Television Thread (NO ANIME ALLOWED)

Speaking of the Girls re-evaluation…

I just watched the final two seasons and finished the show. Incredible. I can’t think of many other shows that get a huge second wind like this (maybe Breaking Bad) and just absolutely blossom in the final seasons. I have tons of thoughts on the show regarding “realism,” the backlash to the show, some quibbles regarding how the show dealt with Jessa and Shoshanna, the needle drops… I won’t bog down the thread as I try to sort through all my thoughts but maybe I’ll work through those thoughts and share something later

I do want to say that those final few episodes are an absolute gut-punch though. Just absolutely devastating and yet relatively restrained. The show delivers this crushingly realistic conclusion but also denies the audience any catharsis about it. I turned my TV off and just sat on my couch for an hour and a half trying to regroup. And because the show is unwieldy, of course they delivered what would be one of the greatest series finales ever… as the penultimate episode, only to follow it up with a bizarre pseudo-spin-off tone shift for the actual finale. It’s such an unconventional choice but it feels pretty perfect for the show they built around it.

I think the show is going to stay with me way more than I anticipated it would. Those final two seasons are so well-written and did some stuff that would read absolutely buckwild on the page but works so well as television (the scene where Hannah realizes; the flute recital into “Desperado” in 6x03). It’s going to be a while before I can shut up about it. They need to put Marnie Michaels in Kingdom Hearts or something. I’m so serious

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Been meaning to follow up on my frustrations with season 3, which I finished last week. It ended much better than it started, I just wish it hadn’t taken half the season to get there! I fantasize about a world where The Wire is structured more like an anthology, and the main characters from season 1 stay confined to that season (where they are good and interesting!). I’m with you admiring the more zoomed out approach, so it’s a shame the first half of S3 is bogged down in soap opera stuff like I mentioned earlier, but also I don’t ultimately think pulling McNulty and Barksdale back into focus serves the show’s goals (even if it is dramatically effective). Imagine if they were just background characters while we spent most of our time with Bunny Colvin and Dennis/Cutty. (Make the boxing gym half the season!) They’re the most interesting characters in the season, and it’s clear the writers agree, given where the season leads; the election procedural stuff is also interesting. I’ll admit I was spiritually pointing at the screen going “dude it’s Brother Mouzoooone!!!” when he showed up, but that felt pretty much beside the point of what we agree makes the show good. Structurally too I think a more pared down approach would have made it better, since as it is every episode felt both exhausting for jumping around between eight different plot threads and also insufficient for how little all the jumping around advanced each of those stories. In any case I’ll start season 4 soon, I think I’m gonna like it

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the Grapes of Wrath of our time

Both the episode you’re talking about there and the second-to-last episode still are like, massively prominent in my head.

That second-to-last one especially because I was 5 years older than series-premiere me at that point but also I’m now writing this 7 years after that episode and the way it so accurately depicts the way friends fall apart, decay and just simply wither is just kinda soul-crushing in its truth and reality.

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I think season 4 kinda gets at the anthology idea a little more by shifting the focus to different characters and letting others take a backseat. Season 4 is the undeniable gem of The Wire - I really loved it even though I had a lot of the same issues with the rest of the show that you laid out

Exactly! When I call it restrained I’m talking about how they kinda have that meeting in the bathroom to hash things out but it also feels like a conversation unfinished. Shosh walks away from the conversation pretty early. There isn’t a massive blow up and catharsis… We’re not really reassured in any way since it seems like yet again the four girls are making the same mistake that they’ve been making the entire time. The Jia Tolentino article lays it out well:

“The answer is that, as a rule, they don’t know how to see other people as individuals, rather than as appendages of their own self-images. Even when Shoshanna, in the penultimate episode, tells the other three that she’s tired of their exhausting, narcissistic interplay—‘I think we should all just agree to call it,’ she says—she’s merely trading them in for people who might reflect on her better, girls with “‘obs and purses and nice personalities.’”

Shosh obviously can’t see the others as individuals in this scene, but neither can Hannah who is again making things about her. Marnie is kinda doing the same thing as Shosh in reverse by clinging so tightly to the foursome. Jessa too, sorta, both by acting as if she’s above it all and by still demanding that they see her how she wants to be seen…

So the last time we see them all together puts them all down a pretty sad road. But also the show can’t quite fully give us that confirmation because it still gives us a kernel of hope(? are we even rooting for the four of them to be friends at this point?) that they might find each other again. Hannah and Jessa finally talk a little after the bathroom scene… the four girls dance alone at first but then together… It all just makes the dissolution of their friendship rougher and more realistic because, well, when things like that happen in real life, there aren’t neat answers to any of the questions - is this the right choice? will we or should we make the effort to make up? will we ever find each other again?

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I think that “you’ll understand when you’re older” is definitely a phrase that gets weaponized by parents who don’t want to explain things to their folks, I do think that, the more things one experiences over a life the more commonalities they tend to see across pretty broad swaths of experience.

It’s with that sort of wisdom that we watch an episode like that second-to-last one, and like, what informs the nostalgia of looking back on super duper tight-knit groups of friends that I had in my teens and twenties: “this too shall pass”.

