Category Archives: TV Series’ on DVD

The Walking Dead Brings Romero’s Spirit To TV Land

When AMC network announced it was launching a six episode zombie-focused TV series, the news was met with mostly snickers and indifference.  Then the trailer was released, and that sound heard around the world was the collective thud of jaws hitting the floor.  Using the same premise as Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later”, The Walking Dead has main character Rick Grimes waking up from a comatose state to find himself in the aftermath of a zombie war.  Dead bodies litter the street, buildings are torn by gunfire and explosions, and the world seems like an empty place.

Although the general structure of the series is predictable (hero-meets-other-survivors-and-goes-on-quests), the writing and character development elevate this series to something much better than the sum of its parts.  Infused with both dramatic tension and well-placed comedic elements, the show manages to hook viewers from the start, and never lets go.  It’s got all kinds of gore for the zombie purists, but an emotional center that appeals to people who might never have imagined themselves watching a television show about zombies.

There was a time when television content was looked upon as the poor cousin of film.  While movies offered uncensored, cutting edge visual entertainment, TV shows were seen as something formulaic and dumbed down for the masses.  Not anymore.  While many people are accusing recent Hollywood productions of being uninspired, cable networks are using the lack of time constraints to really stretch their legs.  I believe HBO to be mostly responsible for ushering in this new mindset that TV can be as good, or better, than films.  The Walking Dead is another example of this trend, and is well worth watching.

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Treme (HBO TV Series)

Treme is one of those trademark series from HBO that is the video equivalent of well constructed literature.  It lures you in with a sense of place (New Orleans), and then keeps you on the hook with an array of interesting and complex characters.  It’s a simple premise:  8 months after the collapse of the dykes during Hurricane Katrina, a variety of New Orleans residents are attempting to put their lives back together.  That’s it.  But trust me, the lack of central plot is of little concern, because the individual story threads of these characters more than compensate for a story arc.  Most HBO fans are already familiar with this structure.

One thing worth mentioning is that for anyone who is a fan of deep south jazz and New Orleans culture will especially enjoy Treme.  The painstaking attention to detail regarding music and local color is remarkable.  By coincidence, I happened to be in the middle of Ken Burns’ documentary “Jazz” when this came out, and was watching the two simultaneously.  If you’ve never had the urge to travel to Louisana before, this series will surely give you the bug.   A kind of tragicomic series, Treme has all the regular trademarks that HBO fans expect, but raises the bar quite a bit in terms of deeply written characters.