“The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever” by Alan Sepinwall

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Since the late 1990s, it’s now a cliche to point out that television is more groundbreaking and artistically challenging than motion pictures.  Yes, we do get the occasional artistically challenging film (“Black Swan”), but the most artistically challenging subject matter is now on networks such as HBO, AMC, Showtime, etc.  Hollywood is more interested in churning out superhero sequels and conservative rom-coms than lead characters who are flawed.

“The Revolution Must Be Televised” by Alan Sepinwall is the first book to analyze these groundbreaking television shows and their impact on culture.  Sepinwall starts with the HBO show “Oz” and then devotes extensive analysis to shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Shield,” “The Wire,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad” … among other shows.   If you’re a fan of any of these shows, this book is a feast of behind-the-scenes details and cultural analyses.   The fact that it’s taken this long to see a book that chronicles and celebrates the late 1990s – new Milenium of artistically audacious series TV is proof enough that the medium is still not taken as seriously as film, which has become way more conservative than anyone could have ever imagined.

One criticism I have of Sepinwall’s book is the lack of focus on comedy.   With “Sex and the City,” “Arrested Development,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Louis” in the bloodstream, you wonder why he didn’t give a token shout-out to these revolutionary shows.   But what’s there in this book is very, very good.  And if you’re a fan of any of these shows … or just a fan of quality drama … this book is a must.

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“Baba O’ Reilly” – The Who (from Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam”) 1999

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The bravura montage from one of Spike Lee’s best, and most underrated films “Summer of Sam.”  This is the sequence where Adrien Brody’s character plays his guitar along to the Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” juxtaposed with clips of the craziness from his character’s neighborhood, along with the rest of NYC (including the Son of Sam murdering more people), during the summer of 1977.  One of the best films of the 1990s and one that is sadly ignored / forgotten.  Co-written by Michael Imperioli, Christopher Molisanti from “The Sopranos.”  Due to graphic violence and language, not safe for work.

“The Beast in Me” – Nick Lowe

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A haunting and gorgeous original by Nick Lowe. Lowe’s ex-father-in-law Johnny Cash’s cover is probably the most famous version of this song, but there’s something I find a lot more compelling about this one. Was used to great effect on an episode of “The Sopranos.”

“You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” – Johnny Thunders

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The one Johnny Thunders song most people know and would agree is a classic. Covered by everyone from Guns ‘n’ Roses to Ronnie Spector. Put to great use not only in Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing out the Dead” but also on “The Sopranos.”