7 Random Thoughts I Had Last Night While Watching “Enlightened” and “Girls” on HBO

1. I didn’t realize how much I miss watching HBO original series on HBO — or maybe I’m just that desperate for decent TV that isn’t in the form of a bootleg DVD picked up on Silom Road in Bangkok! In Buenos Aires, I think Showtime was part of my Cablevision subscription, but that’s just a poor man’s HBO, isn’t it? It looks like this mini-HBO reunion is going to be the bright side of spending two days in Laos. I can finally catch up on some of the stuff I’ve been reading so much about, like Enlightened and Girls. Is it just me, or do they both have a sort of indie-film aesthetic? Is this the new normal on cable TV by subscription? I can live what that.

2. Laura Dern is so freaking good. Without her, I don’t think Enlightened would really interest me. I can’t take my eyes off her, and I find myself rooting for her character, sympathizing with her, although as a newcomer to this show, I don’t know much about her back story. I can remember when she was on the verge of a brilliant big-screen career in the ’90s. It never really happened for her, though. Now she gets to be fourth billed, after Amy Adams — and below the title, too! — in Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming film The Master. She’s an Oscar nominee dammit. Show some respect!

3. It’s so strange that Diane Ladd, Dern’s off-screen mom, always seems to be getting cast as her onscreen mother, like they’re a packaged deal or something. She’s been Oscar-nominated twice for playing her mom (in Wild at Heart and Rambling Rose), and I think when Dern got her Best Actress mod for Rambling Rose and Ladd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, it was the only time a mother and daughter were nominated for playing mother and daughter (how On Golden Pond of them). One would assume they are close in real life, but they are really selling this Enlightened dynamic of an estranged mother and daughter tentatively coming back together. The scene with the hair, when Ladd seems unsure whether to pull it or stroke it, is pure gold.

4. Ah, an ad for The Newsroom. The concept feels a little ’90s, since news rarely breaks in traditional newsrooms anymore. Wait, is that Jane Fonda? (A quick Wikipedia check reveals that it is.) I wonder why her doing television hasn’t been played up more in the media? Maybe it has, but I just missed it. Too bad her acting comeback hasn’t resulted in anything more memorable than Monster-in-Law, which I didn’t hate, but still, who would want that to be the last noteworthy entry in their filmography? Even Jennifer Lopez escaped that!

5. I’ve been reading a lot of great things about Girls and its multiply Emmy-nominated creator/writer/director/star Lena Dunham, but judging from these two episodes, I think I respectfully dissent. I’m slightly underwhelmed by both the performances and the writing, both of which are maddeningly self-conscious. Maybe I’m just too far removed from twentysomething angst for it to register with me in any meaningful way. I wanted less whining about Hannah’s sluggish writing career and fighting with her roommate and more Adam Driver, the sexy guy whose push-pull relationship with Dunham’s Hannah is something anyone at any age of any gender and sexual persuasion can relate to (minus the part where he tells her he loves her — only in the movies, and on TV!).

The other stuff just feels so foreign and staged, like these are the bricks and mortar from which twentysomething ennui is built. Aren’t we deep? I somehow manage to find more common ground with the ghost, the vampire and the werewolf on Being Human (the UK version, which along with the North American version, airs on the Sony Channel in Bangkok). And the middle-aged woman’s comment to 21-year-old half-dressed Tom (the werewolf) in the episode that aired a couple of weeks ago — “Put on some clothes, young man. This isn’t The Jungle Book — is more clever than anything I’m hearing tonight.

6. Where are all the people of color, you know the ones who make up a significant portion of the NYC population? Why don’t I ever see black people on TV shows set in New York City, where not everyone is white. The only significant black presence I’ve noticed tonight is Beyonce singing “Halo” on the soundtrack — and that’s probably her whitest hit to date!

7. Coming up next: Middle Men. I can always use another Gabriel Macht sighting (Suits begins airing tonight in Bangkok on Universal), but no more Luke Wilson for me. His few scenes in Enlightened were enough for me. Time for bed.

Gabriel’s fire: I love a handsome, sharp-dressed man in “Suits.”

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