Summer used to be the season of sun, fun, and nothing of consequence happening. We remember when courts were like dormant reptiles in July and August. After June, there would be no major rulings, and certainly no trials, until the temps dropped under 85 and the kids marched sullenly back to school. Even television lazily took the Summer off. It was rerun time, and the three networks were reduced to pitching that ‘It’s new to you if you haven’t seen it.” In between the reruns, failed pilots were burned off, like greasy chicken-bits on a grill.
It’s different now. Seasons hardly matter. Some channels seize Summer as the time to introduce major, and very good, shows, such as The Bridge. Further, not all shows are introduced by ‘channels’ at all. Just as it did with Arrested Development and House of Cards, Netflix recently unleashed Orange is the New Black on the viewing populace. It has become the critics’ new darling. Moreover, watching reruns has drastically mutated, now that we can catch up on things we missed via binge-watching on demand or on DVD. For example, we took a cue from a couple of recent books about TV’s current Golden Age – Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution was Televised and Brett Martin’s Difficult Men — and zipped through all seven seasons of the underrated The Shield (“Good cop and bad cop left for the day. I’m a different kind of cop.”). We have made it most of the way through the prematurely-ended Deadwood, where the f-bombs approach Midnight Run territory, and where the soliloquies could have been lifted from Macbeth — adding the f-bombs.
Speaking of premature endings, the death of James Gandolfini at age 51 made us rue all the great future performances we have been cheated out of (HBO had started shooting a series where Gandolfini was going to play the part of a lawyer) and remember his transcendent work as Tony Soprano. (More than one correspondent on this blog mourns Gandolfini’s passing, as evidenced here.) Without any planning, almost reflexively, we ended up binge-re-watching The Sopranos. Over 86 hours, Gandolfini turned in as impressive a body of acting work as we are ever likely to see. Make no mistake – as Carmela’s shrink says to her, “You have been told” – Tony is evil. But Gandolfini let us feel the complexity and banality and humanity of that evil. As high school students we were forced to write an essay on whether Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” was a legitimate expression of tragedy. How can someone fall from greatness if they were never really great in the conventional sense? Or can ‘great’ stem from representing something significant? If schools in the future manage to get things right, students will be asking the same thing about David Chase’s television show.
We are not exactly binge-watching drug and device law cases. But if you’ve been paying attention to this blog you know that a lot has been happening. The Mensing/Bartlett mosaic continues to assemble. California keeps emitting weird food law cases. The courts in our fair Commonwealth never miss an opportunity to make us reopen the hornbooks and reconsider our sanity. And there are even a few drug and device trials trudging through the heat.