Monday, April 30, 2012

Television Series

A few weeks ago, we finished The Wire, the 2002-2008 HBO Series, courtesy of our wonderful library. And today, I finished the 2011 ABC Family show, Switched at Birth, courtesy of Netflix. Both television series are starkly different, but both excite me in similar ways. It dawned on me afterward that the reason I prefer these types of dramas over the conventional House, Grey's Anatomy, or The Office tv drama -- which, by the way, I love these and watch them on Hulu each week -- is because it provides a perspective into worlds that I would not ordinarily experience.

In The Wire, you enter Baltimore and dually see it from the perspectives of police officers and gang members. It's amazing to me that this sub-culture can actually exist in America but feel so non-relevant to my life. This television drama is wonderfully written, acted and directed beautifully, and makes you feel a part of their world. I hurt when they hurt, and afterward, I feel dirty for being part of a population that has created the chasms in our society to allow disparity and violence to occur. The Wire pushes every issue -- "race," equality, politics, poverty -- and pushes them well.

I happened upon Switched at Birth twice in one week and though of it as an omen after the second time to finally sit down and watch it. First, Netflix recommended it to me, and then a few days later I watched the most recent episode of Grey's Anatomy and Vanessa Marano was guest-starring on the show (you might know her from Gilmore Girls or Dexter)...and I realized she was also one of the main characters on Switched at Birth! For those, like me, not up to date on these cable-network television shows, the premise of this one is that two girls were, dun dun dun, switched at birth, grew up in different families, and then at age 15-16 realized the truth after some quick DNA testing. The writing/direction/acting isn't even comparable to HBO or Showtime series that steal my heart, but there is a reason why Netflix thought I would rate it a 4.2/5 stars. In the very first episode you find out that one of the SAB (switched-at-birth) girls is part of the deaf community after becoming deaf at age three due to strong antibiotics to treat bacterial meningitis. I actually think this aspect of the show, not the whole SAB plot, is most interesting. The deaf community is yet another sub-culture existing in this country (and around the world) that I am not a part of of and feels non-relevant to my life because other than knowing about deaf persons, I don't really know deaf persons. Daphne, played by Katie Leclerc, ends up affecting the entire family and everyone is eventually encouraged to learn American Sign Language (ASL). You see the failures and triumphs of a few characters that are deaf and how they deal with "hearing people," (sometimes a negative stereotype). Like The Wire, I feel both excited and empathetic learning about this culture of people and how they have adjusted (very well) to their "disability." On top of that, I have learned a bit of ASL through the show! J. did some reading at work today, and it turns out that the episodes that appear on Netflix (currently through E22) aren't even the completion of Season 1 (I think this is very strange), so I am thrilled to soon watch more of the Kinnish/Vasquez family drama unfold. More importantly, I am thrilled about more exposure to this culture that exists outside of "my world," albeit I will have to see some terrible acting/writing too.

More than anything, I have realized there has been some personal growth in entertainment preferences. The conclusion I have come to is that I love these television series that really invite me in, help me understand things I didn't know anything about -- no matter how different it is. Dexter and Weeds are also entertaining, but it's so far "out there" that it becomes unreachable and unrelateable (and that's why I can go a year without seeing either and wait patiently for them on Netflix or from our library). Other favorites? Sopranos, MadMen, and Boardwalk Empire to name a few. What do you think?

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

I LOVE Switched at Birth!! It only took one episode for me to become hooked. You're right; I think it has a very different viewpoint from lots of shows that are on. I just really enjoy watching the "mystery" of the switch unfold and how it affects everyone.

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