Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SHOOT FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER: Since it's almost time to wrap things up for the season, I wanted to say a few words for two of the three shows (along with Parks & Recreation) to which I most look forward each week.

First, The Pacific. I freely admit that it's not as moving or as good as Band of Brothers, but maybe that's an impossibly high bar. I also think that the structure, with the rotating leads and the shore leave and hospital stay plunked right into the middle, made it impossible to build much momentum. Yet I still look forward to watching every week. Most of all, I think it's admirable that Spielberg and Hanks, who tend toward the overly sentimental, have essentially made a diptych that splits World War II culturally into two pieces: the European part, which inherits the tradition of war as a theater of picturesque horror enacted by stout men; and the Pacific part, which adopts a harsher view of war as a place where dehmumanized boys, disconcerted by complete unfamiliarity with their situation or surroundings and distrust of their superiors, treat victory as only the least bad of a set of unpromising strategies for survival. The European Theater is Hemingway and oil paint; the Pacific Theater is Vietnam and Norman Mailer and the grainy footage on the CBS Evening News.

Second, Justified is just bad-ass. It's not just that Marshal Givens is a crack shot and likes to tell his adversaries exactly what he's going to do (though I do like that). It's that despite all the gunplay, the show really revolves around its dialogue. Some of the characters speak plainly but entertainingly (like Givens, whose confident, matter-of-fact "it's going to take me a day or so to figure this all out" made me laugh last night), some colorfully (Chief Mullen), and some in layers upon layers of meaning (Boyd Crowder). Almost all of the dialogue, though, is crisp and intentioned. The talking is so central to the action that when the guns are used, they're often just in service of the talking -- holstering and brandishing as inflection. Olyphant is perfectly cast, of course -- I can't think of a more obvious choice for this role -- but the supporting cast, especially Nick Searcy as the beleaguered chief, Natalie Zea as Givens's equally capable ex-wife (Givens acknowledges her instincts and allows himself an appreciative chuckle when she absentmindedly loads a clip in the car), and Rick Gomez (BoB's Luz) as Givens's reciprocally respected D.A., are excellent. I'm not wild about the romance with Ava, who is far less interesting than Winona, but otherwise I have a hard time finding anything to fault with this show.


  1. Carmcihael Harold4:39 PM

    I agree about both shows. I can't decide if the splintered narrative is the problem with Pacific, or whether it's that I'm better off seeing shows with large casts of similarly attired people in succession on DVD so I can lock the characters and their stories into my brain, rather than losing track on a weekly schedule.

  2. I have missed Bob Leckie in the second half of the Pacific. I was enthralled by James Badge Dale's portrayal of Leckie.

    I have seen only one episode of Justified -it was the second one- and it seemed a little bit terrible. I take it I need to try again?

  3. I don't watch either, but will put in a plug for Community and Parks & Rec.

  4. Carmcihael Harold5:17 PM


    I unreservedly love Justified, and agree with all that Isaac wrote. That being said, and while the second episode was probably the worst, I'm not sure it is so different in quality as to make a huge difference. Perhaps give it one more chance, though.

  5. isaac_spaceman5:55 PM

    I love Community, but for whatever reason I don't look forward to it as much as the other three. I enjoy it in the moment; with the others, I just can't wait for the show to start.

  6. isaac_spaceman6:00 PM

    I liked the second episode. I think the first was the strongest, and maybe the good feelings for that one stuck with me. I really liked the hostage episode a whole lot (especially with Bullock facing off against Dan Dorrity). But I like shows whose villains are clever or smart. This show tends to feature more insightful bad guys-of-the-week than most.

  7. lauri7:10 PM

    i have been loving justified and definitely look forward to every new episode. timothy olyphant is great (and exudes hotness) but i also really like the pacing of the show, which seems more laid back than most shows (right up until the stand-off/shooting begins).

    chuck would be the other show that i can't wait to see each week...but that's mainly because i loved season two so much. season three has tended to be disappointing most weeks.

  8. Carmichael Harold7:14 PM

    You're right about the villains. One of the things that really sets the show apart is that iit takes time to develop the villains, even in standalone episodes, as three-dimensional characters.

  9. kevbo nobo7:26 AM

    Amen. Justified is awesome. Loved the bit with Wynona and the gun as well.
    The Pacific is very well done, but (as opposed to BoB) there is nothing to "enjoy" -- the comradere amongst the company, the comic relief from Luz and Perconte, Dick Nixon's wry charm, and the way WInters got to reward his guys at the end--that makes the Pacific a more emotionally painful watch. But from all that I have read of the Pacific war, there was no other way to tell it.

  10. Andrew11:55 AM

    I'm weeks behind on Justified, The Pacific and Treme, but think all three are great. The drama I look forward to most week to week is Breaking Bad, and comedy is the Community/Parks & Rec hour. Parks & Rec has been all kinds of brilliant this season.