Thursday, May 19, 2016

I Hate Must-Watch TV

Well, hate is a big word. I am frustrated by it because I dislike being hooked by The Tube. But I also am not very good at binge-watching such as a whole season on Netflix or Apple TV.

Unfortunately that doesn't keep me from getting trapped, hooked, reeled-in. It started back with Roots, I, Claudius, and Henry VIII series in the 70s. These mini-series productions forced me to be home and watching TV. Ken Burns' documentary series productions have been absolutely must-watch. Sherlock and Wolf Hall have been similar in recent years on PBS. Downton Abbey didn't do it to me. I could take it or leave it- my world wasn't over if I missed it. (I hear via PBS that the BBC has started filming Sherlock, Season 4. It should be a few months until it airs. Good. I can escape must-watch for a while. Yeah, right!)

In any case, AMC has done it now with The Night Manager, the British import of a John Le Carre novel starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. It is a well-produced and directed spy thriller that is over-the-top in quality and tension. Hiddleston's Jonathan Pine is an enigma wrapped in charm. Laurie's Roper is just plain creepy. Laurie is showing acting chops that makes it all the more surprising that he spent all that time doing comedy. He is remarkable.

As in any good spy thriller movie or Le Carre novel tension can build slowly, have a brief moment of explosion, then settle back into quiet only to build again. In the first episode I found myself getting bored with the pace, even though I know Le Carre's style. When the explosive scenes occurred I turned to my wife and said, "Well, I'm hooked."

I sat entranced on Tuesday with the incredibly horrendous scenes of a show of force armaments party in the desert. My wife was having great difficulty watching. I asked her why she responds to this like that when all the TV shows she likes almost always have murder and mayhem? "Those are cartoons," she responded. "This is great acting!"

I have tried very hard to resist The Night Manager. I (intentionally) missed the first ten minutes of week 4. I tried surfing on the computer while it was on. Nothing has worked. I have been hooked by Le Carre, Hiddelston, and mostly Laurie. They know how to make it work. They drive me crazy because I dislike being shackled to the TV schedule. But I WILL be there next week to see how they bring all this to a conclusion. I know anything can happen and that "happy endings" are not necessarily part of Le Carre's style.  But I will be satisfied by a remarkable series.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
A note about this past Tuesday's show of force in the desert episode. I was reminded, in the very best ways, of what I still consider the best TV series ever- M*A*S*H. Take M*A*S*H's set and drop it in the midst of the Afghan desert. Make Frank Burns less odd and more cunning. Add lots of sinister to Alan Alda's Hawkeye. Then take away all the comedy and replace it with reality. The insanity of war that was at the heart of M*A*SH will explode into intense and horrendous color. There was even this grotesque scene of Hugh Laurie's Roper hitting golf balls in the desert while wearing a bathrobe and combat boots. M*A*S*H modernized for the 21st Century.

No comments: