The golden age of TV

We’ve been watching the real golden age of TV lately on HBO.

This week’s episode of Six Feet Under was a wonderful exploration of the pain that death not only causes but exposes in a family when we leave them behind.

In The Times, Virginia Heffernan tried too hard, as she does, to intellectualize her reaction to it. I’m not sure whether this is an attempt to raise up the lowly arts of TV and TV criticism or to give TV credit for being more than some think it is.

In choosing among these idioms of mourning, Lionel Trilling’s great series of lectures, “Sincerity and Authenticity,” published under that title in 1972, comes to mind. Sincerity – what Trilling calls “congruence between avowal and actual feeling”- once seemed (to the Romantic poets, x say) like an exalted state of existence that could be achieved only with conscientious attention to the heart.

And what dorm do you live in?

She goes on:

But the ideal of sincerity has long ago been devalued, rendered commercial or quaint. Today, for example, it is associated with Coldplay, mewling God-and-country Republicans and weepie cable-television dramas like “Six Feet Under” that appeal mostly to women and gay men.

Heffernan gives sincerity one star.

Oh, well, I liked it.

I also liked Entourage these last two weeks, especially in its skewering of the potential for egotistical corruption in citizens’ media, mocking an online movie blogger (a la Ain’t It Cool News) as a power-hungry star-f’er.

The MT Law Blog wonders why I’m not enraged. Enraged? Hell, no, I’m entertained.

I only wish that The Comeback was a tenth as good as these two have turned out to be. It is as cringeworthy as they are memorable.

  • C Bassett

    I’m sure most of us, your readers, would instead say that we’re watching the real Golden Age of TV on Fox.

    Tapeworm: “You know, I’ve only been alive for a few hours, and all I know about the world is the inside of this dog’s stomach, but even I think Six Feet Under is pretenious.”
    -very recent episode of Family Guy

    ahhh Golden.

  • Robert

    I must agree. TV has gotten tremendous lately. It’s nice, because a few years ago I thought the only thing I’d ever get to watch on TV anymore was “reality” TV.

    HBO really has revolutionized the way we view television. It’s nice to know that while the movies are trying their best to tone down their ratings (“Bad News Bears” a PG-13? Gimme a break!), HBO isn’t afraid to step it up a notch. It’s gotten to the point where I couldn’t help feeling like “The Aristocrats” was something I should have been watching on TV instead of with an audience.

    I’ll take an episode of Deadwood over most nights at the movies. Entourage, too. And don’t forget The Wire! Man, I’m salivating just thinking about it!

    Though, the Comeback does kinda stink…

  • http://tirbd.blogspot.com John

    Just picking a nit, but I believe Entourage was referencing “Ain’t It Cool News,” not “Say It Ain’t So.” Though, of course, there is a sports web site with the latter title. That quite good episode of Entourage, however, seemed to be skewering AICN’s Harry Knowles in a none-too-subtle fashion.

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Entourage rocks. People who saw the caricature of the nerdy movie critic as a sideswipe at blogging missed the point that the show was trying to make — nowadays, even Hollywood ignores the almighty blog at its own peril.

  • http://buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    John: Thanks! Fixed.

  • http://tirbd.blogspot.com John

    Perhaps. But by suggesting that a blogger can be bought off with a quickie from a trio of porn stars, the episode could be seen as commentary on the notion that people who write without answering to an editor are perhaps less reliable in certain cases than the good old mainstream media that people are so quick to disparage. While the immediacy of web publishing means the usual filters that can gum up the works are not present, it also means that those same filters aren’t there to keep one person from teeing off on someone else because they feel slighted. A writer from Premiere (assuming that’s still around) couldn’t do the same thing a one-man show could, both good and bad. Blogs are a great addition to the landscape (the very immediacy of such writing — and the presence of Entertainment Weekly — is a good reason why I’m truly not sure if Premiere still exists… I personally don’t need that kind of film reporting any more), but they shouldn’t be seen as a blanket substitute for mediated reporting.

  • Dennis McLaughlin

    Virginia Heffernan’s wheezy review asserts that the episode title, “All Alone” comes from the Nirvana song “All Apologies.” She quotes the song’s final lyric: “All alone is all we are.” That’s a nice touch, but it’s wrong. The lyric is actually “All in all is all we are” as any rudimentary web search would have revealed. Maybe the Times’s web servers block Google access. This is the newspaper of record? Oy vey…

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Oh, and Jeff:

    How do you square the “golden age of TV” with the “death of fiction”? HBO makes some swell documentaries, but that’s not why I keep my subscription month after month. Downstream a bit I theorize that it’s not the death of fiction being bemoaned by the New York literati but the death of the exclusive realm of literary fiction (and good riddance to that). Fiction seems to be doing just fine, having burst out of its perfect bindings and into television, movies, the Web, even comic books. Back in the day Marvel and D.C. Comics used to trumpet their artists; now they increasingly give the marquee to writers, who they’ve been poaching en masse from Hollywood and elsewhere. Cult favorite Joss Whedon goes from television to movies to comics and back again and his fans follow him eagerly from medium to medium.

    Fiction isn’t dead — it’s alive, well, and just about everywhere you turn.

  • Jim Dermitt

    The golden age of tv and people exploring the pain of death. Oh how wonderful. It makes you want to drink battery acid, just to see what comes next. I remember the dark days of comedy, when the comedians were ODing and killing themselves. Live from New York, it was stand up and die. That turned around and now it’s death as entertainment and business as usual. It is now the golden age of death via satellite. Include me out!

  • http://www.communicatrix.com Colleen

    Compare Heffernan’s wheezy (old media) review with Heather Havrilesky’s breezy, genius (new media) reviews of “Six Feet Under” on Salon and you start to get what this here blogging thing has going for it.

    Cable reinvigorated tv; what will reinvigorate print, I wonder?

  • Jim Dermitt

    Old is wheezy, new is genius.
    The fever of newness gets confused with the spirit of progress.
    Welcome to the wild goose chase. I hope you find it. I’m sure you will.
    The young people should be focused on life and living it. Instead the death to America agenda just keeps finding new friends and converts. Even Hollywood is killing its own industry, because death is in style this year. Who Wants to be a Corpse might be the next game show. Final answer!

  • http://www.mt-law.com/blog/ Alvin Borromeo

    Jeff,

    My post asking where your outrage was was really tounge in cheek. But, since you are one of the citizens media gods, I thought I’d link to you. I’m glad you linked to my post though. I really enjoy reading your blog and listening to you from time to time on Howard Stern.

    Entertained? Hell yes, I’m entertained too. HBO originals rock. I don’t know why, but The Comeback is growing on me. I’m hoping that Showtime’s Weeds is good. The first episode shows promise.

  • http://www.puntersrealm.com Dutching calculator

    Tapeworm: “You know, I’ve only been alive for a few hours, and all I know about the world is the inside of this dog’s stomach, but even I think Six Feet Under is pretenious.”
    -very recent episode of Family Guy

    haha, I laughed so loud during that family guy episode.

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