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Monday Notebook: "The Wire," "Saturday Night Live," Digging Out, Akron-Kent, "Canterbury's Law"

By admin Published: March 10, 2008


I should feel terrible about "The Wire" but I can't shake some exhilaration, since the finale was so good and so right. But hasn't "The Wire" always been about grand art made from despair? ...

I caught up with the finale this morning via HBO On Demand. More about why in a bit. But it was a fine piece, content to show us the future (bleak though that future may be), comfortable in letting so many of the bad guys win (drug dealers, politicians, a conscienceless reporter and editors), leaving us with some questions. What will McNulty do now, for one? And is Marlo really out of the life, or does he love the blood on the streets too much?

And yet, in the middle of all that, "The Wire" allowed, if not victories, at least the idea that people are still trying to improve themselves and the world around them. Choked up when Bubbles finally got out of the basement. McNulty is still a do-gooder, even if he has lost his old pulpit. Bunk and Kima are still on the job. And Haynes can still look at his newsroom -- or at some distant county beat -- and know that people are still able and willing to do good, honest work.

So, yeah, the scum floats on top. But the world is not quite lost yet. The greatest sadness is that we have lost "The Wire," but it was able to last a long time with minimal compromise and lovely accomplishment. The finale was loaded with lines that should be inscribed somewhere, like the McNulty "eulogy" and the one about the absence of nostalgia (with an ensuing, non-nostalgic payoff). And the story is so dense, the characters so many, that -- like a big, beloved book -- I can see myself going back to this thing again.

Not that I would object to a "Wire" movie in a couple of years. Wouldn't want to lose track of McNulty.

It's not entirely fair to turn to "Canterbury's Law," which premieres on Fox tonight, after contemplating the splendor of "The Wire." Where the latter show is one of television's all-time greats, "Canterbury's Law" is, on first viewing, a watchable if less than extraordinary legal show, and one that owes a considerable debt to "The Practice." Well, at least to "The Practice" before it went completely nuts.

On the plus side is Julianna Margulies as Elizabeth Canterbury, a no-holds-barred lawyer with a messy personal life. I know, we've seen that sort before. (Anyone want to reminisce about "The Trials of O'Brien," with Peter Falk? Or "Shannon's Deal," with Jamey Sheridan?) But Margulies makes Canterbury more intriguing than what's on the page -- sexy, smart, even a little unpredictable emotionally. What's a little too predictable is the plotting, which in the series premiere leads to a courtroom confrontation that is long before telegraphed, and surprising only in its forcefulness.

On the plus side, this is a decent character piece, not only because of Canterbury. There's also Russell Kraus, an associate of Canterbury's played with chilly, I-don't-care-if-you-like-me authority by Ben Shenkman. And "Oz's" Terry Kinney has a fine turn in the premiere as a prosecutor rival of Canterbury. There's a scene with him and Shenkman that almost sings.

As I said, it's not a great show but it's watchable. In fact, Fox sent out a disc with the pilot and with a second episode that airs well down the line. Since it was clear from the opening of the second episode that a lot will happen in telecasts between the premiere and that latter show, I decided not to watch the later program. I'd rather see how the show gets to that point first.

The sun was out again this morning, as it was on Sunday, and I'm beginning to feel as if there's a world out there. Or I will as soon as they plow my street enough that it's not like riding on bumpy concrete.

But Saturday was madness. By afternoon we had given up trying to stay even with the snow (16.5 inches high in the front yard by then), and had settled into the house for indoor chores and some relaxation. ("The Italian Job" on Blu-ray, very nice looking indeed. And an enjoyable movie even on repeat viewing.)

Recorded "Saturday Night Live" for viewing Sunday, and was not thrilled. Would have expected better material for Amy Adams, who is a fine and funny actress, but it was a flat show full of jokes that were weak on their face, or sketches that had no real ending. Even the digital short's direction was obvious, the only redeeming funny lying in how very, very many times the superhero was punched. As the show wore on, found myself fast-forwarding through far too much. The one thing I did like: Kenan Thompson's insanely apt, French variation on "Def Comedy Jam."

By Sunday evening the roads were passable enough for us to get to the Akron-Kent State men's basketball game. In one respect, it was meaningless, since the MAC has a championship tournament and this just wrapped up the regular season. But it was also a chance for Akron to show it could play with Kent, and that the tournament was up for grabs.

Akron lost, and trailed badly through most of the game, then put on a rally that briefly put the outcome in doubt. (Had they celebrated a little less after tying the game, they might have stopped Kent State's winning score.) But it was interesting to go home and watch the end of the game on TV, since I had also recorded the FSN telecast. And as dramatic-seeming as it was on TV, it wasn't anywhere near what it felt like in the arena. It wasn't as loud, for one thing. And no TV is going to make you feel how hard the seats are shaking from the crowd on its feet.

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