My grandfather used to tell me about reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms when he was stationed in Germany shortly after WWII was won. They only had one copy of the novel in his unit, and all of the men read it cover-to-cover.
The story between Lieutenant Henry of the Italian Army and Catherine Barkley is one that you’d think would resonate with a group of soldiers who spent every weekend traveling throughout Europe.
But actually, none of them really liked it. They complained it was too slow, too sappy, and they didn’t understand why it was so popular among others.
Since then, the times have changed. Now, just like my grandfather and the men in his unit would pass around A Farewell to Arms, I’m begging my friends for their Showtime Anytime passwords so I can catch watch shows like Ray Donovan and Homeland.
But just like the men in my grandfather’s unit didn’t understand why people loved A Farewell to Arms, I’m starting to share that sentiment about Showtime’s shows.
Showtime has become nothing more than mediocre. While they consistently start strong, they digress in quality just as consistently.
Let’s take Ray Donovan, for example. I fell in love with Showtime’s most successful program (in its nearly thirty-year history) after the premiere of its first season.
The combination of Jon Voight as deadbeat ex-con father and Liev Schreiber as the deadbeat son was fantastic. At the very least, the characters and performances started off promising. Liev Schreiber’s work as the complex character of Ray is not always totally convincing, but he can play the tough guy as well as anybody has done in the past.
The real star of the show is Jon Voight. In what has seemed like a career resurrection after National Treasure, his role as Mickey Donovan is brilliant. The character’s selfishness, scummy-ness, and inadvertent like-ability makes the show worth watching.
Plus, he’s got the some of the greatest dirty jokes I’ve ever heard.
After two seasons, however, many of the characters and story-lines have tainted the show.
While the program is primarily centered on Schreiber’s title character, and his life as a Hollywood scandal fixer, the subplots (like his brother’s adverse past) leave too many questions unanswered. Whether or not his most important client Shaun Walker is really gay or not, I’d actually enjoy seeing some of those questions answered (right after learning the full story behind his sister’s mysterious suicide and who Ray’s mother was).
The most recent season finale, while action-packed, was frustrating for the same reasoning. This was exemplified by the irrelevant melodrama between Ray’s wife and kids and the piss-poor performances of some cast members, like Ray’s son Connor.
I suspect that everyone’s disdain for Dana Brody in Homeland is what prompted the writers to send her character packing early; metaphorically and literally. But Compared to Ray’s son Connor, Dana deserves an Emmy.
Speaking of Homeland, you’d assume that with Dana gone, things must be perfect on America’s favorite counter terrorism show, right?
Wrong. Its bipolar-schizophrenic character Carrie is still a high-ranking member of the C.I.A. Yeah, because that’s seems safe.
Not everything in film or television has to be authentic, or completely possible for that matter. But for some reason, Carrie’s character has always been too much for me to take seriously. You’d think that someone with the aforementioned mental illnesses would be screened and potentially never employed by a government agency like the C.I.A.
However, Carrie has managed to become someone working directly with leaders as high as the Vice President…even after sleeping with a terrorist cell she was assigned to keep tabs on.
This isn’t the first time anybody has written something negative about Showtime’s lineup of shows, and I don’t necessarily agree with all criticism. Like I said, Ray Donovan – despite its many flaws – is still worth watching.
However, like so many of their series, Ray Donovan left me with much to be desired. Whether it was the catastrophic collapse of quality shows Dexter and Weeds, or the absurdity of Homeland, I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about.
Showtime doesn’t have bad shows. They just have a lot of good ones that don’t get much better.
Featured photo courtesy of TVGuide.com)