Back in June, I asked people what show I should watch. After some consideration, I briefly started watching Orange is the New Black, which I found basically fine but never got super into. I’ve watched 7 or 8 episodes at this point. I may well go back to it.
But over the past month, I did watch two series. The first was Narcos. This I find, well, OK. As a dumb evening entertainment, it totally works. As something that’s actually interesting, it’s far less effective. Really, it’s a wasted opportunity. It was originally designed to be a long movie in the recent famous international gangster biopic genre that has included Carlos and Mesrine. But despite the added time a television show offers, both of those films are a lot better than Narcos. They decided on two seasons. The first covers almost all the time Pablo Escobar is around, up to the point where he flees his private prison. The second will evidently cover the chase and eventual killing of Escobar. That seems a bit skewed to me and I wonder whether the chase will really be enough for a season. So when I say it’s a wasted opportunity, the makers of this show could have slowed this down consistently, moved it over 4 seasons, and actually said something interesting about Colombia. But there is almost nothing revealing about Colombia at all. The show is framed through an exceptionally boring character as the American DEA agent who describes all of this as Colombian magical realism where anything can happen. That’s a total fail. First, there were actual understandable political, economic, and cultural reasons why drug lords like Escobar rose up. It’s not that we can’t understand that story, it’s that the show creators chose not to tell it. Second, there’s nothing magical realism about this show. It’s just a gangster doing gangster things, if on an exceptionally violent scale. The politics of the show, which basically come down strongly in favor of the Reagan-era War on Drugs aren’t great either. This is a particularly damning indictment of the show.
But again, as a kind of dumb entertainment in the evening, it’s enjoyable enough if you don’t think about it and I’ll probably watch season 2.
I also went back and finally watched the John Adams HBO miniseries. I found this to be mostly alright. I can nitpick it–Franklin and Jefferson are almost stereotypes with the former being so witty and the latter using his tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots in line in general conversation, there aren’t a lot of well-developed characters outside of Adams himself. But it’s hard to see how it could really be better than this. It shows Adams to be the unpleasant crank that was his nature. There is a very Third Way atmosphere around the show as it portrays him as the reasonable leader splitting the difference between the revolutionary Jefferson and the megalomaniac Hamilton, suggesting Adams provided the real leadership this country needed, if only we could have such independent thinkers today, etc. But whatever. The last episode was highly unnecessary as watching his daughter die, Abigail die, and then Adams himself die is not very interesting and the rekindling of the correspondence with Jefferson not interesting enough to sustain it. Adams basically didn’t do anything in the last 25 years of his life. The show could have ended in 1801. But I am being too critical. Giamatti was excellent (and actually looked like Adams) and while at times Laura Linney didn’t have enough to do, she was of course quite good as Abigail. Tom Wilkinson was fine as Franklin and Danny Huston as Samuel Adams the same. So I enjoyed it a good bit.
I suppose this means I should pay attention to the Hamilton thing, although I am highly skeptical of venerating the creator of the Alien and Sedition Acts, one of the worst and most dangerous laws in American history. As I have said before, there is no leftist Hamilton for us to follow, although that’s more because we shouldn’t be taking 250 year old men out of context instead of finding more recent inspirations. But for Adams or Hamilton, it’s just useful to have people genuinely thinking about the Federalist Era through different forms of popular culture.
I guess I’m going to try this Jessica Jones thing starting tonight. The genre is not very interesting to me as I have no interest in comic books, but the reviews are positive and it’s only one season so a low investment. Although if this show ends with Bryan Cranston watching her choke to death on her own vomit, I’m not going to be able to deal. Will probably watch The Americans and Show Me a Hero after that.