A few weeks back my family and I took a vacation in Florida. We surfed, we swam, we walked, we talked, we ate, and we watched TV. Lots and lots of TV. All that activity wore us out by sun’s end and there wasn’t much else to do of an evening but watch television. I cut the cable cord several years ago so it was pretty excited to see all those channels. For about five minutes anyways. Then I realized there was nothing on. When did TV get so crappy? It seems like everybody has their own reality show now. There are Real Housewives from nearly every city in the nation (which begs the questions – who are the fake housewives? and why do the “real” ones bear no resemblance to any form of reality I’ve ever witnessed?) If you are a redneck or a swamp person, or a former rock star, or a good-looking rich woman who prefers to wear as little as possible, or a little kid dressed like a princess you can get your own TV show now. If you run a pawn shop, or a flea market, or a roadside stand, you can star in your own show. If you buy stuff or sell stuff or collect stuff, they’ll put you on TV.
A billboard in Jackson proclaims to me that the “stars” of Swamp People are coming to town and I can meet them if I like. These people are celebrities now, with fans who want to meet them all for apparently living some godforsaken soggy hunk of dirt. I have long been a defender of modern TV. There are tons of really great shows doing things only movies did a few years ago. From the Sopranos to Deadwood to Mad Men, television from the last decade or so has given us truly amazing, artful shows. The thing is, I guess that stuff floated to the top and that’s where I’ve been drinking, not noticing the giant cesspool of garbage the great shows are floating in. Why everone doesn’t cut the cord is beyond me, but I try not to worry about it.
Thank God for Netflix and Hulu and other means of getting the good stuff without having to flip through the bad.
Enter Homeland: The Complete First Series. Call it my “Pick of the Week.” Watch great actors like Damian Lewis, Claire Daines, and Mandy Patinkin move through a modern tale (the plot involves a U.S. war hero coming home after a long capture and being suspected by the CIA of being a turned terrorist) with enough suspense and twists to keep you up for weeks after. This is television worth watching. No, more than that; this is television worth getting seriously involved with. Extras include some deleted scenes, and making-of featurette and a prologue to season 2.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season: I just finished the first season of this Prohibition era gangster series and while it started out a bit slow, by season’s end I was begging for more. And here it is. I’ve heard very good things about season two so I’m pretty excited about it hitting the DVD shelves. Extras include audio commentaries and a variety of featurettes.
Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season: A regular series about zombies that was based on a popular graphic novel and backed by Frank Darabont had such potential when it started, yet so quickly turned into a mess. By the second season, Darabont was gone and the story got more bloated and dead than the brain-hungry stars. Honestly, I stopped watching about midway through the second season, but at some point I’ll pick it back up in hopes that maybe they can turn it around. And because I can never really turn my back on a zombie for too long.
Extras include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, webisodes and some featurettes. Oh and there’s a limited edition case that looks like a zombie head with a knife in it.
Quadrophenia (Criterion Blu-ray): Though I dig the album, I’ve never seen the movie. The Criterion people went all out loading it with a new transfer and lots of extras including a new audio commentary, interviews, behind-the-scenes clips and photos, and an essay by critic Nick James.