Re: Face Down In The Muck

1

It isn't exactly what you're thinking of, but Alive Day Memories was pretty good.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:02 PM
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There was "Brothers", based on the highly similar Danish movie. Among the few people I know with military connections, the response was to be outraged beyond belief at the anti-patriotic suggestion that a veteran might have become mentally ill or that a veteran's wife might consider cheating on him.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:04 PM
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Hm, did it take a while last time for it to seep into popular entertainment? I feel like it did but I don't really know.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:04 PM
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That wouldn't be supporting our troops, now, would it? If the 'left' learned anything from the backlash against them after the Vietnam antiwar movement, it's that any commentary making any individual soldier look like anything other than a sainted martyr is incredibly dangerous. You can say something not-glowingly-positive about a person in uniform if you have a picture of them giving a thumbs up next to a corpse, but not really otherwise.

The acceptable portrayal of a terribly injured Iraq War vet is Doonesbury's Toggle -- sure, he's got a traumatic brain injury, but he's plucky, cuddly, emotionally warm and open, and headed for a bright future with his loving family.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:05 PM
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Hm, did it take a while last time for it to seep into popular entertainment?

I was wondering that as well. Checking, The Deer Hunter was 1978, not that long after Vietnam ended, but Rambo was 1982.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:07 PM
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In The Valley of Elah comes to mind, although I haven't gotten around to watching it yet.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:14 PM
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From Justified on tv we have both the marshal Gutterson and Boyd Crowder's buddy "Colt" as being fucked up from their middle east tours.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:18 PM
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7: And Terry Bellefleur on True Blood.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:25 PM
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4: To be fair, Doonesbury also has B.D.'s buddy Ray Hightower, who is less lightheartedly PTSD'd than Toggle.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:27 PM
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4: To be fair, Doonesbury also has B.D.'s buddy Ray Hightower, who is less lightheartedly PTSD'd than Toggle.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:27 PM
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I haven't seen Out of the Furnace yet either but I think Casey Affleck's character is a screwed up Iraq vet.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:29 PM
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Bah, screwed up html.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:30 PM
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In The Valley of Elah

This certainly seems to qualify.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:34 PM
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They haven't yet figured how to put capes on them and let them fly, and anyway we have Cap'n America and Tony Stark all suffering the PTSD.

Homeland?

And Jerzy Skolimowski made a movie about an al Qaeda dude (Vincent Gallo) getting hunted by hordes, but it's very far from mainstream.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:40 PM
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"WE'RE ALL SHOT, BRO, CAN YOU FIGHT?"

"I CAN FIGHT!"


Posted by: OPINIONATED STUPID WAR MOVIE THAT'S ALL OVER YOUTUBE ADS | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:41 PM
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If the 'left' learned anything from the backlash against them after the Vietnam antiwar movement, it's that any commentary making any individual soldier look like anything other than a sainted martyr is incredibly dangerous.

And you can't even show sympathy for soldiers whose lives appear to have been ruined. Back then you were saying "Damn shame what the government did to you guys". Now it's all-volunteer, so it's taken as "Damn shame what you guys decided to do to yourself".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:48 PM
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There's that Homeland dude, except I haven't really watched the show enough to figure out whether he's a Manchurian Candidate or just a Deerhunter.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:53 PM
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In selecting childhood books to pass down, I included my parents' doonesbury anthology, in part because it seems to be a developmental stage in the making of an unfogged commenter.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:57 PM
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any commentary making any individual soldier look like anything other than a sainted martyr is incredibly dangerous

There's some new Fox show (probably horrible, I haven't seen it) that's a sitcom set in the military with a bunch of wisecracking soldiers. Here. I saw an ad for it and was struck by how wonderfully old-fashioned it felt, like something from before about 1985 that we largely haven't seen since. Generations where people were drafted and huge numbers of men served in uniform knew to treat the army as something fundamentally ridiculous and appropriate for mockery and satire, but recently even joking about barracks life is treated as sacrilege.

I don't know that the US is actually more militaristic now than it was in, say, 1960, but it sure is a fuck-ton more annoyingly sanctimonious about its love for the military.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 4:57 PM
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That new Fox show is Enlisted and it's gotten very good reviews from people I trust. Elsewhere on TV, Parenthood just had a whole thing about a returning vet whose PTSD blew up his engagement.


