Monday, March 12, 2007

Dead Serious -or- They Never Thought They'd Get This Far

Prison Break is kind of a fascinating show. The first time I saw it, I couldn't tell if it was the worst show I'd ever seen, or whether value judgements as such weren't really applicable. The former may well be true, but I mean, a statement that extreme is bound to ignore holes. The latter, I'm pretty sure, is also wrong. A relatively shitty show that goes to prove a couple of pertinent principles:

1) Television shows that take themselves far too seriously can be euthanizingly entertaining
in spite of themselves even when they don't cross the line into self parody

2) Most people, and I guess here I'm mainly referring to myself, can become engrossed in pretty much any television program of which they watch, in it's entirety, one episode

Granted, I didn't watch the show tonight so perhaps "engrossed" isn't exactly the right word. But still, how many shows will I watch, on my own, without any secondary activity going on, for a whole hour? What makes Prison Break special?

Nothing, asshole, I thought I already covered that: I watch it more than once simply because I watched it once. Take that back and why did I watch it once? Relative to 24 or Lost it's easy. It doesn't put walls in the way of simple comprehension. If "complex" action shows with characters all over the globe doing seemingly disconnected things really fast are the new vanguard, Prison Break is Dragnet. Shit is simple. I could explain everything that was going on to another viewer who had never seen the show without interrupting the narrative, and I know this, because I did it. There is still a place for mindless entertainment, and Prison Break fills it, if not snugly, then at least adequately.

What I really wanted to say here, though, is that it's fucking amazing how little smiling there is in this show. The circumstances of the characters make this believable as much as anything in the show is believable, but still, it seems like the cast was chosen simply for their varied abilities in not smiling. If SNL cast like this maybe I'd still watch it. If Mischa Barton joined this show, that'd be it. An entire fictional world in which all people have one facial expression. Now that I think about it the creators of Prison Break may have had more of a conceptual vision for the show than our puny minds can even fathom.

No, uwps, no. I do picture them sitting around a conference room table in pressed dress shirts hissing ideas through their teeth, every bit as serious as the characters on the show:

"And then he says, 'You don't. You have to trust me.' and she says, 'Do you know who I am? I'm the President of the United States' Oh! It's awesome!"

"That's intense."

"Christ! this Gatorade is good!"

If a lack of pretension counts for anything these days, Prison Break deserves some cred. When this fucking thing gets cancelled at the end of the year (a third season of a show named Prison Break in which the characters break out of prison at the end of the first season and which makes no mention of said escape at all in the second season? are you allowed to change the name of a show? no, it's cancelled. idiots who named the show are kicking themselves in hell.) nobody's gonna care. Nobody's gonna care, that is, until they make a movie version in 15 years with whoever Harrison Ford -40 years is. Topher Grace?

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