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The Best Show You’ve Never Seen

17 April 2009

I have no problem admitting I have lousy taste in a bunch of areas. I’m just now learning how to properly dress myself, after a lifetime of just wearing whatever’s loose and comfortable. I can’t stand olives (any kind, though I like good olive oil), or any sweets from the caramelized sugar family (caramel, toffee, butterscotch etc.), which shuts me out of what I know must be some great food options. I’m not much of a car guy, preferring to drive my big, honking (paid off) ’96 T-Bird into the ground rather than waste time and accrue debt shopping for what’ll probably end up being some boring, fuel-efficient car.

But I do think I have pretty good taste in TV shows. You can read a much longer screed about this here. But suffice it to say I watched Mad Men from day one, jumped on Damages before anyone was talking about it, ditto Rescue Me, and after watching them, quickly slotted Deadwood (very high) and The Wire (at the top) onto my list of all-time favorite shows. So if I make a TV recommendation, I trust that you’ll trust me.

Go to your Netflix queue, or Bit Torrent, or whatever other method you use to view shows that are no longer on the air, and IMMEDIATELY pick up the British show State of Play. The show has an innocuous title, and it aired on the BBC six years ago. So you could be forgiven for missing it the first time (I know I did). But now that there’s a major motion picture out, based on the show, starring the likes of Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck and warmly received by critics, you have no excuse.

In a few words, this is what you might call a thriller. In just six episodes (it’s what you’d more accurately call a “serial” rather than a “show”, I suppose), Paul Abbott’s creation introduces, establishes and then absolutely nails a story line that includes political intrigue, widespread corruption, a steamy affair, a takedown of big business, and my favorite, the inner workings of a newsroom sinking its teeth into the story of the decade. It’s also, at times, funny, cheeky, scary, nerve-wracking, dramatic, sad, and uplifting.

I fully admit to a bias when it comes to any show that places investigative journalism at the forefront of the plot. I am, after all, a journalist, even if my rants about Gus Johnson and Tomokazu Ohka are far removed from my days working night police as a 21-year-old for the Montreal Gazette, getting called to a crack house late at night to find a dead body splayed with bullets at the scene. But it’s not like I’m shaky ground here–Season 5 of The Wire is regarded by many people who are not journalists (and aren’t me) as a TV triumph, just as “All The President’s Men” is on plenty of top movies lists that aren’t mine.

I don’t want to spoil the plot of State of Play for you at all, because the show is full of twists and turns. Suffice it to say you need to watch the show right now, certainly before you see the movie version. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, this is just two rentals, with each disc lasting three episodes. All told, we’re talking maybe three viewings if you’re like me and crank up shows while on the treadmill, two or less if you watch from your couch, or on a long flight. Once you start, you definitely won’t want to stop.

State of Play. Watch it. Now.

One Comment leave one →
  1. cultureschlock permalink
    19 April 2009 7:54 pm

    Jonah — I HATE British TV, but you sold me on this one. Been a while since I went to arson/assault scenes and knocked on doors (when I was young and stupid), but I will always think of myself as a journalist!

    Will watch this before the movie. And after Ben Affleck said he really really cares about the future of newspapers, how can I not support him?

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