In a fit of boredom the other night, I signed up for HBO-GO, the new service from the company created to support people with AppleTVs or Amazon Fires or suchlike similar devices. Not more than an hour later, my seven-day free trial came to a premature end when I logged into iTunes and cancelled the thing.
It wasn’t (really, it wasn’t) that I’d been promised access to the complete HBO library, whereas what was really on offer was maybe less than half of what I presume their library to contain (no Tales from the Crypt, for instance). No, what really prompted me to git outta town while the gittin’ was good was simply this: everything that HBO has ever made makes me feel Icky.
I knew that I wasn’t going to like Game of Thrones, the series that everybody and her second cousin is raving about. I am just not a fan of the genre, that sort of mediaeval royal intrigue where the whole show involves everyone just plotting against everyone else, everyone just waiting for their opportunity to slide a knife between the next person’s shoulder blades. This is just simply Too Much Like Real Life to interest me. I got enough of it working at the Waterville Morning Sentinel and at Colby College and other places: since the real world is so very much like that, why would I want to spend my free time watching TV shows about it? My impression of Game of Thrones, never having seen a frame of the show or read a word of the books, was that it was just More of The Same, only with tits and gore.
I didn’t expect it to be shoddily made as well. And yet, right there in the first five minutes of episode one, there were obvious tire tracks in the snow when the riders went out to… do whatever they were going to do. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, this is just crap workmanship. Then, after a bit, it seemed like something scary or gory was going to happen, so I hit the fast-forward button: and yes, right there in the first five minutes, off goes someone’s head and plop! into the snow.
Ick. This is just Not for Me. I backed out and tried Deadwood instead.
Well. The thing about Deadwood is that you can IMMEDIATELY tell it’s an HBO show because everyone says “fuck” and “cocksucker” every other word. Other than the shock value, this adds absolutely zero to the story; and “shock value” seems to be the main thing that interests HBO. In the first five minutes of episode one, we get an extremely unpleasant and hands-on hanging; in the first ten minutes someone has been graphically shot through the head, and Brad Dourif, acting even crazier than usual, gets to run a steel rod into the wound, straight through the head and out the other side — the side facing us.
And yes, Ian McShane is as knock-down brilliant as you would expect playing Al Swearengen, the barkeep and de facto owner of the town. But — this is the lead character. The lead character is supposed to have at least some likable or redeeming quality: Swearengen has none. I just don’t want to invest even a tiny part of my life in a show about people as reprehensible as this.
At this point I did not feel up to sampling The Sopranos or Six Feet Under. I was already feeling covered in Ick. I did skate through the selection of soft-core porn that HBO also offers, and even this was bad: how freakin’ long can you watch a massage?
I said, out loud, “That’s it.”
And went on to spend a lovely two hours with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in Maytime from 1937. Much, much more my speed. Y’all can keep your Icky HBO modern world. I will confine myself to entertainment that doesn’t punch me on the nose or try to shock me every five minutes. My new motto: “Life is too short to include HBO.” But, hey — at least the “B.O.” constitutes Truth in Advertising.