In later seasons, The Sopranos would too often threaten to disappear up creator David Chase’s asshole as he ruminated, sometimes vigorously, sometimes ponderously, on the mysteries of American family life. But the first season has none of that leisure, expertly modulating stretches of comedy and drama en route to those crucial moments that leave you gasping.
My review of True Blood: The Complete First Season is online at FilmFreakCentral.net.
There’s something refreshing about True Blood, a show that approaches the idea of loving the undead with healthy helpings of humour, viscera, eroticism, and subtext. The tongue-in-cheek storytelling and routinely bloody tableaux aren’t especially remarkable, but True Blood is pretty packed with sex, even by HBO’s standards. Over the course of True Blood‘s first 12 episodes, we learn that Bon Temps, Louisiana, and environs are home to not just a handsome Civil War vampire but also a plucky telepathic waitress and a shapechanging bartender, as well as assorted “fangbangers” (humans with a thing for screwing vampires) and addicts in thrall to V juice, the street term underscoring the intoxicating, potency-enhancing effects vampires’ blood has on humans.
When I first heard that Funny Games was being remade for the U.S. multiplex, I couldn’t imagine a more unlikely crossover between extreme European cinema and the American mainstream. But now this. Gosh. I know HBO is reputedly starving for new, edgy content. But really, what the hell is going on?
04.01.08 | HBO COMMISSIONS FUNNY GAMES, COMEDY-DRAMA SERIES
BASED ON MICHAEL HANEKE’S FILMS, TO BEGIN AIRING THIS FALL
LOS ANGELES, April 1, 2008 – HBO, in conjunction with Halcyon Pictures and Tartan Films, is set to begin production on the 12-episode first season of the new HBO comedy-drama series FUNNY GAMES, it was announced today by Nicki Brand, executive vice president, HBO Entertainment. Michael Pitt (“The Dreamers,” “Last Days”) and Brady Corbett (“Thirteen,” “24”) will star in the series, reprising their roles from the recent Warner Independent Pictures feature film.
Slated to debut October 31, FUNNY GAMES is executive produced by Michael Haneke (“Cache”) and Ron Howard (“The Da Vinci Code”). Based on the 1997 film directed by Haneke, the show looks at a different ordinary American family each week as they cope with the arrival of the white-clad Peter and Paul, two unwelcome guests who enjoy sinister “funny games” that turn their hosts’ lives upside down.
“FUNNY GAMES is an intense, thought-provoking series that’s unlike anything else HBO has presented before,” said Brand. “The show undermines the creature comforts of the bourgeoisie and mocks the American television audience through telling moments of sadism and brutality in a way that broadcast TV can’t do.”
“We’re definitely going to push the envelope,” said Howard. “Michael’s brilliant films never found the audience they deserved, but I’m incredibly excited to think that, every week, the HBO viewing audience will have the opportunity to rethink its relationship to the thoughtlessly violent entertainment spectacles it craves.”
The show will also introduce a groundbreaking interactive component. Midway through each episode, viewers will vote via 900 number or text message on whether or not the family in that week’s installment should be allowed to survive. But, in a soul-shattering twist that underscores the relation between cinematic spectatorship and sadism, each installment will nonetheless end with the casual murder of each family member, as well as any pets.
“Since I first conceived it in the mid 1990s, FUNNY GAMES has always been my intelligent, passionate reaction to stupidly violent American cinema and the audience of shabby, knuckle-dragging cretins that thoughtlessly consumes this kind of naïve, morally destitute entertainment,” said Haneke. “Fuck you,” he added.