Greetings and salutations! I am back from one of my regularly scheduled hiatuses (leaving the country is easy, getting back in ... not so much), and rather than addressing a legal topic, I thought I would turn to an issue that has been occupying for too much of my brain matter recently-
As you might recall, I previously reviewed the Amazon streaming series, Goliath.
And in that review, I remarked that it was a typical David E. Kelly “legal” drama, but “everything is done with a little, added, premium quality-class.” And that’s what I wanted to address today- the explosion of random, premium quality television that we are seeing.
Because, here’s the thing. Right now, on Netflix, there are two shows that you probably aren’t even aware exist. The Medicis (it could be Medicis: Masters of Florence, or Medicis: What about that Cathedral, already?), which is about, well, the Medici family, and has a little bit of Dustin Hoffman (in the sense that D-Hoff was probably offered a free vacation in Italy if he filmed a few scenes, and he was like, “Hey, free vacation in Italy!”). And Versailles, which is about Louis XIV.
Here’s the thing- this is the same show. Sure, the actors are different. One has “that guy who was killed in Game of Thrones,” the other has “that guy who was killed in Vikings.” The places are different. One is Italy, the other is France. They take place in different time periods. One is the 15th Century, one is the 17th Century. And, of course, they have different plots- one is about a King trying to hold on to his power despite schemes and plots, and the other is about a Banker trying to hold on to his power despite schemes and plots.
But they are the same show. Both shows are Masterpiece Theater + violence + better production budgets + tits. And that’s fine. If you’re into history, you can also totally say, “Hey, I get what they are referencing there,” or, if you’re that guy, “Hey, that’s not completely accurate!”* But at the core, they are perfectly acceptable shows to binge watch, will leave you feeling like you did something slightly edifying because of HISTORY and stuff, and hey, boobs. And two or three weeks afterwards, you will probably ask, “Wait, which one was D-Hoff in? Why were the Medicis banking in France? Which one had more torture and breasts? When is Game of Thrones back on?”
They are perfectly cromulent television. And that’s what we have now, an explosion of perfectly acceptable shows to binge watch. Which, if you think about it, is amazing; either of these shows, 20 years ago, would have been (capital-A) AMAZING! But now, they barely register. They aren’t shows with quirky sensibilities and viewpoints, like Mr. Robot or The Patriot. They aren’t part of a larger “canon,” like Game of Thrones or Jessica Jones. They aren’t so lusciously detailed and batshit insane that you still can’t believe they were even made, like The Young Pope. They aren’t amazing television that uses a metaphor to perfectly illustrate issues with families, writ large and small, like The Americans.
And that, in and of itself, is amazing. That there has been such an explosion of quality that shows that have merely the conventional aspirations of good plotting, good set design, good acting (usually, except D-Hoff on vacation), and, of course, breasts (which seem to be required) are now consigned to the dustbin of, “Hey, I need something to watch before The Americans starts up again.”
*One fascinating and enjoyable aspect of these period shows is the “guess the acting choice behind that accent” game. Because they’re all in English, so you have everything from, “I’m not doing an accent,” to, “All period pieces require a British accent,” to, “This is France, so I will have a French accent, like Maurice Chevalier ... huh huh huh,” to, “I subscribe the the Kevin Costner theory of acting, and believe that an accent is more believable when it is randomly employed,” to, “I’M DUSTIN HOFFMAN, AND I STARRED IN THE GRADUATE.”