Finger On The Pulse

That doesn't look gritty, it looks air brushed!

I was watching an episode of The Wire the other day, because that’s exactly the kind of with-it, up-to-date guy I am. My middle name is Zeitgeist. I have my finger so firmly on the pulse of this nation that I’m about to steal the nation’s watch. I am hep to the jive, even though I’m not sure what the word “hep” means, and up until a week ago, I thought that “the jive” was something that you treated with hydrocortisone. I am up to fucking date is what I’m saying, just as long as that date is June 2nd, 2002. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dance the Charleston on top of a flagpole.

I tend to watch television series only after they’ve aired to completion for the simple reason that I rarely watch television. Mostly that’s because television sucks, but in the case of HBO series, it’s because I don’t like waiting an eternity between shows. Here’s how the schedule works for HBO:

  • Premiers a show about the inner workings of a New Jersey mafia family
  • Show becomes wildly popular and a critical success
  • Season one finale brings in record numbers of viewers
  • Producers decide to take 47 years off between seasons

Because, really, why would you want to keep giving people what they want? Make them fucking wait for it! Call it the Axl Rose method. If something is hotly anticipated, it stands to reason that it will be even more hotly anticipated by their grandchildren, right?

China itself was created in less time than it took to release this album.

China itself was created in less time than it took to release this album.

The Sopranos drove me up the goddamn wall with that shit. Two and a half years between seasons? It’s like the cast consisted of method actors who insisted upon doing real time just so they could really get into the heads of their characters. I gave up on the Sopranos until after the series finale, then bought the entire series on DVD and spent the next two months engaged in a Sopranos marathon so intense that when I finally left the house, all I could do was grab my crotch and yell, “OHHHH!” which, to tell you the truth, was problematic when it came time to pick my kids up from day care.

The other thing I didn’t like about the schedule is that each season consisted of only 10 episodes. Ten. That’s it. When I was growing up, a television season consisted of 26 episodes and started each fall. So, for instance, let’s say that you were a fan of the sitcom Happy Days. In October, new episodes would air. And, barring a holiday or some other important event like Jamie Farr boxing Charo on Battle of the Network Stars, you’d see a new episode each week until spring rolled around, at which point you were committed to an insane asylum, because Happy Days was fucking retarded.

That’s a full season. Not 10 episodes. And it starts in the goddamn fall. I remember about 15 years ago the show Survivor was brand new. I blinked my fucking eyes and they were on season six. One season per year, assholes. Any more than that and we have a hard time keeping track of who we hate. (Bonus advice: Voting people off of the island is fucking boring. Catapulting people off of the island is Ratings Gold.)

Another show that I had a problem with on HBO was Six Feet Under. I started out liking it, because it was quirky and weird, but after a while it just became too… gay. It was way too gay. Look, I don’t care about other people’s sexual preferences. Who you dump your bodily fluids into on your own time is none of my concern. And I’m certainly not the type to stick my head in the sand and pretend that there is no such thing as homosexuality. Having gay characters on TV doesn’t bother me at all.

But after a while, Six Feet Under (a series centered around a family-owned funeral home) just started getting gay for no other reason than that it was getting attention. I got the feeling that Elton John was probably watching at home, thinking, “Whoah, that’s really fucking gay!” (I also remember thinking, “I really doubt there’s that much fisting going on in your average funeral home, but just to be safe, I want to be cremated.”)

I also tend to miss out on television series because I spend so much time watching Bolivian amputee porn reading. I do not want to waste a single moment watching ultra-shitty TV (I paid my dues in the 70’s, thank you). So I wait until everyone starts talking about this great new show, and then I REALLY ignore it because great new shows tend to be the fucking worst. Happy Days? Survivor? That show where they laugh at people who can’t sing?

But every now and again, people that I trust will tell me that I’m missing something truly great, like Breaking Bad. Then I catch up on the series and wait along with everyone else for the penultimate episode in which, at long last, Walter White finally explains what the word penultimate means (it’s a type of mollusk).

The point is, I’m higher than Jesus right now. No, wait, that isn’t the point. The point is that I watched an episode of The Wire. Ever seen The Wire? If you haven’t, you’ll probably want to ask your parents if they remember it. It’s a gritty, realistic tale of urban decay that probably drove realtors in Baltimore fucking batty.

“You know how hard it is to sell real estate when HBO is describing the neighborhood on prime time TV as ‘America’s Taint’? REALLY GODDAMN HARD!

"Taint is such a strong word. I prefer to call it rustic!"

“Taint is such a strong word. I prefer to call it rustic!”

I find myself fascinated by the series, as it gives me a glimpse into a world that I will never experience. But I wonder how people in that world see it. I mean, half of the characters in the show wouldn’t be able to afford HBO, and the other half are in jail, but the rest of crime-ridden Baltimore: Do they like the show?

I don’t think I would. Can you imagine slogging through an urban landscape of misery and despair each day, coming home, turning on the TV, and seeing a replay of the entire thing? “I don’t need to watch this on TV, asshole. I can just look out the fucking window!”

And that probably explains Happy Days. Why watch your TV friends get shot just like your real friends when you can watch Tom Hanks kick the Fonz in the face? As a matter of fact, I bet if I created an entire network that showed nothing but clips of celebrities getting kicked in the face, it would get HUGE ratings. I’m going to get right on that. Expect the first season to begin in six years.