course of its ten episode run I will certainly direct you to proper areas to read about it and discuss it. Unless something really changes this season, I can’t imagine it falling from its position as one of the greatest television shows of all-time, and a testament to the entertainment and social commentary capabilities of the early 21st century. With the writer’s strike apparently going on forever, there’s no excuse not to start renting the first few season and immersing yourself in the city of Baltimore.

And the rest….

  • A few putrid NFL games over the weekend, but what are you to expect from a league with maybe four or five good teams? Jacksonville might give New England trouble on Saturday night, as they have two running backs capable of exposing the aging linebackers and a big enough defensive line to get pressure on Brady without sacrificing precious pass defenders. I wouldn’t be surprised if both the Giants and Seahawks pulled off the upsets, although a Charger victory, on the road without Antonio Gates would be truly surprising. (And therefore, most likely to happen.)
  • The Cloverfield hype is getting pretty exciting with this fake news clip about an oil rig being destroyed by whatever the monster is. It’s absolutely amazing they’ve kept everything so under wraps, although this final eleven days will be the true test. I’m not a big J.J. Abrams guy, but I’ll almost assuredly be there on opening weekend, hoping that it’s just Rampage: The Movie.
  • We don’t get into politics much here, but I can’t ignore the joy felt by me and friends on either side of the aisle as Mitt Romney was quadruple-teamed on Saturday night at the New Hampshire debate. After busting out negative ads towards a lot of his competitors, it was fun to see the varied deliveries of McCain, Huckabee, Thompson and Giuliani all focus on one carefully crafted, illegitimate product. Heck, the Concord Monitor didn’t bother writing an endorsement in late December, but instead just asked people not to vote for Romney. It will be enjoyable tomorrow night when a big McCain victory delivers the deathblow to his campaign.
  • When we get further into Oscar season, I’ll expand on my thoughts on all the nominees, but as of now – without seeing There Will Be Blood yet, due to its rather limited release – my early favorite is Juno. It could have been too smart or too sweet, but it glides, seemingly effortlessly via the skills of Ellen Page, through a satisfying medium. The supporting efforts of Cera, Simmons, Garner, Bateman, Janney and the girl who played her best friend were all great, and in a shocking twist that may offend some Coen Brothers fans, there was an ending coherent with the narrative of the film.
  • I’m taking Ohio State for the upset tonight, although I wouldn’t be surprised if LSU blows them out of the water. I just like Tressel over Miles and think Chris Wells doesn’t get nearly enough attention for the season he put together (1463 yards, 14 TD’s, nearly six yards a carry). I’m just hoping for an entertaining game, at the very least.
  • New Challenge! January 23rd! We'll discuss the sorrow in this Real World season ending on the same night Gossip Girl goes into a potential eternal hiatus on Wednesday.

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