What I’m watching…
My Name is Earl: They haven’t yet managed to equal the pilot, and I thought that the last episode was a little bit weak. Still, I have confidence; the concept is strong, and they’ve demonstrated they can be real, real, real funny.
The Office: I’ve been a bit happier with Steve Carrell this year, and Rainn Wilson has really begun to come into his own, which is unsurprising given his previous work. My favorite part of the show remains the sweet relationship between Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski.
Lost: The first two episodes were weak, the third and fourth stronger, and the fifth quite good. The nerds are out with the long knives, though. It always happens this, way, usually two or three years before a show actually starts going stale. Nerds who just last year had furiously mashed there keyboards in message boards around the internet trying to divine the meaning of the numbers now furiously mash their keyboards in competition to be the first to declare “Worst. Episode. Ever.” For my part, I’ll try to be a bit more patient.
The Simpsons: I don’t want to talk about it.
Arrested Development: Forgot about it because of the baseball playoffs. I fear it is not long for this world.
Rome: Probably deserving of its own post. I’ve been pleased with the way that the show has developed. In the last two episodes, Ciaran Hinds (as Julius Caesar) has really begun to display a clear personality, which I think is crucial for any depiction of this period in Roman history. The role is an exceptionally difficult one. The normally good Jeremy Sisto was astonishingly bad in the reprehensible Julius Caesar miniseries. I remember being displeased by Joseph Mankiewicz’ version of Julius Caesar because, even though Brando was magnificent as Antony (“these honorable men”), Louis Calhern seemed arrogant and stupid as Caesar. Thinking more on it (and re-reading the original text), I think that the flaw is with Shakespeare, and not with Calhern or Mankiewicz. Brutus says “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more,” but we never, from the text, get any solid understanding of why Caesar was deserving of such love. What you need is an actor who can simultaeneously depict danger, arrogance, competence, intelligence, and accomplishment, all the while leaving enough character to explain how someone in his position could make the mistakes that he did. Hinds, especially in the past two episodes, is doing a creditable job. His reaction to the death of Pompey was remarkably well done, as was his acceptance of the surrenders of Cicero and Brutus.
I am not displeased with the historical accuracy. For the most part, the writers have identified the crucial events and compressed the unnecessary. We don’t see, for example, Caesar’s year long campaign in Spain before Pharsalus, because it doesn’t matter. The depiction of Rome the city seems appropriate to me; a wealthy core surrounded by slums. Most importantly, the series has not seen the need of inventing new characters or of cutting out particularly important historical ones. The writers have, cleverly, channelled much of their creativity into a pair of soldiers who have only left us their names, but manage to be part of every great event that involves Caesar, Antony, and the rest. The adventures of Vorenus and Pullo are certainly false, but their creation isn’t too far afield from the way Robert Graves imagined the Caesars in I, Claudius. On the question of historical accuracy, Kierkegaard disagrees, largely because the Romans behave in an manner insufficient to the degree of virtue likely found in a pagan, imperial, slave-holding society. Which is to say that they don’t behave in the manner he thinks modern day Republicans do. Whatever.
I quite like the rest of the characterizations, particularly James Purefoy as a charming, brutish Mark Antony and Kenneth Cranham as the doomed Pompey Magnus. Oh, and incidentally, I love and plan to marry Lyndsey Marshal, who plays an excellent, wonderful, excellent Cleopatra.
Law and Order: As I’ve suggested before, it’s a little bit stronger this year than in previous. Still not quite enough for me to set the DVR.
Deadwood: Through the magic of On Demand, I’m halfway through the second season. I must confess that the series didn’t really capture me until Swearingen’s illness at the beginning of the second season. The concern that Al’s lieutenants have for his health was weirdly touching. William Sanderson is great as E.B. Farnham.
The Sopranos: Nothing needs be said.
Entourage: Every episode has a happy ending.
Battlestar Galactica: More on this later.
Shows I wish I watched but haven’t had the time:
Curb Your Enthusiasm