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Our Dark Summertime Binge: HBO’s “Chernobyl”

Chernobyl!

Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, and Jared Harris handling the truth.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: with weeks to go till vacation and no pressing obligations, my wife Anne and I have been bingeing a few different shows together, while I’ve done some additional grim watching on the side. Certainly not through careful planning on our part, each of the shows has had their own depressing and/or tragic aspects. Veronica Mars season 4 had its mad-bomber mystery and its upsetting finale. Season 2 of Hulu’s Light as a Feather made teen horror out of a slumber party game. The Netflix documelodrama The Last Czars reminded us Russian history is more fatalistic than many of our TV stories. Season One of Chopped revealed its secret origin as a parable of man’s inhumanity to man.

I had expected this special MCC miniseries to conclude with the Chopped entry. Then one unexpected August day our cable TV provider announced their next annual or semiannual “preview weekend”, that generous time of year when all subscribers are allowed to watch HBO free for a limited span to see what pop-culture touchstones they’re missing. We haven’t subscribed to any premium channels in ages. We live on, find other things to do, and satisfy ourselves with the money that our uncoolness saves us. But we will occasionally brake for free prestige TV when opportunities intersect our path and trip us up.

Apropos of too many things, we ran right back to the subject of Russian history. This time, though, it was ripped from the headlines within our own lifespans.

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Top 10 Signs You’re One of Those People Who’ll Never Shut Up About “The Wire”

Slim Charles!

Life and headlines won’t let you put The Wire out of your mind for long. If you’re not spotting its alumni in shows like Community or The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones or True Blood, they’re randomly resurfacing in your daily headlines, such as Sunday’s news that Anwan Glover, a.k.a. Slim Charles (pictured above), was attacked at a Washington nightclub (but he’s doing better now). The worst is when you catch their obituaries, as with last year’s passing of Robert F. Chew, a.k.a. Proposition Joe. They’re kind of everywhere if you know who you’re looking for

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? You can’t looking because your refuse to stop. You don’t want to live in the here-and-now, and move on to shows that haven’t been dead for six years. You’re afraid you’ll begin forgetting all those intricate, internecine subplots. You’ll forget the exact moment when you began hating McNulty. You’ll lose track of the names of all of Marlo Stanfield’s crew. You’ll convince yourself you never saw Amy Ryan in anything before The Office. You’ll think of Baltimore as just another city, maybe even plan a road trip there. On purpose.

It’s hard, I know, but if you don’t get over it, other internet users will track you down and stage an intervention. And no one wants that, because airfare is expensive and interventions take valuable time away from tweeting or Netflixing.

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Holding My Breath Until I See Spinoffs from “The Wire”

Bunk, McNulty, The WireAfter months of squeezing in an episode here and there whenever time permitted (which was rarely), tonight I finally finished watching all five seasons of The Wire. It’s sixty episodes of the most politically charged, complicated, incisive, meaningful, profane, discomfiting, provocative, challenging television I’ve ever seen. It’s not a show for everyone, but following the storylines of its roughly eight thousand different characters (give or take three) became an unprecedented adventure that part of me secretly hopes has left me scarred and ruined for any other TV show or fictional tale that dares to try impressing me in the future. Its multifaceted examination of life on the streets of Baltimore at every level made my own lower-class upbringing look like the life of a prince, put my comparatively benign hometown in perspective, and has made it hard for me to read any local crime news without wondering how much they’re not telling us.

That being said: the fan in me is disappointed that five seasons is all there is. I’m glad David Simon and company were allowed to tell the stories that deserved to be told, though a September 2012 interview at Salon.com reveals he had more ideas in store and collaborators itching to join him. Unfortunately, no more stories or extensions are forthcoming because America forgot to tune in the first time around.

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