I’ve been an HBO loyalist since childhood. And, in recent years, the original programming on HBO has made me a true believer. In recent months, however, I’ve found less and less I want to watch. I’m sure that will change, with new seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm and… um… well, Entourage has one more new episode, right (I’ve never watched The Wire and I can’t really start now)? In the meantime, Jarren and I have Netflix’ed the first two seasons of Showtime’s popular series, Weeds. We don’t have Showtime, but I have to admit, Weeds makes me wonder if we should. In this month’s Esquire, Mike D’Angelo muses about some of these very real issues for today’s TV consumer:
But suddenly, if I could watch just one, I’d go with Showtime.
In part, that’s because most of HBO’s landmark shows are either finished or nearly so. (The Wire has one more season left.) Mostly, though, it’s because Showtime’s frustration and desperation is starting to manifest itself in its programming, which has become increasingly twisted over the past couple of years. Shows like Weeds and Dexter push the notion of the sympathetic antihero into the realm of black comedy, overtly acknowledging that we’re most entertained by watching people flout all the social mores known to man. You say you can identify with a mobster? How about with a serial killer? Tickled by a dysfunctional family of morticians? We got us a bereaved single mom who makes her living as a suburban pot dealer. Showtime provides a fun-house-mirror reflection of HBO’s programming, transforming penetrating drama into absurdist satire.
Of course, this is only an argument for episodic programming. HBO still has some of the best original documentary and narrative feature film programming you’re gonna see on American television this (or any) year. The winning streak of classic series programming just needs some fresh air.