How HBO is Ready to Dominate Spring with Sex, Violence, Nerds & Politics
HBO has done an excellent job over the years at providing its audience with at least one excellent show each quarter of the year. Whether it’s the more recent disturbingly wonderful True Detective, or previous classics such as The Sopranos or Curb Your Enthusiasm (for the comedy fans out there), there has been a stream of must-watch, appointment viewing on the network throughout the past couple of decades. Now, with the introduction of the new spring line-up on April 6th, HBO has quite possibly outdone itself, creating about as perfect a 2 hour block of television can get to close out a weekend. With two established veteran shows and a new comedy from Mike Judge, the Sunday night HBO programming for this spring has the potential to be the best quarter the channel has ever presented. Let’s take a look at the line-up in reverse order to see what makes Sunday’s so special, starting with the comedy that closes out the night and ending with what may be the last true “event” for television.
The two comedies on HBO have something that I haven’t experienced with HBO comedies all that much; the ability to actually make me laugh out loud (Girls is not a laugh-out-loud comedy. In fact I find the show cringeworthy, and Entourage and Eastbound & Down both became too outrageous). Veep is one of the funniest shows on television and is a perfect end-cap for HBO’s new spring Sundays. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has continued to be the most visibly successful former cast-member of Seinfeld (I say that because I understand Jerry Seinfeld is extremely rich and successful, but he doesn’t seem to make a lot of appearances) with her brilliant comedic timing as Selina Meyer.
The wonderful mix of political satire and flat-out goofiness of Veep is what makes the show so special, not to mention a cast that is quite possibly brilliant without exaggeration. This is a show that understands what it has going for it and utilizes its tools to their fullest extent without going over the edge, but still pushing the envelope enough to drive some of those “oh no they didn’t just go there” moments, such as Selina using a funeral for an opportunity to give a speech that helps her career as she did in the season 3 premiere.
Veep has seemingly found the sweet spot of having just the right amount of cynicism mixed into just the right amount of fun to make the characters at least a little likeable as well, something that has not worked quite as well in the more recent comedic efforts from the network. The characteristics of the show suggest Veep is well on its way to becoming one of the great comedies of the generation, something which, based solely on the series premiere, I hope becomes a possibility for this next show.
Silicon Valley is a show that, I feel, will wind up going 1 of 2 different ways. One path this show could take is the path of turning into the Entourage for nerds, which would be okay for a few seasons but would become tiresome and stupid, much like Entourage did. Overall, however, this path would be truly disappointing since this show has the potential to become much better.
The second and much more preferable path would be similar to what Veep has done. I’m hoping the Mike Judge influence can turn this show into an interesting satire of the technology-obsessed world that actually manages to have charm, which is exactly what the first episode displayed. It may also be a program that not only makes fun of the current tech-centric culture, but also captures the essence of that same culture at the same time. While this criticism is solely based on the initial episode, if the show continues to be what the pilot entailed and remains both funny and poignant, or at least as poignant as a show of this nature can be, it has the means to become the show that ties the spring Sundays together.
Of course in all likelihood this is why the show was put into the 9:00 (central standard time applies for me) slot so it could be sandwiched in between the two established HBO shows. As of right now this writer is hoping this works out well and Silicon Valley retains the quality of its pilot in order to become a mainstay for the network. It certainly helps the effort having a cast that, again based solely on the pilot, is near perfect for the particular content.
HBO will almost certainly have it’s strongest lineup in ages, but a lot of how good it remains overall is riding on the success of Silicon Valley.
Game of Thrones
To preface this section I would just like to make it clear that I do not care about the books in the context of writing about the show. I read the first book and it neither added nor took away from my viewing experience of the program. I view this show as a separate entity from its source material.
And now for HBO’s monster success story and what may very well be the last true appointment television event (some may argue The Walking Dead needs to be watched live but I stopped caring about that show after the first two episodes and I hate commercial interruptions). Game of Thrones continued it’s consistent quality in pacing and storytelling on the opening spring Sunday with more Lannisters, more Starks, more dragons, violence, sex, and of course more Daenerys Targaryen. The show hopped right back into the saddle and brought the audience exactly what it’s been bringing for the past 3 years.
The show is absolutely astounding television programming and it is so much different from anything out there in the most refreshing manner possible for a show that is filled with so much violence and depressing situations. The moments that truly separate Game of Thrones from other television programs is just how interesting expositional scenes have become. This is one program where this writer actually finds himself waiting for more talking about what’s happening in this world. In a world full of swords and blood, beautiful women and nudity abound, wonderful sights and magic, this is quite an astonishing feat.
Added to this is the fact that there are indeed those other things; gore, sex, violence, love, drama. There truly is something for just about any type of audience in this show (with the exception of children…).
Game of Thrones has become so good at balancing the stories as well, with each and every meeting with a different character lasting just long enough to not wear out a welcome. Whether it is a discussion between Jaime and Cersei Lannister or a scene involving the Hound haggling over chickens, the show knows when to cut away and when to stay with certain characters (of course there are exceptions. See Greyjoy, Theon from season 3). The pacing for a show with so many different moving parts is incredibly smooth and it’s not an easy task to make an hour-long program seem like it’s only lasted for half of that time.
So with Game of Thrones now primed for an excellent season to get the series to its assumed halfway point, HBO appears to be in better shape than ever for its spring programming with the addition of Silicon Valley and the steady presence of Veep. Sunday nights should be an excellent time to sit back and relax for a couple hours before heading to bed and getting ready for that dreaded Monday.
For more information about the above shows, including the new Silicon Valley, one can simply visit HBO’s home page and follow the links.
What do you think? Leave a comment.