Category Archives: Television

David Simon vs Eric Holder

Shot:

I want to speak directly to [showrunners Ed] Burns and [David] Simon: Do another season of The Wire.

–Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at a Justice Department anti-child-abuse forum attended by Wire actors Wendell “Bunk” Pierce, Sonja “Kima” Sohn, and Jim “Prez” True-Frost.
The Daily What.

Chaser:

“The Attorney-General’s kind remarks are noted and appreciated. I’ve spoken to Ed Burns and we are prepared to go to work on season six of The Wire if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanising drug prohibition.”

–The Wire creator David Simon, in an e-mail to the Times of London responding to Attorney General Eric Holder demand for an additional season of the acclaimed HBO series.
The Daily What

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Game of Thrones hitting its stride

Four episodes into the first season Game of Thrones is really hitting its stride. The plot lines are becoming a bit clearer, with fewer moments where only people who have read the book would know what is taking place. More importantly, the characters themselves are starting to shine. The actors playing Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen are all doing an outstanding job. Even the actors playing Sansa Stark and Joffrey Baratheon – two of the least likeable characters – are succeeding in making their characters really unlikable.

Moreover, as Alyssa Rosenberg points out, Game of Thrones is succeeding in portraying the many ways in which George R.R. Martin’s novel rejects traditional fantasy constructs for how societies deal dynamically with people who don’t fit traditional roles with ease.

But one of the things the Game of Thrones universe does best is to shake up the fantastical expectation that it’s reasonably easy for unusual people and people with unusual ambitions to make a place for themselves in rigid societies. The show insists that it’s difficult enough to fit into pre-approved roles if they’re available to you, and even harder to find a place for yourself if you’re unlucky enough not to slot into a pre-approved role at all.

I think this is really right. Add this to the brutality of Martin’s world (demonstrated last night with a violent and bloody depth at an otherwise regal jousting tournament) and the HBO series is doing well to preserve some of the key aspects to Martin’s unique narrative.

The only thing that makes me disappointed is with how fast-paced the HBO series is. We’re already about 40% through the first season. Yes, good, interesting, dramatic narrative threads are being drawn out. But they’re being constructed with far less depth and complexity than the books. This isn’t terribly surprising, but it’s somewhat sad to see things left out from such a robust narrative. I don’t blame the folks at HBO for this. I imagine an truly close dramatic translation of A Game of Thrones to television would require 30-40 hours of film time. Ten hours requires cutting a lot. At the end of the day, people who like the Game of Thrones series should absolutely still read Martin’s books.

Early Thoughts on “Game of Thrones”

I’ve watched two episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones series and wanted to share a few quick thoughts (yes, there are spoilers).

First, I think the shows at HBO have created a rich and marvelous version of Westeros. Things look a lot like how I’d imagine them to look like. The Wall is even grander than I’d imagined while reading the books. The visual aspects and attention to detail add a lot to the viewing experience. Yes, a couple scenes have looked pretty clearly like a sound stage, but that doesn’t really bother me too much.

Second, this has been quite true to the early parts of A Game of Thrones. It’s moving incredibly fast, but key scenes are being fairly accurately displayed. Some snippets of dialogue come straight from the book, but many are distillations of longer-running threads in the first novel. But overall, things are being well portrayed and characters largely seem to be who they were in the books.

In fact, the real problem isn’t that the show is insufficiently true to the first novel, but that without the help of a narrator or internal monologue, the show is fairly inaccessible to people who haven’t read the books. Throughout the first episode, I had to pause the DVR to explain what was happening and who was in a scene to my fiance. This happened less frequently in the second episode, but was still a part of the viewing. The opacity of the story through loyalty to the book without explanation reminds me a lot of my experience with the movie Watchmen. The film was a beautiful adaptation from the graphic novel of the same name, but failed to provide the context that was lost from the narrative. While it was easy for me as someone who had read the book to follow along, I knew a lot of people who hadn’t read it and as a result missed out tremendously while watching the movie.

Lastly, the show has faithfully replicated the brutality of Martin’s world. From the direwolf ripping the throat out of Bran’s would-be assassin to Daenerys’ rape at the hands of her husband Khal Drogo to the bloodied body of Arya’s butcher boy friend. Life is brutal for these characters and there is no lack of blood and pain on the screen. A lot of this is intrinsic to any faithful representation of Miller’s writing, but the HBO writers aren’t pulling any punches.

All that said, I’m really enjoying Game of Thrones. The plot is moving fast, but it’s exciting and even though my fiance hasn’t read the books, after the second episode she immediately wanted to see the third, which I take to be a really good sign for the show building support. There’s still a lot that isn’t making it into the show from the book, which is regrettable but predictable. Nonetheless, the first two episodes have been really great television and I’m hungry for more.

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