Tuesday, February 20, 2007

BBC's America

Secretary of Defense Lynn Cheney Rumsfeld Warner

THE WISDOM OF THE BRITS. I tried to hold off writing a review of BBC America's miniseries The State Within because the glowing reviews at (8 out 10 stars!) insisted the plot was so surprising no one would ever figure it out until the final scene of the final episode (about 340 hours in). Too many twists and turns. Too many Brit nuances. And all that acting. But, according to reviewers, plenty of excitement:

The first episode opens quickly, matching the dizzy speed that the camera moves around, with a bomb bringing down a passenger plane [over Washington, DC]. This opening looks to grab you and hold you because the writers know that...  viewers are going to be thrown into the middle of a lot of detail and be asked to keep up with it even though the connections will not start coming together for an episode or two (bearing in mind this only was six episodes long). Obviously I didn't know this at the start and I confess I did find the first two episodes to be demanding of attention without giving a lot back. However sticking with it does see all the pieces fall into place in a rather convoluted but engaging web of twists and developments. The conspiracy is sadly believable and the series builds a plot that 24 would be proud of – albeit with a bit less action.

Unless, of course, you define action as something other than chase scenes and gunfire. If you're a Brokeback Mountain fan, you'll find all the action you can handle in the Episode 1 scene between the aide to the Brit ambassador and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who lock lips more ferociously than Madonna and Britney Spears at the Grammys. (If you don't believe me, look here, but I warn you it's Not Safe For Work, and not safe for any heterosexual who's eaten any solid food in the last 24 hours or so.) But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Only one of the rave reviews noted any sort of flaw in the six(hundred)-hour BritFest:

The whole production looks professional and expensive but at times the shaky camera-work is a distraction – in moderation it isn't a problem but some episodes felt like it had been filmed during an earthquake! The narrative does have one glaring problem within it and that is the issue of political bias. If you are right-wing and believe that the Iraq war was right and that it was all about WMD (or regime change or whatever the official reason is as you read this) then you will probably hate this series because the whole plot is essentially a very unsubtle parallel with Iraq (in regards US going to war obviously – the whole "fabricating the war thing is total fiction!). As a bit of a liberal, this element didn't bother me that much but at times it was all a bit obvious and unimaginative in regards the underlying ideas.

Obvious? Does he mean the part about how the terrorist bombing was a conspiracy by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Sharon Gless (!), former CEO of the awesomely corrupt  Halliburton Armitage Corporation, to whip up support for the suspension of all civil liberties and the internment of all foreign-born muslims?

I can't prove that's the final solution of the plot, which is why I held off writing the review while I was laboring through close to five hours of incredibly talky scenes and opaque exposition. But I can report that I knew Sharon Gless was the villain the moment she appeared on screen and began uttering dialogue in which no single sentence lacked a reference to "dicks" or "balls." You know how those crude American Neocons are. I leaped immediately to the conclusion that she was behind the bombing of the Brit plane and would turn out to be the source of all the blackest evil in the world. It took the plot only four and a half hours or so to confirm (Surprise!) my idiot right-wing paranoia. Four-and-a-half hours of indecipherable dialogue, unidentifiable Brit actors with bad hair and worse teeth, action scenes that would put the Energizer bunny to sleep, and more precious sermons than you'd hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury in a year. The one thread of suspense that kept me going related to the fact that in every scene she appeared in, I expected Sharon Gless to pull out a huge cigar and light it up, but she kept not doing that, which is probably typical Brit understatement, because everyone knows that as soon as a character smokes tobacco on screen (s)he is automatically revealed as the embodiment of pure evil.

There's still an episode left, so you can all watch to see if Sharon does ultimately pull out that stogey and laugh that fiendish American fascist laugh we all hate so much, but I warn you, each of the episodes is two-and-a-half hours long. I confess I'm not going to be there for the finale, so I won't ever find out if Sharon smokes her cigar, or lets slip a "sieg heil" salute, or rips open her top to reveal the double lightning tattoo of the S.S. on her mannish right boob. But that's the problem with us right-wingers. We suffer from attention deficit disorder when confronted by sophisticated Brit dramas that are too complex and nuanced for our dimwit American brains to comprehend.

If you want to watch, maybe you could report back to me about the surprising developments in the final episode. While you're at it, maybe you could explain a few other things to me. Like when was it exactly that the Brits became the arbiters of morality and decency in the conduct of foreign affairs? The last time I looked they were still the all-time Guinness world champion record holders in the imperialist category, with 400 continuous years of brutal, racist oppression and exploitation of more third-world nations than the average American politico can even name. When did they acquire the Solomonic wisdom that enables them to lecture their American cousins about the most virtuous policies for defeating terrorists while preserving the necessary civil liberties on the homefront? Was it sometime after they stopped ordering the Brit army to wantonly beat and murder British subjects in Northern Ireland a few years ago? Or didn't that count? And when in the hell did they get the nerve to look down their big ugly noses at us about the death penalty? Haven't they executed more people for more trivial offenses than there are incompetent dentists in the whole sorry thousand-year history of the Evil British Empire?

Just asking. And one more thing. If you have the time, could you explain to me why any American would sit still for -- let alone enjoy -- being pontificated at by a bunch of self-pitying anti-American nitwits who'd be speaking German right now if we hadn't saved their flat flabby asses from teutonic conquest, twice, in the last 90 years?

Well, maybe it's a gay thing. Wasn't it Oxford that first made treason and homosexuality synonymous? I think so. But that still doesn't explain Sharon Gless. Are there dykes at Oxford? My muse is silent on this point. Someone please help me.

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