Some thoughts on a few of this fall’s cable channel offerings.

TV: The Big C — This new Showtime series starring Laura Linney as a woman diagnosed with fatal cancer has after three episodes become a source of delight. And one big reason is Linney and her lovable performance. The other is how it shakes up the way we deal with disease and fatality in our society. As housewife Cathy Jamison, Linney takes what too many people would find defeating and shows how it can open the soul to a primal fact: Life is for the living. And Jamison’s diagnosis that will lead to a premature death inspires her to live her life to the fullest while she still has time. And that to me is a game-changing notion.

TV: Rubicon — I’m not yet sure about this new drama that AMC has paired with its Emmy-sweeping hit Mad Men on Sunday night, but I keep watching. It’s a very tonal and rather cerebral show about an intelligence analyst, Will Travis, who works for a government think tank that advises on global security issues. When the head of his team dies in a commuter train accident and Travis is given the job, he is nagged by doubts about the death, sees the specter of a conspiracy and starts digging. The show has a density I enjoy (even if it makes watching a bit of a task), and I like the realism of its lower Manhattan setting in an office building on the FDR Drive near the South Street Seaport. Its complexity and subtleties assure that I will likely give it a second run-through after the eight episode season ends. So I’ll call Rubicon an intriguing contender whose merits, like the secrets Travis pursues, may well be revealed in time.

TV: Weeds — This Showtime absurdist comedy about a windowed suburban housewife — played by Mary-Louise Parker — turned pot dealer on being widowed to support her family seemed fresh, delightfully wacky, and quite pungent with commentary on American middle class life. In its previous two seasons or so, Weeds began to feel like it had jumped the shark and gone off the rails. The debut episode of its sixth season in August went even further to seem like the series had jumped a blue whale and just gotten too strange and off the wall. Yet again, I keep watching. It might be that I’ve grown so attached to the characters that I care and can’t help it. It may be my crush on Parker. It’s also that an entirely new setting in Seattle seems to have given the show at least a partial new lease on life, even if I find stuff that bugs me, I find other things I kind of like. So my jury is still out even if Weeds will never reach the levels of charm it did in its early years.

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2010


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