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Things That Please Me: Surreal TV

I'm one of those people who simply doesn't do television. But every once in a while a show makes it through the filters and captures my attention, and then I become addicted and have to watch every episode in all-night marathons. The most recent of these is Lars Von Trier's cult classic horror mini-series from the early nineties - Riget, or The Kingdom.

I haven't completed the marathon yet, but thus far I've been captivated enough by the bizarre and colorful characters, ridiculous plot twists, and dry moments of comedy to forgive the shaky claustrophobic camera work and indulgent B-movie gore. Besides, the fact that it's all in Danish makes it that much better.

Preceding Riget by a few years, and drawing frequent comparisons, is Stache's favorite TV show of all time - Twin Peaks. I somehow missed the phenomenon the first time around, but when it finally came out on DVD, I consumed it like candy. The unsettling snail-like pacing, the unabashed absurdity, and the droll humor all instantly endeared me to David Lynch's foray into the small screen.

I both love and hate the way Lynch makes you feel like you might be missing something deep, when in fact there is no answer - the truth is that it just doesn't make any sense at all. Twin Peaks reached levels of artfulness rarely seen before or since on television, and scores of rabid fans are still talking about it.

But perhaps my most beloved surreal TV show is HBO's Carnivàle, which certainly owes much to these earlier shows. But Carnivàle takes the top honors in my book for the stunning production values, and because, well, it takes place in a traveling carnival in the 1920's.

I have such appreciation for the painstaking way in which the creators immerse you in the world of the show. All of the extras look like living Dorothea Lange portraits. The opening title sequence takes my breath away every time. And the stunning art direction, gritty costuming, and luminous lighting lend a palpable sense of beautiful decay and doom every time you watch the show.

It seems shows like this always end poorly, or not at all, as in the case of Carnivàle, which was written as a seven-season show and canceled with a fist-clenchingly frustrating cliff-hanger after only two seasons, spawning desperate campaigns to bring it back from heartbroken fans. And they are all too rare - clearly the general public does not share my peculiar tastes.

So I'll have to wait, perhaps years, for the next time some rogue director wants to make a brilliantly baffling show to remind me that sometimes, TV can be worthwhile.


nullalux said...

How fabulous. I <3 Twin Peaks!

Tom Banwell said...

I really enjoyed Carnivale too, except for the priest and his sister.....a bit too disturbing for me.

Wenchie said...

I will have to check those out if they are on netflix. If you enjoy anime you would Lain its pure surreal goodness.

Winona Cookie said...

It's because of you that I am binging on dvd's of Deadwood right now - such a great show! (Stache looks like Seth Bullock, you lucky girl ;-)).