TV Worth Savoring


So I realize I am probably late realizing the genius of this television series but I don’t have cable and fly somewhat under the radar when it comes to all things media but I have finally discovered Mad Men and can never wait until my next disc arrives from Netflix. Once it does arrive (I’m only on disc 3 of Season 1) I treat it like fine chocolate, something that is to be savored and not rushed. I wait until the kids are all asleep and the house is quiet and I have everything done so that I can devote all my attention to every finely written word of the perfect script.

I love television that serves somewhat of a purpose. In this case I am learning about the advertising industry during an era that is so foreign to me I cannot even imagine (notice the title is Mad Men not Mad Men and Women). There are so many lessons to be learned here from race to gender issues to greed, morality and power. Not only is the show entertaining to me as someone who is into design, but it is entertaining because of the casting. Each character is so unique and interesting to follow. Some you really empathize with and some really annoy. You become immersed.

There have been a few other shows worthy of renting by the series- The West Wing was talked about in my TV production classes as being the holy grail of good television writing and those teachers were probably right. My husband and I have almost made it through all of them. If you can get over Rob Lowe as a dork in the earlier episodes it can actually become somewhat believable even though you know that the President of the US is actually somebody else. Having something be believable has always been a big deal with me and television or movies. It drives my husband the sci-fi freak crazy but I usually feel like if it isn’t believable, it’s unwatchable. The West Wing is an exception to that in my book.

Deadwood (if you can stomach the crudeness) was so beautifully shot I would almost cry and it wasn’t because they were feeding someone to the pigs. The series really made you understand what it must have been like to live in the Wild West back then. What gets me is “back then” wasn’t even that long ago when you consider the history of the world. And South Dakota is no longer considered “The West”.

Carnivale was a short-lived series that started out a little weird but once we got going on it we became addicted. I think it’s because my husband and I wouldn’t mind joining a carnival or band of gypsies so with this show we just dreamt.

I learned about ancient history while studying art history in college. Then I watched Rome and it filled in all the gaps. Another beautifully shot, written and perfectly cast series.

Oh and if you love art then no life is complete without watching Simon Schama’s The Power of Art. I think I cried during the Turner episode. Netflix has it but your library might as well.

Our family chooses not to have cable so that we can limit some of the crap our kids (and actually we ourselves ) can catch glimpses of- including news and advertising. The downside is I have to wait for it to come out on video. It’s a small price to pay however for quality and peace of mind.

A few weekends ago we ended up at a random Dairy Queen in the suburbs. We were meeting relatives there and were trying to have a good attitude about it but when we walked in I immediately noticed a giant flat screen on the wall. There was no place you could sit without seeing or hearing this giant screen. I can understand having a TV in a sports bar but a family ice cream restaurant? Forget trying to have a conversation without distraction- the flying graphics and barrage of pop radio snippets was an all-out assault on my family. And it was just a Twins game. But the game had yet to start and part of the intro included “highlights” of the manager YELLING and SCREAMING and having a full-on meltdown over a foul ball call or whatever. My son, who has just turned 3, was staring up at the TV wondering why that man was acting like that and I was wondering why it was being glorified.

If anyone has small children and lets them watch sports I don’t expect to hear them ask why they have ADD (the graphics) or behavioral problems (the adult temper tantrums).  But this is all a little off subject and I apologize for the rant.

There is good TV out there, but not enough to sustain a cable bill every month. What are some of your favorite shows?