This week, I read The Hunger Games, an action novel by Suzanne Collins. At some point, The Hunger Games will be made into a movie, and I'm sure the experience of watching it won't be as good as reading the book, but then I wondered about how Collins' trilogy would work as a television series. I think it'd be pretty good. Then a friend of mine wrote about how when he's old, he'll wish he read more books, but he won't wish he'd watched more television. The prevailing mindset is books are good and television is bad. Are they really all that different? I wondered. Both require absorbing a story while completely sedentary.
Obviously, using one's imagination to visualize what's happening on the page is probably the biggest difference, but right now it's entirely probably the best American novelists are writing for the small screen, guys like David Milch and David Simon and Matthew Weiner.
So while it's probably healthier to read a novel than watch Jersey Shore, I think I'll look back and be glad I picked 60 hours of The Wire over Angels and Demons.
More likely, I'll realize all that time was wasted and I should've spent my life outside in the sun, experiencing what it is like to be alive and serving my fellow man. Only time will tell. On to the shows!
All times Arizona
Onion News Network (Series Premiere) - Friday, January 21. 10 PM on IFC
Tonight, IFC rachets up its bid at becoming the next cable network to break out with original programming. With Onion News Network, it starts off with a loaded deck.
If ONN is anything like SportsDome (which put in another phenomenal episode this week), this will be another hit. What'll be interesting is watching how two different networks (Sportsdome airs on Comedy Central) handle two different takes on contemporary news from one iconic source of satire. Or maybe it won't be interesting at all, but I don't have any more to say beyond you should watch this show because it's The freaking Onion, for pete's sake.
Portlandia (Series Premiere) - Friday, January 21. 10:30 PM on IFC
15 years ago, Portland, Oregon was a lot like Tucson: a mid-sized Western city with a vibrant local culture overshadowed by it's larger, regional neighbors. The problem with living in those larger, regional neighbors, though, is it's not cheap. By the turn of the century, ex-grunge enthusiasts and entire LGBT communities were fleeing Seattle and the Bay Area for the low rent and DIY aesthetic of Portland. In 10 years, Portland went from being Seattle's awkward kid sister to West Brooklyn. It's now a mecca for foodies, and home to a music scene comparable with (and in my enormously biased opinion, better than) New York, L.A., Nashville and Austin.
For a Portland native, it was a little like watching the local band you caught in claustrophobic clubs become Radiohead. I've thought Portland is the best place to live in North America all my life, and with world-class eateries and an overstuffed music scene, it's even better. But there's a downside, too, like the whiny resentment that comes with seeing something you've always loved suddenly appreciated by everyone. Or when that city's culture becomes so insufferable it demands satire. So now we have Portlandia.
If you're interested, I wrote at length about the show here. In short, Portlandia is decently funny, has a lot of the same failings as Saturday Night Live, and I'm curious if people outside the Willamette Valley will care. Having a lead-in like Onion News Network will help immensely, though.
An Idiot Abroad - Saturday, January 22. 10 PM on The Science Channel
Last week saw the kickoff of The Ricky Gervais Show's second season and Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes. Gervais made a lot of Hollywood folks angry by inferring beloved movie stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta are secretly gay. Please keep our precious celebrities blissfully ignorant, and leave those sorts of jokes to critics of Scientology, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and the entirety of the internet.
This week, Gervais and Stephen Merchant send monkey news enthusiast and dullard Karl Pilkington out on a long tour of the Seven Wonders of the World, beginning with the Great Wall of China. Hilarity and rampant xenophobia will ensue. An Idiot Abroad already aired in Britain last year, which makes me angry, because we're the United States, dammit. WE SHOULD GET THINGS FIRST.
Big Love - Sunday, January 23. 9 PM on HBO
Big Love's final season started strong, particularly during a scene where Nicky (Chloe Sevigny) isolates and picks on a ginger kid. Plus, Barb started drinking wine, so good for her!
The State of the Union Address - Tuesday, January 25. 7 PM on all the networks (basically)
If my anecdotal evidence (collected from Facebook, Twitter and actual human interaction) is correct, President Obama's speech in Tucson a couple weeks ago was universally appreciated. Even conservatives liked it. I'm trying to remember the last time that happened. Probably Bush's speech from the rubble with the bullhorn after 9/11. Anyway, it was utterly nice to hear we were all on the same page. The warm embrace of political harmony probably ends Tuesday night, but it was nice while it lasted.