I think there has never been a better time to have cable.
I've always been opposed to the sanctimonious ponces who proudly boast they don't watch television. Yeah, you're so fucking special.
Me, I watch television. I'm proud of it. You know why? Because I have fabulous taste. Given the rather discordant ratio between the good and the bad, the percentage of good I catch is pretty darned impressive. But, then, given that taste is subjective, that's probably arguable.
That's not what got me started on this topic, though. I was just reflecting on how daring and different television has been in the last decade. It really got kicked off by shows like Sopranos
and the West Wing.
People got taken aback by the snappy dialogue and creative twists, and not to mention how incredibly well-developed a lot of character arcs were. Tony Soprano? Hell, I've never looked at ducklings the same.
Somewhere along the line, a generation of kids raised on the brilliance of a series like M*A*S*H
began to see that it was possible for this medium to transcend the range of the human condition.
Movies got more technical when it came to story creation. They realized editors existed for a reason. Folks like Quentin Tarantino came along and decided to exploit the ability to manipulate a message. Highly-cut, multi-layered, seemingly disconnected storylines of the "six degrees" mentality hit home with a select audience wanting something smarter.
Well. That spawned a whole generation of "new" moviemakers. Suddenly we had films like Magnolia, Crash, Go
, and even City of God.
And now it's happening to television. There's a new series called Six Degrees
that's employing that "six degrees" storytelling mindset. It's smart. It's sharp. It's worth trying to find the pilot before episode two airs next Thursday.
The writing's already worth tuning in for, but if that ain't enough, there's the cast. Any fans of HBO's The Wire
will grin when they hear that Michael K. Williams, who plays Omar Little,
is in the cast of this series. (Though I'm not sure where his character's going. We'll have to see.) Then there's Hope Davis. And then there's Campbell Scott.
Campbell Scott. How much can I say about him? In flicks like The Spanish Prisoner
and Rodger Dodger
, he just breezes his way through. Acting isn't apparent. He just is. And in flicks like Top of the Food Chain
, he just kills me.
Here, he comes onto the show with style. He approaches his estranged 12-year-old son in the street after school and tells him he has a gift for him. He extends a Magic Eight Ball
to the kid and imparts fatherly advice. "Try not to get behind it."
And with that, I fell for him. But, yeah. It's that kind of series. Smart lines. And for someone with a career and filmography like Campbell Scott, it fits like a glove.
Campbell Scott also has a moment at the end of the show that just slays me. Creatively, it's really difficult to express the feeling of being blocked -- when things just don't click. They capture it perfectly in this flick. Any Singles
fan will be amused to see him playing a photographer of the people, a la
French photog Robert Doisneau, whose work is found by a jogger who picks up a postcard used to mark a page in a discarded book on some random park bench.
He's been out of the game, though, Campbell-cum-Doisneau, and this find wakes a sleeping giant. In his search for, and discovery of, inspiration, I found they captured -- quietly, in images only, no fanfares nor flourishes, no voiceovers or gesturing -- what it's like to have that artistic feeling of having given birth to something beautiful.
I can say that about three or photographs I've taken do indeed fill me with that artistic pride seen in that scene. God, is it a fleeting feeling. For one brief moment, everything in the world makes sense. For one moment you have that feeling of being thrown against a wall, and your vision suddenly clears and you see everything like it's a first. What a fucking amazing feeling.
And it's silent and secret and something you never really want to tell anyone you felt when you first saw that. That
have created. Wow, what a thing.
Doesn't fucking happen often, but if you've ever had that feeling once and you've been able to create it by happy serendipitous accident, then you know what it's like to be a junkie forever chasing that first high.
And it's why artists see sense in living by a different standard than the rest of the world. It's why we suffer in silence as we struggle to find new topics and ways to express the things we know ought never see the light of day. Or, some of us do.
And for this, a simple little television show, to capture that in a 60-second clip, using no words, just incredibly fucking good acting on the part of a way-too-goddamned-long overlooked Campbell Scott... well.
When I was younger, I scoffed at the notion of Hemingway's -- that writing, for him, was a quest for truth. Every touch of the pen was a search for truth. And the older I get and the more I realize what a small, meaningless little cog in the wheel I really am, the more I find peace in searching for stupid, insignificant moments of truth. If, once in a real, real blue moon, I manage to tap into something, then that makes all the looking worth it.
I just didn't think an actor could so simply convey all that with a slightly trembling lip and a growing gleam in his eye. But then everything Campbell Scott does looks easy.