Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Vast Wasteland

While perusing my Rolling Stone a few weeks ago I came upon a well-written review of Game of Thrones: http://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones/index.html#/game-of-thrones/episodes/index.html . Rob Sheffield has a way with words. He sucked me in with his comment, “You expect 'Hobbit' but end up watching 'Sopranos of Middle Earth'.” Of course he also got my attention mentioning the “timeless combo of breasts and beheadings, with approximately six beheadings per nipple.”

I have watched two of the six season episodes and am hooked. Mary, my wife dismissed the show as “awfully violent”, presumably choosing to focus on the beheadings. And I was struck by why we watch what we watch.

Neither Mary nor I watch a lot of television. I tend to watch more sports than anything else, but I usually watch the 10:00 o’clock news, and a couple of season shows a week. Mary used to watch reruns of "Perry Mason" but that has seemingly run its course. She now is pretty faithful with "The O’Reilly Factor", and an occasional "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil". I scored big points a few years ago when I got tickets to "The Dr. Phil Show". She also watches a few weekly shows, some different than mine.

The ones we watch together include "The Closer", "Bones", and "House". The ones she watches alone include "What Would You Do?" My alone shows include "Justified", and the above-mentioned "Game of Thrones". Interestingly neither of us watched "Lost", any "CSI" shows, any show with “Island” in it since Gilligan's or Fantasy, or "Dancing with the Stars".

In our early married life we used to proudly state that we had no television machine. Of course that was a day shortly after Newton N. Minow, FCC Chairman in 1961, made the “Wasteland Speech” likening television programming to a “Vast Wasteland” of viewing and suggesting that a world devoid of newspapers, books, magazines and other written word would cause our very souls to dry up and die.

Now when most of my magazines and news sources are only available online, I wonder if Mr. Minow’s comments are true.

The irony of this matter is that what Mary and I watch together and even the series shows we watch separately have one thing in common: they are well-written.

As an actor I am totally aware of two things: first, what separates a good actor from an excellent one is well-written material. The good scripts usually go to the better actor, because the same well-crafted scene is better appreciated by the audience if presented by the better actor, and that’s important to the writer and to the producers; the second is that I should be watching more seasonal shows. The nuances of writing are best observed if seen on a regular basis.

Sean Penn and Johnny Depp, both excellent actors with variety in their bodies of work, are certainly different, and maybe better, actors than Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart. But scripts are more realistic now than fifty years ago. There is more freedom for a writer than there was before. And the audience is more demanding of innovation, action, and surprise (if not suspense).

And those nuances change over time. I think I have just talked myself into watching more evening television, if I want to increase my bookings.

In my Tuesday blog I think I will explore some of the scandals that are recent news with celebrity men, starting with the ex-governor of California, and maybe catch you up on bisphosphonates.

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