television criticism

Last week I succumbed to foul temptation and downloaded every extant episode of The Grid, TV's latest valiant attempt to explain geopolitics and terrorism to the masses. It's got just about everything a guy could want out of an hour of television: nice moody lighting, guns, nerve gas, the anaphylactic face of Julianna Margulies. A scene featuring a group of dead university students in London, with Ugg Boots and matching scarf-toque sets everywhere. And a bunch of bearded guys in the desert appearing as the senior council of Al-Qaeda! Let's hear it for the actors who agreed to play the leaders of the single best-known terrorist group in the world today. After that, I imagine they can look forward to a bit of typecasting.

I was hoping, as the luminescent and twitchy credits popped up, that The Grid would not be a combination of tinny exposition on global politics and sentimental harping on how America felt on 9-11. If God heard my wishes, he clearly answered them in the negative. Not a single scene goes by without a brief lesson on Islam, oil politics, Chechnyan independence, general Saudi cravenness, what have you. Unless the lesson is just how bad Americans felt when the planes hit the towers. Dylan McDermott (whose jawline continues to weird me out) incarnates the emotional shock of 9-11 as FBI agent Max Canary (get it? huh?). He wanders around the show in a daze of permanent mourning for his buddy Tim or Tom, having gone so far as marrying his widow and adopting their emotionally damaged son. In what is positively the worst scene of post 9-11 entertainment he grunts out the story of his friend's death in an interagency board meeting:

Canary: My friend died when the planes hit the towers. (Pauses)

Me: Oh, that's why his jaw is clenched like that.

Canary: He was just a guy in his way to work. (Pauses)

Me: Never mind, his jaw always looks like that.

Canary: He went up in the elevator... (Pauses)

Me: Please don't say that he didn't come back down.

Canary: ... He never came back down.

Me: Fuck.

Canary: They found his leg.

Me: His... what?

Canary: That's all that was left of him.

Me: No more, please.

Canary: They buried his leg.

Me: I wonder if they dressed it in a pantleg?

I'm parahprasing, but that's roughly how it went.