Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why The Shield is the best tv show you will never watch

So what is this? Is this some programme about Iraq? The surge in Baghdad? Or a documentary about the drugs wars? But a fake documentary, right? Cos this isn't realistic, right? The camera darting about. Lots of guys with guns shoutin n kickin in doors.

Brown fellas face down on the floor gettin shouted at in a language they don’t understand. Red necks n uniformed boneheads pointin guns at their heads. It all looks a bit nasty. There's bad guys - they're the ones covered in blood lyin on the floor. But the good guys don't look that good, do they? And isn't that Franka Potente? You know - her from Run, Lola, Run & The Bourne films?

That's how it looks if you flick channels and arrive mid-episode and get to watch Vic Mackay & his Farmington police buddies headbuttin n screamin their way through another random house search. Deep in enemy territory. Breakin heads, breakin rules. Involved in a labyrinthine plot involving the murder of two police officers (by police officers), an Armenian 'money train', a Mexican property magnate, a........ no, it's too late. It really is too late for you. You either know what I'm talking about or you've had it. And believe me, I've worked to get this far.

Episode One of the final series was on tonight, and to be honest - it wasn't the greatest ever - the greatest ever would have been in series 5 or 6. But even series 3 was pretty special. And I worked my way through them. I avoided every internet article about the programme (I still do - it's finished on cable & in America & no one is gonna spoil the ending for me now).

I studiously went through series after series on dvd. Even watching the dvd extras such was my addiction - but oh yeah, I've got a bone to pick with you dvd compliers - don't have an extra on dvd 5 out of 6 - that gives away the plot twist about to be revealed on disk 6. That's annoying.

Here's 10 more reasons you'll never watch it

1. It doesn't even get good until series 2 or really good until series 3. And even then you're thinking, "It's not exactly The Wire, is it?" But then the LAPD, it's not exactly filled with sensitive chaps who make furniture for dolls' houses, is it? More likely to be guys that headbutt first, and ask questions later. And it can sometimes be hard to empathise with those guys. You have work to do as a viewer.

2. It's not realistic. Despite the docu-style handheld cameras, the lack of music, the dialogue you can't always catch. There's something very *telly* about it. The plot for one. The plot is BIG. It's like a cartoon version of Macbeth. Macbeth meets The Itchy & Scratchy Show - with chainsaws. Starring a man so male he may as well be a penis with legs. A man that looks like Homer Simpson come to life, but with none of the generous humanity or empathy of the original cartoon character.

3. Glenn Close as Capt. Monica Rawling, in Series 4, is a Mrs Thatcher style commander. No, a Hillary Clinton. You can't empathise with her either. She's as cold as ice with a heart buried somewhere deep in the past. She's a genius of denied emotional depth.

4. Forest Whittaker (Series 5) might be one of the greatest actors alive, but why are we meant to dislike him and take the side of Vic Mackey (the Homer Simpson lookalike)? How can they write it like that? How can they make us want Mackey to outwit him? Why is it all so utterly unnerving?

This cop investigating corruption - Whittaker plays him like a divine madman. An avenging angel sent down into the 5th circle of Hell to pray on Mackey. Peck at his head like a carrion bird. He is a man to scare the living daylights; he is a man able to scare the dead & shiver their cold bones. He digs up the corpse of a murdered cop. He comes to represent the ghost of that cop. That cop that Mackey murdered. Whittaker is like the accusing Ghost in Hamlet. He demands action. He knows the truth. He twists and torments and prompts, makes Mackey doubt his own mind, before forcing him into further bouts of convoluted Mackey-avellian skullduggery.

Whittaker and his strange squinty eye, his increasingly gaunt appearance, his descent into madness..... it's utterly brilliant, but it's Series 5, so you may as well forget about it.

5. Just when you think they can't come up with a more ludicrous plot line than, ummm, 4 cops stealing 12 squillion dollars, then latino counciller David Aceveda gets raped at gunpoint. And the act is filmed on someone's mobile phone. So Aceveda has to go and find them and revenge them (kill them) before anyone finds out what's happened. It would not help his political career to have that vid out there on the internets. That's a grim story. You wouldn't like that. And I've spoiled the story for you. Just as well though.

6. It's really all just about the impotence of middle-aged men. The realisation that they can't own or change the world. It's Nick Hornby with shotguns, drug lords and torture. Hang on, that sounds interesting...

7. Weirdly, if you really do like all that violence, shouting, running around and getting your head messed with by immoral plotlines and blurred boundaries between 'good & evil' - you end up having to put up with real life issue about childcare, the difficulties of teaching dyslexic children, and sexism, homophobia and race issues in the workplace. Yeah, all that liberal crap. How does a Christian cop cope with his homosexual desires? How does a single mother return to working full time as a front line police officer so soon after giving birth? How did they wedge all that *issuey stuff* in there?

8. Did I mention the fact that you're 7 series behind? And that the best series is the 5th one? The madness of The Shield has cascaded and whirled by Season 5. The bloody hands of the dead are reaching for Vic. Like dead souls in the 5th circle of Hell. Everyone wants a piece of him. He is a man apart. Alone. Intense. Afraid. But not able to admit any of that to anyone. Like so many embittered, ranting middle-aged men they are afraid of failure and aware of their own mortality. Only if they plunge in and enter into the fight can they, like the ageing bullfighters they are, prove their worth, their masculinity, their power and so their glory. Vic Mackey is an existential hero in his own world. The world does not revolve around him. He makes the world spin. He is the God of his land. Woe betide those that strike up against him.***

*** Did I mention that in order to believe in The Shield - you sometimes have to put your sense of humour on a shelf and go with the flow. Be prepared to accept the Shakespearean nature of the thing? Yeah, well, y'do. And did I also mention that point number 8 is really just point number 6 dressed up in a frilly shirt? Well, that's all just part of the Nietzschean nature of eternal recurrence - well, hey, I said this was gonna be pretentious didn't I? It's okay. You've given up, that's allowed. I'll do the last two on my own. It's better this way...

9. The title music. It's pretty bad, I'll give you that. Jaggg da jagg da jagg ahhhhhhhh... No. That's off putting, I can imagine. You have to push past it.

10. I would give you some cute quotes but I'm not sure there are any. It doesn't work like that. It's all about the power of old fashioned storytelling, convoluted structures, deep character, and some mighty mighty plot reverses. Who would have thought that would have happened at the end of series 5? But yeah, obvious really when you think about it, right? But yeah, I'm just gonna enjoy the last few episodes. I know it's not real. I know it's silly. But it's entertainment. Violent, nasty, stupid, clever, amusing, thoughtful entertainment. The best kind....


  1. Anonymous12:17 pm

    the best ending of any tv series ever. not very many shows manage to maintain a consistent high throughout their run let along peak right at the end.

  2. Prefer Grand Designs meself....:)

  3. Grand Designs, woman!

    No, no, it's got to be 'Come Dine With Me'.

    I will be serving a Beef Pot Noodle starter.

    Then Cup-a-Soup with Prawn Cocktail crisps.

    And a fruit cocktail with evaporated milk for afters.

    I'm going on that show and I'm going to win!

  4. Anonymous12:08 am

    Nothing will ever beat the sheild...noly thing that comes remotelty close is the sopranos