Until recently, we had not subscribed to any premium cable television channels. I’ve noticed the change in the television landscape as the one-hour drama series and, more recently, half-hour situation comedies have migrated away from the networks to basic cable channels and then to the subscription channels. The vacuum created was filled by cheaper-to-produce “reality” programs. Every year more and more of the award-winning television programming is produced by the subscription services. This year’s Emmy nominations highlight the point. More nominations went to HBO programs than all the non-subscription sources combined. Most of the programs become available on Netflix at some point, however, so we never made subscriptions a priority in the budget. As I wrote in a recent post (I Love Bob), I had the opportunity to add a couple subscription channels at a reduced rate for a trial period. Never one to pass up a bargain, I decided to add HBO and Showtime for a few months. (The is when the off-stage chorus begins to sing “Whole New World” from Aladdin .)
Things have changed in the years since I last subscribed to a premium service. Last time I had HBO in my home it was one channel that showed movies and had a few self-produced sports programs. Now it is nine channels; including one in Spanish, and much of the content is self-produced movies and series programming I had never subscribe to Showtime before but I find it is not one channel but five. Even more significantly, there is HBO and Showtime “On Demand” so I can watch many of their programs at will, instead of waiting for them to turn up on one of the 14 channels. (This is when the off-stage chorus gets to the line in the lyrics that says “Don’t you dare close your eyes.”) Sleep? Feh! I don’t need no stinking sleep; not when there are 84 episodes of Dexter to watch before the start of the new season. Gym time? But I am 6 years behind on Californication! There are still movies of course. I watched Harry Potter #8 for the second time; O.K. second and third. HBO films Behind the Candelabra and Game Change have been highlights as well.
Of the series, some are programs I knew of, but have never seen like Newsroom and Homeland. Others were happy discoveries like Family Tree and Web Therapy.
Some highlights so far:
I am a big fan of Aaron Sorkin, the show’s creator, as playwright/screenwriter (“A Few Good Men”) and for his previous television programs (Sports Night, The West Wing). The show is incredibly well-written. Like The West Wing, the show has an obvious political bent which will turn off some potential viewers. In a way this makes it a play-within-a-play since the producers of the the show’s news broadcast confront that issue in each episode.
I’d seen the first two seasons of Dexter on DVD a few years ago. The serial-killer-as-protaganist theme is fascinating. They have announced the current season; Season 8, will be its last. I like the show very much but I think that is probably a good decision. The themes seem to have been fully explored. Of course, it may feel that way because I’ve watched 86 episodes in the past couple months.
A big winner at last year’s Emmy’s, this program is intense.
Written and directed by Christopher Guest, anyone who is a fan of Guest’s films like This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, or, my personal favorite, Waiting for Guffman will like this half-hour comedy which appears; like Guest himself, to be both English and American.
I have never been a huge fan of the Friends gang so, seeing this is a Lisa Kudrow vehicle, I might have given it a pass. Harper’s Other Dad mentioned having seen advertisement that showed Lily Tomlin as a guest star so I decided to check it out. With an amazing roster of guest stars (Meryl Streep on a sit-com?!?), it is quirky, bizarre and hysterically funny.
Not everything is a winner of course; at least not in my humble opinion.
I am not a fan of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus sit-com VEEP.
Showtime’s The Borgias is a guilty pleasure. It appeals to my love of history and big costume-dramas but the show could, just as easily, have been called “Vatican 90210”.
I just discovered a series called Preamar. A soap-opera type program in the tradition of Dynasty. The show is set in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, it is in Portuguese with English subtitles so it is not a program one can watch while multi-tasking; which kind of puts it outside my comfort zone for television.
And there are still so many more things I have yet to explore. Weeds? Nurse Jackie? The Big C?
It’s Not T.V. – it’s a black hole of discretionary time.