Sunday, July 18, 2010

What's Good on TV These Days?

I know there's Breaking Bad (haven't gotten to it yet) and Mad Men (watched the first season, I think I'll skip two and three and just start in on four when it starts), but you know what else?



Well, first of all, there's Treme. I reckon that's not really "on TV" at the moment, the first (and I imagine only, we'll see) season having finished it's run on HBO and not yet come out on DVD. But let me go on record as saying that this is the best show I've seen in a long, long time. No, it's probably not as "good" as The Wire (the previous show created by David Simon), but Treme really aims straight for my heart. It's a multi-arched tapestry set in post-Katrina New Orleans, mostly centering on musicians (and a little on chefs), so it's a non-stop buffet of New Orleans music, food and culture. There is almost constant music in the show, much of it being performed live by actors portraying jazz men and street buskers. It's like Glee for people who hate musical theater. This show will actually make you want to kick your own ass for not living in New Orleans. Take, for instance, the Mardis Gras Indians. I've heard of the Mardis Gras Indians for years, read plenty about them, heard recordings by The Wild Magnolias and Wild Tchoupitoulas, seen bits of video on YouTube, but only now, after seeing Treme, do I feel like I really understand what Mardi Gras Indians actually do. And so on, what Mardi Gras parades look like, what people do during the parades, all the little nooks and crannies of this incredibly rich culture, the King Cakes and begnets and midnight mass on Ash Wednesday. I've spent less than 24 hours in the city, and I'll probably never attend a Mardi Gras due to my hatred of crowd scenes, so it's a great opportunity.

Then there are the actors. John Goodman--I'd never thought about it before, but he may be our best actor. Except that then there's Wendell Pierce, who I think is actually my favorite actor in the world right now. And then there's Clark Peters, playing a very different character from Lester Freamon, and knocking it out of the park. I could continue, because just about everyone does great work here in bringing the masses of the city to life.

Another great show, which really is on right now, is Louis CK's new sitcom Louie. I was one of the few people who liked his HBO sitcom Lucky Louie, but Louie is much, much better. It's shot like a Scorsese movie, and often plays like Louis' standup routine (possibly the best in the world right now) brought to life. There are moments of absurd humor, but the best parts are as real as it gets. For example:



(For what it's worth, Andrew Sullivan said that the etymology part of this was horseshit, which I kinda figured--it sounds like that "witch trials were the patriarchy's way of keeping down uppity midwives" stuff--but it makes a great point.)

But the show I'm actually enjoying even more than Louie is The Green Room with Paul Provenza on Showtime. This is basically a talkshow where Provenza gets three other comics together, and they talk about comedy (and whatever else crosses their minds).

The clip above is OK, but it's pretty mild compared to some of the stuff that goes on. To watch Bobby Slayton race-baiting Paul Mooney, or Penn Gillette, Martin Mull and Tommy Smothers trade filthy shaggy dog jokes...it's just one of the greatest things I've ever seen. The audience is mostly comedians as well (they seem to have filmed all the episodes back-to-back), and it all feels loose and...to say it's politically incorrect would be an understatement (my favorite one-liner from Mooney: "Some people grow their own weed. [Woody Allen] was growing his own pussy."). In one of my favorite bits, Tommy Smothers starts giving Penn Gillette shit about going on Glenn Beck's show, and Tommy is actually coming off as a bit of an asshole, but he's so fucking funny that he ends up coming out on top!

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