A few other pieces of televisual entertainment I’ve consumed over the last few months:
The Shadow Line. In the onslaught of quality US Drama it’s been quite a while since I watched any hailing from these shores, but I thought The Shadow Line was a really decent effort. A tough, bleak, labyrinthine thriller that wisely avoided the hyper-real approach cornered by American heavyweights like The Wire, The Shield, and Southland and went for something much more psychological, theatrical, even at times slightly surreal. Some really great performances and writing, some stark and stylised photography, some neat twists, and an unflinching lack of sentiment. Good music too. All in all it put me slightly in mind of that 80s masterpiece of paranoid thrillers, Edge of Darkness, and that’s got to be a good thing.
Breaking Bad, Season 2. An arresting portrait of a harassed but basically decent guy’s descent into, well, evil, basically. The violence is unsettling, the treachery and manipulation scarcely less so, the humour ultra-black, the portrait of modern society way more banal but every bit as damning as The Wire. Stone me, it can be grim watching, though, and one really does have trouble finding anyone particularly sympathetic to cling to. The chances are high when you do start feeling sympathy for someone, they’re about to do something unforgivable.
Damages, Season 3. Still watchable, and Glenn Close is still great as ultra-ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes, but overall Damages seems to have got less good with each season. Admittedly, season 1 really was good, but this time around the central case was a lot less compelling, the cast was a lot less strong, the basic approach of flashbacks within a framing story seemed a bit tired, and although they still have a knack for misdirection and surprise, overall it seemed to lack edge, and WAY too much time was spent on loose ends left dangling from previous seasons, unconvincingly resolved. I’ll probably give the next one a go, but they need to get their mojo back.
The Good Wife, Season 2. In some ways this legal drama, pitched into the gulf between Damages and Ali McBeal, is very straight-ahead, commercial stuff, but sometimes it can show a nice, morally ambiguous edge. Julianna Margulies convinces as the moral centre but you’re never quite sure who else you can trust. Politics, law, and even private life are dirty games, cases are rarely right or wrong, good(ish) people are called on to do sleazy things and rarely say no. There are some weak performances but mostly strong, occasionally a little twee but it shows its teeth often enough to keep you guessing. I enjoyed it. A good indication of how far the middle ground of TV has come on over the last few years…