HBO Original Programming Redux

Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan, FreakAngels and Crooked Little Vein, recently tweeted that everyone pitches to HBO; everyone wants HBO to make their television series. This got me thinking about why that is, and I came up with a couple of ideas. HBO original series are consistently interesting, innovative and high quality that talented actors want to be a part of. HBO programming brings home tons of awards from around the globe. The only real problems with their programs is that I missed out on several of them when they first ran, whether because I didn't have the money to subscribe at the time or because the show was on at a weird time and I kept forgetting to watch it. Luckily for me a clever person at HBO, who well deserves a raise, has fixed this problem by steadily releasing old series on demand.

The Wire

The Wire has repeatedly been called the best show on television by critics and fans alike. Set in Baltimore, season one, which was running as we went to press, is about the endless fight between the police force and drug dealers, in this case heroin dealers. The writing is tight and authentic and the dialogue flows. One of my favorite scenes is this scene, where D'Angelo explains the rules of chess while his undertones are clearly about the drug organization.

You might be thinking you're not interested in another cop show and you'll skip this one, in which case you should reconsider. The characters are drawn so well you'll be drawn to them, even when they've done terrible things. The writing is tight, so tight that I watched a long scene where detectives try to recreate an old murder, and only realized how limited the dialogue was towards the end. The only word used is the famous f word that would get you your mouth washed out when you were a kid, or variations thereof, but between the acting, writing and directing the scene works brilliantly, with no hint of anything gimmicky. While the show is consistently fantastic, it's the subtle things like that that leave me feeling like I'm watching something extraordinary. (Disclosure - I worked as an extra on this show in season one and season four and a friend of mine, Jill Redding played Delores the bar owner in season two.)


If you'd like to try an HBO series but don't want to get bogged down in a series that ran for years, you might want to try Rome, which was cancelled after only two seasons. Rome begins before the assassination of Julius Caesar and focuses on several intertwined characters including Caesar himself, two soldiers (who are probably my favorites, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus), Senate members, and various members of two warring upper class families. I was fascinated by this series with its teeming streets filled with busy people, incessant backstabbing, and passionate characters. I'm always a little nervous about historical dramas as so many of them can be tedious with big info dumps that are reminiscent of a bad history lesson. But this series made the politics interesting and suspenseful. The things that some of these family members do to each other are appalling, which in this case makes for good television. I was quite disappointed that Rome wasn't picked up for a third season.

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under tells the story of the Fisher family, which consists of Nate, his brother David, their sister Claire and their mother Ruth, and their employee, Rico Diaz. As the series begins Nate Senior dies in a car accident, leaving the family and the family business, Fisher and Sons Funeral Home, in a shambles. A large conglomerate is trying to buy the company, putting additional pressure on the family. Every episode starts with a death, which could come from just about anything, including blue ice falling from an airplane, and goes on to show how the Fishers and their friends and coworkers are affected by this death. The Fishers are often seen conversing with the dead, who frequently have something to say that sheds light on a problem that particular family member is facing. Many times the dead are the deceased who are being prepared for their funeral, but sometimes it is Nate Senior, who seems to have more interesting and deep conversations with his family after his death than he did during life. There are also many dream sequences, or fantasies, which gives an untrustworthy feeling to the entire show. We can never be sure if what we're watching is really happening. This may sound like it would be extremely annoying, but it's not. The surreal elements make the show that much more intriguing.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from CyborgSam who says, "I read Skinned last night, the slightly disturbing story of the teenage girl Lia Kahn, who always was the most popular, and the one setting the trends in school, who has everything she could ever want, until her car malfunctions and smashes her face first into an oncoming truck. Lia wakes in a hospital unable to move and without any sensation, as she slowly recovers she learns that her brain was uploaded into a machine, the machine she now is, and has to fight the extreme prejudice against all the "skinners" as they are called, while trying to adjust to her new body and get back to life as it was before." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at