Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some TV thoughts: Game of Thrones and its HBO Fate, and Chicago Code

For the writers at Cleveland Sports Torture, every single waking moment is not consumed by only sports.  The writers possess a wide range of interests, from tv shows about sports, to movies featuring Cleveland, to torture art.  Well, not really, but we hope you excuse our occasional dalliance into the world of movies, television, tech, fashion and more.  And it won't all be about Cleveland.  Probably.

Lately it seems I've stumbled into the unfortunate scenario where I've allowed several television series to find their way into my DVR, ready and waiting to take parts of my life, one hour at a time.  Just when I finally stopped watching The Event, the NBC alien-slash-political drama, a bunch of new shows pop up to take its place.  I wanted to write a little bit about a couple promising shows--maybe it'll allow some of you to start watching and catch up.

Chicago Code

Chicago Code stars Jennifer Beals and Jason Clarke.  Under the El, naturally.
Now that the Law & Order franchise appears to be on life support (at best), a new cop show has come along to try and take its place. Chicago Code is, of course, set in the Second City, and to this Chi-town transplant, it's almost funny how big a role the city plays in the show.  Perhaps it's just because I live here as a new resident, but I'm constantly noticing (and looking for) Chicago-centric things that a mustachioed native may not give a second thought. The constant references to all things Chicago have become a running joke in my house.  If it isn't cracks about the Cubs or White Sox, jaunts over to Chinatown or the Gold Coast, it's the fact that the CTA train appears to run over just about every street in Chicago.  Or maybe it's just the fact that every crime and/or police chase in Chicago happens directly underneath, the El tracks. I suppose all the shows set in New York do the same thing with their neighborhoods and points of interest, but I'm not used to recognizing streets that I ride my bike to work on.  If South Euclid 911 ever comes out, that will just be too close to home.

Nevertheless, the show is quite good.  It comes from Shawn Ryan, the creater of The Shield (and I do miss Vic Mackey), and has all the ingredients for long-running intrigue.  A young idealistic police commander (Jennifer Beals), a grizzled detective veteran directly aligned with her (Jason Clarke), his young untested partne, a crooked politician (Delroy Lindo), undercover officers, and, of course, the city of Chicago.  So far so good.  It started rough, but for now it's my new NYPD Blue.  And that is a good thing.  Unfortunately, if more people don't start watching Chicago Code, this will be a short-lived fixture on Fox.

Game of Thrones

Now lately I realized that I read a lot of books.  Or, more accurately, I've begun again reading a lot of books.  Somehow this April I've started a new workout, fell into too much television, followed the Indians' hot start, and read three books so far.  And all this while trying (and failing) to pull my weight as I help plan a wedding to a fantastic girl.  (I probably need to refocus my priorities.) But of all the books I've read, I've somehow never heard of the George R.R. Martin fantasy novel series A Song of Fire and Ice.  I guess I'm not huge on fantasy, even though I did finish all seven Harry Potter novels.  But if HBO tells me the books are worth making into a series, I may have to read them.  (But I'm still not gonna read the Sookie Stackhouse novels.)

Game of Thrones, based on the A Song of Fire and Ice novels, premiered two weeks ago on HBO, and has already been picked up for a second season.  It certainly started off exciting, with mysterious demon-swordsmen slaughtering some soldiers from some clan.  (Yes, I'm being vague here--if you want a full review just go to any of the entertainment blogs.)  All I know is that the main character, played by Sean Bean, who I will always think of as the vengeful terrorist-criminal in one of my favorite films of all time, Patriot Games.  (One of my favorite Harrison Ford movies, too, for what it's worth.)

The visuals and the sets are wonderful.  Oddly, some of the outdoor woods scenes in the pilot were lit in obviously artificial light that was painfully apparent in HD.  Surprising that this wasn't corrected in post-production.  What is well lit are the abundance of sex scenes, not surprising in their existence, but perhaps only in their quantity, during the pilot.  I guess it is HBO, and the show did need to be picked up.

Unlike some other recent HBO series (I'm looking at you, True Blood), the effects and sets don't have to overshadow terrible acting. Unfortunately, recently, these expensive productions have meant the far-too-soon death of fantastic period shows like Deadwood, Rome, and Carnivale.  I was certainly skeptical of some of those, shows, when they started, but perhaps Game of Thrones will develop as a great show like those, yet will stick around for a while.  (And here's a prayer for Boardwalk Empire, too.  Seems only HBO series set in current times have a chance of survival these days.)