HBO doesn’t $#@& around. It produces quality shows, some of which, I will boldly say, I have yet to entertain the idea of watching. I know we’re all familiar with The Wire, Entourage, The Sopranos and True Blood. I can’t argue with that kind of entertainment. But what about the other shows? The period pieces, the odder, the more historical, or, as I like to call them – the shows you wouldn’t watch unless someone made you.
The five shows below are some of most quality moments of television (excuse me – HBO) I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. I warn you though; I didn’t succumb to watching any of these without putting up a fight, showing skepticism, or muttering a few unladylike phrases under my breath.
1. John Adams. OK, so technically this doesn’t really count – it was a miniseries. But it’s still HBO, and it’s still amazing. First, I don’t automatically fall to my feet at the sound of historical period pieces. But this was actually informative. Sadly, I may have learned more about the formation of America from this show than I did in any history class I’ve ever taken. Or – perhaps it’s that what this show portrayed was a perspective textbooks often neglect – not because they’re keeping information from us – but because they’re only focusing on the facts. John Adams is a look at the formation of America through his eyes – the struggles, the players, the effect it had on families. I won’t spoil it for you, but I certainly received my fair share of goose bumps during some key moments.
2. Rome. I know little about the Roman Empire. Secular beliefs…sexual promiscuity…indulgences…vengefulness… Caesar…Mark Antony…Cleopatra. The show portrays the extravagance of the nobility, the poverty of the plebs and the loyalty of the soldiers. It’s kind of epic in that way – and certainly worth watching. Rumor has it the show had to be canceled because of the high production value (as I’m sure is the case with a lot of HBO shows).
3. Carnivale. Have you read Water for Elephants? This is sort of like that book, but very different. It’s about a traveling carnival during the 1930’s Dustbowl. The storyline ultimately merges the traveling carnival with an evangelical ministry and examines the battle between good and evil. Some magic is involved – or should I say – unexplained occurrences. Luckily, the show provides enough mystery and establishes enough trust with the viewer to make it all the more believable.
4. Tell Me You Love Me. I was skeptical. Very skeptical. I thought it was transparent and existed solely for all the nude-y scenes it portrayed. Then I got hooked. This show is one season of emotional tumbleweeds torpedoing through the lives of three couples who are all in therapy, trying to work on or fix something about their relationships. The stories are relatable. The problems are not so uncommon. And that’s what makes this show so believable and leaves the viewer feeling a bit unpleasant and uncomfortable.
5. Deadwood. Does this one count? It’s a pretty popular one, but I thought I’d throw it in here since it’s also a period piece set to the 1876 Black Hills gold rush. Ian McShane is brilliant and Robin Weigert plays an entertaining Calamity Jane. The show feels authentic. The women don’t wear make-up. The language – is spot on. So spot on, in fact, that if you don’t watch this show with subtitles you’re liable to miss a lot.
While I don’t expect you to run off into the unknown and watch each episode of these shows, maybe I’ve piqued your curiosity? Eh? If not, I’m happy to swing by your place to sit you down and make you…and turn you into a fanatic like me.