The Thing About TV Right Now

Emmy and Oscar winner Regina King as Sister Night on HBO’s Watchmen

The thing about TV right now is…there is so much TV right now.

Good thing so much of it is so fucking good, and, I guess, 💁🏽‍♂️good thing that we’re on the other side of the initial worst of a global pandemic…and still taking it easy and staying healthy and out of the fucking way, yeah?

Hey. Silver linings. (Don’t go catching that second wave, now….)

For sure, TV, good TV, can prove to be just the ticket to escape for a moment at the moment. At least, now that we may actually have some time to watch some of it; maybe, check out some of what we haven’t yet, wrap up some loose ends (I recently, finally finished The CW’s Gossip Girl…and I’m taking the long way ’round with that little network that did’s The Vampire Diaries, and with Fox’s Fringe, too – I know, right).

We haven’t had cable the last two months. We moved, you see, and when we got here, we learned that there was no literal, physical cable here. Not enough, anyway, to make do and like, hook it up. Nothing but a ridikolous joke of a nub. We have to get wire chased up and through the middle closets of the two apartments downstairs, and that involves our new neighbors, and it’s like, still not the time, you know.

Better this way. Less noise this way.

Urgh, OMFG, that 24/7/365(6) news cycle. And all that talking. Yak, yak, yak, everybody yak. So much talkin’, so very little walking – certainly, we hardly ever hear about the empowering accomplishments of our cities and towns, get to see our neighbors doing good. Not sure why, but we have bought into a cultural system upgrade, into this Age of Opinion powered by fallacious social media, that have cost us many of our most precious, vital social norms IRL. To answer my own question, that’s what happened to class: Everybody was invited to join the conversation without getting the proper education, without ever being invited to make a point and listen.

But I digress. It happens. And it’ll happen again.

Being more present now than I think I ever have been, yet no less hurt and amused and captivated by life, at this particular moment feels like indulgence, but it’s been a tonic to manage the moment – that is, taking a step back and unplugging, somewhat, for a bit – and overcome the day by day it with a healthy measure of sanity. There’s been no going out, and there’s been no escaping the situation. There’s been anxiety that came in waves, and then there’s been chosen peace. I’ve been considering my own show, the one that’s been running for 37 seasons in front of me, in my head and in my heart, around me, for me, in spite of me, because of me, and it is so much more interesting than anything on the boob tube.

That said, I still appreciate TV, but I appreciate that it’s something I don’t need to live or survive a crisis. When the lights go out, there won’t be any Tik Toking our way out of it, the few DVDs that we still have and that have come in handy won’t do us any good for good, and the trusty ol’ TV will go back to being a box of magical circuitry.

Microdosing our screen time, where entertainment has been concerned this season of self-isolation, has enriched the experience of having to watch TV as TV is being watched with increasing popularity watched now: online, mostly not live on Sundays at 10 or Thursdays at 9 or whatever. We are still two episodes out from the Homeland series finale, and, boy, do I know the reward will have been worth the wait, because I have no clue what’s going to happen to Carrie Mathison and last I saw her, she was getting the cocksure clocked outta the head, OK. Showtime will have to wait, though.

TV’s fun.

For sure, a lot of the programming is garbage, but to each their own.

Fuck that – overcome, already. I started writing this a week and a day before Leap Day. Here we are, seemingly at the end of the world, definitely at the dawn of a new democracy, still having to watch in horror as the people who are meant to serve and protect us assert and abuse their power with deadly force in broad daylight for all to see.

Wild is the world.

Keep👏🏽your receipts👏🏽this pandemic season – and vote on Nov. 3 for the changes that you need and that now you will have witnessed your community needs.

Now, go watch and enjoy all o’ this👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽after you are done with all your lessons for the day, all yo’ tele-meetings, your homework, and yo’ chores.

Our Planet (Netflix)

Gorgeous, clever, curiously captured. There is nothing timelier right now. Any more gorgeous? Earth itself.

Watchmen (HBO)

Damon Lindelof (HBO’s The Leftovers, TV’s Lost) launched the storytelling of this sort of televised sequel to/reboot of the cult novel series-turned-Zack Snyder cinematic exercise with a powerful, world-building history lesson about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, o.k.a. the Black Wall Street Massacre. This Watchmen is story about legacy in many ways, so a fictionalized tale about the events of that day developed and connected over nine dense and intense episodes (director Nicole Kassel helmed the first two) to the set-in-2019 yarn about our main superhero, a Tulsa PD detective a.k.a. Sister Night played by Emmy and Oscar winner Regina King, with style and resonant gravitas. And that cliffhanger! Such a perfect end, such a perfect new beginning.

Years and Years (HBO)

Created by Russell T Davies (the British Queer as Folk), this socio-realistic, six-part dystopia set in a not-so-distant future (the series kicks off in 2019) will trip. you. up. Especially now; I mean, previously on the pandemic, things were moving, changing so fast, the breakneck pace of it all felt eerily Years and Years, a chronicle of the rise of Vivienne Rook (Dame Emma Thompson), a celebrity businesswoman-cum-beyond-populist-and-divisive-politica, as well as the 15-year (d)evolution of the post-modern Manchester-based Lyons family and the culture. Russell Tovey (HBO’s Looking) co-stars as a British man, who risks everything for his romantic interest, a Ukranian refugee (Maxim Baldry) escaping prejudiced persecution back home.

Gentefied (Netflix), Insecure (HBO), One Day at a Time (Pop TV; the first three seasons live on Netflix, which premiered the original reboot of the Norman-Lear-produced CBS sitcom of yore)

Television in 2020 has got style, it’s got flair. It definitely has adapted to the times to become more reflective of ’em and of audiences – about time! – and it has been awesome to witness. A real eye-opener, a real showcase. TV’s come a long way, baby, these past 20 years. The medium has leveled up thanks to technology and branding and to a wave of creativity powered by a more-diverse-than-ever generation of people, including Issa Rae, the co-creator and star of HBO’s Insecure; the cast and crew of Netflix’s Gentefied, a much-overdue carta de amor to Mexican-Americans and Latinx culture; and the powerhouse quartet at the heart of Pop TV’s One Day at a Time: co-showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett, star standouts Justina Machado and Isabella Gomez, and PEGOT and national treasure Rita Moreno. Authentic art is rising, has risen, and that’s what’s leaving audiences wanting more and inspiring all of us. More people, more kinds of people, are telling their stories, and that’s why this era of TV has peaked and felt so momentous. All these new flavors are finally, meaningfully getting into the cultural melting pot and reaching new heights thanks to mass communication. It’s amazing. A watershed cause for celebration and for tireless, energized reflection, too.

The Good Place (NBC)

Existential dread, but as a sitcom, starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, from Greg Daniels, who developed the American Office. All four seasons were a glory of gloom and doom that careened toward that most inevitable of conclusions: acceptance.

Pose (FX)

Life’s a ball, and those who live it closer to the edge, whether they want to and especially if they don’t, are the ones who live it to the fullest. That’s the category, and that is the harsh and beautiful truth at the heart of his groundbreaking offering from FX, starring Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, and Tony- and Emmy-winner Billy Porter. With every read, with every tear, with every triumph in the face of injustice, Pose makes the case for why representation matters and reminds us that beauty, magic, love, and family, indeed, really are where you find ’em – exactly where you stand.

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