It is possible, Virginia, to keep oneself in suspense. When playing 7-card stud, for example, and the dealer delivers the final card, down and dirty. It’s far more fun to hide it awhile behind the two existing down cards before slowly “squeezing” the last one into view, effectively teasing oneself with visual clues: Be round, baby. Be round!
In the age of TiVo, DVDs and DVRs, it’s perhaps even an easier and more common practice. I almost never watch a sporting event live on television these days; far better to DVR that sucker, skip the ads and condense a 3.5-hour Patriots game into a single 70-minute experience. What’s that? Dinner’s ready and Tom Brady’s driving New England toward winning 4th quarter touchdown? Simply pause it and mull the possibilities over a relaxing Sunday repast.
The television series on DVD offers the opportunity to raise this dynamic to high art, and I’m purposely poised at the precipice as I write you this evening. In September, I secured all three seasons of HBO’s acclaimed series, Deadwood. I brought them home from Asia (read: I bought a pirated version for a song). There are 36 shows in all. I have watched 35 and I’m savoring the possible denouements awhile before I break down and watch the final episode.
I don’t want it to end. So, for now, I’m withholding climax.
Deadwood came to this viewer with an extraordinary amount of fawning advanced billing, even from those I would judge to be hard cases and otherwise culturally snobbish. I don’t subscribe to HBO, never have. So it was going to require a DVD purchase to get a look. I managed to put that off for a long while, or otherwise blanked when rummaging through the bins of pirated DVD material during earlier visits to the side-street vendors of Saigon, Bangkok and Beijing.
Then there was the matter of having finally purchased Deadwood as part of September’s larger, stellar haul of video fodder. I also came home with Inception, Friends with Benefits, Winter’s Bone and the entire Game of Thrones series, another HBO-produced tour de force. My son and I have dipped into that one (which the Vietnamese pirate-packager endearingly labeled Game of Thorns).
One downside to HBO programming (and there aren’t many) is the interminable opening-credit sequences. I’ve not timed them, but the intro to each episode of Game of Thrones and Deadwood, for example, must run a full minute. Doesn’t sound like much, and the opening to Game of Thrones is actually quite well done — a sweeping, 3-D, helicopter-view tour of the mythical kingdoms over which rival factions fight in this absorbing epic. But it feels interminable after the first couple viewings, and here again we just fast-forward through it now.
[Digression: I heard a Fresh Air interview with Seth McFarlane the other day. He’s the force behind Family Guy, a show that has its moments but isn’t really my cup of tea. Too scatological for its own good, though the show’s opening is a clever take on the ditty Edith and Archie sang to start each episode of All in the Family. McFarlane noted that the trend today on commercial TV runs toward much shorter show openings, enabling network philistines to pack ever more advertising into a 30- or 60-minute slot.]
Okay, back on message. Having saved the best for last, I can report that Deadwood is really, really good. I’m dreading the idea that once I desist with the self-imposed suspense and watch the finale, it’ll all be over. One doesn’t get that same sense of dread when catching up on Mad Men or other worthy series still in production, where new material’s in the offing. The whiff of disappointment at finishing the final disc is tempered by the fact that there’s more to come. But it’s far worse contemplating the close of Deadwood, which, for reasons I mean to explore once I’m finished (so as not to ruin the ending), simply pulled the plug after Season III.
I’ll write more on the series itself when I’ve taken it all in. Until then, I’ll leave you in suspense.