I have confessed many times to my love of television, and of my predilection for the anti-heroes that litter the channels these days, from Tony Soprano to Walter White, from Justified to Hell on Wheels, from True Blood to Dexter, I like the way TV develops ugly characters and somehow gives enough pathos to make you like them enough to come back again and again to watch their descent into whatever madness is their particular bent.
I like the way many of these shows grapple with the complexity of ethics and morality in this shape-shifting world of ours. For instance, I think that one of the most fascinating shows on TV is Californication, David Duchovny's Hank is a serial-sex addict with a heart of gold, who wants nothing more than true love and family and yet fucks it up every chance he gets. Rather than a celebration of licentiousness, the show lingers over heartbreak as Hank recognizes over and over that his pathologies are the death drive that hamper the fulfilment he so desperately seeks. No point in watching if you can't handle serious nakedness, lots of sex, foul language and twisted humour, but every reason to tune-in if you want to encounter brutal honesty and a no-holds barred examination of the plight of a man.
Tonight sees the return of another anti-hero, Atlantic City's, Nuchy Thompson, in Boardwalk Empire. Apparently we are going up to Harlem and encountering the Jazz-Age in full swing. The 1920s were an amazing time in our cultural story-those giddy years after the Great war and before the Wall Street Crash, Great Depression and every other challenge to sanity that the 20th century seemed to bring.
Once I start with something, I generally travel the whole journey, I know there are mixed feelings about BE, but I like it a lot. I could watch it for the fashion alone, I have 'suit-envy' pretty anytime there is a man on screen, but more than that, I once again, like the complx tales of lies, corruption and the lengths people go to undermine what they really want. This inversion, or corruption, or thwarting of desire seems to be a big theme in televison as we dig into the 21st century. I would hazard a guess that this is because it is a huge theme in the broader culture. As we leave the 20th century behind (and I think it takes a while for one century to remove itself from another-a calendar date is arbitrary and not the truest indicator of time change), it seems that much of life-why we live our lives, and what we live them for, is being interoogated once more as we see more and more people looking for ways to enrich and enhance their lives and struggling to come to terms with the lies we've bought into, the lies we've been sold, and come to terms with what lurks within us all as we try to make sense of our being. Or maybe I just like gangsters.
(p.s. Armchair Nation seems like a good title for a book, i'm sure someone has already used it, but I might try and use it for a series of books on culture that I am refining and trying to find a publisher for)