Sunday, 1 July 2007

Break Out

A little behind the times, perhaps, but the Monkey Pipe household as just finished watching the first series of Prison Break.

It was a show that, while I was completely sucked into the Sopranos, passed by unnoticed, save for the one friend who enjoyed the adrenaline-rich hokum on a weekly Channel 5 basis. With the Sopranos now put to bed – or sleeping with da fishes, if you will – I now find myself casting half-keen adulterous eyes at other television programmes.

Sadly for me, British television no longer does enough to keep me interested. It seems cheap, affected and badly produced. Most programmes seem flimsy when compared to Sopranos, it has to be said – the richness of character, the strength of script and direction, and the power of the acting from top to bottom has set a very high benchmark. The Wire is in place to take up the slack, but at present, it feels too soon – the bed is still warm from David Chase’s masterpiece. Deadwood is another option – again, perhaps too soon. Rome is watched, but it’s almost too casual in it’s manner to be great. Good, sure – great, never.

And so to Prison Break. I have a lot of respect for Channel 5 – yes it is cheap and was sensationalist television at it’s worst, narrow minded, nationalistic and trapped in an ugly past, but they showed Columbo repeats. Plus, they seem to smartly buy in some US shows, get one or two seasons out of it before one of the wealthier players swoops in to snatch the find up.

CSI, in it’s various guises, is perfect popcorn television. I can watch a show from start to finish, totally drawn in, but could not tell you a thing about the conclusion. The endings are never the point. House is relatively good fun, a welcome antidote to the po-faced ER, and not as Scrubs-esque-sans-laughter as Grey’s Anatomy.

Prison Break completely passed me by though. I have been less of a television watcher in my later years than I was as a kid. Programmes that were on late into the night, especially US imports, I would sneak downstairs and watch, sometimes with the sound down. I’d consume anything and everything – Quincy, Hill Street Blues, V, Miami Vice – sometimes getting a dispensation from my parents to sit up and watch pilots of the big US shows that came over. Then the joy of VHS – taping shows late at night, getting up early before school and watching them. Perhaps the world is smaller now, or perhaps a decade of bad US television put me off, but shows barely register now days.

At a friend’s insistence though I ordered the box set of Prison Break, and Mrs Pipe and I settled in for the last week and a bit and devoured it. The first third of the show was almost comical, but we stuck with it. The second third tense, taught and, at moments, well acted. The last third was great, and, in a flashback episode, showcased one of the best hours of mainstream television drama that I have seen in a long time. Now we just have to wait for season 2 to come out on DVD and we can jump back in, on the lam with Michael Schofield and co.

No comments: