Monday, November 14, 2005

More On TV (not "Moron TV")

Just watched the first three episodes, and I'm hooked.  Really excellent stuff.  Nothing much has happened, but they're doing an incredible job of setting the scene, establishing character relationships, picking sides.  Gotta love a show where every single authority figure is dead-set against the show's hero, on top of being in somebody's pocket.  I obviously don't know much about the projects, but it sure looks and feels genuine to me; maybe not as rough as real, and still within the bounds of TV drama, but real enough.

I gotta say, after watching four episodes, I don't think I can get involved in this show.  I like it a lot, but it's just too soapy.  There isn't much point to the proceedings, apart from saying (repeatedly) that 9/11 sucked for firefighters, and oh by the way here's their sex lives too.  I don't enjoy watching a likable character like Jimmy (Denis Leary) tear his life apart because he has no other choice presented to him.  The grit and rawness is admirable, and the acting from Leary and the supporting cast is really phenomenal, but the melodrama really undermines the realism.  Rescue Me does get serious "balls" points for not compromising on its character arcs, and for its uncanny ability to find the most vulnerable part of the groin and punch it repeatedly.  But that doesn't mean I want to watch it.

I can't help but think of British slum operas like EastEnders as Rescue Me's model.  EastEnders is basically a soap about blue-collar types in London, with the interesting parts of working-class life presented for public consumption.  It's admirable that an American show is taking a cue from British blue-collar drama, but why would I want to watch an American attempt at a British genre that I don't like?  Great show... but.

Solid.  Not incredible, nothing fancy or over-the-top, just a quality show that's both stupid and smart, reliable and irreverent, lovable and indulgent.  And it has the best premise to come down the line in a long, long time... small-town crook tries to correct all the wrongs he's done in his life, one per episode.  It makes no bones about being a sitcom.  It's not out to turn the genre inside-out, like Arrested Development, but instead shows a respect for symmetry, neatness, self-containment, and selling the moral of the story.  Its emphasis on heart and warmth is something that's been missing in sitcoms since Seinfeld.  It's moralistic, and entirely unashamed of it.  Love thy neighbor, stupid.  Chasing Amy's Jason Lee is largely the reason for that, selling Earl as a fundamentally weak person who exceeds himself by placing absolute faith in karma.

That being said, I don't know that I'd call it must-see show.  I have high standards when it comes to sitcoms, having been raised grown up as an addict on the crappiest of the crap (one word: Meepos), and I'm not sure I'll be adding this to my growing list of addictions.  It isn't as funny as laugh riots like Family Guy and Arrested Development, in part because it isn't trying to fly above everyone's head.  While Family Guy and Arrested are NY strip with a side of mushroom risotto, Earl is a big, juicy hamburger.  It's a well-made show that does the job.

Ha, just kidding.  Here's who I think should win.

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