Sunday, September 12, 2010

Summer Pop Culture Homework

I planned two projects this summer and happened to almost complete a third.  I wanted to watch The Wire and Freaks and Geeks.  I did not know that I was going to make my way nearly through all of the Lee Child library.  I was curious about Child's book, and read the first one.  The rest I managed to finish the first two seasons of The Wire, and my family ended up joining me in the F&G effort. 

Now I know why everyone raves about The Wire.  Each season is like a great novel, where the pieces are displayed early in the season and then come together towards the end.  The characters are all very interesting and complex.  You end up rooting for a very nasty thug, who happens to rob from the drug dealers.  The good guys are severely flawed, and they are embedded in a dysfunctional police department that is more focused on image than on making real progress.  And if an investigation follows the money to politicians, well, that is not good.  The show depicts the decline of the American city, not just a cops and robbers procedural.  It did not have to be Baltimore, but that resonates with me as Baltimore was the homeland of many of my camp friends.  I cannot wait to watch the next three seasons, but I probably will have to do so as the summer is over.

Freaks & Geeks turned out to be, like The Wire, an amazing depiction of life at a certain age and place.  This time, 1980 in the midwest.  The show was both incredibly funny and incredibly touching.  You end up rooting for all of the freaks (which we called burnouts in my school), not just the geeks (yes, you can guess which group I was closer to in high school).  The show took a lot of conventional plots and sent them in unexpected directions.  It is clear that the network (Fox) completed messed up this show, broadcasting episodes out of order, preventing at least one crucial one from being seen at the time.  It is funny that the 1970's Show, which was also enjoyable, was able to play with many of the same stuff later without as much restraint (drugs, sex). The show
ended up generating heaps of talent for future shows and movies, with Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen being the most obvious, but also Jason Segal, James Franco, Linda Cardinelli, among others. 

I started reading Lee Child because Stephen King recommended him in an EW column: "Lee Child's tough but humane Jack Reacher is the coolest continuing series character now on offer."  His books are like crack, yo!  I bought two books that day, and have barely glanced at the non-Lee Child book, as I have been buying or borrowing all of the rest of the Jack Reacher series since.  Jack Reacher is a retired Military Policeman, who is a drifter.  He hates staying in one place, and so he goes from town to town with just the clothes on his back and his toothbrush in his pocket.  Not much else.  And he, of course, finds trouble wherever he goes.  His essential code is simple--don't mess with him, and he will not mess with you.  But if you do mess with him, then he will be unstoppable.  Each book just builds and builds the tension.  I have three books left in the series to read (one has just come out or is coming out soon, I have two books at home [why am I blogging when I can be reading another LC book?].  Once I am through with those, then I will just have to wait for a yearly allotment of action/tension/some humor as Jack Reacher fights the fight without remorse, with mercy only for the victims, and with a tenacity that is most impressive.

I could not recommend with more enthusiasm these two shows and this one series for your next summer of watching and reading.  This is the best stuff our culture has to offer, even if these things go under-appreciated--The Wire won no Emmys, F&G had low ratings and was cancelled, Lee Child's books sell well, but thus far no movies and not heaps of attention.

1 comment:

CannibalisticJudas said...

This has to be one of the most amazing posts I've read in a while! You should be getting paid by the producers and the publishers of the books and shows you just mentioned.
i don't watch much TV and i tend to stick to my pinko commie literature but I'll really have to check all of this out. thank you sir *tips hat to you*