Posted by: DonBoy | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 5:14 PM
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how wonderfully old-fashioned it felt, like something from before about 1985 that we largely haven't seen since

You probably would have loved Work It which rivaled Saved By The Bell re-runs for sophistication. I don't think it was on Fox though (nor was Saved By The Bell in its original run).


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 5:16 PM
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Generations where people were drafted and huge numbers of men served in uniform knew to treat the army as something fundamentally ridiculous and appropriate for mockery and satire, but recently even joking about barracks life is treated as sacrilege.

This is a really great point (and one I've made often in conversation) well made and is readily apparent if you read a lot of WWII lit written by vets. Jean Shepherd is wonderful on this talking about his experiences in the Army. Here I give you his highly entertaining "Code School" which really brings that point home:

http://ia700201.us.archive.org/2/items/JeanShepherd1965Pt1/1965_04_13_Code_School.mp3


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 5:19 PM
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Also on that topic, sorta, is Alan's War where you get a sense of just how heterogeneous and decentering WWII was for people. The graphic novel opens with the main character, on his way to Basic Training, agreeing to bunk with some fat, smelly soldier so that two other enlistees who are gay lovers can spend the night together on the train taking them to their next point of embarkation. And then all kinds of weird stuff happens. All true.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 5:43 PM
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Back in the day, I used to watch a show about the antics of wisecracking Army surgeons during the Korean War.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 6:13 PM
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No one needs to know about your gay porn viewing, Spike.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 6:53 PM
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It's not an uncommon subplot on TV shows: The character who came back from war kinda off. Grey's Anatomy (which is unusually pro-military) had such a character, and it happened with a character on Las Vegas (and another minor character left and didn't come back). And Homeland, of course (it's actually not a spoiler to say that he comes back mentally twisted and tangled - this becomes clear before we find out which side he's on).

That's off the top of my head. But really, when it is revealed that a character served in Iraq or Afghanistan, I actually look out for that to be a subplot.


Posted by: Trumwill | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 7:23 PM
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There's so much TV, everything is bound to be somewhere on it--that's why I was wondering about movies. It would be a bigger deal culturally if someone was up for a best supporting/actor award (or something) for portraying a broken Iraq vet. Valley of Elah was a big star movie on this theme; maybe it wasn't very good; I'd never heard of it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 7:58 PM
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@27 but I think TV is much more the dominant character-study medium now than it was in the 70s, and movies much less so. I got sucked into watching Scandal over the holidays (and am still on Season 2, no spoilers!) and it seems to come up a lot. Comes up in Castle too--mostly Javier using his Gulf War PTSD experience to advise Kate on her Cop PTSD experience.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 8:05 PM
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Also, much as I did not like it, the zombie half of Grindhouse had a very weird Afghanistan PTSD / conspiracy / abandonment of the troops angle. Documentaries are also a bigger deal now, there's Poster Girl, which was on HBO.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 8:17 PM
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27: I'm not sure if it was bad, but it tanked, which may be why there haven't been too many other star vehicles along the same lines.

Also, naturally, Hollywood in the '70s was famously congenial to weirdos being weird, at least until the director of The Deer Hunter ruined it for everybody. The current industry -- especially with the focus on global marketing -- just might not be terribly interested in sort of reconstructing this kind of pathological character. Shit Rambo only stayed troubled for like two and a quarter hours, all told. Maybe we're so aware of the trope for Vietnam vets because The Deer Hunter was singularly influential. Kind of like how everybody knows mobsters drive cool cars and interstellar crime lords are fat and disgusting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 8:23 PM
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There's a new film out with Mark Wahlberg -- Lone Survivor -- about Navy SEALs falling on their faces in Afghanistan, based on a true story. This review accuses it of engaging in more machismo than anything else.

The wars aren't over yet, and they've gone on longer than Vietnam did, and there is no anti-war movement to speak of, and military hawks are owning the airwaves far more than they had.

These people are looking for support for their film. It would not be a major studio release, however.

