My friend Phil has an excellent post (these days he has a lot of excellent posts) on debunking Steven Johnson and his proclamation that Lost (which I haven’t seen) proves the point that American pop culture is now so much more complex that the country is actually full of multi-tasking geniuses (who still manage to elect doofi like Bush).
Well, Phil calls bullshit :
The best American TV really should be trouncing mainstream movies in the “smart, complex and many-layered” stakes, but it rarely comes close. And this is without even letting arthouse movies join the fray. If you’re after complexity, emotion and originality, why not compare TV with the best lower budget films from around the world? Maybe there’s an unspoken caveat to pieces like Johnson’s, that while Lost and its ilk are apparently clever and multi-layered, they’re only as clever and multi-layered as we should expect for something that is hoping to attract a mass audience. Shouldn’t we be asking why this is as good as we get? Why are the most intellectually demanding TV shows only reaching the level of blockbuster movies and airport novels?
Phil continues on to use the most excellent movie “Primer” as an example of how complex you can be in 90 minutes. I would also throw in Chris Marker’s San Soleil and any number of Godard films, etc. etc. I would also say that apart from The Sopranos and The Wire and a few other rare shows, American drama has still yet to catch up with the best of British TV (Cracker, Prime Suspect, etc.)