The recent viewing habits of the director of ‘River Queen’ and ‘Rain of the Children’.

RECENTLY I have been buying television series and then spending a long weekend watching episodes back to back. It’s a different kind of (marathon) experience and probably if I was younger I’d do it with friends socialising, lubricated with lots of alcohol or whatever obtainable substances were current. Thank God I’m not young – this way I get to remember them, and they play on in my imagination in some form close to the original. The best of these series generally go further than films do, simply by merit of their length. This kind of experience has been compared to reading a large Victorian novel, where you can get deeper inside a range characters and their world. The following five series are some of what I consider to be the better ones to have been produced in recent years.

1. Mad Men, Season One
Wow. And the last episode is to die for. I know it’s a staple of sex, repression, and deceit, all set in a 1960s advertising agency. But so far I am finding it a tale about one man’s journey to find himself and what he values in a world where the only value has to do with the success of selling.

2. Carnivale, Seasons One and Two
Imaginative. Like an old testament of curses and devils brought to life through a gritty vision of the depression. It follows a travelling carnival and characters, some of whom would end the world with their hidden supernatural powers. Like Mad Men (and the remainder of these TV series), released on a US cable network.

3. The Wire, Season One
Insightful, disturbing, terrific detail, lousy filmmaking, agenda driven. The first season follows a group of detectives investigating murder and drug dealing in the Baltimore projects. Explores the futility of trying to find justice in a system that is falling apart.

4. Band of Brothers, Mini-Series
This goes back a few years but I finally caught up with the box set. Set in the time of the Second World War, it creates a remarkable lived experience, so it is more like a series of episodes rather than story or plot – lending a truth. By following a small group of infantrymen assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, this series takes us through the nooks and crannies of the World War Two experience: the contradictions, the paradox of occasional immoral acts committed in some cases for a great good, while the soldiers struggle with discomfort and a relentless boredom.

5. Entourage, Seasons One to Four
Kept feeling I shouldn’t like this but it was quite seductive and made me laugh at some of the things I recognised. Too much sex for any one person happens to the lead in this story, and nobody should have as much given to them on a platter as these guys do! Entourage follows a young actor/star in Los Angeles today and his pole vault into fame, surrounded by the boys from the hood that he has brought with him. It’s produced by Mark Wahlberg, so I guess he speaks from experience. Who knows – it wasn’t exactly the LA I encountered even if the locations were a stone’s throw from where I lived.