It occurs to me that what with that thing with Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, mental and concurrent physical illness are lately portrayed as cute and sort of personal choices.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 8:33 PM
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damaged veteran episodic plots are a staple in procedural shows of all sorts since the middle of the last decade (picking up, no doubt, on older traditions of them that probably tended to reach back to vietnam stories well into the 90s: on nypd blue sipowicz' vietnam service still occasionally came up, but i think first gulf war characters/plots in shows were not that common except for gulf war syndrome related stuff).

there is a related vein of law enforcement characters who moved into that line of work after military service. not necessarily with big issues: just a fact of life, that they served, adjusted more or less well.

the stories vary. sometimes, at root, they have to do with coverups (by the brass, by politicians, by independent contractors, by units of soldiers who did wrong, by corporations like munitions or armor manufacturers). sometimes, ptsd cases. sometimes, grudges and vengeance carried off the battlefield. sometimes, family members unable to mourn (often a big racist / bigoted angle here). 'american taliban' type stuff. sometimes, stories contrasting the members of military couples (since two-soldier families have become a lot more common). sometimes, the stories are directly about institutional efforts to help soldiers adapt.

i would say that this is fairly normalized on tv at this point.


Posted by: j. | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 8:39 PM
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There are certainly older movies about older wars with struggling and damaged, but not always to the point of being crazy, veterans. Heroes for Sale, and They Gave Him a Gun, both about WWI - but those didn't come out until the 1930s.

After WWII, there are characters in The Best Years of Our Lives, Til the End of Time and The Blue Dahlia who are all struggling to readjust after WWII, though they're portrayed sympathetically. And Act of Violence and Crossfire have much darker plot lines.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 9:02 PM
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34

The Best Years of Our Lives has a famously devastating opening. Jesus.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 10:18 PM
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35

I'm not gonna do it, but the statute of limitations on spoiling the first two seasons of Homeland is well nigh past. (Not that it's necessary to do so for this discussion. I'm just defining deviancy down or something.)


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 8-14 11:57 PM
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Despite having taught Best Years of Our Lives many times, I can't for the life of me remember the opening scene. Are they flying back? And then the banker finally arrives home to his more-grown-up-than-before-the-war children and his wife who has not missed him so much as one might have imagined she would have? Or something? This is bothering me enough that I guess I'll start watching the movie.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 12:01 AM
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Is there something else you were going to do with your weekend?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 1:40 AM
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There are certainly older movies about older wars with struggling and damaged, but not always to the point of being crazy, veterans.

Let me be the first to recommend Lord Peter Wimsey.

There was an ex-military (and Iraq veteran) type on The Wire who was always presented as not too tightly wrapped. (googles) Colicchio. The chap with the jarhead haircut. Played, I notice, by an actual Iraq veteran.

In the UK, meanwhile, we have a sitcom about a bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan. Yes, really. I've no idea what it's like: I tried watching the first episode and couldn't manage more than about three minutes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluestone_42

The bit that's missing from the picture on TV, but that exists in real life, is the portrayal of the person who goes to war and just has a great time. This isn't really something that you see unless the person in question is being depicted as a psycho, but they exist none the less, in large numbers, and I don't think they're all psychos.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 2:52 AM
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re: 38

I've seen bits of a couple of episodes. It was mildly amusing. It's very old-fashioned, however. The setting might be 'edgy' but the humour and the structuring is more like 'classic' [i.e. not really very good] pre-alternative comedy sitcom.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 5:25 AM
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That would, I think, make it even weirder.

I've just started work with a guy who used to do EOD in Afghanistan; I'll have to ask him what he thinks. (He seems remarkably relaxed and happy with life for someone who used to do EOD. Or, maybe, he's exactly as relaxed and happy as you should expect someone to be who used to do EOD _but doesn't any more_.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 6:12 AM
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It seems in the tradition of somewhat cosy British sitcoms that have a somewhat grim background. Prison [Porridge]; hospitals [lots of things]; WW2 [Dad's Army, It Aint' Half Hot Mum, etc].

The bits I saw didn't seem terrible. Just not particularly funny or interesting (to me).


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 6:52 AM
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Don't forget 'Allo 'Allo. Or rather, do try to forget it.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:19 AM
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...Red Dwarf and The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the human race is extinct and you are alone in a hostile universe); Blackadder II (your life is in the hands of an insane despot; one of the best bits about the entire series is that, when Queenie threatens to have someone beheaded, you can see she means it, and so can the rest of the cast); Blackadder Goes Forth; The Young Ones; Reggie Perrin; Shameless...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:27 AM
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Some of which are cosier than others, of course. I mean, as we've discussed here before, there's a very rich vein of grim British comedies.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:32 AM
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The only thing that scared me on British TV was Neighbors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:37 AM
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And that's Australian.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:39 AM
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True, but I assume somebody deliberately imported it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:44 AM
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No outright insanity, but the US film Restrepo was pretty frank about the psychological aftermath of war.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:56 AM
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"Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked... in the head... with an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does. It never happens. Sorry, Ted, that's a dumb question... skip that."


