Tuesday, March 31, 2009

today : wired

The BBC has finally got it's finger out and has started showing The Wire. It's funny, British TV just doesn't seem to be able to cope with the best of intelligent American TV. It never knows where to put it, especially with comedy but often with drama too. Seinfeld was bounced all over the place for years and never really got an audience here. Now the same fate has befallen Curb Your Enthusiasm - finding it is like finding a reliable stock option. The Wire found a place on the FX channel but was snuck out and got a pretty poor audience. ITV was pretty brave to buy Dexter but then couldn't decide what to do with it.

Which, in some ways is good, because we get to watch these things on DVD. Over the past couple of years critics have increasingly drooled over The Wire (I guess they got to see it) and there has been a groundswell of TV
aficionados lending each other box sets and setting up informal discussion groups.

Because for really great TV drama, it turns out that DVD is the absolute best medium. The West Wing - which I still nominate as the best network drama of all time, is 41 minutes per episode. Hardly any longer than a traditional BBC sitcom. it's hard to wait a week for such a small portion. But on DVD over 24 episodes it's a different story. You can watch episodes in chunks, or even treat a season as a holiday from real life and normal TV. Myself, I can do 14 hours straight - no problem and get through a season in a weekend.

But it's not only the flexibility of watching options that make DVD the best place to catch your drama fix. The best of TV has production values that are pretty much equal to film. In fact, the only difference seems to be the gratuitous use of expensive CGI in almost every movie released these days, as well as star salaries that make Fred Goodwin's pension look like parking change in the well of the car.

Who wants to watch broadcast TV when you can get 5.1 surround, digital picture beauty from a DVD? Tonight's episode one of The Wire
broadcast on BBC2 looked like an American TV series - a little too brightly coloured, a touch fuzzy round the edges, the sound compressed into a gluey, syrupy centred noise How ironic. TV that suffers from being broadcast on TV.

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