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· Culture Notes: Channel Surf (Dorothy)

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Culture Notes: Channel Surf (Dorothy)
by Dorothy

Like Dain, I don't own a television; I watch TV on my computer, mostly through streaming video. Honestly, I don't miss having a TV except on very rare occasions; while it's nice to be able to see every tiny detail of a shot, it doesn't feel necessary with most shows, and streaming video has improved greatly in the last few years.

It's a cliché to say this, but I love The Wire. It's the most engrossing, painful show I've ever watched. It's rightly compared to a novel in which each season is a chapter; the stories are nominally separate, but they build on and enrich each other. It rewards multiple viewings; I re-watched the second season, set at the Baltimore docks, after moving to Halifax, and being able to look out my window and see Halifax Harbour enriched the experience. The show goes a bit off the rails in the truncated fifth season, but the first four seasons are gorgeous, complex, beautifully written and acted, worthy of all the hype.

Breaking Bad helps with my Wire withdrawal. Where The Wire is largely about entrenched drug empires, Breaking Bad is about the process of forming a drug empire, and about the slow, fascinating descent of an initially innocuous-seeming Walter White (Bryan Cranston). One begins the show sympathizing with Walter, and by the end of the second season one is horrified by him, wondering whether this monstrous human being was created by circumstance, or merely revealed by it. Besides The Wire, few other shows have haunted me so much, or for so long.

The third season of Mad Men recently wrapped up, leaving me bereft. Mad Men isn't a perfect show -- it tends to be a little on the nose -- but you can't beat the visuals: the sets, the costumes, the makeup. Mad Men portrays a pre-feminist reality in which sexual harassment, unequal pay, philandering husbands and a hundred other little indignities are widely tolerated. This gives it an unsavoury appeal to a certain number of people; however, at bottom I believe it's a deeply feminist show. I have a seemingly unpopular affection for Betty Draper, pictured here; she's truly awful on a number of levels, but the writing and January Jones' acting combine to create a sense of a woman who was groomed from babyhood to be a dependent housewife and mother, and who is heartbreakingly ill-suited for that role.

And while I love a whole lot of half-hour comedies -- Clone High, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, the British and American versions of The Office, Futurama, and the first several seasons of Roseanne, just for starters -- I can't finish this post without a shout-out to the Halifax-made Trailer Park Boys. This show takes several episodes to warm up to, but after that, it's hilarious: the skeezy ingenuity of the leads, the absurd situations, the parodic yet still oddly effective sweetness. I try to watch the Christmas special every year.

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