Great TV

Rome About 18 months ago, my wife and I accidentally came across Episode 2 of "Rome" on TV.  We were immediately hooked, and sat transfixed each week until Series 1 ended after 12 episodes.   We knew that a second season had been made, but it never seemed to appear on any station available in Canada.  Most frustrating.  Then I happened to notice that Amazon was selling boxed sets of the entire 2-series show, a total of 22 long episodes.  Over last weekend and each evening this week, we watched the whole thing from beginning to end.

Rome_3 This is truly great television, epic in scale, consistently of the highest quality in production values, writing and acting.  Even more, the political background is remarkably accurate.  The series covers the period from Julius Ceasar's decision to bring his armies back from Gaul to Rome, through the Civil war against Pompey, his dictatorship and assassination, and includes Octavian and Marc Anthony's campaigns against Cassius and Brutus.  The series concludes with the deaths of Anthony and Cleopatra before the power of Octavian, about to become the first true Emperor of Rome as Ceasar Augustus.

Rome_2 We follow this history through various tracks: In one part of the foreground are two men, soldiers in Ceasar's legions: Lucius Verenus, and Titus Pullo, who represent the plebs, the lower orders;  in another part of the foreground are the senior politicians and soldiers:  Julius Ceasar, Marc Anthony, Cato, Brutus, Cicero, Pompey, Cleaopatra, Octavian, whose bloody rivalries drive the narrative and time lines; and the aristocratic women represented most clearly by Servilia of the Junii, Atia of the Julii, and Attia's daughter Octavia, who allow us to learn about the style and culture of the time, and whose vicious feuds make modern soap operas look like nursery rhymes.  All of the major characters are examined in depth, as are a dozen or more lesser figures.

The series cost a fortune to make -- no wonder they quit after 22 episodes.  And all the dollars are on the screen in sets, costumes, props, extras.  The acting is very fine throughout.  There is a great deal of sex and at least as much gore.  This is not for the faint of heart or the conservative Reader's Digest viewer.  The episodes were written by a number of separate authors.  But their consistency in quality and pace shows the strong guiding hand of, I suppose, Bruno Heller.This is marvelous stuff and if you haven't seen it, I urge you get hold of the DVDs and enjoy it.


August 24, 2007 in Movies, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tolerating the Intolerant

Malene Arpe of the Toronto Star has written a most marvelous piece about the intolerance shown by fanatics -- most recently by Muslims complaining about cartoons.  She makes some wonderful points throughout, but I'll just quote her close:

"I work hard, as an atheist, at not being angered by the increasing inclusion of this, that or whatever god in areas of life that should be secular. I succeed because I tell myself it's none of my business what people believe, although every time they pray on Survivor or I hear another one-hit wonder thanking God for His direct hand in securing a People's Choice Award, I do feel the need to say a dirty word. Just to counteract.I happen to think religion is destructive, oppressive and overburdened by silly hats.

I also think the only reason Christianity has more adherents and respectability than, say, the Raelians or the Scientologists, is that the Christians came along first. Don't let that keep you from looking heavenwards. Do what you will in the comfort of your own home or place of worship and rest assured that when I visit I will behave politely, cover up whatever vile parts of my body offend your particular god, and refrain from eating ham sandwiches while you pray.

If being offended is such a necessity to your enjoyment of life or your sense of self, think about the censorship you implicitly advocate. Consider that you may not be the one who gets to decide what is offensive and should be banned. Maybe it will be me. I guarantee you wouldn't like it."

Definitely couldn't have said it better myself.

February 13, 2006 in America Inc, Current Affairs, Media, Religion [1], Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Wrong Medium and The Wrong Message

I've watched and listened to as little of Live8 as a general scanning of the media allowed.  I just can't bring myself to associate with this event in even such a peripheral way as listening on the radio.

From the very beginning I have been an extreme sceptic of the whole affair.  The entire event has much more to do with flagging careers and strategic music biz PR than it has with poverty.  It is no coincidence that Live8 is arranged just at a time when the music industry's reputation is in the gutter, with stupid legal cases against ordinary music downloaders scarring the marketplace.

Don't get me wrong, there is no doubt some genuine goodwill behind some of the artists involved, Geldorf included no doubt.  But the managers and record labels and global businesses that actually allowed it to happen have nothing but the market in mind.  And for the television and radio stations that carried hours and hours of it live and recorded, this is very low-cost high-impact programming.

So, it was a medium created to do most well for the industry that put it on and the other media conglomerates that could feed off it.

And as for the message?  First of all, there is a great deal of doubt whether the majority of those attending and listening and watching LIve8 know what the background cause -- poverty -- was supposed to be.  And of those few who did know that there was a "cause", most thought that it was fundraiser.  Which it was not.  My reading of the audience is based on a whole series of interviews that CBC Radio conducted with attendees of Live8 Canada at Barrie, Ontario.

The message was supposed to be -- get your governments involved in helping to solve poverty in Africa.  In Canada, people were urged to write to their Member of Parliament and the relevant Ministries.  In other words, get the government to help solve African poverty by hijacking my taxes without my consent.  This is a stupid pro-big government message, promoting an inefficient and compulsory system.

Better the message should be, put your hands in your pockets and voluntarily support charities and NGOs and assistive agencies in general.  If you want to take it a step further, withhold the same amount from your taxes this year.  If a few million Canadians decide to do that, the Revenue Department won't lock us all up -- they'll sensibly come to a deal.

My message is:  don't do anything to increase the ability of the government to use your money for any purpose without consent; and don't think better of the rapacious music industry just because they staged this grand PR stunt.

July 2, 2005 in Canada, Capitalism, Current Affairs, Media, Music [1], Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Real Scandal of American TV

CNN Business News has a report today on the FCC's crackdown on "anti-decency", by which they mean naughty words, bare buttocks and the slightest view of the female breast on American television.  In typical MSM fashion, CNN describes the events as "the smut scandals that erupted in 2004."

Tv_kidsyukiOf course, the genuine scandal is that a typical American child will see more than  20,000 murders on television before they graduate from high school, they will see closeups of autopsies on CSI, they will witness scores of thousands of other violent TV events.  This is fine apparently.  This is the kind of atmosphere the Americans want their children brought up to, the kind of interpersonal interactions they want them to emulate.  Violence and death is the basic education that American network TV delivers.

Having children see genuinely loving couples doing genuinely loving things is apparently illegal and immoral.  This is the kind of interpersonal interaction that is to be considered scandalous, matters that should be kept in the dark, away from the ears of children.

Death and violence, though, is OK and should be encouraged.

No regime seeking to develop a militaristic fascistic society can afford to allow their people to think about loving and compassion.  Violence and brutality needs to be bred at an early age.  This is the educational value of modern American network television. As Rogers and Hammerstein wrote fifty years ago:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

With this in mind, we have to say that US network television and their FCC masters succeed brilliantly.

December 19, 2004 in America Inc, Bush Administration, Government Intrusion, Right wing, Television | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack