Monday, December 22, 2008

The Holidays: A Time for Discovering Brilliant Television

When I moved into my new apartment in mid-November, I didn't get around to calling my cable provider and managed to go one month without a cable TV connection. This is an unprecedented feat for Lisa the TV Addict, but the accomplishment was aided somewhat by my hellish exam schedule. [That isn't to say I didn't watch any television programming; I watched Fringe and Grey's Anatomy (yes, I've continued to watch for the time-being despite the demise of Callica) on].

Hours of free time and the Golden Globe nominations have inspired me to explore some shows I haven't watched previously, and I couldn't be more pleased with what I am discovering.

True Blood

When HBO Canada launched earlier this year, some people thought it a rather late arrival given that shows like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which brought HBO such notoriety, had already concluded. Well, I have discovered over the past few days that HBO's still got it, as does Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under).

What makes True Blood different from other pieces of vampire fiction is that within the series, vampires are no longer the stuff of myth. This allows for the strong analogy the show draws between the vampire rights movement and the civil rights movement with regard to both race relations ("separate but equal" arguments are raised) and gay rights (vampires who are seen as "unnatural" have recently "come out of the coffin"). Situating the show in Louisiana also allows the writers to highlight the ongoing racism and homophobia in the American South.

Anna Paquin, who plays the lead character, Sookie, is the only actor in the series nominated for a Golden Globe, but others on the show are certainly deserving. Rutina Wesley who portrays Sookie's best friend, Tara, is quite a scene stealer. She certainly gets some of the best lines. Nelsan Ellis is another stand-out. There are far too few gay African American characters in film and TV, so it is wonderful to see Ellis' portrayal of Lafayette. It's also refreshing to find a gay character who is established as being totally out of the closet from the outset of a series, so we won't have to suffer through yet another coming out story. Despite living in a small southern town, Lafayette is strong in both body and personality. The following scene is a highlight:

I have watched the first half of Season 1 (which will be available on DVD in March) and am happy to know that the show has been renewed for a second season set to air in the summer of 2009.

Mad Men

I have finally started watching Mad Men, another Golden Globe nominee for Best Television Drama, and winner of the same award last year. Seasons 1 & 2 are conveniently available on

The show gets off to a great start with a stunning opening titles sequence:

The art direction of the show is some of the best I've seen. The costumes, and hair & make-up are stunning.


I was able to catch the made-for-TV film Recount on HBO. I am perhaps more interested than the average person in how votes (don't) get counted in the age of the electronic voting machine, so this was a must-see for me, but my interest was especially peaked when the Emmy nominations came out and I found out that Danny Strong, who played recurring character Jonothan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wrote the screenplay.

Films that recount real life events have the difficult task of keeping people interested even though they know what's going to happen. Recount certainly succeeds in this regard. I actually got excited when the state-wide recount was ordered, even though I knew it wouldn't make any difference in the outcome. They did an excellent job of conveying how ridiculous the whole fiasco was.

I particularly enjoyed watching the film because in 2000 my interest in politics had not yet peaked, and I wasn't as aware of what was going on in Florida as I would be if the same thing happened today, so it was neat to see the re-enacted press conferences along with the behind-the-scenes interactions. The Golden Globe nominations for Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, Denis Leary, and Laura Dern are well-deserved if one had to pick and choose performances from such a well put-together cast.

Once I get through True Blood and Mad Men, I plan to start catching up on 30 Rock (I have no excuse for not having watched more than a couple of episodes) and Dexter.

Hit List:

No comments: