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Via Media

Pardon the Interruption

…of far more vital happenings, but I have to get this HBO Sunday night shows post out of the way before any more time passes and it takes over my brain, totally. After the jump, for those interested:

Six Feet Under:

As for me, if not and my house as well, I gave the finale mostly a thumbs up. There were points about the main part of the ep, before the epilogue, that bugged me, namely Brenda’s Amazing Giant Preemie and David’s Amazing CGI-Induced Healing. Thank goodness the baby was okay, but for a 2-month premature baby to go home in like, a week, was silly. And David’s final embrace of himself in the red-hooded sweatshirt was, I hate to say it, laughable.

But the rest? I liked it. Did it wrap everything up? I guess…but good heavens, these characters have endured enough misery. They can have some happiness – and if Nate had to die in order for that to happen – well, better him than anyone else. Well, except Keith. But that’s just my opinion.


And I did like the epilogue very much. It was entirely appropriate and sort of ingenious, to take us ahead to the deaths of all of these major characters. The best, really, was Brenda, an ancient Brenda with the white fright-hair that all the old women characters had, sitting, still, with her mentally-unbalanced brouther Billy, listening to him ramble, as she had for decades, looking as if she was thinking, "If I have to listen to him for one more minute…I’ll just die." And she does. In case you didn’t catch it, Billy was going on about Ted’s reaction to their confrontation, what, forty years before? Nice wrap.

I would like to have seen Ma Chenowith’s demise though. One of those characters whom, when she walks through the door, you just want to cheer, knowing she will say something marvelously hideous.


But really, the death of Claire expressed so powerfully what this whole, flawed, interesting series has been about. She dies an ancient woman – 103, I think, a successful photography career behind her, and the last shot of her as she lies dying is tight on her eyes – ironically blinded by cataracts. A shot which pulls back to the fresh, wide-open eyes of the young Claire, embarking upon her adult life, the open road and endless possibilities in front of her.

This show about death was always about life, and as person afflicted with ever-vague but entrenched and constant artistic impulses, those last shots gave me quite an inspirational jolt  – enough for a few months at least.

And if you were a 6FU watcher – what were your favorite aspects and images in the series? Mine: the treatment of death as part of life, and as completely unpredictable, what I sensed repeatedly as a subtle anti-abortion sensibility (extending even to Ted’s comment in the finale about his own role in an abortion); Ma Chenowith, Nate jogging, everything Brenda, and especially the Nate-Brenda fights and intense conversations. Astonishing, very real energy in those scenes – absolutely draining.


Entourage: I didn’t watch this last season at all, and am only vaguely interested in it this season. Jeremy Piven is the main attraction, of course, although I’m surprised there’s any scenery left at all, considering how much it’s been chewed on. I can’t quite get the supposed male-bonding/party thing, and would like a little more sense of how this whole fantasy could disappear in an instant- but perhaps that’s coming. Hug it out.

The Comeback.   If you’ve watched this show since the beginning, you might appreciate this Entertainment Weekly short blurt of a piece on The Six Stages of The Comeback: which track with my own experience of watching it pretty closely: Befuddlement, Revulsion, Anger, Addiction, Acceptance, Adulation. Well, I can’t claim that I adulate the show, but am fascinated, and usually end up watching it twice every week. What is this show about? I’m not sure. Self-delusion? Superficiality? Determination? The completely shallow world of network television? The folly of enduring constant humiliation for the sake of fame? All of the above, I’m sure. Lisa Kudrow deserves an Emmy. The guy who plays her husband deserves a CD of "Sweet Baby James." (He looks just like James Taylor, as my husband observes). Paulie G. deserves just what he got this week. Ohmyword, is this not a genius creation? Has there ever been a more hated character on a television series, especially one who has perhaps spoken 47 words in the whole season to date?


Rome:  I, Claudius with more blood and skin? Or something else?  I thought it was interesting, if a little more standard, artistically, than other HBO dramas. I have to say there was just the smallest moment that struck me as indicative of something real – the moment where Octavian off-handedly slaps away a slave. I realized I had never seen anything like that in a dramatic depiction of an ancient society, and it lent, in a split-second, a deeper sense of authenticity to the project than first met the eye. Well, as authentic as you can get where the Romans are speaking in British accents. Of course!

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posted August 29, 2005 at 7:16 am

Did anyone read the obits for the closing episode at the website (remember, there are obits for each episode)?
David was born on the day of Nixon’s first inauguration. Brenda was born on the day of the first Moon walk.
Can’t figure out Claire’s birthdate (3/13/83); perhaps an inside-reference to the production team.
My housemate declared Nate’s death the most uplifting aspect of the series in a long time. We grew to loath Nate.
Keith seemed pretty OK as the season progressed; perhaps too perfectly so in light of David’s rather unbelievable regression — it’s hard to believe Keith was able to resist the temptation to rage in such a situation. (Btw, it seems that one of their foster sons turned out gay, if you caught that; another Alan Ball bit of political incorrectness.)
And Ruth pulled together, more or less; else we’d have wanted her to go with Nate.
Brenda was real, at least, though the Billy thing was beyond credulity, even with Ma Chenowith to blame.
We thought Ma Chenowith would be the only survivor of this Titanic, btw.
Did I mention how much we disliked Nate? For a long time.

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posted August 29, 2005 at 7:17 am

Btw, Claire supposedly died in NYC in the winter; her bedroom window was open as she died. Continuity editor, anyone?

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posted August 29, 2005 at 9:14 am

The Comeback is just too painful to enjoy and I think that’s why its ratings are lagging though last night may help in that viewers suffering through Valerie’s abuse by Pauley got some release. Entourage is way more upbeat and may appeal more to males than females since the basic premise is a male fantasy of endless adolescence. Piven is certainly stealing the show this season, which, along with the somewhat increased focus on Eric, makes it more of a must watch for me than last year.

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posted August 29, 2005 at 10:52 am

Well, I guess my take on that is I cannot remember anything titillating on SFU: anything that veered in that direction invariably had an undertone that sucked the glamour of evil from it. That what was interesting about it compared to usual TV fare. It is true that a lot of people might not have caught that undertone, but most of the people I know who watched the show regularly were very attuned to it. It was therefore more (but not completely, of course) subversive of Hollywood morals than supportive of them. Much more so than politer fare that actually tends to reinforce baleful subliminal moral lessons.
As for “Rome”, I don’t know how much of it I’d watch. As someone trained in history, there are aspects I’d find fascinating to see recreated (more the socio-anthropological and even archictural — like finally seeing Roman buildings all tarted up with vivid color, like Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals (at least in the interior) were also).
However, the blood lust stuff I don’t need a whiff of. And the character of Atia Maior seems to be cobbled together from Livia and Messalina rather directly from history about her (correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t Atia something of a model of Roman matronly propriety?).
Ah, Sian Philips as Livia…now there was a character from whom many moral lessons could be learned.

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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 29, 2005 at 12:03 pm

“Ah, Sian Philips as Livia…now there was a character from whom many moral lessons could be learned.”
Agreed! All negative! Her “pep” speech to the gladiators was a classic!
Both Livia in “I Claudius” and Atia in “Rome” have little in common with the historical figures. I am not surprised that HBO has decided to emphasize the “raunchy” aspect of Rome, all for the sake of holy “Realism”, and not for titillation of our baser sides of course. Sure. Now if only they could get the history right for the sake of “Realism”.

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posted August 29, 2005 at 12:33 pm

Actually, Livia (the character again, not the person) had one or two good lessons. LIke when she forces Julia to restrain her emotions after Marcellus dies (courtesy of Livia, of course). It’s a stock piece of Roman matronly stereotyping. But a good one. Good Romans did not display emotion or enthusiasm to excess. They still don’t. And they were wary of joining the charismatic and the powerful in a single person. They still are.

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posted August 29, 2005 at 1:05 pm

I am not sure if I will have the stamina to hang in there long enough to get hooked on Rome. Most reviews I have read say it will take a few episodes to do so.
I couldn’t help making a few comparisons to The Passion movie however. Seemed to me to be just as graphic and violent in terms of realism (the ritual bloodbath,” for example),yet no one has batted an eye. Donald is probably right about titillation being the prime motivation.
Still, it’s interesting to take a look at the culture in which Christianity took root…

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posted August 29, 2005 at 1:31 pm

You and I think alike. My thoughts were exactly the same: Where’s the hand-wringing about violence? Oh no..let’s laud “realism.” Okay. And then, your thoughts are mine exactly – to imagine, via an artistic medium a couple of millenia separated from events, sure, but still…what Christianity would have to say to such a culture.

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posted August 29, 2005 at 4:22 pm

My favorite part of 6FU was one that was regrettably unexplored much through the later seasons. I would have really liked to see more about David’s involvement in his church, either the High Church Episcopalean or the Gay Episcopalean church. There was such a big deal made about his becoming a deacon and then not too long after that—zilch, until of course the epilogue where you see David and Keith get married by Father Jack. Also, the lasting impact of Charlotte Light and Dark on Brenda. That seemed to disappear too soon.
I heard on Terry Gross Micheal Patrick King say that with the Comeback, there is the struggle that you have in reality TV between dignity in humiliation, and in reality TV, humility always wins. It can make for very painful viewing because despite her yoga-bless-you-thank-you hands she is so likable.
Jeremy Piven loves me.

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posted August 29, 2005 at 4:37 pm

I second the wish to have seen more of David and Keith’s faith, although the scene of David praying with his family in the last episode was well-written and moving.
In this last season, I liked how the symbolism of birds was woven throughout – the bird Nate killed at his surprise birthday party, the seagulls in David dream right before Nate died, and I’m sure I’m missing a few other scenes that I can’t remember.
One of the best parts of SFU was its portrayal of sibling relationships.

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posted August 29, 2005 at 6:11 pm

scratch that humility–I meant humiliation…..wouldn’t that be funny if humility won in Reality TV

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posted August 29, 2005 at 10:50 pm

I probably liked 6FU more than most of this blog’s readers – I certainly empathized more with Nate and his fears, shortcomings, and weaknesses than the Hate Nate posters. I thought George got it about right in his eulogy. But that is a digression.
I already have written about what I think is the most compelling aspect of the show – namely, how that family connection is buried deep within our psyche and transcends personality, politics, and lack of shared experience. One of my favorite scenes is when Nate has gone to retrieve Lisa’s missing car in central California. He is realizing that she really is gone, and he is very alone in the motel. (Great subscene with Lisa – “I am a person, not a choice.”) There is a knock at the door, and we are surprised as Nate to see David and Claire.
Like Amy, I loved the intense Nate and Brenda scenes. The fight in her Venice apartment when Nate has discovered her infidelity is still vivid in my mind. “You only wanted me because I was never really here.” Another favorite – the scene in Malibu at the funeral of Brenda’s Dad. “You were the first person it really cost me to lose.” There also was something to the all female scenes with Brenda- Brenda/Lisa, Brenda/Claire, Brenda/Maggie, Brenda/Ma Chenowith, the latter being some of my favorites.
The writers had a special affection for Claire, and so eventually did I. The relationship between Ruth and Claire was one of the sweetest and the most brutal. It showed vividly how different a mother/daughter relationship is than between a mother and her son. From Claire’s gift to her mom before the marriage to George to her “This time I’ll slap back” rage of her frozen trust fund to Claire’s hankerchief rant “Not all progress is bad!” – it’s all good.
Obviously, I could go on and on – I didn’t even get to David and Keith – and I do have my quibbles, mainly with Ruth. But 6FU made the normally depressing Sunday night something to look forward to, and despite the efforts of the Romans, for me, it won’t be the same.
BTW – Big Entourage fan here. I lived in a house with five guys while I was in graduate school and this show is so totally right on. Piven is a great actor – remember his lovesick puppy stage as Larry Sander’s writer?? Who’d of thunk it that he would be so perfect as Uber-agent? Vince is such a movie star, and Turtle is a great, understated character. Eric bores me.
Although I have no direct experience I gather that The Comeback is similarly accurate, but as has been pointed out, the ratio of pain to laughs is too far out of whack for my taste.
Bad omen for Rome – both my husband and I fell asleep during the 1st episode. Granted, it was after a big beach and surf party for my son’s birthday, but still… I know it’s a guy’s line, but that has never happened to me before.
6FU errata – What happened to Arthur? Freak or Geek? Final scenes – real or Claire’s imagining? (Nance – take it away.)

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posted August 30, 2005 at 2:51 am

“Btw, Claire supposedly died in NYC in the winter; her bedroom window was open as she died. Continuity editor, anyone?”
Not really, lots of old buildings are overheated and don’t have individual thermostats.

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