Losing a TV series is like losing a friend
It’s strange for me to think there was a time when I didn’t religiously follow any TV series. Sure, I watched my after-school sitcoms and TGIF was a big deal back in the day, but I completely missed out on the beginning of what has come to be known as “The Golden Age of Television.” Beginning with the premier of “Oz” in 1997 and ending with the finale of “The Wire” in 2008, HBO had an 11-year run of four of the greatest dramas of all time overlapping on the same network (the other two being “Six Feet Under” and, of course, “The Sopranos”). My missing out probably had a lot to do with the fact that I only religiously followed how much dope I had left in my bag, how many pills I had left in my bottle, and how much beer money I had in my wallet. Keeping up with a TV show was too much of a commitment at that point in my life.
Thanks to the miracle of HBO Go, I’ve watched all four of those series from start to finish, and I submit that all four belong in the top six dramas ever, with “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” included in the list. There’s a different feeling, though, when you’re with a show from the beginning, wait each week for an episode, and have to say goodbye in real time. I had my first such experience with “Fringe,” which could be described as an “X-Files” for a new generation. I absolutely loved “Fringe,” and was sad to see it leave. Since then, there have been so many farewells, and each one is a little different.
If you compare losing a TV show to losing a loved one, there are the times that they held on for too long, became shells of their former selves, and you almost felt relieved when it was all over and you no longer had to watch in pity (Oh, “Dexter,” I try to remember you for that first handful of blood-spatter-filled seasons and not the last few). Then there are the instances in which you feel robbed because they were ripped away from you before their time was up (I thought I had a few more years with you, “Hannibal.” I’m still holding out hope that another network will bring you back to life, and I’ll be a guest at your dinner table once again). And even though you still feel the loss, there are those occasions when you can look back on a life well-lived and say they went out on top (Here’s looking at you, Mr. White).
This past Friday, I attended a TV funeral that fell somewhere in between the latter two. I was shocked when I read that the fourth season of “Banshee,” a cops-and-robbers drama on Cinemax, would be its last. In my search for answers, I read that the show wasn’t cancelled, but that creators Jonathan Tropper and David Shickler felt like four seasons was enough to tell the story. In the same way that I had grown accustomed to Sunday nights in New York with Don Draper, I had so looked forward to Friday nights in Banshee, Pennsylvania with Lucas Hood. Although, to be true, none of us spent more than one night with the real Lucas Hood.
Allow me to clarify for anyone who hasn’t seen Banshee. The story centers around a master thief who, upon his release after a 15-year stint in prison, sets out to find his love, who was also involved in the botched heist that got him locked up. Anastasia, who now goes by Carrie, has relocated to a corner of Pennsylvania with a large Amish community and a lot of dirty secrets. As luck would have it, our ex-convict finds himself at a bar in the titular town having a drink with the new sheriff, Lucas Hood, who has just made it in from Oregon and has yet to meet anyone in town. Minutes later, two men try to rob the bar, things go sideways, and our newly free man kills the assailants, but not before they take out Hood. With the help of his world class hacker friend, Job, the ex-con takes Hood’s identity and assumes his role as sheriff of Banshee in order to re-connect with Carrie and find out what really happened 15 years ago. The premise might take some suspension of disbelief, but, IT’S A TV SHOW! Do people pick apart all of the coincidences in a Shakespearean play? Give me a fuckin’ break.
Anyway, we don’t know the self-appointed Sheriff Hood’s real name, and it’s kind of better that way. Even though I might not be a master thief (as far as any of y’all know) or an all-around ass-kicker on Hood’s level, I can identify with wanting to escape the past and take on another character. Speaking of characters, this show had them in spades. The aforementioned, Job, was not only a world-class hacker, but an Asian drag-queen to boot. For anyone who watched “The Wire,” y’all know that Omar was the baddest member of the LGBT community in the history of TV, but sadly, he was one of the only ones. Job would kick the shit out of someone while wearing mascara and leave with a parting insult that he punctuated by calling his victim “honey.” The tender of that infamous bar that gave birth to the new Sheriff Hood was a former heavyweight boxer named Sugar, played by the great Frankie Faison. That man has been excellent in everything I’ve ever seen him in, but I can’t help but think of him as the landlord in “Coming to America” who shouted the immortal words “Your rent’s due motherfucka!”
There were so many other extraordinarily interesting characters, but I’m nearing 1,000 words and I want to get to the traits of the show itself that made it appointment viewing for me. I often joke about how boobs and explosions are the only things that sell in movies and television, and they often stand in for quality art. Banshee showed me that a show can have tits and ass and blood and guts galore, but not at the expense of humor and soul as well as brains and heart. Sure, Banshee had wicked fight scenes and didn’t betray its Cinemax roots in the soft-core porn department, but it also told stories of redemption and forgiveness. To me, a great piece of art in the form of TV and movies can make you laugh, cry, and think. I can unequivocally say that Banshee was great art.
When I watched the first episode I was hooked, but I had no idea I was witnessing the beginning of one of the greatest stories ever told on television. I’ll miss it terribly, but the moments that made it one of my all-time favorites will live with me forever. Sugar became the spiritual advisor of the band of misfits that I loved so dearly, and he left with a quote that gives me solace in the absence of another departed friend:
“Today, there’s really only one question left to ask. What are you going to do now?”
Trackback from your site.