“Runnin’ on E”
August 2nd, 2009
When I sat down to watch the latest episode of Entourage, I took some notes. Half of them were less than four words long. The other half were about Autumn Reeser. Such is Season Six of Entourage.
To be honest with you, I think it’s a welcome change of pace: the fifth season had me wanting to rant about the show every week, but right now the show is so consistent in its absolute mediocrity that I really don’t have much to add. Any chance of the show really breaking from formula has been put on hold, with Vince’s movie delayed, Eric’s independence floundering, Turtle’s trip to college pretty tame and Drama’s career in the exact same place you’d normally expect it to be.
And I’m happy with all of it, really – sure, I’m still convinced the show is capable of being more than it is, but in its current mode I find it breezy and light, an ideal summer show instead of a frustrating summer disappointment.
Complete Miniseries (HBO)
Airdate: Summer 2008
Debuting in the summer, David Simon and Ed Burns’ HBO miniseries was one of those shows that went largely without hype, a fact which shouldn’t surprise anyone after the previous year had seen a myriad of Iraq War films fail to capture the nation’s attention. Dramatizing reality has its benefits, but when it is reality that so often hits close to home there is often not enough distance to allow a show to capture a piece of the public eye.
Generation Kill felt too real to me by half, but this is perhaps what kept me most interested. With the same sense of character-driven storylines and a similar investigation into bureaucratic failures as their work on The Wire, Simon and Burns bring to life something that doesn’t need dramatizing: the consequences of the events seen within the series are today’s headlines, and the people they depict are not amalgams but individuals (one, even, played themselves in the miniseries).
What resulted was a wakeup call to how easily a situation like Iraq can happen: the mistakes made were in some cases driven by incompetence, in other cases by communication failures, but the miniseries’ main purpose is to place us in the middle of all of it to get a sense of what the people on the ground could do about it. As we become personally attached to the men in Bravo Company, we see that they could only do so much: with flawed strategies driving them, poorly trained reserve units botching their missions, and many of the soldiers there driven by the lust of gunfire more than the pride of searching for one’s country, Iraq becomes less a headline and more an experience that seems simultaneously very small and very large.
Based on Evan Wright’s best-selling novel of the same name, and released on DVD in December, Generation Kill will likely beat out a myriad of other potential Emmy nominees as the one I will campaign for most of all: strong performances, amazing production values, stunning direction, and assured writing deliver a miniseries that more people should experience.
Related Posts at Cultural Learnings
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July 13th, 2008
When watching Generation Kill, a miniseries event from HBO, it’s impossible not to draw the obvious comparisons to The Wire. While usually shows from the same creator bear moderate resemblance to one another, David Simon and Ed Burns have a style so distinctive that it’s hard to write a single sentence about this series without discuss the other. The Wire was a show about dropping the viewer into a world they didn’t understand without holding their hand about it, developing its own language, identities, and pacing. It wasn’t about telling a story about something, but rather telling the story.
That story, here, is the journey of a Marine Corps Battalion, and their embedded reporter Evan Wright (Who wrote the novel the series is based on), as they invade Iraq in the opening throes of the 2003 invasion. There’s a lot of people thrown around, and like The Wire you never really pick up their names so much as begin to identify them based on other characteristics. Although the first segment is not eventful in the traditional sense, the various bits and pieces we see give us enough of a background so that, when things do go down, we’ll know how people should or do react.
What makes Generation Kill compelling is not just Simon and Burns’ usual sharp writing and ear for realistic drama, or even the great cinematography/direction – rather, it’s seeing all of this play out in a context where we know the basic story at hand. In most stories, there would be attempts to shoehorn politics into this story; to not only show the wrong camouflage being sent to the army, but to show some stuffshirt politician making the decision so as to villainize. Here, the authority is a villain by omission – we as an audience have information they don’t, and that isolation is incredibly compelling.
It is also, however, intoxicating – when a show requires flow charts, you know that you’re not in for a normal television watching experience. Thus far, though? It’s a damn good one.