During a heated bit of trolling at Mindless HQ, Brother Bobsy expressed his incredulity that “anyone watches US TV drama expecting it to be somehow better than TJ Hooker (which at least had Shatner and Locklear in it).”

Curious little Mindless that I am, I decided to expose his statements on the overwhelming silliness of American TV drama to the True Facts contained within my might brane… 

Properly Good American TV Dramas:

  • The Wire - Or ‘How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us’ part 2.  Like David Peace’s best work – his GB84 tells part 1 of this story, of course – The Wire ends up feeling even more mythological for its reliance on things ripped from the real.  If season five presses its argument home too hard then it’s a testament to the strength of the show that it’s details remain as crooked and cryptic and free even at the point where the system is finally completed.
  • The Sopranos - Embodies everything that’s annoying about so much popular serious drama, with its faux cinematic stories about serious men hurting each other (some of them are quite ugly,  THEY DO CRIME!) but nevertheless stays far ahead of its peers by allowing visuals, plot lines, and actors as much focus as they demand.
  • Mad Men - All the strengths of the Sopranos divorced from the macho genre weaknesses, plus this show deals with the protagonist problem that is inherent to this type of TV show more confidently than some of the reactions might have you believe.
  • Twin Peaks - Half of this is admittedly not so good, but the best stuff is still excellent at a lot of things that the rest of the shows on this list have approached only tentatively.
  • The first three episodes of the third season of Battlestar Galactica - Watch the first two series so you get the full impact of this story, which represents the point where the American military imagination somehow manages to conceive of itself in the Al Qaeda position. Watch the rest of it if you want: it’s neither as good as it threatens to be nor as bad as its worst episodes might suggest.  The board game is still totally amazing though!
  • Gilmore Girls - One of the few successful uses of the chatty American dialogue style, probably because it aspires to pseudo-Shakespearean fencing instead of pseudo-Shakespearean posturing.  Horrific warning signs such as “quirky,” “offbeat,” and “irreverent” somehow manage to stick without turning everything they touch to shite for a change. Also one of the few American TV shows to display and awareness of and willingness to investigate ideas of class, how money effects relationships, etc.  You will all disagree with me about this one but I am not wrong.
Good American TV Dramas
  • Girls - Generation Vice on autocritique, manages to be both massively cringey and genuinely empathetic at the same time; an exceptionally strong show, if narrow.
  • Generation Kill - Girls for boys.
  • Breaking Bad - Starts slow but builds to a sustained tension high before tipping all the way over into wonky Batman logic. Limited re-watch potential, but fuck me was it good, awful fun for a while there! (Richard Cooper makes a case for the first four seasons being Properly Good here.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Yeah yeah yeah, but fuck it, I don’t even give a toss about Joss Whedon anymore but this is the best adaptation of that Stan Lee/Chris Claremont style of self-aware soap opera to the screen, screw yer Marvel movies and yer Agents of S.H.I.T.E..  Shame the last couple of seasons are a bit duff though, eh?
  • The Corner - Somehow manages to be both more didactic and more anecdotal than The Wire, but it’s good even if it does feel like the materials for a modern myth than the real thing.
Shite But Entertaining American TV Dramas
  • Game of Thrones - Dynasty with actual backstabbing, Dinklage is phenomenal, it can get a bit racy, etc; don’t worry, I’ll get round to the books once people stop telling me that they don’t read fantasy but they do like to read Game of Thrones.
Ambitious and (Accidentally?) Relevant American TV Dramas That Aren’t Actually Very Good
  • Dollhouse - see Plok for the why of this.
Shite But Entertaining But No Wait They’re Probably Just Shite American TV Dramas
  • Dexter and True Blood - these shows are both full of high nonsense from the word go, but I’ve actually got more time for the increasingly absurd and unstable True Blood these days. I couldn’t pretend that it was good but it’s a fun train wreck that I can watch without worrying about my girlfriend’s enjoyment levels so we fuck with it every now and then just to make sure everyone’s entertained (basically, she just wants to bone Alcide).
American TV Dramas I’ve Not Seen Enough Of To Properly Judge But Which Might Be Good
  • Treme, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, True Detective, The Shield - actually I’ve seen a bit of SFU but I’d need to watch it again to get a sense for how good it is. Never watched more than a minute of the rest but they have their enthusiasts, so.
Having completed this survey I am now relieved to be able to confirm that while Bobsy isn’t right, he’s not entirely wrong either.
Tell me, friends – would you have it any other way?

Aggregator Bastardator

October 18th, 2011

OR: MINDLESS LINKBLOGGING, SPECIAL “ALL BASTARDS MUST BE AGGRAVATED!” EDITION!

As you hopefully noticed, we spent a large part of last month bringing you the best in bastardry.  We’ve got some spooky Notes From the Borderland coming up in time for Halloween, so right now seems like as good a time as any to collect all of our bastardly musings together and to celebrate the cruel simplicity of the banner The Beast Must Die created for the event:

Hopefully you’ll be able to forgive me for indulging in a little bit of back-patting here while I take you through AN INDEX OF BASTARDS!

DARKSEID IS… looking pretty fucking slick, actually! Click here to experience MAXIMUM BASTARDATION!

