HBO’s The Night Of Review

When The Night Of came out, I really needed a new show.  A good show is hard to come by when you’re picky. People were raving about The Night Of and I usually stay away when that happens. Most things are marketed hypnotically and put in the public’s mind like a well placed suppository. But it’s tough when you have writers like Steve Zaillian & Richard Price.  They’re so good,  it’s hard to pass up.

The first episode and part way through the second I almost stopped watching. The set up bugged me in a lot of ways. Some of the things were a little too pat. Like how the whole thing went down (no spoiler here) and how the attorney got involved. The prison set up also bugged. It’s fiction, I know, but the ‘king of the prison’ bit who offers Naz protection and is untouched by rules was a stretch for my suspension of disbelief.  I pushed through though, and then I couldn’t stop. It was just good stuff. Even the king of the prison bit grew on me. I started liking them all. I didn’t care.

Philosophically my problems with it are the subject matter. Prison– There are a lot of shows about prison. There are also a lot of shows about doctors and hospitals and police and law and crime. Why is that, do you think? People rarely look at the big picture– especially writers and directors and creatives who are always in fear that this job is their last job.  (And by the way, you could be the most successful in your profession, with millions of dollars in the bank and still be scared shitless that the phone is never going to ring again.  It’s akin to fear of death, which– *spoiler alert,* is coming for everyone.)  There’s a trend in media– movies, TV and books, which I feel is unnatural.  I know alot of artists who wish they were doing something that called them from within, but they chose to write something commercially viable.  There’s a pull.  Don’t think that it’s just happening of it’s own accord, that it’s just the way things are.  It’s created that way.  Seriously, who really cares that much about vampires and zombies?  There were like one or two good stories about them but now they’re everywhere.  Take a look at the symbolism of those two archetypes and tell me what you find out.

It’s all about the mind. Stories move the mind.  If I want to control people and put things in their mind, the best place to do it is TV and movies.

Your mind slips into the hypnotic trance state within seconds of watching TV. This lowers your brainwaves to a lower ‘alpha state’ commonly associated with meditation and deep relaxation. This is believed to be caused by the screen flicker and explains why you feel sleepy while watching TV.

Under this state of trance, your subconscious mind becomes highly suggestible and whatever information you receive from the TV becomes part of your memory pool. Since beliefs are nothing but memories, this information has the tendency to alter your beliefs or form new ones when it seeps into your subconscious mind. You might think the remote is in your hand and you’re watching the programs but in truth you are the one who is getting programmed.  —

I used to watch NYPD Blue, loved the show.  It wasn’t lost on me, though, how the cops always win and nobody ever gets away with murder.  Which, I was surprised to find, is patently false.  One third of murders in America actually go unresolved.  Yet, despite this, I found myself believing that cops like the ones on the show were all powerful and always get their man.  Then I saw that story, where the truth is that many murders are unsolved.  My problem with a lot of stories in our current state of culture is that they’re broadcasting a false reality.

Aw, come off it, it’s just fiction, it’s no big deal.  You’re right, it is fiction, after all, fine.  However, stories are metaphors which means we project ourselves on to the story and characters.  We become the hero in the story, so we are actually that story and that story is now us.  Just watch kids after they’ve seen some superhero show.  They’re almost guaranteed to repeat the behavior in their play.  This is metaphor.  We identify with the stories we hear and see.  Okay, you might also say, they’re just trying to solve the problem of homicide and prison and crime and so on, by broadcasting a reality in which the police always get their man.  That’s fine.  My thought is, why can’t we start broadcasting the reality where we solve what’s wrong with man’s psyche on this planet earth, that there is so much murder to begin with?  I think it’s because there’s this big circle jerk with the collective mind.  Shows and books and movies, the way they’re delivered these days, are designed to contain people’s mind’s not expand them.  That’s why we have so many problems as a human race.  Some draconian ______  are controlling the menu of what people can feed their minds.  As such our collective humanity is soulfully under nourished.

Art is supposed to reflect the society through imagery and story, in order that people might find their way to the flow of their souls.  Writers, actors and artists need to make art that reflects human potential; To show where the human soul can go in the 21st century and beyond.  I admit, it’s tough as hell when you’ve got the mortgage and the kids and the hot wife who thinks you’re God; Or worse, when you’re in a single apartment living on coffee and bagels trying to get someone to just read your shit or give you a part.  It’s never been easy.  There is a way through, though.  You have to find a connection to your flow and dump the garbage from your mind.   I’m not going to tell you about meditation, but you should know everyone says it works.  Just sayin’.   Oh, look, I digressed.

The Night Of is a good show because of the writing, and of course the acting. The writing is good because you take a kid who looks like he couldn’t do it and throughout the trial you start to think, “oh shit, what if he really did it?”  The characters are amazing.  John Turturro is a low ball attorney who represents pimps prostitutes and drug dealers.  Him getting his big shot on a murder case is brilliant.  A smart screenwriter friend once told me, “Your characters should be ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.”  The character details- Turturro’s lawyer character is afflicted with excema. It’s so visual. He’s tortured and he represents the tortured, trying to make their lives better. Like a Mother Theresa with a Juris Doctorate.  The Detective Box character is true to life– good work.  (Richard Price knows how to write cops for sure.)  My stepdad was a detective and these guys got this character right.   I enjoyed watching this show.  It’s of the utmost quality, but like I’ve said, it shouldn’t be lost on people that we need this level of quality in pieces that move the collective to a place of soulful power, not melancholy acceptance.

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