Dynamightgiveitamiss No.2: TV dramas. All of them.

January 12, 2011

It’s got bonnets. And class tensions. Or a detective and booze. Or a hospital or something. Or superheroes. Yeah, superheroes. Except they’re not called superheroes, because superheroes belong to an inferior cultural form. And this is high-quality, high-definition popular culture – shiny, glistening, remorselessly tasteful, the mass entertainment equivalent of a Moben kitchen. So they’re ordinary people with superhuman powers (i.e. superheroes). Or they’re zombies. Or vampires. Except they’re not really. They’re actually, y’know, when you get down to it, human beings. You just need a bit of light killing to provide relief between the heavy interpersonal relationship stuff. Because they’re ordinary people, yeah? I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve never known anyone quite like any of them, but they’re ordinary. Even the posh British ones with the costumes, or the one set in a 1960s New York ad agency. Because it’s fiction, but the kind that has parallels with our lives. The kind of parallels that can be pointed out on a late-night panel review, often with a serious face. You’ve just got to look past the bonnets. Do you see?

If you don’t, then come back next week. And the week after that. Just keep coming back. And if the dialogue seems opaque or coded, don’t worry: you’ll crack it soon, because it needs you to. A TV drama is the neediest form of fictional narrative. What a film can do in two-and-a-half hours, the televisual equivalent can demand up to 24. They’re inaction movies at best, or at worst, soap operas split into seasons. And look at it this way: if, as Nabokov once said, “great novels are above all great fairy tales” – that is to say, they take the world apart and reassemble it so we can experience its beauty, terror and unusualness anew – then the grandest TV dramas of recent years are like bad novels. Yes, they dismantle the world, and on the most ambitious scale possible, but when they put it back together, the logic falls apart. The plane crashed, and everyone survived, but they didn’t really, or maybe they did. The mass premonition was caused by something or other, but what does it matter? The show was cancelled anyway. Not that I watched it. But I can well imagine the frustration and disappointment of never reaching a proper conclusion and simply ending in mid

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