Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dear Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: A Public Service Announcement

Look, members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, currently enjoying your brief day in the sun as the announcement of the nominees for your objectively tiny and insignificant award marks the beginning of Oscar season, it's not that I'm surprised at the absence of both Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica from the lists of your television nominations. Oh, we like to talk about how quirky the Golden Globes are, and we're all still breathless about that time you gave Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jessica Alba Best Actress nominations (but not, heavens forfend, an actual trophy), but we all know the truth--you're a crusty Hollywood establishment. You go where the ratings are, and you vote for what you've been told is good rather than what you know to be good. So the fact that two of the finest shows on television this year passed you by while the rapidly floundering Lost gets a nomination (and, in all likelihood, a win) is hardly a shock.

But there is something I think you should know, dear members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I'm terribly sorry that I didn't think to inform you of this before (but really, who could have guessed you were this far out of the loop?), but better late than never, I suppose.

You see, Rome isn't actually any good.

Oh, I can imagine you fluttering about in dismay over there in your Hollywood Foreign Press offices. How could Rome not be good? It has production values so high they make the recreation of the Coliseum in Gladiator look like a fifth grade play! All of the actors are genuinely British, not faking their accents at all! Michael Apted, a bona-fide film director, deigned to set foot in a television studio to direct several episodes! There are naked women (a true hallmark of sophisticated art, as we all know) and lesbians (here defined as any good looking woman who spends more than five minutes alone in a dimly lit room with any other good looking woman). Best of all, it's from freaking HBO, home of quality dramas and sagging awards shelves. Let's face it, you sent those Best Drama trophies out to the engraver the first time you watched one of the show's previews.

Well, sad to say, but even HBO has its misses, and Rome is a very big one. Oh, it's diverting enough, in its own way, and lord knows it's well-made and the actors and actresses bring the pretty in spades, but the show is closer to Melrose Place than I, Claudius, and not in any of the good ways. Even at a mere 12 episodes, it drags. With a few exceptions, none of them the important historical figures, the characters are thin and uninteresting. The plots tend more towards sensationalism (the emperor Augustus slept with his sister!) than genuine intelligence. The 'man on the ground' concept, so interesting in theory, is mostly an excuse for embarrassing Forrest Gump-ish plot twists. Worst of all, unlike Deadwood, which takes a period in history and a storytelling genre that we think we know everything about and turns our preconceptions on their heads, Rome is sadly predictable--we've seen it all before, and we've seen it done better.

Oh well, dear members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We all have our bad days, after all. I'm sure once you sit down with those complimentary Rome DVDs and actually watch the show, you'll be properly embarrassed (especially when you catch a glimpse of Polly Walker's cringe-inducing, one-note performance. If you had to nominate a Rome actress, why couldn't it have been Lindsay Duncan or Indira Varma, and for that matter where is Kevin McKidd, who imbued his character with a much-needed sense of pathos and tragedy?). Just remember, once you're done, to crack open those boxes of Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica DVDs, the ones you cast aside and were planning to use as coasters because one is a teen drama and the other is science fiction. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Now, let's talk about Prison Break...

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