American TV used to be good at the mini-series, the first of note being Roots, another being V. Heck, even Battlestar Galactica (the new one, not the old Star Wars ripoff version) was initially a mini-series that found an audience and became a several season series.
But, for a number of reasons, American TV moved away from the 5 or 6 episode series, to more open-ended shows that, if they proved to find an audience, could go on laying golden eggs for a long time. It’s a shame we do that, because when a show is designed to go on and on, there’s great motivation to not mess with key characters. Certain standout shows have been able to refresh by changing characters out, whether the method used is death or moving on. Law and Order (oops, sorry, I meant THIS ONE) comes to mind, as does House. More recently, Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy have killed main characters off, but in truth, both of those shows have arcs that are designed to play out in a relatively short time.
Television in the U.K. continues the tradition of the mini-series though, and do it really well with Line of Duty, available in the U.S. on Hulu+ Though Line of Duty has been picked up for a second season, the five episodes that make up the first season are a complete story with an extremely final and conclusive (if not perfectly satisfying) ending. Oh, it’s satisfying as storytelling goes, it’s just not the kind of “feel-good-balance-and-justice-is-restored” kind of ending American audiences love. If you doubt that, ask yourself why the awesome Rubicon on AMC wasn’t picked up for a second season.
Lennie James is a familiar face if you are a fan of Jericho, the aforementioned The Walking Dead or Hung. Of course, if you do know James from any of those shows, instead of from, say, Snatch, you assume from his accent (or lack thereof) he’s American. He’s not. He grew up in South London. In Line of Duty, he is fabulous as a somewhat (not very, but a little) crooked cop, who because of a couple bad decisions, ends up a very crooked cop. There are elements of The Shield present in Line of Duty, but it is a very original and interesting story. Well written and directed, it’s a thrilling 250 minutes of television.
I’m very happy Line of Duty is going to continue on to season two, and whether or not it stars Martin Compston and Vicki McClure, I’ll be watching.
Side note, also starring is the wonderful Neil Morrissey, known as the star of the British Men Behaving Badly, one of many shows American networks tried to translate from British TV but botched. The Brit MBH was awesome. He was also the British voice of Bob the Builder, and my personal choice as the actor most like to play Paul McCartney when Sir Paul’s definitive bio-pic is produced (at least that’s what I told Sir Paul when I had the honor of doing a one-on-one interview with him in 2001).
I’ve been a Hulu+ user since the beginning of their pay service, and at first, wasn’t a big fan. There didn’t really seem to be any benefit to paying for the content, since not everything was available, and you still had to endure commercials.
Except for the commercials, that’s all changed. There’s a lot of content, some of the best being The Straits, a bit of a melding of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and even a little Sons of Anarchy thrown in. It’s dark, funny, and full of drug and gun-running crime. Oh, family stuff, too.
The story, an Australian ABC1 production, centers around Harry Montebello, played by Brian Cox. Harry’s London born, but came to Australia in his 20s. He has a Torrest Strait born wife whose mother was Maori. Kitty helped Harry create a thriving crime family with their four adopted children.
The writing is excellent, the characters sharply drawn, making it easy for the viewer to understand the setting and the conflicts from the first episode.
Like Line of Duty, Hulu+ is coming through with great content. Well worth the monthly fee.
Recently, I rode to celebrate the birthday of Sonny Barger, famed outlaw biker, founder of Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (the inspiration for the F/X hit show “Sons of Anarchy”) and Cave Creek area resident.
It was a blast. Those guys ride really, really fast, which brought to mind the opening scene from Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy.
From Sons of Anarchy, Season 5 Episode 1:
Jax (v/o): Something happens at around 92 miles an hour – thunder-headers drown out all sound, engine vibrations travels at a heart’s rate, field of vision funnels into the immediate and suddenly you’re not on the road, you’re in it. A part of it. Traffic, scenery, cops – just cardboard cutouts blowing over as you past. Sometimes I forget the rush of that. That’s why I love these long runs.
Sorry to disagree, Jax, but after the ride yesterday, I have to rewrite.
Kevin (v/o): Something happens at around 92 miles an hour – thunder-headers drown out all sound, engine vibrations travels at a heart’s rate, field of vision funnels to where you can only see the bike 8 feet away to your left/forward diagonal and the bike about 12 feet ahead of you. You watch that bouncing piece of white along the side of the interstate, wondering if it’s a discarded styrofoam cup or a rock that’s going to bounce up and smack you in the face (good choice going with the 3/4 helmet with clear faceguard today). You glance down at the big silver speedometer and see it pass 90, and then the mirror, hoping for a gap that will let you slow to something more civilized like…80…No luck, and just as you say to yourself “wow, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever gotten myself involved in,” a road captain flies past you on the left, hanging on to his mini ape-hangers, feet on the highway pegs of his Harley, no-helmet, long white-grey hair almost touching the top rocker of his Hells Angels colors like you’re standing still.
All of a sudden you realize, you are John Travolta’s character in “Wild Hogs” and instead of accidentally burning down Ray Liotta’s MC’s clubhouse, you’re in the pack, riding with them and you decide not to wear the yellow and black Harley Davidson skull cap at the next stop, because it looks too clean, too new, like you just bought it the day before.
Which you did.