Thursday, August 13, 2009
Get thee behind me, Summer
O, thank you, St Michael and all your archangels, for getting us at last to the end of the summer TV doldrums. True, I’m grateful to Bravo for tiding us over with Top Chef Masters (which, surprisingly, turned out to be more fun than the regular Top Chef franchise), but otherwise……it’s been a desert of delayed gratification on the smallish screen. New episodes of the formerly de rigueur but now ineffably tedious Entourage don’t cut it; that show jumped the shark years ago.
Yep, the summer drought ends Sunday, when Mad Men returns for season 3, followed in short order by Top Chef Las Vegas, and then Project Runway finally, finally struts its stuff again on August 20.
Big Love, alas, just started filming, so you have to wait till early 2010 for the return of everybody’s most memorable Mormons.
Only through the thoughtful ministrations of my BFF – otherwise known as TIVO – did I get through the dog days. A couple months ago, I awoke one day to discover all 35 episodes of In Treatment singing to me from the TV room. Immediately I started rationing myself, planning my lunchtimes around taking just one session a day with the therapist with feet of clay, Paul Weston, played by Gabriel Byrne.
As absorbing as the first season was, season 2 turned out to be better. Of particular interest to me was the storyline involved Mia, a former patient of Paul’s who return to therapy with some unsettled scores. Hope Davis turned in a profound performance as the rare client who actually gets somewhere during her sessions – eventually – thanks to a quiet and unexpected epiphany. Expect Ms. Davis to get an Emmy for the role, on September 20, for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Role. (She’ll compete with Dianne Wiest, also nominated for her role as the therapist’s therapist.)
Cable shows are very well represented this year in the Emmy nominations, and it is no accident that many of them are exceptionally well-written. HBO in particular likes to hire playwrights to write their shows, and the playwriting sensibility is highly evident in their finest series. Sarah Treem, whose play A Feminine Ending did so well at Portland Center Stage a couple of years ago, was a major influence on the first season of In Treatment; her hand was equally evident in season 2, when she was joined by such notable playwrights as Jacquelyn Reingold and Warren Leight. (Jackie wrote the Mia sequence, in fact, and had a cameo role in one episode as half of a squabbling couple.)
Big Love can boast of playwrights Melanie Marnich and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; over at Showtime, Rolin Jones puts those wacky pothead on Weeds through their paces; and on network television, Bridget Carpenter writes for the much-lauded yet reportedly underwatched Friday Night Lights. The list goes on and on. Yet all these writers are still penning plays. “I won’t be writing for television forever,” Bridget said awhile back. “I have every intention of keeping my playwriting muscles in shape.”
Thank you for that, St. Michael. But in the interim, the injection of playwriting talent into ailing TV land is welcome indeed.