I can’t remember who recommended this – I think it was one of my Twitter TV buddies. Whoever it was … thank you!! It was quite regularly a confronting series, filled with characters who teetered on the edge of being quite unlikeable – but not quite. This, of course, is just the way I love them cooked!

Here’s the wiki blurb:

Southland takes a “raw and authentic look” at Los Angeles and the lives of the LAPD officers who police it. The show’s first season centers on the experiences and interactions of LAPD patrol officers and detectives, and is more a character-driven drama than a police procedural.[14][15]

Among the characters are rookie Officer Ben Sherman and his training officer, John Cooper who, unknown to most of his colleagues, is homosexual; Detective Lydia Adams, who must balance work with the responsibility of living with her mother; Officer Chickie Brown, who aspires to be the first woman on the LAPD’s elite SWAT team; and Detective Sammy Bryant, whose home life interferes with his working life.

Aside from the outstanding casting, the script was full of energy. It was a very visceral show that tied my stomach in knots.   Earlier in the year, I stayed in the general area where the series was filmed and that added a whole other dimension of meaning for me. I’d love to know how someone who actually lives in South LA, found the show.

Favourite characters were (Regina King as) Lydia Adams and (Arija Bareikis) as Chickie Brown; both strong, survivors in a violent and largely masculine world. Michael Kudlitz as John Cooper was a tour de force as the tough gay officer, and Ben Mckenzie (as Ben Sherman) and Shawn Hatosy (as Sammy Bryant) absolutely nailed their parts. Though wonderful, it was hard for me to truly love any of the male characters – there was too much underlying brutality about them. That did not lessen my enjoyment of the show though.

The final series was a poignant depiction of Sherman’s declining morality and Cooper’s growth and self realisation. I was sad to see it end in a bittersweet kind of way.

Thumbs up for the filmic style, acting, casting and writing.

 

You have to work a little bit harder at Treme; the characters take time to get know, the story is kinda slow and the music is Southern jazz past and present – not to everyone’s taste. By the second season though, I’ve become rather enamoured with the rythm of the show and its insight into post-Katrina New Orleans.

Wiki says that the showrunners employed as much local talent as they could and it all goes towards a feeling of great authenticity. I can’t think of any other series I’ve seen, which has lingered so lovingly over music and tradition, devoting many precious minutes to exploring and savouring it. Time that would normally be spent on action, plot or character development.

In fact, sometimes it doesn’t seem that Treme really knows where it is going narratively at all. But as a snapshot, a peephole, and voyeur’s view of this great city, it is sublime. As a portrayal of the human need for sense of place and belonging, it is poignant.

 I’ve watched a lot of terrific TV series the last twelve months or so, but the echoes of Treme have been the most powerful. I think about the show when I go to sleep. I think about it when I wake up.

The acting is so good, I actually couldn’t watch most of John Goodman’s segments. His tortured soul is raw and exposed from the beginning and I found them too painful. On the other hand, I couldn’t get enough of Kim Dicken’s (Friday Night Lights) as Jeanne Desautel, the chef. Her rendition of Iko Iko (see below) being one of my most favourite scenes in a TV series ever. Why? It’s so honest and silly and a celebration of the place she loves. It is so real.

There are many other amazing performances though, not the least of those being Wendell Pierce (The Wire) as Antoine Batiste, Clarke Peters (The Wire) as Big Chief Lambreaux, and Steve Zahn (Sahara, Daddy Day Care) as Davis McAlary.

Treme is entertaining, thought provoking and educational – something few series can wrap into one package while still capturing an audience. And of course, all I want to do now is got to New Orleans.


Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!

Friday Night Lights has been on my radar for a while, recommended to me by very good friends. Sometimes it takes a while for the time to be right to embark on immersing yourself into a fictional world, and with FNL I’ve been waiting for that prefect moment.

Trusting your unconscious to signal when that right time be has worked pretty well for me in the past. I believe its the intuitive part of the story-telling hindbrain that pops up and says, time to view.

Anyway, this is a long way around saying that I’m glad I waited. Why? I had a sporting related trip to the US in May this year and met a bunch of basketball coaches, went to a heap of colleges, and experienced first-hand the awe of the 80K football stadiums. Coming to this series after those experiences, makes my viewing of this series much more enriched. I totally get it, in a way I just wouldn’t have before. Australia is reknown for being a sport-obsessed nation, but there is a magnitude of belief and culture around sports in the US that doesn’t compare, even to here.

I’ve only watched the best part of two series but I’ve been impressed on SO many levels; the acting, the script, the story arcs, the delicate balance between heartbreak and joy. I believe some of the power in the story comes from the way it’s delivered. The show’s wiki states that the whole thing was filmed without blocking and rehearsal, so there’s a lot of hand-held follow around filiming and raw ad-libbing. The actors were encouraged to use their initiative. The EP’s quoted as saying, “no rehearsal, no blocking, just three cameras and we shoot.”

Deep into series two now, I’m finding only a few tiny instances of straying into melodrama, but many more of intelligent, soulful story-telling and social commentary. I feel terribly connected to all the characters – even Buddy Garrity! If I had to single a couple out, Taylor Kitsch is pretty much to-die-for in the role of bad boy, Tim Riggins, and Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor is quite superb. Of the female cast, the characters Lyla Garrity, Tyra Collette, Corinna Williams and Tami Taylor worked best for me ( and LOVE LOVE LOVE Lorraine “Grandma” Saracen).

The anatomy of Eric and Tami’s marriage with the arrival of a new baby and their separation due to work commitments is beautifully portrayed, as is the Jason (6) Street’s journey from athlete to quadraplegic, Smash, Saracen and Riggin’s different struggles into manhood and Tyra’s desperate attempt to break the family mold. So much is going on in this show and its organic feel contributes to creating the illusion that you’re listening and watching and being a part of your own friends and family’s lives.

Not sure if it was my own personal experiences with sport, but the game scenes NEVER failed to give me goose pimples. What makes me sad is that it didn’t reach a wider audience – as it seems viewers were put off by a notion that this was a story about football, when in fact it’s a complex narrative about how our choices define us.

Love it and trying not to watch it too fast!

 

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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