Infinite Sorrow and Loss
I'm going to say something really fucked up, but I need you to stay with me, OK? Just let me justify it.
Potato chips are not delicious.
Wait. Seriously, don't go, I'm nothing without you. Really look inside your own heart and ask yourself the question that everyone else is too afraid to face head-on: "Are potato chips really delicious, or am I just driven compulsively to eat them by a shadowy part of my own brain that I don't understand?" If you can't remember, just go get a potato chip ...
I tried to bring some for illustrative purposes, but I ... it got ugly.
... and if you're honest with yourself, you'll discover that the latter is true. They're just grease and salt and nothingness. Trust me, I've sat there and scarfed them down with the best of you, but I wasn't fulfilling a biological need, I was just indulging a weird compulsion. I love potato chips. But they are not delicious -- they just won't let you stop eating. That's the difference. And Hemlock Grove is the potato chip of television.
In the world of selling stuff (i.e., capitalism) to schmucks (i.e., us), the only thing better than quality is addictiveness. If you can make a quality product that people like and want to buy, you're going to do pretty well ... until someone else figures out how to make a shitty version of that product that people have to buy. If you don't believe me, just look at all the money Candy Crush has made. Hey, that's not even the best example: I should've mentioned Kim Kardashian's weird game. You've seen it happen with food, you've seen it happen with video games, and now it's happening with TV.
Remember how I said that nothing happens in Hemlock Grove between episodes 3 and 11? That's not hyperbole -- the story literally doesn't move forward, aside from, I guess, Peter Werewolf and Letha (pronounced like "who gives a shit, fuck that name") entering into a relationship. Over the entire first season, we have almost enough plot to fill one good episode of The X-Files. The rest of the screen time is filled with one of three things. Gore:
And the two leads looking really, really cool:
Hee hee, but let's not forget this picture:
Ha! Look at their dumb faces. They look like-
David Christopher Bell
Sure, this show didn't invent shallow entertainment, but because of binge TV it's a whole new, more terrifying version. It's easier than ever to just consume all day with your brain turning to a twisted, squishy mass by the end. If this show had been broadcast like a normal show, with time between episodes to give viewers a chance say, "Wait a minute -- that was the dumbest goddamn thing I've ever seen," it would've been canceled before the third episode ever aired. But because it begs you to consume it in one sitting (the first few episodes end with lame cliffhangers where someone will, say, accuse a character of murder in one episode's final seconds only to go, "Wait, that was stupid" in the opening moments of the next episode), you can't help but scarf the whole thing down in one nightmarish sitting. Each episode has enough flavor to make you feel like you're enjoying something but not enough substance to make you satisfied -- just like a potato chip. And because of that ...
I'm kinda skirting a pretty important issue here: I watched the entire first season of Hemlock Grove in one day -- and then I started in on the second season the day after that. Now, I don't know if I've made this clear: I am not a fan of this show. But I have to see what happens next, or else I'll never know, and that feels like a loss to me. A loss of what? I don't know, man. I can just feel in my balls that I am missing out on a mysterious something, some unattainable satisfaction that sings me a sweet siren song even now.
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Like a man with a freshly broken heart, I see my lover's face wherever I wander.
I tell myself that there are two reasons I will watch a show, read a book, play a video game, or consume whatever media. The first is because it challenges me in some way: Spec Ops: The Line made me re-examine what video games were and how I played them, and The Mysteries of Udolpho made me realize that some pieces of 19th-century literature are utter fucking trash. I gave that media some of my time, and in return it made me a better person -- wiser, with a broader perspective on the world. The second, far more common reason I consume media is because it's fun: Pacific Rim, Call of Duty, Terry Pratchett books -- none of those things improve me as a person, but they enrich my life by being entertaining. They're fun. I give them my time, and in return I get a lot of laughter and excitement and joy. Which are fine.
But Hemlock Grove fits neither of the two core reasons I consume media. After a 13-hour binge on that show, I felt nothing. And that wasn't just the massive dose of Vicodin, I just have no emotional reaction to anything that happened on my screen. Even the idea of picking apart plot details or analyzing the subtext just makes me feel sleepy. I gave that show 13 hours of my time, and in return all I got was 13 hours closer to death. And yet, I'm going to watch more. Tonight? By the time this article runs, I'll probably have finished season 2, and, coincidentally, will be completely out of Vicodin.
Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images
Don't worry about me, I know where to get more.
This is the future of television and media. Art is changing from a source of enrichment to a numbing agent, an anesthetic to ease our transition into old age, immobility, and death. The unadulterated human experience has become an inconvenience, and television is the relief. In the laboratory of mass media, we have bred our own apocalyptic virus. Our end comes not from the infernal heat of a nuclear blast or even from the barrel of a gun; it comes from the sedating embrace of our couch and the cold glow of an HD TV. This show -- this fucking werewolf-vampire-murder-mystery bullshit -- is the prototype for our end, the antecedent to the extinction of our species.
I did not much care for Hemlock Grove. It is a bad show.
For more from Sarge, check out 5 Popular Medications You Won't Believe Mess With Your Brain and 6 Movie Good Guys You Didn't Notice Were Total Hypocrites.