Sports Night

I started rewatching Sports Night on Netflix this week, and am finding myself amazed, first, at how well the show has held up, not to mention how well Josh Charles and Peter Krause have held up thirteen years later.

But beyond that, and far more importantly: I’m amazed that I’d managed to completely forget the absolutely horrid laugh track.

Pretty funny to watch an underappreciated show about an underappreciated show being made for a tone-deaf network that aired on a tone-deaf network.

Deadwood, Take Two

R. and I have been rewatching Deadwood, starting from the beginning, over the last few weeks, and I’ve found myself rather astonished by a few things:

1. How many small details and insinuations I’ve picked up that simply eluded me the first time around. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “oh! That’s what that was about!”

2. How quickly my language has once again been infected by Deadwood-speak, not just in my choice of nouns and adjectives, but in syntax.

3. How absolutely brilliant the series was, not just in a use of language that comes as close as I can imagine to the Shakespearean, and not just in its stunning visual sense, but in its characterizations, its performances, and in the degree to which it made me care about a time and a place that I’d never before had the least interest in.

4. How insanely fucking furious I am made by the decisions of HBO/David Milch/whomever else involved, first to pull the plug on the fourth and final season, and now to eliminate what pathetic little shred of hope remained for any kind of even half-assed conclusion to the series.


Four years ago, I live-blogged the game (let’s count: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen — fifteen fanatical posts! Mwahahahahaha!) and scared the crap out of my cats in the process of running back and forth from television to computer, screaming at the screens all the while. Last night’s game was a much more laid-back affair, in part because I refused to let myself get invested (the first few minutes of the game seeming to make the case for such reticence, and the Tigers’ long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory making any pre-fourth-quarter excitement ill-advised), and in part because I wasn’t home, and wasn’t alone, but was instead watching the game at a friend’s house, and an Ohio State alumna friend at that.

It was, in the end, a good game — LSU’s defense was as strong as I’ve ever seen it — though perhaps it wasn’t quite as exciting as what I’d hoped for. I do find it utterly astonishing, though, that LSU could be the only team nationally to have won two BCS championships in the nine years of the system’s existence, and yet still seem somehow undeserving of the number one spot. Yes, in 2004 the BCS and the AP poll split the number one spot between LSU and USC (as we heard no end of whining about here in SoCal [and can I just note, while I’m on the subject, that while it was a bit embarrassing for the 2003-2004 Trojans to have lost to Cal, losing to Stanford this year ought to exclude them from any top five lists anywhere]). And yes, this year LSU has become the only two-loss team ever to win a national championship (though this one, happily, not a split decision). But in a season in which, as ESPN reminded me this morning, four different teams held the number one spot and nine at least briefly sat at number two, it’s little wonder that the outcome might seem a bit weird.

In any case: Geaux Tigers. Geaux Les Miles. Now, I gotta get back to work.

Back to Work with You, Then

There’s much I’d like to post about, but there’s only been steadfast, nose-to-grindstone work today, in part because I’m feeling that last week running through the hourglass mighty quickly, but in part because I spent the weekend with Harry Potter, both in print and on film. No spoilers here, I swear; just two quick non-spoily observations, given that my print experience was the Brit edition and my film experience had French subtitles:

1. The French have translated a lot of proper nouns. Like “Hogwarts,” which becomes, if I’m remembering correctly, “Poudlard,” which at least suggests “hog” through its bacony reference, but within which “poud” doesn’t seem to mean anything. (Unless it’s “powdered bacon,” and then I’m even more bemused.) And “Crookshanks,” which becomes “Pattenrond,” which seems like a sort of Germanified “round feet,” which makes a certain sense, I guess, but, I don’t know, loses something in the translation.

2. There sure seems to me to be a lot more “blimey!” in the Brit edition, despite the U.S. editor’s insistence that “there are virtually no differences in the texts of the last few books.”

And with those utterly beside the point but non-secret-giving-away comments, back to work….

It’s Not TV

Last night, I have to say, was a heck of a night of television — the second-to-last episode of The Sopranos (EVER, as the trailer for next’s week’s episode informed us, in case we hadn’t been paying attention), followed by the second-to-last episode of the first season of The Tudors. The two episodes make for an interesting pairing; one could imagine Melfi’s dawning awareness of the manipulative uses of talk therapy made by the sociopath just as easily coming from Thomas More, with the substitution of piety for psychoanalysis.

R. and I just started watching The Tudors this last week, however, and went on a fairly minor binge, watching the re-airings of season one’s first eight episodes over the course of the week, leading up to last night’s episode nine. There are some fairly significant tinkerings with the history involved in the series, not least some key deaths that are shifted around for narrative effect. Henry Fitzroy, for instance, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, died when he was 17, but the series kills him off as a toddler. I get the dramatic impact there: just at the point at which Henry is rolling out his “God is punishing me for having married my brother’s wife” argument, his one acknowledged son dies, a harbinger of the plague that follows. But others of the changes are less easily understood. The series’s Margaret Tudor, for instance, dies of consumption in 1533ish (after having killed her first husband, the king of Portugal, and remarried Charles Brandon, the first duke of Somerset) — when, in fact, it was Mary Tudor who married Somerset and died in 1533; Margaret Tudor married James IV of Scotland and bore a line of Stuarts, living until 1541. (So far as I know, none of the Tudors killed the king of Portugal, though I could well be wrong, and wouldn’t be a bit surprised.) Why substitute Margaret for Mary here? Did the producers just like the name better?

Such changes to the historical narrative, however, are relatively superficial; the series strikes me as a compelling reimagining of the period, if through a somewhat presentist lens. That, The Tudors shares less with The Sopranos than with Deadwood, with which series I’d also be willing to swear The Tudors also shares the producers of its opening titles, as well as the composers of its title music, though I haven’t been able to find any confirmation of that hunch.

Studio 60

Thanks to Liz and Lori, I spent a chunk of last night watching a little, tiny version of the pilot episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

It was worth all the squinting. Oh, the joys of once again watching Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme in their element: backstage, rapid-fire, filled with enough submerged detail that it’s always worth watching again. I’m really hoping that the series holds up well beyond the pilot, because it’s like the glory days of SportsNight, with a higher budget and a full hour to stretch out in…