As someone who (a) doesn’t live in the USA, and (b) doesn’t have a television, it’s only natural that I faithfully follow Johnathan Bernstein’s weekly column on US TV. I felt particularly sorry for Showtime, the US cable network, when he wrote last year that they always seemed to be the underdog against HBO, no matter what they did:
No display cases gleaming with Emmy gold line the walls of Showtime, America’s second-favourite pay-cable network. No breathless outbreaks of discussion and frenzied internet activity ever follow Showtime’s original programming. No one ever praises the channel as the embodiment of quality television. But does that rankle the bosses of the cable station chiefly known for not being HBO? Oh yes, it rankles.
I’ve long had a softspot for Showtime because when I was in the States, and I did have a TV they showed Beggars and Choosers. While HBO seemed to broadcast endless made-for-TV movies based on true stories about innocent housewives who discovered their husbands were the local rapist, Beggars and Choosers was a fantastically black and funny series about life in the TV industry. It was filmed (not videoed), had a great script, and bore absolutely no morals whatsoever. I suspect I was one of only six viewers.
So it’s good read today they have a new series which is making headlines: about a suburban soccer mom who sells marijuana in her spare time. It sounds like it’s dark and funny and bears absolutely no morals whatsoever — that lack of morals is already causing a good degree of upset. I doubt it will turn out to be as sharp as Beggars and Choosers, but it will almost certainly be a bigger commercial hit. I wish them luck with it.