Anywho it’s a good show!!!

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all this sopranos, wire, and girls talk has got me in the mood to rewatch the REAL best show of all time

deadwood

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If that show hadn’t had such an awkward if still pretty good ending, it would be better than The Sopranos. Even if, like The Wire, it also does not have a James Gandolfini.

… You know, now that I’ve used that phrase twice so far, does any other show have a James Gandolfini?

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unironically breaking bad but gandolfini still trumps him. also kinda ian mcshane in deadwood.

did you watch the deadwood movie?

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Ian McShane comes close, yeah. If every show has a Gandolfini he was definitely Deadwood’s.

If you mean Cranston in Breaking Bad, I dunno if he meets that level, even if I also love Breaking Bad a lot. Just something about how Gandolfini was, just, so shockingly convincing, and just electric… it’s that verisimilitude to it. Cranston was still just playing a character, even if it was a shockingly good performance, and let him do Bong Joon Ho style jarring shifts in tone to exercise his comedy chops. Aaron Paul was perfect too, yo. He had that kind of verisimilitude to the performance, but, Jesse Pinkman as a character doesn’t reach those Tony depths of humanity and electricity.

Yes I did, and I did enjoy it a lot from what I remember. It just didn’t feel quite like a wholly satisfying conclusion to an entire series, more like an epilogue to a series that still didn’t really get a proper ending.

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Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have something very important in common, too, now that I think about it–the best outright dramatic acting performance in both of them comes from the female leads!! Can you believe that, not only did Rhea Seehorn have to sell a tragicomedy opposite Bob Fucking Odenkirk (from Mr. Show) as The Joke Lawyer Guy from Breaking Bad, but she sold it left right and fucking centre??

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yeah that’s true—i don’t think there’s anyone that reaches jg’s raw magnetism and power as an actor (on tv, at least). i think i said breaking bad because whenever cranston is on screen you get a similar “oh shit what’s he gonna do next” feeling that really helped the rhythm of the sopranos.

mcshane is similar to jg in that he inspires compassion and disgust in equal measure (to me at least)

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Yeah I see what you mean. Although with Walter White, it’s more like, “what the fuck is this fuckin bozo gonna do next,” for me Cranston is so perfect in that role because even with the shaved head crime lord “I’m in the empire business” schtick, it’s that he can’t escape his own inherent ridiculousness that keeps me compelled. Especially in moments where he’s scrambling to pull off some dumb or horrifically cruel and inhuman shit in private, and he’s dashing around in his underwear or some shit, it’s very subtly all Malcolm in the Middle, and it’s fantastic.

With Tony Soprano, though, that tension is so much more scintillating, because it’s an almost primal fear he causes. Watching Tony Soprano is like watching a silverback gorilla that somehow got loose into the art gallery, and there’s an exhibit on of Jeff Koons’ most punchable sculptures

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Shiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeet maybe I should re-watch Deadwood with my partner… I watched it while she was gone, and a lot of stuff I watched during that time was just kind of in one ear and out the other. All I can really remember about it was that just every line of dialogue was so scrumptious. It’d probably be fun to just get a Deadwood script and just sit in the dark somewhere and read them out to yourself. I am very normal

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Although right now I am watching Beef (2023), just watched the first episode tonight after my partner kept telling me I needed to watch it. It’s really good and I’m really excited to keep watching it. I didn’t know Steven Yeun could look so much like a Korean Loser Dude hurtling ungracefully towards Ajusshihood. How did they transform him so?? That’s the magic of the movies baby

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very well said lmao. and yeah you should absolutely rewatch deadwood. fucking hang dai my friend.

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Seriously what the fuck how did they get this guy:

…to look like this:

Real ones know how close he is to these:

image

image

it starts strong but gets really bad. It has the disease a lot of these shows do where they don’t just carry out the strong central premise, they have to pile on all these insipid “character arcs” that wind up as a tornado of wimpy tv writer shit

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I’ll cross my fingers and hope to disagree…

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Has this thread ever discussed I May Destroy You? I’ve been thinking about it a lot again recently (and by extension listening to Something About Us by Daft Punk on repeat).

It’s insanely good. The writing is truly spectacular and avoided a lot of issues that cropped up during the “golden age of television” (navigated social issues without becoming performative; episodes never failed to be episodes of television instead of just blobs of writing; narrative choices e.g. flashbacks were deployed deftly). For several reasons, I’m not sure it really gets the full credit it deserves as an all-timer (miniseries; British; mostly unknown actors; didn’t have much marketing/promotion; uncomfortable subject matter). It’s certainly up there though. It’s a bit tough to compare miniseries to full-length series but at least for me it way outguns something like Breaking Bad

It’s almost certainly going to be ranked #1 on a lot of “Best Television Shows of the 2020s” lists that will come out at the end of 2029. At that point not only will the show be an undeniable classic but it’ll be a somewhat nostalgic choice, niche-ish, not too on the nose, and not subject to recency bias - the ultimate listicle choice

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