So, I’ve been making the joke lately that I was at risk of having my official Crime Writers’ Badge taken away because I’d never seen HBO’s The Wire, a crime drama that debuted more than a decade ago and taped its last show in 2008. With nods to a current drama about a deranged high school chemistry teacher, it’s sometimes called the best show ever made.
I remedied that situation by buying the entire show through Amazon Instant Video. I’m now about halfway through Season 3 and I’m enjoying it immensely–David Simon is a genius and our politics are simpatico. It’s everything everyone said it was: smart, engaging, timely (yet perennial), well-acted (with exceptions), has fantastic writing, and–for me–little insider jokes for someone who lives near the area in question (Baltimore > Washington DC) and knows a little about the producers and their families.
But now the same people who shook their heads at the fact that I hadn’t seen The Wire are now asking me why I’m not watching Breaking Bad. And Dexter. And Justified. And The Shield. And Low Winter Sun. And The Bridge. And Lost and Deadwood and Buffy and Veronica Mars and Jesus Christ, how do you people ever get anything done?
Folks, I am not a TV guy. But even if I were, I’d be writing first. And if not writing, then reading. If not reading, promoting. If not promoting, playing video games (my passion/weakness), going outside (rarely seen), meeting my wife again, visiting family, drinking with friends…and then I’d turn the TV on, probably to watch a hockey game.
Truly, I understand that there is some incredible writing getting done on television. Writers I know and trust implicitly say Breaking Bad isn’t one of the best shows, it’s actually one of the best things written in our generation. The norms of novel writing and story telling are actually being shaped by what’s being aired on TV (and, glad to say, on all kinds of channels, too–not just the usual suspects). It’s crucial for writers to keep their finger on the pulse of other media if they want to keep current.
But, look, I’m busy. I pick one or two shows a year–Game of Thrones: guilty–watch ‘em, and get back to work. I’ve got my vices and time-wasters and I definitely don’t work as hard as some writers in the mix, but–wow–if you have a job and watch half the shows on TV, then you’re not doing much else.
So, before you ask: no, I probably haven’t seen “it.” I will catch up, promise–Breaking Bad and The Shield are on my Amazon Watchlist–but it’s gonna be a while. Until then, I’m hoping to add to that storytelling pile, not just consume it.