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HBO’s Terrible Sunday Lineup

We’re only two weeks into HBO’s summer Sunday lineup, but I’m going to go ahead and call it a disaster.

This is a low point for the consistently excellent network.

True Detective

I had mixed feelings about last season, but the current one is built on a deeply flawed idea:

Depressed, angry people make complex characters. The purpose of the first episode was to establish that the three police officers all of have bleak, miserable lives. And it’s pushed to absurd lengths. They have both physical and emotional wounds, their relationships with family members are a wreck, they’re lonely, angry, at least one is an alcoholic, and they all look physically exhausted and worn out.

The only cliché left out is that none are Holocaust survivors.

But wait, then there was episode 2. While we didn’t learn about anybody spending time in Auschwitz, new backstory nuggets included incest, closeted homosexuality, and multiple siblings committing suicide.

The show is nothing more than an exercise in personal misery.

And why is it that all cops according to True Detective have deeply troubled lives?  Do the writers really think that there are no normal cops? Do only social rejects join the force? Does their damaged emotional state somehow make them better detectives (though it would be interesting if they end up blowing the case because of all of the problems with their personal lives)?

Further, their problems are taken to such extremes that it makes almost impossible to relate to them. And that’s the cornerstone of writing any good character. Your audience needs to be able to identify and empathize with the challenges they face.

The show is so caught up in its neo-noir mise en scène that it never stops to think if any of this serves a purpose except to look and feel gritty.

As for the actual murder being investigated, so far it appears to be all window dressing: Take out all of the sex and mutilation, and you’re just left with a corrupt bureaucrat.

Ballers

Whatever Ballers claims to be about, it’s really nothing more than an exposé of all the pretty things and people you and I cannot have. Not surprising, creator Stephen Levinson was an executive producer on Entourage (show and movie).

This is simply the lowest form of TV. It’s basically a celebrity reality show, but with a narrative. But reality shows are less patronizing to their viewers — there’s usual some level of self-deprecation whereas shows like Ballers and Entourage think we should seriously consider the plight of millionaire celebrities.

Cue the world’s tiniest violin.

The Brink

Did everyone at HBO miss that The Brink is a witless, wholesale blatant rip-off of Dr. Strangelove? It doesn’t even attempt to reimagine the classic film — it just regurgitates it.

The single most defining aspect of warfare during the last 15 years is the use of drones. But The Brink couldn’t figure out how to have incorporate drones with the Major Kong bomber pilot character, so for the first time since probably Gulf War I there’s a bombing mission involving a manned airplane.

This is just epically lazy.

If you’re going to remake Dr. Strangelove, then the story should actually be set in the 21st century and satirize current day life. Hotline calls shouldn’t be on a phone, they’d be video, or for the sake of comedy, text. Spies wouldn’t send documents via fax, they’d post pictures of them on someone’s Facebook page.

Do I have to figure this all out?

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