Monday, January 26, 2009

Hulu, "Murder One" and serial dramas.

Okay. So Hulu is sort of the bane of my existence. I've been working my way slowly through their stable of short-run TV shows of late--I've been through John Doe and Journeyman in the sci-fi category, as well as Action and Manhattan, AZ in comedy. Good stuff, for the most part--Action is one of the most remarkable sitcoms I've seen, I think, and a savage if lamentably short-lived riff on the movie business. I remember seeing commercials for Journeyman when it was on, and it sounded incredibly lame, and as an avid reader and would-be writer of science fiction, I cringe when TV tries to take on such a pitfall-prone story concept as time travel...but they did it well, and did the rest well, and it was a shame it got cancelled.

Anyway. So now I'm on to Murder One. I'd kind of assumed that, for prime-time serial dramas other than soap operas, Joss Whedon kind of pioneered it with Buffy/Angel/Firefly. But back in 1995 somebody came up with the concept of a courtroom/crime drama where a single case would run an entire season. The show made it through two seasons, and three and a half episodes into the first, I can see why. It's sort of remarkable, or at least it seems so. It might get deeply stupid with all the necessary plot twists to get through twenty-three episodes (hell, look at could anyone in their right mind work in federal law enforcement when every single agency involved with homeland security seems to leak like a fucking sieve?), but so far I'm kind of impressed.

There's also a lead actor--playing a defense attorney--who is kind of amazing and who I don't think I've ever seen in anything. Daniel Benzali is his name. Apparently he was only in season one, but he's very good.

I dunno. Serial dramas fascinate me, as a form. They're a good example of the sorts of things that TV can do far better than movies, if the writers and continuity editors don't suck and if the audience bothers to stick with them. One of the things that always struck me about Buffy was that each season wound up seeming not unlike a televised novel. Murder One actually calls each episode "Chapter x." So I dunno. It's interesting...we'll see how this novel turns out, once I've wasted another nineteen or so hours of my life. Tra la.

UPDATE: "Gimme a hug." Season one, chapter four, about six minutes and fifty seconds in. Thing of beauty. Hee.


  1. You know, when I was interning in California, we in the staff house watched a whole season of 24 via netflix in one protracted go. Maybe it can be chalked up to "because we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere, so what else were we going to do?" but as I recall, we were all kind of riveted to Jack Bauer's antics. I was definitely a part of this, and yet a substantial part of me (The English major part) was like, "this is stupidest fucking show I've ever seen. It's frickin' season one (or maybe it was two), and LA is already threatened by a suitcase bomb? AND the kids have been kidnapped? AND that guy got uranium poisoning and has mere hours of life left in which to patch up things with his estranged son?" Oh yeah, and guess what. The terrorists? Middle Eastern. As I recall, a major factor in the suspense of that season had to do with the Middle Eastern characters along the lines of "buuuut, they're Saudi...that would be too cliche, right? So they can't be behind this. It's a red (brown?) herring." Anyway.

  2. I must take the liberty of suggesting a comedy. Hulu has "WKRP in Cincinnati." Watch it. Laugh. It will feel good.