Thursday, March 08, 2007

One of the Few

Today words were spoken, a pencil was brought out... Before it could be stopped, Sabrina had a hole in her palm and Ricky had nothing to write with. Melissa came home but neither one of us were allowed to address the wound. That was left to the doctor who ascertained that the puncture, while a bit deep, didn't contain the graphite point. So where was it? Did Ricky get there first, covering up a vital clue at the very heart of the scene of the crime? We may never know, but in the meantime Brie should heal up fine.

Most of us say that what we see on TV sucks, and it does. Sadly that doesn't keep most of us from watching it, at least more than we should given that it can't be justified by the quality of the programming. But every now and then...

I don't like the CSI or Law and Order shows. I so don't like them I haven't ever seen complete episodes (which I don't believe invalidates my opinion). I don't like American Idol except for the first few episodes of each season where they show the tryouts. The karaoke performances the rest of the time I can get downtown.

I liked The X-Files for a good while, but they never seemed to answer their own questions and after watching it for years I didn't feel all that much closer to knowing what was going on. I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until this teen oriented show started with blatantly sexual situations which were startlingly inappropriate. And just plain bad.

I don't love Raymond, in fact I don't even like him. I liked Friends until they changed the characters and made Joey dumb instead of naive and Ross childish and Joey-stupid instead of just not hip. Monk reminds me of the kind of (dare I say) "quality" show from the 70's/80's like The Rockford Files or Columbo. Unfortunately I think I'm so far gone I haven't been able to stick through all the commercials to finish many episodes.

When I was bedridden for months after a lousy doctor did a number on my spine, some of the side effects were weak vision that prevented me from reading, and insomnia. This was a version of hell. Flat on my back for eight months, unable to read, stuck with nothing but a television set to occupy my mind. Somewhere after midnight I discovered re-runs of Farscape which I absolutely love and have since purchased the DVD sets of its four seasons. I had to; I had no real idea of what was going on in the fourth season without seeing the earlier ones.

Lately I've made a new discovery and it is so unique and well done, I think, that it's no wonder it was canceled after two seasons. Not, apparently, due to poor ratings.

Dead Like Me was originally a Showtime series (which other than Stargate SG-1 never produced anything I cared to see) that has recently been showing on the SciFi channel. I'd watch parts of it, surfing away at the commercials naturally, and not quite appreciating the show. But something in it hooked me, enough to pick up the DVD set. And now I can see what it was...

Most TV shows have limited character growth, and that's on purpose. If the character changes the way most of us change over the years, pretty soon we'd have a different character and that might not appeal to the same demographic. Perhaps more importantly, it would make it harder for the shows to be re-run in syndication in a random order.

But Dead Like Me is different. The characters actually grow as people (living and dead) from episode to episode. Not just the main ones, either. The world keeps turning for the supporting characters as well and the effect is stunning in its realism and appeal. And oddly enough, you can still watch episodes out of order and enjoy them as they are.

I'm not telling you about what happens on the show and that's on purpose. You can write about anything bad and make it sound good, or the other way around. The point isn't so much what it's about (which is fine if not completely original) but how the writing and conception allows the actors to show their characters grow and change. Just like real people, only better because I can watch them for an hour and then turn them off. Only now, when the screen goes black, I can lean back and say, "Wow." I wish I could do that more often.