The terror of the unmind: Muppets

September 27th, 2011

Yesterday my nephew finally conquered his fear of river folk on ring-crack.

It was a small victory and I used it to illustrate the point I’d made an hour or so earlier when I was desperate for what we here at Mindless HQ call a ‘proper loo’ and had to forcibly eject him from the bathroom explaining that one has to face one’s fears – heights, spiders, being shut out of the bathroom while an adult goes to the toilet – if one is to conquer them. In the end his clinging to my leg and screaming made proper loo impossible and so I resolved to grasp the next opportunity to expand upon my, at that point barely sketched out, argument as firmly round the throat as I currently wanted to grasp my nephew…. Little did I know said opportunity would present itself within the hour when it came Lord of the Rings time.

Towards the end of an eight and a half hour stint of babysitting one gets tired and I’m not ashamed to say that its normally around this time that the laptop goes on for an hour and a bit, and for the past few weeks the child pacifier of choice has been Lord of the Rings. The Nephew has much bigger balls than I did at his age and so far he’s braved cave trolls, balrogs and black riders without so much as a ‘fast forward it’, in fact he thinks all the aforementioned are cool – the cave troll being ‘SO COOL!’ – but even though his performance thus far had been impressive I knew until he’d managed to sit through the beginning of the Two Towers he couldn’t really have been said to be tested. Why? Because river folk on ring-crack.

Gollum is just a haunting in the first film, a half glimpsed series of disembodied eyes, hands and scuttling legs and low growled preciousses, and in the mind of a child this lends him incredible power. Long time readers of this blog probably know all about the characteristics of the haunting by now – high degree of absence generating presence, non locality translating into immanence, etc. – and so does the nephew. He’s learnt the hard way. This was obviously a big part of the The Fellowship of the Ring’s thrill for him, the pant shitting fear that Gollum might be lurking around every corner, that were he to get too complacent, too comfortable, then those scrabbling fingers might suddenly burst forth and drag him, wailing, back to a sunken lair beneath the Misty Mountains – Gollum, hiding behind the trees, the tv screen, the sofa, crouched, poised behind thin air, ready to pounce. So it was with great trepidation and, I could tell, not a little excitement that he agreed to sit through the beginning of the next film where, I knew, my point about facing one’s fears would be proved. Because as we all know Gollum’s not all that scary when you meet him in person. Suddenly the vast hyperdimensional spectre moving through the first film collapses in on itself, reducing to little more than a bug eyed, gangly drug addict – and, even less frightening and utterly inexplicably, one that appears to be afraid of the most ridiculous and annoying character in all the LOTR films, that ever whimpering sharer of loads, bloody Samwise Gamjee. So now, as the nephew himself says, he’s not scared of Gollum, not when he can see him, only when he’s hiding behind floating logs in the background.

Victory! Gaze into the fist of Dredd!!!

Still can’t go to proper loo when it’s just us on our own though.

So anyway this is all the obligatory autobiographical detour material you expect when you run a search for Mindless Ones, but the point is it got me thinking – thinking about rogues that lurk. There are different kinds of rogues, basically. There’s your Darth Vaders slap bang in the centre of the frame, big bads who command the action, and then there’s the guys in the background, the Bounty Hunters. Of course Boba Fett was a special edition, send off your tokens and get a free figure kind of deal, but I’ve never felt his status as the most popular Star Wars character ever could be quite so easily reduced to pre-Empire promotional toy guff. No, none of that stuff would’ve mattered one iota if the famous disintegrator had arrived fully fleshed out with all that crappy prequel backstory in tow. What makes Fett work so well, what makes all the bounty hunters work so well in fact, are the gaps in our knowledge. We all know this, it’s obvious. Films should not be made with fans in mind, continuity porn is bad. We are drawn to the lacunas in the atomic structure of the narrative around the Bosks and the Zuckusses. Providing my own explanation for why Dengar is wrapped in bandages or why there’s a 4 before the Lom is far more exciting and inticing than any a cruddy, or even not so cruddy, Star Wars fanficer can provide. And so it should be. These beings on the edges of our stories, just out of shot, are there to be chased but never caught, or in the end all we’re left with is a stupid gangle creature or Attack of the Clones. So there are some baddies we love to seek around the margins for, to whose pull we willingly acquiese.

And then there’s the other guys.

Huge spoilers from the start

I struggled with this one for all of five seconds until I remembered that my favourite TV series ends as it began, with the threat of many more bodies wrapped in plastic

The battle between BOB, the evil spirit that haunts the woods surrounding Twin Peaks, and Special Agent Dale Cooper, is nothing less than a Manichean struggle between good and evil. BOB is the home invader, the predatory paedophile, the serial killer. He’s every tabloid nightmare made fantasmal flesh. Worse, he’s the madness that made the good man Leland Palmer rape and kill his daughter, Laura, wrap her corpse in plastic and throw it in the river. Dale Cooper on the other hand is the answer to the question, what if Buddha were a policeman? In constant communication via dictaphone with his forever absent personal assistant cum spirit guide, Diane, Cooper’s a coffee loving, pastry chomping saint with a badge. The kindly face of authority come to rescue us from All Bad Men, and guess what? He fails, and he fails catastrophically.

Fire walks with you after the jump