Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Some Things I know

Bird Dance
Apparently, I'm in a minority among my friends (and viewers) about David Milch's new HBO Show, John From Cincinnati. After four episodes, I'm pretty much hooked on the strange characters and stranger goings on in the surfing town of Imperial Beach in San Diego.

I've been a big fan of Milch's work, even the stuff that didn't last long (anybody see Big Apple?), and not just because I think he may well be the best television writer of our generation. Milch is one of those writers who doesn't pander to the audience but to his own, interesting, damaged, fucked up, cool ass soul and the results are more often than not poetic and beautiful and captivating -- and nothing like what's on anywhere else.

Like Deadwood before it, John From Cincinnati is a tapestry rich with what I like to call characters with actual character. Milch's dialogue can sometimes feel overtly stylized (some call it mannered) very much like, say David Mamet, but there's also something lyrical about it and sentimental, almost feminine, that a guy's guy like Mamet rarely offers.

Milch is a master of the silences of dramatic t.v. in that he almost always knows when his pictures tell the story a thousand times better than any words he could put into the mouths of his characters. I've been moved to tears by moments in Milch's dramatic writing when nothing is said and yet everything is clear. This is not an easy thing to do in a medium like t.v. and in an age where everything is explained to us in more detail than (I hope) most of us require.

The height of this was his western Deadwood, a near-perfect place for Milch to combine his years of teaching college English and the experience one only gets from abusing your body and drugs and yourself. An experience, I might add, that is considered by some morons to be a seemingly prerequisite for being taken seriously as a real Goddamn writer. Still, whatever Milch did in his life, he's putting the experiences to good use telling us tales that make me love t.v.

When you watch Milch's work, you never get the feeling he thinks your a t.v. watching couch potato chump. His stuff drips with allegory like great prose writers, there's always something simmering beneath the surface, real, imagined, significant or small, that makes you think that whatever the trappings of drama, there's real life being lived here. I like the way he finds the humanity in people and his tough-edged sentimentality that shows us pain and love without judgment. He seems to find something worth understanding in even the worst kind of folks and really, if that's not the best of life and art, what is?

And when Milch invites the viewer to come along for a ride, you know it's not going to be easy or always apparent where he's taken you. Some label this as pretension. I think it's just smart t.v. that treats us with respect, that understands where not all blithering couch potato idiots.

Seriously, it's not exactly hieroglyphics, you know? I mean just cause it's not easily understood or a little mannered or maybe a bit weird, doesn't mean you're stupid if you don't get it.

Whatever place we end up with Milch, good or bad, for better or worse, it's going to be rewarding on some essentially important level, and that's worth the price of admission to me.

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