Sunday, May 04, 2008

DVD: Slings and Arrows

Treebeard and I finished watching the first season of Slings and Arrows last night. I didn't know anything about the show but Mental Multi-Vitamin recommended it.

This jaw-dropping series from Canada originally aired in the USA on the Sundance channel. NPR billed it as a refuge for Sopranos-mourners. I never watched the Sopranos but I am drumming my fingers waiting for the next DVD of this series to get here from Netflix.

There are so many surprises and astonishing moments in the first six episodes that I almost hesitate to tell you anything about it because part of the delight of this show for me was having no idea what was coming next.

The basics, to pique your interest, (in case my recommendations and M-MV's are not enough) The New Burbage Festival has seen better days. Its productions of Shakespeare are stale, the director and actors are uninspired. When the company finds itself in need of a new artistic director, a former Burbage player, Geoffrey Tennant, reluctantly takes charge despite his history (he had a breakdown while onstage in the middle of Hamlet, years earlier) with the company.

Economic forces are constantly at odds with art. Actors' lives are messy and dramatic. Young movie stars (think Keanu Reeves/Orlando Bloom) seek growth and legitimacy through Shakespeare. There is language and sex (we watched it while the entling was a-promming) but if you let that put you off, you will miss moments like this:

Blast, it is Sunday. No mail delivery today.
... drum, drum, drum...


Duane Morin said...

Spectacular, wasn't it? I was sad when I watched all the episodes because there would be no more. I have to say, I think that the first season was the best for me, but maybe that's because I dig Hamlet more than the others. It's also very important to decide whether it's the *Shakespeare* you're interested in, or the lives of the people playing the Shakespeare. For me it's all about the former, and whenever the characters were getting on with their lives I'm all "Ummm, get back to the Shakespeare, people." But the coworker who lent me the DVDs was the exact opposite, she enjoyed the soap opera aspects.


Camille said...

Duane I am definitely interested in the Shakespeare -- I loved hearing "Geoffrey" direct and talk about the play but I also got a huge kick out of all the characters. It is such a great ensemble cast.

Mental multivitamin said...

Thanks for your note, Camille.

I, too, am interested in the Shakespeare. If Season 1 is the viewer's whirlwind courtship -- and it was mine -- then Season 2 is when I asked it to marry me. Look for the moment I sank to my knee: It involves a discussion of how Macbeth must be played. An actor who openly disdains Geoffrey's interpretation is mocking him to another seasoned actor, who, in turn, softly asks, "What did he have in mind?" The other actor explains. Then the older actor, instead of disparaging the offbeat interpretation, says, in effect, "Now *that's* interesting."

In Season 3, the Lear season, I all but wept during the juxtaposition of the first musical rehearsal and the first read-through of Lear.

Remember, Lear is the storm.

It was a brilliant show, all the more brilliant for its three-season (three-act) arc, its unabashed scenes about "doing Shakespeare," and its fearless [*SPOILER ALERT*]...

evisceration of a character who seemed poised for redemption.

Happy watching.


Anonymous said...

Just FYI (as in, you have no choice in this), as soon as we have time, I'm throwing season 1 of NCIS into the DVD player. I know you'll enjoy.

Just think of all the Mark Harmon and David McCallum. Directed by Don Bellisario, creator of Magnum P.I.

-Entling no. 2

Anonymous said...

hey, Entling No. 2 - you have DVDs of NCIS? So jealous!!! Entling No. 1 *LOVES* "NCIS" (the show with the most initials on television). Stay tuned, Tuesday nights, CBS, 7 p.m. central!