Let’s admit it, we’re spoiled rotten.
There was a time when TV’s weekly Sunday embarrassment of riches would have infuriated us and had us longing for summer reruns. Some of us would have been that way contemplating this evening’s utterly painful choice between the finale of this particular story on “True Detective” and the first of a very juicy three-episode arc on “The Good Wife,” the only big network TV show that weekly makes us wish we could see it on cable, with all the liberties that are now implied becoming explicit.
In truth, it hasn’t been a problem since the advent of the VCR. (You remember those, don’t you?) We always could tape our choice’s competition and watch it later. Now, in the age of the DVR, on-demand and what I’m calling omni-viewing (“TV anytime anywhere”), no one even thinks twice.
Even if I hadn’t seen dandy screeners of two weeks worth of “The Good Wife”– this evening’s and next Sunday’s episodes – I’d have opted to see “True Detective” in “real time” at 9 p.m. on HBO.
It’s a polarizing series, to be sure, with some viewers treating it like some detestable ligament pull that takes forever to heal itself. Other people, of course, have been rejoicing everywhere possible at the newest TV miniseries to climb up the Golden Age Olympus to the place where “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing” and “The Wire” and “Deadwood” and “Breaking Bad” lay.
The great audience delight of this evening’s “True Detective” finale in a world now technologically spoiled rotten is its genuinely hilarious quantity of Internet speculation about how this dark, labyrinthine and brooding drama of Louisiana cops Rust Cohle and Marty Hart and a lot of serial killings will resolve itself.
Search around the Internet and you’ll find American ingenuity at its most merrily perverse all over the place. All manner of outcomes are being speculated by fans, from conventional cop hypocrite Marty (Woody Harrelson) being the secret killer to apparitions from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I must say I haven’t read any online fantasist yet who claimed that Rosalyn and Billy Carter from nearby Georgia were responsible, but then I haven’t checked to see what this morning’s fantasias have wrought.
Especially in daily newspapers where, in the holy name of democracy, they’ve afflicted themselves with comments sections full of trolls, it’s easy to have the dimmest possible view of the sort of nasty mentality that the Internets have called forth from beneath the rocks into the gleaming sun.
But then an event like this evening’s finale of “True Detective” also can reveal how much secret creative and playful genius resides in the American TV viewership, just waiting for its moment to bask in the sun with some wild and woolly and previously inconceivable new continuation of The Story Thus Far of one of our favorite series.
If you’ve been watching the previous extraordinary seven episodes of “True Detective,” take a few minutes before this evening to peruse the Web and see what some of your fellow acolytes of the miniseries have concocted as plausible denouements explaining everything we’ve already seen.
I suppose a good case could be made that if that much native American genius could be applied to curing cancer, it would have been vanquished decades ago.
In the meantime, let those who insist call it all “awesome.” Overstated to be sure, in the modern style but I’m not going to argue.
I have, as I said, seen this evening’s and next week’s episodes of “The Good Wife” and I doubt anyone will be trotting out the much-abused “A-word” to describe them.
They’re awfully good, nevertheless. If you’ve forgotten why you came to like the series so much, the show’s arc beginning tonight will remind you.
In this evening’s episode, Alicia and her firm run afoul of the very loose lips of some cyber-dweebs working in the eavesdropping salt mines of the NSA.
With any other competition than the much-anticipated finale of “True Detective” (and, let’s not forget the new “Cosmos”), it would have been difficult to resist the cast of this evening’s “The Good Wife.” It features lisping, sparrow-voiced Wallace Shawn, of all actors, returning as the sinister lawyer of a cocaine kingpin who always seems be angling to arrange the injury and death of witnesses against his client; nasty monologist Eric Bogosian as an agent in the Office of Public Integrity; and, in a recurring character no other TV show would have thought of, outrageous Broadway imp Nathan Lane as a buttoned-up attorney who’s never happier than when he’s nickel-and-diming some law firm’s bottom line.
It’s next week’s episode, though, that gives you a long, deep draught of everything so distinctive about the show. Written by executive producer Leonard Dick, it forces our attorney heroine Alicia Florrick to deliver an autobiographical and empowering keynote address at an American Bar Association conference in New York City. It also continues the crusade of the Office of Public Integrity to nail her husband, the governor, on a charge of voter fraud and her former legal employer, Will Gardner, as a co-conspirator.
That’s when one of the show’s all-time off-the-wall grace notes happens. To represent Will in his current legal troubles, they bring back the wildly eccentric attorney Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), whose constant ditziness and dithering conceals the sharpest and quickest legal mind on the show.
In the middle of the convention, she’s beset on the street by a performer in a bear costume who suddenly, out of nowhere, mutters something grotesquely anti-Semitic at her.
I fully expect that the day after the episode airs, there will be outcries of “Say what?” all over social media.
What’s so weirdly funny about it all is Elsbeth’s attitude toward the anti-Semitic accusation by a street performer in a bear costume. It is, no doubt, the show’s weirdly wonderful way of trying to convey the assaulting surrealism of New York street life.
To constant watchers of the show, it’s just “The Good Wife” being “The Good Wife,” and in another class entirely from most TV.
Except, of course, for almost everything else on Sunday nights – which, thank heaven, needn’t infuriate us any longer.
We’ve got the technology to lick it – and spoil us rotten.
As long, that is, as we’re willing to pay exorbitant rates for it.
But then we always knew there’d be a catch.