Monday, February 06, 2012

Brian Moylan: I’m Sick of Waiting for TV Shows to Get Good



FEB 6, 2012 1:59 PM

I’m Sick of Waiting for TV Shows to Get Good

Last night while taking refuge from the Super Bowl I tuned into the second episode of Luck, HBO's new horse racing show. I fell asleep, just as I did during the first episode. Yes, I know this is supposed to be a "slow burn," but how long am I supposed to wait before feeling the heat?

Luck has all the hallmarks of a prestige project: It was created by Deadwood mastermind David Milch, it stars dramatic heavyweights Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, the pilot was directed by Hollywood's Michael Mann, and it has already been renewed for a second season after a healthy three million people tuned in for the first episode. Like so many of television's recent critical darlings, Luck—with its Dickensian world of intricate webs woven by the rich and poor festering around a California horse racing track—seems like it will take some time to get into. But now, after falling asleep during both of its episodes, I'm wondering if I really want to stick around.

That's the problem with these slow burn shows, especially ones with fancy pedigrees backed by highbrow channels like HBO or AMC. We can't imagine how they could not be good, so we keep watching, episode after boring episode, all the while waiting for some amazing payoff. And sometimes, like a skilled horse coming from behind, it pays off. But remember: For every The Wire there is a Treme, and for every Mad Men there is a The Killing.

Thanks to shows like The Wire and Mad Men, two of the best series in recent memory, we've been lead to believe that shows with a deliberate pace will be rewarding. We're told that if we keep drinking the gross medicine, we'll eventually be the better for it. As we get deeper into the creators' complicated universe, the plotting becomes more intricate and the characters more complete, and the show improves. In most cases, that rule is generally true. But on the flip side, it took me two entire seasons to see that the cacophony of storylines on Treme would never come together to make beautiful music. It took 13 long weeks of The Killing to realize that there was no real answer to all of our questions about who killed stupid Rosie Larson. Sometimes slow isn't good. Sometimes slow is just drab.

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pattinase (abbott) said...

If you paying money every month for HBO you feel obliged to give a show like LUCK a chance. If it's on a network you get for free, you bail much more quickly.

Jeff P said...

I've never seen any of the show's mentioned, but if you want good crime drama watch FX's 'Justified', based on some of Elmore Leonard's stories. Excellent stuff.