Wednesday December 26, 2012

I’d like to return to two shows I very recently considered. Definitely let the repetition be a stern and dour comment on the overall quality of this season’s television.

First, and more briefly, I do not like horror movies or shows. For me there’s no thrilling adrenaline rush from watching gruesome murders or prolonged torture. I don’t even like hearing about such awful entertainment, to describe it generously, secondhand.

My hatred for horror makes "Hush," the tenth episode of the fourth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," enormously impressive, because it is one of the scariest yet most delightful 44 minutes of television I’ve ever watched. I won’t spoil the shivers for anyone, except to say that the episode perfectly combines the grim whimsy of old fairy tales with the splattery spooks of Sam Raimi films with some slapstick jokes and goofy romance thrown in. It’s good.

Now, "Nashville." I am so eager for this show to become extraordinary, in the way that moony teenagers love to fall in love. To have a new show to talk about ceaselessly during breakfast, on our morning walks, or while brushing teeth, would be a fantastic treat.

I adore the obsessive curlicues of a new pop culture love affair. I know I am not the only one who marathons through all five or eight or 10 seasons of a show once I’ve discovered it (Netflix is directly responsible for this phenomenon), and I know that the bleary eyes, slight headache, and heightened risk for diseases caused by sedentary behavior are largely offset by the delight of losing self and time to a fully conceived fictional world.

There are, to my dismay and some relief, no other candidates at this point on television (though the dashing John Barrowman, neé Captain Jack of "Doctor Who" and "Torchwood," just joined "Arrow," so maybe I can find a little fling there) or even in books (would that I could read "The Cookbook Collector" with fresh eyes).

"Nashville" is the best I can find, so I’ll see if I can’t cozy up to it. A recent episode saw some encouraging developments, as Juliette Barnes (harlot country-pop star) nearly sabotaged her own success. Hayden Panettiere ditched her earlier coy seductress smiles for troubled scowls and broken-hearted howls, running on a streak of nerve and desperate loneliness, wanting at once to be better than her past and to flip off everyone who wants her to change.

The quick scenes -- all scenes in "Nashville" are about three seconds longs -- didn’t oversell her distress. OK, they did, but they were also quiet, most without a soundtrack to hit the emotional notes. It was the first moment in the series where I saw a character really having to make a choice between two warring parts of herself, and I understood what it cost her, what grit it required.

There have been other interesting moments, but they’ve felt like mere plot points. I thought Connie Britton’s Rayna James would be the emotional pivot for the show; instead, she’s stuck with aggrieved faces and a bad daddy. She doesn’t seem all that smart, frankly, whereas Juliette Barnes has had to survive and succeed with less money, more baggage, and a lot more cunning.

The music is still good, three episodes in, so there’s that to enjoy. I wish there were more of it, riskier versions of it. One scene showed Gunner, a minor character with a big crush on his song-writing partner, in full cowboy regalia whaling away on a ten-gallon tune in a dusty bar. There may have been bowling to one side. It was quite awesome and funky and very sweet-sounding. The scene lasted about three seconds.

Oh, who am I kidding. I have no hopes for this relationship. I don’t care about these rich essentially suburban people loving and betraying each other and wearing 6,000 pounds of mascara even to sleep. They don’t even sing enough, and it’s their well-paying job.

You know what "Nashville" lacks most of all? Wit. It has no humor about itself, no consciousness of its own pretensions and desires. There is no winking (see above: "Buffy"). I guess I’ve watched too much post-modern, sly-devil, Internet-meme-ready television to fall for a straight-up pretty-people-in-distress soap opera. I’m jaded. My heart is secret garden grown rank with weeds.

You know me, though. I’ll keep watching. "Nashville" may not be good drama, but it’s a great soundtrack for folding bins of laundry. I guess this is marriage, not romance, TV now.