Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nine Inches Over – to Xercentricity

God, I love the TV show “Six Feet Under”. Weirdly, it is broadcast on the Nine Network, which seems to otherwise broadcast exclusively to the over-60s and/or otherwise brain-dead. (I watch quite a bit of commercial (and non-c) TV, but “Six Feet Under” and news/current-affairs aside, Nine is a don’t-go-there black hole on my remote).

As SFU fans would know, the show is a rare treat in its Xercentricity. Most TV dramas, from the good (“The OC” and “The Simpsons”) to the awful (“Home and Away” and “Neighbours”), are not merely not Xercentric – they have no Xer-aged main characters at all. Which could be spooky, ‘cept when one thinks about demographics and ad revenues – and on the assumption that a show mainly about Xer characters strongly attracts an Xer audience – viewers like me don’t buy no-o-othing. (Here, I couldn’t help notice that a prominent buyer of SFU’s ad space the other night was the federal government’s dubious, GenY-targeted anti-domestic violence campaign from a couple of years ago, now seemingly born-again for the financial edification of James Packer).

At least semi-Xercentric is “Desperate Housewives”, a show of many camp (= improbable) conceits, of which the biggest one is the absence of any inter-generational fault-line between those born in, before and after 1962. In lieu of any such fault-line, “Desperate Housewives” upgrades its early-Xer characters to the pointy-end, aka the lifestyles and sensibilities of tail-end boomers. At the same time, it falls back on the hoariest old staple of inter-generational drama on TV: parents vs (always) smart-arse children/adolescents. Yawn. But I still watch it, coz I love Bree (played by Marcia Cross, born March 1962). Surely, pretty, pretty please, one of these days she’s going to lose it totally, aka reveal her inner Xer/fuck-up? (*Playing at* being a 1950s housewife, which is what Bree does so well, is of course an Xer attribute, but it’s not enough for me.)

SFU is at the other extreme of glossing over the boomer/Xer inter-generational fault-line; there’s not a single lead boomer character in it. Nor any of boomers’ constant companions in TV cliché (smart-arsey kids/adolescents), to boot. Yay!

Instead, we get adult-vs-adult (30s and early 40s, vs mid-60s) inter-generational drama, as hugely aided by most characters being total fuck-ups. Not unlikable, mind. And certainly not unbelievable – Nate, Brenda, and David represent between them almost the full gamut of white, middle-class Xer wretchedness, in my opinion and lived experience. The emotionally frigid (and/or psychotically narcissist, in Brenda’s mum’s case) mother rings true, also. Only youngest sibling Claire and her boyfriend (and Brenda’s brother) Billy resist generational pigeon-holing. Claire’s character is 21, but both the actor playing her (Lauren Ambrose, born February 1978) and her scripted sensibilities seem remote from those of a perky GenYer. Equally anomalous is Billy, played by Jeremy Sisto (born October 1974). While undoubtedly fucked-up enough be to a card-carrying Xer, Billy has the sort of improbable career success that could only be explained by a boomer-style, mutual back-scratching network. Or if not, and even more un-Xerly, Billy must have had a *mentor*. Yech!

There is one regular, boomer guest character on SFU, though: movie industry Roger. Appropriately enough, he’s deeply and unredeemably vile – rich, emotionally-together, amoral, sleazy and always imposing himself on, and insinuating himself into, the lives of hapless Xers, David and boyfriend Keith in particular.

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