Monday, September 19, 2011

Groundbreaking and entertaining TV - Wilfred and Louis stand out

I admit to watching TV. I "watch" a lot of movies, too. In fact I watch more movies than anything because I put on a movie, then write screenplays, or fiction. I like it as background noise and sometimes I have a brain spark and get an idea from a film. Not like ripping things off, but as a platform for a new idea. That being said, everyone steals from everyone, that's no secret. About all we do now is swap concepts in stories and reissue them in fresh ways. Out right stealing, is called, Homage. I jest, but it's kind of true.

TV for years has been pablum. Baby food. We've needed something fresh for decades and cable has been a boon to that. After many even worse years of bad cable that is. But once it took off, it has been useful, helpful and appreciated (by some of us anyway).

Currently, two of the shows that are giving us something fresh and honest. One is "Louis" on F/X Channel, produced, written, acted and directed by, Louis CK.

Mike Hagerty, Louis CK, Joe Norton
This is his second show as a while back he had, "Lucky Louis" with Joe Norton, Mike Hagerty among other talents.

And the hot, adorable diminutive, Pamela Adlon currently of "Californication" fame and also has guest starred on Louis' new show as a platonic friend Louis has deep emotional feelings for; or he just wants to have sex with. And she is fully cognizant of it, appreciates it, and keeps telling him he has no chance. Because she knows with her, he's way out of his league. Something he knows too, but he keeps going for it, or hanging in there for it, or her. Interesting that last night at the Emmy's they sat together. Louis was nominated several times but took no Emmy's home.

Louis plays Louis CK, essentially, himself, only not really. He's playing a more downbeat form of himself, his more depressed alter ego.
Jason Gann and Elijah Wood
Also on F/X is "Wilfred", an Australian import (available sometimes on IFC Channel), also bringing to this country's show the originator and title character, Wilfred, a dog played by Jason Gann that appears to the "main" character (Elijah Wood of Frodo fame in "Lord of the Rings", and "Sin City" fame as the mysterious cannibal).

Wilfred was a concept partly inspired by Jason who thought of when he was doing children's theater and backstage he would see actors in animal costumes walking around smoking cigarettes and swearing. Then during a conversation with friend Adam Zwar, while living in Australia, Adam told Jason about a time when he was invited back to the home of a young woman whose dog became suspicious and jealous of him. They improvised a scenario about this type of thing and a short film was born of it. The film won awards and they shot a 20 minute pilot which all the networks turned down until they found Matt Campbell at SBS who gave them license to do their best (or worst), when he said: "Go as far as you want – the more bent the better."

The Aussie Mag "The Age", called Wilfred: "a magnificent creation, magnificently realised", and "operating from a deeply non-PC premise, Wilfred manages to be both broad and subtle, hilarious and creepy, utterly obvious and way-way-way left-field."

They got two seasons in Australia and now it is in America and on to it's second season.

The trouble with shows like these two is that all the smarter people I know, love these shows. But those kinds of shows tend not to do well. When talking about what is successful, you are looking typically at the lowest common denominator in audience acceptance. The more broadly something is accepted, usually the more dumbed down it is. So I'd be surprised if these shows last.

However, that is the great thing about cable TV. It is allowing for audiences of a certain type to adhere to a certain cable channel. And so a show may have a better chance at success. It is like the demise of the record labels. Now there are many smaller labels and much more diversity of music. The artists may be making less money with smaller labels but there are more artists making music as a living now.

I hope these shows last. "Lucky Louis" didn't last that long, but it did have some problems. "Louis" is a much better thought out, more mature show and you can see Louis CK's talent has grown. He doesn't always say things I like or appreciate, but he is typically funny and I do enjoy having something fresh and different on to watch. I'm so sick of the typical sitcom formula.

The problem I have now is that it seems like every time a show comes on that I like, it goes away quickly. So a rule to a show not making is, seems to be that I like it a lot. Let's hope that isn't the case with some of these newer shows. Case in point, "Firefly", Joss Whedon's brilliant Cowboy Space opera. Nearly one season of that that iconic show and it is now living forever in TV show Heaven on DVD.

As for "Wilfred", it is touching, quirky, non-PC and I love it. I hope it lasts, and "Louis" too, because with shows on like these, they are breaking the ground for other shows to come up that are fresher and more provocative.

Shows like "Weeds" and "Breaking Bad", "Hung", and "Shameless" have all opened the way for a new kind of show. It's about time.

AMC's "Breaking Bad", however, about a guy that produces "Meth", is the reason I have trouble watching it. I can justify Pot use as it's pretty harmless, but not Meth. Meth is a horrible drug. I can't justify producing that for any reason. You have cancer and want to set your family up for after you're gone? You're just scum and you should have thought of that sooner.

That being said, "Breaking Bad" is an extremely well written, acted and directed show. I do plan to watch all of it once it goes off the air, all in one stretch on DVD. I think I can deal with it if I don't have to wait guiltily from week to week to watch it. I don't know, that's just my quirk. "Hung" is also in this new form of show and though well done, not quite my cup of tea.

"Diary of a Call Girl" on Showtime is also in this arena and I liked that show, but at some point for some reason, after a couple of seasons, they lost me along the way.

Showtime's "Shameless", I don't know, it's just, Likable in a deranged sort of way, well done and after all, it has William H. Macy, and I await its new season and return.

I had said years ago that cable would be our saving grace against broadcast TV, one day back when broadcast TV was pretty much dead, warmed over, still dead and pushing junk down our throats season after season. There were gems here and there but for the most part, I found it unwatchable. Everyone pointed out how bad cable was at the time, that being its first ten years or so. But we're finally getting there.

I hope Louis stays around for along time and keeps pumping out the entertaining and unusual fare that is, well, Louis. "Wilfred" can just keep going, as far as I 'm concerned.

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