Wednesday, January 7, 2009

THE COKE MACHINE MOMENT: Last night's second Scrubs, featuring a fine performance by Baltimore's own Mayor Clarence Royce, finished with a nice montage set to Death Cab's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." Scrubs is one of those shows that uses music very effectively and gives good montage. In fact, if I recall correctly, it's one of only three shows on television that have caused me to go out and buy a song on iTunes, back when I downloaded Colin Hay's melancholic solo acoustic version of "Overkill." The second of those shows was Friday Night Lights, where I first heard Bright Eyes's cover of "Devil Town" from the penultimate scene in Season 1. (Incidentally, the DirecTV channel uses that same song for its bonus pre-credits credit sequence for Season 3 of FNL. I don't know if non-DirecTV users are even going to get the Devil Town credits, but they are stunning in HD.)

Which reminds me of something I've been meaning to post about: my belated ALOTT5MA Award for Best Montage of 2008. First, the runner-up*: The end of the Season 2 premiere of Chuck, set to Frightened Rabbit's "Twist." And the winner: The end of the second episode of the Jordana Brewster arc on Chuck, set to Frightened Rabbit's "Keep Yourself Warm." The two share more than just a show and a band -- both also are pivotal moments in Chuck's continuing imprisonment in the spy world and alienation from regular life. The latter, though, had two extra things going for it: slow motion running (a hallmark of good montage), and an extremely well-acted Coke Machine Moment.

The Coke Machine Moment, if you don't know, is the moment when you realize that you are in the middle of a huge and totally unnecessary mistake exactly at the moment when you realize it is irreversible. It is named for the moment when, very close to the end of the lives of 2.18 persons a year, those persons realize that shaking the malfunctioning vending machine to dislodge a stuck Coke is going to end not in ice-cold refreshment but rather in blunt trauma or asphyxiation, because that thing is a millimeter past its tipping point and there's nowhere to go but down. The pain of the Coke Machine Moment is the cruel junction of avoidability, inevitability, and unexpected clarity. My own defining Coke Machine Moment came on, and then off, a motorcycle, but every time there's a strange tragedy like an air disaster or a tsunami, I can't keep myself from imagining it for the victims. In the Chuck montage, that moment comes when Yvonne Strahovski and Adam Baldwin freeze, then Baldwin's usually locked jaw parts a bit in surprise and Strahovski inhales a little. A perfect moment, just as the (badly-dubbed, because let's face it, the song drops like 70 f-bombs) music crests. For all that Chuck did right the last half-season, I think that was my favorite moment.

*Second runner-up, and I know somebody's going to kill me for not making this #1, is The Wire.

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