Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Praise for Slings & Arrows

I first discovered this show back in August 2005, but missed it because I didn’t have the Sundance Channel.

I got to watch it for real in February 2008.

I’m now, as I mentioned, watching it again.  It’s being shown on the Ovation Network, if your cable provider offers that channel.  They’re currently in the third and final season, though, so your best move might still be the DVD set.

In short? The setting is a Shakespeare theatre company, tackling one of the great plays each season – Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear.  Each has its own issues (Hamlet played by the up and coming Hollywood actor who only wants it for the screen cred, a Macbeth portrayed by someone who’s played it so often he no longer takes direction, and so on…)  There is a back story that reads much like a soap opera.  The director is crazy, haunted by the ghost of his former director, for instance.

It might well be the best “show about Shakespeare” ever put to television. Every episode is loaded with opportunities to discuss Shakespeare.  Just this moment, as I sit here watching a King Lear scene, the actor playing Lear goes off on a screaming tirade that his daughters are not showing proper respect for the verse. During the Hamlet season they discuss details like whether Gertrude may have killed Ophelia.  You can watch every episode a dozen times and find a dozen things to talk about each time.  The crime is that the show only lasted 3 seasons, and 6 episode seasons at that.

If you’ve seen the show, what was your favorite season?  Convince those that haven’t that they simply must by the DVD right now.


Cass said...

I just recently re-watched this, too! It became available on Netflix Instant View.

I loved Season 2 -- not least because Macbeth is my favorite of the three plays they focus on in the show. I loved watching Geoffrey argue with Oliver, and the lovely parallels there to Macbeth himself. I identified with poor Geoffrey trying to deal with a recalcitrant actor -- and I thought his revenge was just delicious. And then the whole "Youthquake" thing, even though I cringed at all the Froghammer stuff, I loved how that all resolved. I approve of anything that sends the message "Shakespeare is cool and for young people!"

christine said...

the macbeth season, for so many reasons.

the rebranding, the "youthquake", the actual performance. the pompousity of the actor who plays macbeth. everything about that season just rules.

i like the lear season because the plot line of the show follows the plot of lear. barbara's backstabbing of Geoffrey and charles. the ridiculousness of "East Hastings: The Musical" (what awful tripe that music is! lol). geoffrey lifting charles out of the tub is the fool on the heath helping lear.... there is so much in the plot that it makes me cry.

i've never seen past the episode that i watched today so i'm excited and hopeful that ovation will run all the episodes this time!

great show. i truly love it. and i love the characters so much. thumbs up to mark mcjimnsey (sp?) from kids in the hall for being part of this and making it happen. tremendous.

Katja said...

Thank you for this recommendation, Duane. I have never heard of it before because it has never been broadcasted on German television (wonder why, as we have only recently found out that Germans are the biggest fans of the Bard, haven't we? ;-) ).

I will definitely get the DVDs now, after having watched some scenes on youtube.

Duane said...

I feel obliged to mention one thing, Katja, though I don't expect it will trouble you. Germany, and it's relationship to the theatre, is something of an ongoing joke in the show - and not a good one. The director that everyone hates, because he completely doesn't understand what theatre's supposed to be? Keeps citing what he learned in Germany as his influence.

Just letting you know. Only maybe comes up half a dozen times in the run of the show, but I could see where someone in Germany might take offense.

Duane said...

"He's not playing Lear, he's living Lear. That's the problem."

It's not just that the season echoes the play, it's that these theatre people are aware of it. Imagine how tragic *that* must be. How would you like to be Lear's fool? Not to play the role, but to actually hold a senile old man in your arms, to chase after him in a storm and bring him in out of the rain? All while knowing that it will never get better? Brutal.

JM said...

Maybe that's why Shakespeare made Foole an existentialist before his time. The only way to deal with the harshness of brutal, unceasing odds is to continue the search for the meaning of why they(and anything)exist in the first place. Sorta keeps ya busy. :)

Katja said...

Thanks again for the warning, Duane. Now I am even more curious because I think it's very interesting what others think about Germans. I guess I can cope with those jokes and I'll probably even find them some of the most entertaining ones. :-)