impatience

The thing I like about HBO (beyond the basic issues of quality storytelling) is the lack of control it brings to the audience. When I was a kid, The Wizard of Oz came on television once a year; you caught it, or you waited another year. No revival showings at lovingly restored theaters, no video; you were at the mercy of the networks. There was a certain charm to that, a real excitement that went along with a once-a-year event.

HBO puts together movies or series and then shows them on their own schedule, at their own whim, without much reference to the big network scheduling system. They might show three episodes of something and then not show the next three until January, and if that’s the case, you wait. We wait long long months between seasons of The Sopranos, for example. A marketing ploy, you sniff, and sure. But it’s one that works.

In a way, this approach is re-educating the audience. The networks taught us to expect short story arcs, problems presented and solved in a half hour or hour; between eight and nine cancer is faced and fought, an attraction matures into committment, criminals are found out and brought to justice. We are impatient. We want not only clear, tight, seamless endings, but we want them fast.

But not on HBO. HBO snickers at such whinings. You’ll wait for The Sopranos, and you’ll like waiting, by gum. Carrie’s romantic fate keeping you up at night? Too bad. Sure, the last episode of Sex and the City is filmed and waiting, but it’s not for you or me to see, not yet. Shocked that the main character in The Wire showed up floating in the river, and can’t figure out what in the heck is going on with the Russians — are they really just going to get off free? Sooner or later, when the people at HBO have had their fun watching us squirm, they will bring back the Baltimore crew, but I’m pretty confident it’s not going to be anything I’m anticipating.

Samson - Carnivale

Carnivale is a new series, a short one. Just twelve episodes. We’ve seen nine of them so far. Critical reviews aren’t great. Too odd, too quirky, too slow, too demanding. The audience wants some answers, they say. The audience is confused.

Maybe we are, and maybe we aren’t. Confused might be just the ticket in a case like this. I sit down to watch Carnivale on Sunday nights and it’s true, I don’t understand every odd David Lynch-ish turn, but I’m sure interested. Just when I think it’s going to turn into a remake of the pretentious Twin Peaks, there’s a quick shuffle and voila: I’m surprised, or touched, or just plain scared. I’m normally not big on religious symbolism or mystical goings-on, but I find myself wondering about these grimy, other-talented characters who are slogging their way through the depression, grappling with good and evil and things they don’t understand but have to pay for anyway.

If your normal bill of fare is loving Raymond and you get fidigty waiting while Regis draws out the answers on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, you’re not going to like Carnivale. You probably won’t like a lot of the other stuff on HBO either. But if you’re willing to put yourself into the storyteller’s hands and let somebody else make the decisions, you will be rewarded. If you sit back, relax, and let it happen.

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2 Replies to “impatience”

  1. crickey. pardon me while I run over to the Frell Me Dead board… whew. People are going nuts over there, especially as it looks as though (1) the press conference Henson scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed and (2) there’s a rumor that Brian Henson will be at the official farscape con this weekend in Burbank. I’ve certainly got butterflies.

    Thanks for the heads up, Anne.

  2. HBO is also a great venue – all the not-yet-mainstream stuff can be aired without too much controversy.

    On another cable related subject, the following is from the Dark Horizons Website (darkhorizons.com)

    Anne

    “Farscape (TV): The cancelled but highly acclaimed Sci-Fi Channel series which had its plug pulled earlier this year may be making a comeback. Last week an insider sent along this rumour: “Farscape is back in production – the series is to be wrapped up in 4-6 new episodes with the usual crew, cast and producers. The props and sets are being dusted off and are being assembled in preparation for filming in Sydney. The new mini-season will complete the story arc and bring closure”. An interesting story and a solid source but still it sounded almost like wishful thinking and as there still hasn’t been any official announcement about it I held off. After all, you would’ve thought Sci-Fi would have shouted it from the rooftops that its coming back to appease the ravenous fans of the show (incl. me). Then some people I know connected with the show started mentioning it’s coming back and its confirmed that the Sydney production office is open again. I placed three separate calls to them on Tuesday to confirm/deny the rumours and all three calls were not only summarily cut off at their end but the secretary hurled nasty insults (courtesy is a dying art) – I’ve never had problems with these guys before so best guess would be they’ve been advised not to speak to press at all (which would explain the lack of coverage locally). That would also explain that when I got in contact with a US publicity rep for Sci-Fi, they said they couldn’t comment on it at this time but will be releasing details when they’re available soon. Something IS stirring, I guess we’ll have to wait to find out what exactly”

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