Cable is Home for Quality TV

I’ve been won over by some television series of late, some new, some not so. TV: In Plain Sight — I finally tuned into this series its third season that just wrapped up (and, this USA Network show looking at the federal witness protection program and the marshals that administer it offers enjoyably mid-weight drama. At the center of it is Marshal Mary Shannon, a smart aleck and cynic on the surface who reveals in each episode that underneath her bristling surface she genuinely cares about the people she is sworn to protect, even if they may be of dubious moral character. Sure, there are certain ongoing notes that get played too often: Mary’s inability to maintain an ongoing and satisfying relationship with a man and the perpetual screw-ups of her mother and sister. But lead actress Mary McCormack creates a character it’s hard not to find winning, and the relationship between Shannon and her partner Marshal Marshall Mann (yes, the name is another oft-repeated joke) has a dynamic bond that gives this show its heart. And the myriad crimes and characters they bring into witness protection and the subsequent challenges of starting a new life have at now 40 episodes been varied and always entertaining.

TV: Hung — It’s not all that often that a TV show will give me regular laugh-out-loud moments (the last season of 30 Rock being a major exception with its sharpest and wittiest episodes yet). But this HBO series that recently started its second season makes me guffaw on a regular basis with its tale of a cash-strapped high school gym teacher who turns to his biggest asset — a large penis — as an extra source of income and the two diametrically opposite women who vie to act as his pimp. It tackles sex with a playfulness that befits a subject too often addressed salaciously and tackily, and looks at middle class modern American life with a witty sense of reality that rings true. It’s ideal entertainment that speaks to our current hard economic times and the way we live in a humane and empathetic mix of drama and humor.

TV: Justified — In a flipside look at America today from the above series, this FX network show plays out its drama in rural America, focusing in its recently ended first season on the meth plague that is an underexposed crisis among the working classes in the heartland. Its central character is, as with In Plain Sight above, a US Marshal, played with subtle intensity by Timothy Olyphant, this time who returns to his small Kentucky hometown to deal with the crime and cultural issues found in the underside of our non-urban lower classes. It was inspired by a character created by novelist Elmore Leonard, one of America’s most reliable writers of crime fiction who serves as one of its executive producers. It’s a show that rings true and brims with pressing issues wild and characters that all ring true.

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2010


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