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Thinking pop culture

Loving, losing and inelegant television departures

Kinda like how I felt watching it…

Like the time in the 1990s when he pronounced that he wouldn’t watch Seinfeld because he didn’t like the promos. Like the time in the 2000s when he parted ways with Law and Order because it was “becoming too much about the personal lives”.

Dad’s latest TV declaration is that he’s not watching any TV shows that end after only one season. This came up in a conversation about Veep.

In the just-do-it camp are glowing reviews and plenty of nominations for prizes people seem dazzled by. In the other camp is me claiming it’s just not funny. It’s boring, Tony Hale is completely wasted and I highly doubt TV needs yet another gratingly neurotic female lead.

For Dad however, the deciding factor is longevity. And apparently he’s no longer willing to invest in shows that end abruptly.

(To say that he dealt badly with the sudden termination of Carnivàle would be an understatement).

Carnivàle (2003-2005)

Plenty of TVs shows last way too long in my opinion: Californication and Dexter off the top of my head. Quality over quantity in TVland. Everytime.

But the idea nevertheless sparks the same question I ask at the end of every relationship: now that you know it ends badly, would you do it all again?

In 2010 I was in a Target store in California. I was picking up a True Blood DVD for a friend when I spotted what would prove to be The Bargain of a Lifetime.

Outside of hair things and wear things, I don’t really buy stuff. Certainly not DVDs.

But there, for the how-the-hell-could-any-sane-person-walk-away price of $11 was two seasons of a show I’d never heard of. Bundled, baby, bundled.

Who could say no to Eddie Izard? To Minnie Driver? To gypsies?

In sum, The Riches centres on a family of travellers who commandeer the lives of some dead rich people.

The Riches (2007-2008)

The more I love a show and the harder it is for me to espouse its virtues. Someone on Twitter recently remarked that some books are so special that sharing them lets go a little of our joy. Maybe. And maybe I’m just convinced my words will fail to pimp the show adequately.

What I will share is a favourite scene which gives a taste of the delicious madcappery.

Hartley (Kaitlin Olson) catches her lover, Dale (Todd Stashwick), playing with her (detached) prosthetic arm. He’s lying on the bed and pretending to masturbate with it. Hartley approaches him - her scowl seemed to indicate a likely school-marm reprimand - instead, moments later the two are in bed and Dale uses the prosthetic arm to stimulate her.

Yep, it’s that type of show.

And sure, it was completely disheartening that it ended after only two seasons, without proper conclusion, without any-bloody-one ringing me to ask if I was prepared. Yes, I was disappointed. Completely.

But is it not better to have lost and loved a television show than to have never loved it at all?

In defence of Dad, there’s no shortage of fabulous TV available: if his need for multiple seasons is one way to navigate the deluge, so be it.

But I stick to that simplest of economic principles: some is better than none. And a little of a truly great show - even one that ends abruptly - is always going to be better than multiple seasons of a mediocre show like Veep. Tony Hale or not.

Tony Hale as Buster in Arrested Development (he’s in VEEP too, but who cares)

I’m giving a talk on penises at the Ian Potter Gallery at the University of Melbourne on August 8, 2013. Do come along!

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