Posted by: Opinionated Rex Kramer | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 7:57 AM
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True, but I assume somebody deliberately imported it.

Oh definitely. And as far as I know it was always far more popular in the UK than at home.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 8:28 AM
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It took me a long time to realize that The Butcher Boy was a comedy. Y'all over there on Knifecrime Island and Kneecapping Island have exceedingly odd standards when it comes to humour.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 9:23 AM
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51: plot summary - When Francie Brady's mother (Aisling O'Sullivan) suffers a nervous breakdown, he is left in the care of his father (Stephen Rea), an emotionally distant and ill-tempered alcoholic. When Francie's growing conflict with another boy, Phillip Nugent (Andrew Fullerton), and his mother (Fiona Shaw) begins to go too far, he ends up at reform school. Here, he is molested by a priest (Milo O'Shea), and finds solace only in his fantasies about a foul-mouthed Virgin Mary (Sinéad O'Connor). He returns home to find that his mother has committed suicide, Joe has outgrown him, and that his father has drunk himself to death. Faced with being left completely alone in the world, he loses his grip on reality and lashes out with uncontrollable brutality.

All good knockabout stuff.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 9:32 AM
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Black Books: The amusing adventures of a misanthropic, alcoholic, failed bookseller, his alcoholic, lonely best friend, and his emotionally and phsyically abused employee.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 9:51 AM
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I came here to make a Danger UXB + some random Britcom joke but I just want to recommend Danger UXB. (And to re-up that Jean Shepherd Code School show I linked somewhere above, good stuff).


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 9:55 AM
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I think the last British sitcom to not be permeated with constant misery was "Are You Being Served".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 10:04 AM
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I think of myself as reasonably inured to black comedy, but I do run into British stuff that I just can't watch. I tried "Peep Show" after liking Mitchell and Webb's sketch comedy, and lasted three-quarters of an episode before becoming irretrievably depressed and embarrassed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 10:06 AM
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"Peep Show" is just awful. "The Inbetweeners" is even more depressing. The absolute worst is something called "Green Wing".

It's not all bad though. "Black Books", "Spaced" and "The IT Crowd" contain humor.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 10:11 AM
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Oh, I tried Green Wing because I liked whatserface on Black Books. I actually don't remember what put me off it, but I only lasted an episode or two.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 10:17 AM
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Oh, I love Green Wing. It's more or less a Who's Who of quality British comedy actors of its era.

"whatserface"

Tamsin Greig.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 10:22 AM
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Maybe I should retry it. I literally can't remember what the problem was -- it wasn't the cringing horror that put me off "Peep Show." Did it maybe get off to a slow start? I think possibly I fell asleep during two of the first three episodes and didn't try a fourth.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 10:24 AM
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Green Wing's actually pretty lighthearted. I mean, it goes to dark places, but it has a happy ending, and the central two characters are likeable/empathetic. Which is more than you can say for Lizzie and Sarah, say.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 10:28 AM
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I think Sifu Tweety in 30 is closest to the mark in terms of an explanation. Hollywood is producing in general a lot fewer personal dramas that are attempting to serve as cultural touchstones than it was in the 70s (or even 25 years ago when many of us were growing up). There are lots of indie features, documentaries, and TV that have filled the void in terms of content, but they can't create focal attention across the mass of the culture. We only get that now for a few dramatic films each Oscar season, and even those are being watched (at least in original theatrical runs) by a much smaller number of people compared to 25 years ago: e.g., 12 Years A Slave is 76th in domestic gross for 2013, while something like Born on the 4th of July was 17th for 1989.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 01- 9-14 11:32 AM
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32: There was a scene in NYPD Blue when Danny Sorenson first arrived to partner with Sipowicz, where they told each other that they had served "overseas". It was pretty clear that Sorenson had undergone some serious shit in Gulf War I, and there was a subplot or two later dealing with his army buddies. Danny had all kinds of psychological issues, to which military PTSD probably contributed.


Posted by: DaveMB | Link to this comment | 01-10-14 12:15 PM
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