OK, it’s time to round up the television that’s currently not just occupying my evenings and weekends, but owning me. And when I say television, I mean drama, and when I say drama I mean American drama, as American drama is all that matters. (For balance, and to prove that I am not being racist, I watched a double-episode of Silent Witness last night, and it was excellent in every way, written by Andrew Holden and directed by Sue Tully, so let’s bear that in mind.)
Sons Of Anarchy has just started on FiveUSA. (I sometimes wonder where I’d be without FiveUSA, FX, Sky1, More4, E4 and Hallmark. Oh, occasionally the BBC will buy something in, but they usually mistreat it, and us.) I had this recommended to me way in advance – it’s two seasons in, on FX, over there, with a third already booked – and I must say it’s filled the horrible vaccuum left by Breaking Bad: yet another British actor, this time Queer As Folk‘s Charlie Hunnam, essaying what sounds to my ears like an impeccable American accent as the heir apparent of a rough, tough Hell’s Angels chapter operating out of the Californian town of Charming. The pilot episode pushed all the right buttons, setting up the Sopranos-like business, run by ailing old bear Ron Perlman. It’s a soap opera that allows a peek in on another world, in this case, hairy bikers fighting internecine battles with other gangs, running guns, keeping meth off their patch (oh yes!) and being secretly sweet to their wives and in one case, being an Elvis impersonator. Created by Kurt Sutter, who did The Shield, it’s hard as nails and yet its underbelly is soft. (“Soft”, in fact, is what the gang think Hunnam’s character, Jackson, is – and “soft” is what got his legendary dad killed.) So, just one episode in, and I’m in.
House continues to be my current favourite. Although we’re up to date with Season Six on Sky1, FiveUSA have shown Season One and are now almost through Season Two, which is handy, as Season Three is on Hallmark (we’re saving it up until Two is finished, for fear of losing the plot.) In many ways, I’m blessed to have discovered it so late, and to have so much back catalogue to enjoy. Yes, yes, every episode is the same, but only in the sense that House and his mutating team have to solve a medical mystery and along the way make it worse, then make it better, then make it even worse, then make it better, running up what must be an extortionate bill with all those tests and treatments that don’t work, and yes they always discount lupus, but that’s part of the fun. The hook is not the mystery, it’s the relationships – between House and Wilson, House and Cuddy, House and Cameron, Chase and Cameron, Wilson and whoever his girlfriend/wife is, and so on. In the ep we watched last night, House vs. God, it was House and God. Brilliant stuff. Dazzling. One episode is never enough in one sitting. Always the mark of a truly magnificent drama (see: The Wire, The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, West Wing, Breaking Bad). I can’t believe I watched the first episode when it first aired, years ago, and didn’t like it. I didn’t buy Hugh Laurie’s accent. How ironic is that? Mind you, I didn’t like Curb on first viewing either, so I can’t be trusted. And let’s face it, Laurie has improved so much with time. In the current run, he’s skyscraping.
Is Nurse Jackie a drama or a comedy? It’s half an hour long, which in network TV terms means it is a comedy, and yet there’s no laughter. I say it’s best viewed as a drama, just like Up In The Air, was was mis-sold as a comedy, I think. Jackie seems to be the first big commission for creators Liz Brixius, Linda Wallem and Evan Dunsky, which makes its ease and sass and grit even more astonishing. Edie Falco is, of course, strong in the title role, and the action revolves around her double life and nursey skills, but once again, and this is a recurring aspect of great US drama, the supporting characters obviously receive an equal amount of attention in the writing and the casting and the directing. (I saw some of a quite lame-looking, and very squealy, romantic comedy called Bride Wars yesterday and it was clear that once they’d case Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, with a bit of Sex & The City cameo heft from Candice Bergen, they’d almost deliberately cast forgettable actors in the other parts, as if to highlight the talent of the two leads. You don’t get that feeling from great TV drama.) I won’t list the actors who bring so much to Jackie, but Merritt Weaver, who plays a flappy student, can steal a scene just by walking into a room and walking out again. Oh, and Eve Best, a British stage actress, actually plays a British doctor. That’s a novelty. What a shame BBC2 felt so excited about their new acquisition they ran it every night for the first week, and are now running it every Monday night. Isn’t that a form of sadistic cruelty?
And Glee, airing on E4 – even though it’s created by Ryan Murphy, who gave the world the gloriously preposterous Nip/Tuck (currently showing on FX), I had my doubts that this would tickle me. I was wrong to have those doubts. It’s arch and clever and camp and deeper than I expected, and manages to be sneery about the high school caste system while at the same time finding actual joy in the corridors. It’s not the pisstake I mistakenly took it to be. And there’s nothing ironic about the musical numbers – which are actually deftly staged – unless modern high school kids singing old songs that the grown-ups who write it remember from their childhoods is ironic. I sort of don’t give a fuck that it’s spawning hits in America – that’s something for the Fox accountants to rub their hands together about. Thanks to Jane Lynch, who is fast becoming the most reliable actress in anything, I fell for this pretty quickly, and if it really did hate High School Musical, it probably wouldn’t work. But it doesn’t. And it does.
For the record, I’m also watching Season Two of Prison Break on box set and still enjoying that. It’s not as if it’s any more ridiculous than Season One. Looking forward to the return of Hung. Gave the new season of Heroes a go, on pretty much the sole proviso that T-Bag from Prison Break is now in it, but there simply aren’t the hours in the day to get back into it, so that’s been shelved after one episode. I fear I may have to give the final season of Lost a crack, too, even though, as I’ve stated, there aren’t the hours in the day. Taped The Good Wife last night. High hopes for that. Uh-oh!
Oh, and I like Law & Order UK, unfashionably. And that’s, like, British. Yuck!
Oh, and if you think I’m not supernaturally excited about True Blood, returning soon to the mighty FX, you’d be wrong. I have been sent the first two episodes of Season Two, but I don’t want to watch them yet, for fear of being all frustrated at having to wait for the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. I may have to stop working and go bankrupt in order to fit all this in. Oh, and don’t moan at me for prioritising US drama over British drama, especially when I work in British TV and have written British drama and would love to write some more: I know we get the cream of their telly, and it’s not all The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, but enough of it is to make us feel ashamed of ourselves.
And I forgot to mention Mad Men in all the excitment, which has a lot to beat with Season Three this week on BBC4, as Season Two was sublime. *sighs*