From One Pawn To Another.
In television, a viewer might often feel a pawn, not being handed anything by a fellow pawn, but rather shifted from one board to the next. Never long to last in the fight, as the milieu of a series loses its shine and the successive attempts at new shows turn into just another run of short-lived games. Rarely does a pawn cross the board and become the queen, engrossed with and empowered by the board itself.
With a few shows I have felt myself as substantively more than a pawn in the game of television programming; in those handful of shows I have lastingly and fully been engrossed. I can really check them off with the fingers of one hand:
- “The West Wing” for its political acumen. A show that reminded us both of what we most wanted in our leaders and the forces which prevent that ideal from being manifested.
- “Battlestar Galactica” for its social commentary. In an era when America was redefining itself both at home and on the world stage, no television program so boldly captured our internalized national struggles.
- “LOST” for its Joycean depth. Bad Robot’s ambitious efforts to challenge viewers made expecting more of one’s viewers a reality and opened the door to the difficult-to-navigate world of what might aptly be termed televised literature.
- “The Wire” for its simple poetry. It is, after all, this epic, five-part poem about the decline of the American empire that gave us the inspired scene in which D’Angelo explains chess to Bodie and Wallace.
There have been other great shows. “Mad Men” gave us attention to detail and historical fiction as a commercial winner. “The Shield” offers a level of grittiness that is hard to turn from. But with most television, it’s as D’Angelo explained to Bodie, “The pawns, man, in the game, they get capped quick. They be out of the game early.” In most television, it’s easy to just sit back and play dumb. Only in the best shows are the pawns challenged to be “some smart ass pawns.” It’s those shows that challenge the viewer that interest me most. In “Rubicon”, I hope we have one such show.
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