Broadcast Television is Strange
For this mornings post I am going to diverge a bit from my normal gaming topics and talk about some television that I have been watching. Now there are often times I say that I don’t watch much television, and this is both true and not true at the same time. I have not regularly watched television on a schedule for years. For the last few years there have been two shows that I actually tuned in on purpose to watch and that is The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. That said I never “only” watch television. I have gotten to a point where I have be fiddling with something else because the act of watching television feels too passive to me. So Sunday nights it has become almost ritual for me to sit downstairs with my laptop straddling my lap as I watch these shows that all not so coincidentally occur on the same evening.
It just feels strange to me, to have television occur on a schedule. Everything else in my life is on demand and waiting for me when I feel like consuming it. This concept of letting someone else control the pace and timing for my actions just feels deeply foreign, so I greatly appreciate the new paradigms of Netflix and Amazon shows being released one entire season at a time. I am hoping that broadcast networks follow suit at some point, or they simply die out from neglect. I don’t think that I am at all alone in my television consumption habits. It all started with the DVR and my ability to delay content to a time when it was convenient to me. Now I just let entire seasons stack up before bothering to actually watch them. In our household we get more use out of the “on demand” section of cable television than anything else. Now my wife and I both have a default channel that we watch when we want the television on as background noise. For me it is Cartoon Network, and for her it is HGTV… but in both cases we no longer passively watch the television.
Daredevil Is Awesome
Over the last two weeks I have watched my way through the latest of the Netflix original series, and I have to say I am damned happy to have done so. Daredevil was never really “the guy” for me, but for one of my friends growing up he was. As a result I read more than my fair share of Daredevil comics, especially in part because of the constant cross over with the Punisher who absolutely was one of my favorites. Daredevil and Punisher both always seemed to have this characteristic that the more spandex and super powers comics never had. They were gritty and rough around the edges… and gave us a window into a darker side of the marvel universe. Hells Kitchen was a horrible place, but at the same time there was a resilience there and a determination to keep moving forward. The Netflix Daredevil series captures this spirit perfectly, in a simple unassuming way. The character of Matt Murdock is portrayed perfectly in all of the nuance of the character. Daredevil has always been this split character, part hero, part victim of his own fatalism… and this is played out on the screen amazingly well.
The real triumph is the fact that this is a show that does not idealize violence. While Matt makes a difference, we get to see the high personal toll that is taken on his body. He does not make it out of these fights unscathed like we normally see from a Batman movie, but instead has a constantly bloodied body to show at the end of the night. What made Daredevil great was the constant sense that he was in over his head, but that he kept fighting the noble fight because no one else would. The best performance in the show however has to come from Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin. He makes this character into someone you almost want to root for during the course of the show. You are both sympathetic to the character and repulsed by it at the same time, which is a rare trait. You want the Kingpin to win… if for no other reason than to set up the ultimate triumphant fight between he and the Daredevil. I feel like this first season has created fertile ground for this show to grow and change, and ultimately serves as quite possibly the greatest comic book origin story I have seen in a long while. The only sad part is that I want another thirteen episodes to watch, because this first batch was simply not enough.
The other show that I have been watching lately is also a Netflix original, this time by Tiny Fey of 30 Rock and SNL fame. The premise of the show is that Kimmy Schmidt was captured when she was in 8th grade by the leader of a doomsday cult. Now freed she is taking on the world with her middle school understanding of it. Kimmy Schmidt the show feels very much like 30 Rock meets Sister Wives turned Doomsday cult, but for the most part it works. The character of Kimmy is essentially the same character as Kenneth played by Jack McBrayer. I have to assume that a lot of the writers from 30 Rock are now doing this show, because the comedic timing is almost exactly the same. I’ve only made it five episodes into the show so far but at this point the cast of characters seems to be set. On the home front you have the crazy landlord played by the always amazing Carol Kane, and the gay failed actor roommate played by Tituss Burgess. Both serve to balance and unbalance the character in various ways, and the interactions by Kane and Burgess are amazing… there is an almost loving parental thing going on.
As far as work goes Kimmy finds her way into the employ of Jane Krakowski’s character Jacqueline Vorhees, as assistant, nanny, life coach, best friend, and whatever else she needs. The problem here is that Krakowski is essentially playing the same character as she did on 30 Rock, which makes me wonder if this show was originally designed as a spin off vehicle for the Kenneth character after the ending of that series? You could seriously plug the characters in from 30 Rock and the show would still work, which I find bizarre. Sure in this case Krakowski is a wealthy Manhattanite with no grasp on reality, instead of a falling Hollywood star with no grasp on reality… but they feel exactly the same in practice. There are definitely some laugh out loud moments but these all come from the fact that Kimmy is still for the most part stuck with an eighth graders understanding of the world. All of this said, if you loved 30 Rock… and I did… this will provide the same sort of awkward humor fix that you might be left craving. I plan on watching the rest of the series, and I am hoping it gets picked up for another run. I can’t necessarily give it the rave review that I gave Daredevil, but it is most definitely a fun show to watch.