Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Southland - damn you!

Well, great.

The *last* thing I want to do is get hooked on another TV program.

Honestly, it's tough for me to have much desire to watch a new series because here's what happens:

1. New show begins. The pilot is GREAT. Cool!

2. A few weeks later, just as we're getting sucked into the characters and stories? Reruns. Wait. Didn't this thing just start and already there are reruns?

3. OK, there's a decent if not hit status of ratings and before you know it there's a "break." Either the short "season" is over or there's a slew of reruns until the next ratings period.

4. As soon as we start to look forward to watching the new show? It's ratings week(s) - so "someone in charge" has decided to change the day on which the program airs. No longer Fridays or Thursdays or Mondays or... whatever, now it's shown on (pick a night and try to figure out why they switched).

5. It turns out to be a really terrific show and boom. "Someone in charge" cancels the show.

There is no longer any reason to have allegiance to any program because "someone in charge" is paying attention to someone other than the viewer when it comes to programming.

Or, in the case of Lost, they ignore the audience altogether in order to indulge in a completely disorganized mess of quizzes and puzzles that apparently someone writing and running the show has envisioned on a mushroom trip in the middle of the Sahara Desert after a week without water, food or a break from the sunshine.

After all- wha-?

Oh, right. Southland.

OK, so everyone I know in the biz of show tells me this show is on fire! So completely wonderful, superbly written (Emmy winner super scribe Ann Biderman), acted. Gritty without being gratuitous, human without being crazy, realistic without being gory.

Of course, it started on NBC, but for all the fans who hopped on board - "someone in charge" killed the show. Cancelled. Probably the same "someone in charge" who thought it would be a great idea to put Jay Leno on during prime time five nights a week.

Only this time, like Cagney and Lacey many years ago, fans fought to save the thing.

TNT came through. Recognizing the program's value and excellence.

So I figure I "should" at least get a taste of the show all the people I respect have fallen in love with... or at least have this giant crush on.

They ran a marathon of the shows on TNT leading up to its TNT premiere tonight. I'll catch a few minutes, maybe one show, so at least I can understand what my friends are talking about - I like to at least try to sound informed.

Damn you, Southland!

I should NOT have tasted that first episode. Sure, it was free and so was I - even though I should be writing (what I do for a living, not this), I just *had* to try it.

Thanks, Ann Biderman. Thanks a lot. Here she is with one of the stars, Shawn Hatosy:

After just these few hours of exposure, I can see it now: I'm going to need a 12-step program to deal with Southland. How am I supposed to wait until the following week for the next episode?

Other cop shows aren't personal. They're about catching a case, solving a crime - simple beginning middle and end with, hopefully, some intriguing twists here and there.

Not this one. Southland is personal. It shows these folks being cops, cops with partner problems, family people, single, married, dealing with kids, relatives, romance - failed and successful, strengths, weaknesses, personal issues, sexuality - the mess of real life as well as actual crimes that are committed in this day and age with all the modern complexities of high tech support for the good guys and the bad guys. Not to mention a massive drug culture.

And they don't forget the folks caught in the middle. All the "collateral damage" foisted on innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So there you have it.

This is an adult drama - with some natural human comedy sprinkled rarely and judiciously - extremely well written and performed, with a sepia tone that is not so dark that it feels creepy, but a photographic technique that accentuates the dramatic nature of the show and emphasizes what we would see if we were actually there.

And I love it.

Congratulations, Ann Biderman, cast and crew of Southland. Congratulations, TNT. Congratulations, fans - who saved the show so folks like me can have a chance to jump on your bandwagon. Good call.

Damn it. Now every Tuesday night at 10pm I have the dilemma between Southland and CBS's The Good Wife. Probably watching Southland and running The Good Wife on DVR right after.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 23, 2009

My favorite new TV show

Of all the new comedies and dramas, for me this fall's breakout hit is THE GOOD WIFE.

The number one reason to watch: Julianna Margulies.

Heading a spectacular cast of mega-talented actors - she not only carries the show but has the opportunity to display a tremendous range as she flows throughout the multi-faceted day of her character, Alicia Florrick.

Alicia reminds us of how many roles we play in our real lives - responsible parent, child, in-law, spouse/significant other, housekeeper, worker, colleague/co-worker, detective, citizen, supervisor, supervisee, pet owner, friend, would-be victim or victor - and the list goes on.

Playing the wife of a jailed, sex scandalized politician (played by the actor-who-can-do-no-wrong Chris Noth, billed only as a special guest star), Alicia is a determined woman who, after surviving the excruciating humiliation created by her husband's cruel, selfish and thoughtless behavior, refuses to be deceived, or tolerate insincerity or dishonesty ever again.

Ever. Again.

So she calls everything like she sees it, even if it creates discomfort for those to whom she directs her honest comments, evaluations, observations and reality checks.

Because she sees the world not as everyone else *wants* to see it, or thinks we *should* see it, but as it really is, she comes up with clever, practical and logical evidence that solves the cases she is hired to unravel in court.

Courts are notorious for finding solutions that are legal - forget morality.

THE GOOD WIFE comes up with ways to, at least so far, serve both masters - legality and morality.

THE GOOD WIFE writers have dumped fabricated script twists and turns - Alicia's disarming honesty provides plenty of relevant, surprising and very real twists and turns along the way.

Interestingly, the side story of her errant husband is also something she is cracking through her new eyes. Intolerance of dishonesty means that she has to look at her own misguided thoughts, self-deception and conclusions. Could her cheating husband actually be ... innocent? Framed?

Having said that, and forgive me for not pointing out the significant contribution of each terrific cast member, including Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, Archie Panjabi and Matt Czuchry - not to mention the tremendous contribution made by terrific guest stars like Martha Plimpton (better than I've ever seen her, btw), the show itself - the concept and the writing - are the real winners here.

One of the first things I thought as I have watched each episode not just as a viewer but a writer-director is that an authentic, smart, mature woman who's been there, done that, is represented here, perhaps for the first time on television, the way an actual smart, mature (at any age) woman thinks, behaves and speaks.

She is a genuine, flawed, human heroine without being an over-the-top superhero. Wait. Come to think of it, I believe Alicia's hypersensitive BS meter is her superpower.

The show is still finding its "legs," but starting out of the gate with strong, distinctly drawn characters, each of whom has his or her own goals, aspirations and Achilles heels.

This ensemble of superb actors has, IMO, been thrashing about on projects unworthy of their talents and skills for awhile; I'm so happy they've all found each other. This one is hit out of the park for all of them, and with the growth that each episode brings to the show's creative team, it's only going to get better.

In addition to watching live, I also dvr THE GOOD WIFE so I can watch it again when nothing else I want to watch is on. I also do this with 30 Rock.

Honest-to-goodness, authentic, believable, intense, passionate characters and stories worth our time. And worth watching more than once a week.

Credit show creators - writer/producers - Michelle and Robert King for that.

Well done.

And well done CBS, for not joining the ranks of desperate network programmers chasing their tails to score a fad megahit with schtick or cheap reality shows. You've developed a fine, modern drama with characters we want to see every week in stories we find believable and worthwhile, dealing with issues we care about.


Now. Don't screw it up by flipping broadcast times or days or showing reruns way before the season is finished - or all the other things that have killed great shows long before they deserved to be cancelled.

Labels: , , , , , , ,