The Onion on HBO’s New Gritty Series about Wilmette

As usual, The Onion totally nails it.  Entertainment executives fall into such predictable and over-done patterns that you would think that they weren’t in a creative business.  If I have to see one more series or movie about the dark underbelly of [blank], I may fall asleep as I write to complain about it.

So, The Onion describes their vision of a new HBO series about perfectly happy and pleasant Wilmette, Illinois, where I happen to have grown up:

Speaking at an HBO press junket Monday, acclaimed writer-producer David Simon, creator of the gritty urban dramas The Wire and Treme, announced that his next project will be an epic, multilayered examination of the contented and comfortable streets of suburban Wilmette, IL….

According to Simon, the sprawling new series, tentatively titled The Township, will offer a searing and unsentimental glimpse into the happy social fabric of modern-day Wilmette, an area known for its deeply untroubled history and well-functioning political structure.

“As a writer, my mission is to tell a story that makes viewers think about how conditions in American cities are created,” Simon told reporters. “We can’t just turn our back on the staggering levels of happiness occurring in a place like Wilmette and say, ‘Well, that’s not my life.’ We have to confront this tranquility head-on and shine a light on the institutions that are responsible for it.”

Added Simon, “I want this show to be an unflinching dissection of how the system has in no way failed the people of this town.”

According to HBO sources, the novelistic series will chronicle the interconnected web of police officers, politicians, tradespeople, teachers, and ordinary families who are “all complicit” in perpetuating the cycle of institutional effectiveness that makes Wilmette the seventh best place in the country to raise children….

Of course, there are creative producers, writers, and actors out there who are trying new things and the market often rewards them for their fresh approaches.  If you are tried of the HBO formula for a series with random acts of shocking violence with a healthy sprinkling of naked breasts, you might try BYUtv’s critically acclaimed series, Granite Flats.  As the New York Times describes it, “In ‘Granite Flats,’ a Soviet spy satellite crashes into a Colorado town, a trio of teenagers become amateur sleuths, and a secret mind-control program called Mkultra is revealed.”  I’ve only read about it, but I’m excited to start watching it.

Yes, BYUtv is a Mormon network (which you can watch streaming if your cable provider does not carry it).  And yes, Granite Flats is set in a small town in the 1960s “to make modest language and conservative social mores feel intrinsic…. ”

“Still,” the NYT observes, “’Granite Flats’ is not ‘Ozzie and Harriet.’ The characters include a father struggling with alcoholism and petty crime, a war veteran hospitalized for what would now be called post-traumatic stress disorder, and an adopted Korean girl who comes to realize that her parents have lied about their lives and possibly hers.”

The lead writer for the show is my old friend and college house-mate, John Plummer, who the NYT describes as “an observant Buddhist.”

The Times further notes:

The success of “Granite Flats” became apparent not only as its audience grew — especially with online streaming — but through its ability to attract top talent. Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”) and Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”) signed up for recurring roles. The third season, which begins next March, includes Parker Posey, the doyenne of indie cinema.

For the most part, critical response was both positive and surprised. Glenn Garvin wrote in The Miami Herald, “ ‘Granite Flats’ is solid evidence that family entertainment need not be strait-laced or simple-minded.” David Hinckley in The Daily News called it “a cool little series from a spot where most New Yorkers might not look.”

I’d like to see more cool little series and I’m looking forward to watching this one.  Oh and also the one about Wilmette.

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One Response to The Onion on HBO’s New Gritty Series about Wilmette

  1. I grew up on the nice streets of Highland Park. Well, in a house on a nice street.

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