Monday, July 23, 2007

The State Of The Originals

With the recent conclusion of "The Sopranos" consigned to everlasting debate (although David Chase does seem to show signs of eventually adding his two cents to the issue), where does that leave the lineup of HBO's original shows?

Mostly finished, if the list on the HBO website means anything. With "The Sopranos" joining "Six Feet Under," "Oz," "Deadwood," "Rome," and "Sexy City" on the pile of former shows (and the somewhat smaller pile of excrutiatingly expurgated basic cable rerun shows), that leaves a small pile of current shows:

"Entourage" - Jeez, has this show jumped the shark or what? As bad as the last "season" became, the current one is even worse. Every episode now consists of two half-episodes competing to see which can suck more. One half-episode involves Vince and Eric trying to get their so-called masterpiece Medellin off the ground. If the touted trailer for the Pablo Escobar biopic is any indication of the movie, then Ari had better get Vince into as many projects as possible between now and Cannes.

The other half-episode involves Johnny Drama and Turtle in a weekly comic relief descent into wacky hilarity. Newsflash. If your show is a piece of fluff already, you really shouldn't need any comic relief. But Drama and Turtle soldier on, with each week's escapade proving dumber than the last. This week's involved Agent Lipari talking the two of them into overbidding for a '66 Sandy Koufax jersey under the mistaken impression that the Dodger great was about to get taken yard on the sandlot of life.

No such luck ... and no surprise.

"John From Cincinnati" - The reviews on the so-called "replacement" for "The Sopranos" have been pretty harsh. "Deadwood" this ain't. Yet, anyway.

"Big Love" - Missed the whole first season of this one, but picked it up this year without much trouble and am liking what I'm seeing. It's not fast-paced, but what story about a whitebread Mormon family would be -- well, except for the three wives thing. And wife number three is just awful damn cute.

"Flight Of The Conchords" - Give Tenacious D some wicked Kiwi accents and you've got this Sunday night closer that just beats "Entourage" all to hell. Jermaine and Bret play eponymous doofuses who are utterly at sea as they try to make it big in the New York folk-rock scene.

Or something like that.

Not as concentratedly funny as The D -- blame it on 30 minutes vs. 10 minutes as the story length -- but their songs are at least within shouting distance and that's saying a lot.

Viddy as they signify...

"Extras" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" - Both of these cringefests are between seasons for the moment, so we can all take a moment to unscrunch our faces. With the recent news in Larry David's world, the next season should be particularly cringeworthy.

So where does that leave things? Oh yeah, leaving the best for last.

"The Wire" - The good news: a fifth season is in the offing and has begun shooting. The bad news: this will be the final season as well.

The best of all the HBO shows will obviously be the hardest to replace, but at least there is the delicious anticipation of that final season. Even if the Emmy Awards have a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff, you and I both know that the fourth season of "The Wire" was simply stunning. And if the past of this show is any indication, the fifth and final will be the best of all.

If it seemed at times as though "The Sopranos" was limping to the ribbon, it seems simply out of the realm of possibility for "The Wire" to finish with anything but a hard-ass kick to the finish line.


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