Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Surround… A Sound Idea


Last evening, Mrs. E. and I tuned in (via Netflix, of course) to a new HBO series that was recommended to us by friends. After all, we’re big fans of the vampire genre, from “Buffy” to “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” with a stop along the way for “Wes Craven’s Vampires”, we get a kick out of them all. And we sort of know what we’re in for. There is a certain amount of gore to be expected, some blue language and some sex. “Dracula”, after all, is a love story, from a slightly different point of view. And most of these things are aimed squarely at the teenage market — that seething cauldron of hormones.

“Tru Blood” is not.

My first thoughts minutes into the swamp fest were “!!!” and “errrr…. are we sure this is an HBO production?” It is very graphic. There is a redeeming element or two to the series. The dialogue can be very funny. The premise is interesting; especially if you’ve ever worked around lobbyists. I’m sure that we will continue to watch it, sometimes uncomfortably. And I’m sure that we will become inured to the show’s more graphic elements.

And that brings me to the topic at hand. If you are to channel your inner elegance, you are going to have to continually reinforce your beliefs by seeking out that which is elegant and surrounding yourself with it. Steep yourself in elegance and it will begin to show.

It’s not easy to do.

Not to pick on HBO, but as long as I was at the website, I took a snapshot of the line up of the channel’s original series.

Picture 2

Good shows, I’m sure. I’ve seen some of them. But there aren’t exactly of “The Thin Man” ilk. Or even “Remington Steele” and “Moonlighting”, two shows that I loved to watch in the 80’s. So called “smart writing” seems to have changed. We’ve all become so inured to the crass that it takes more and more to shock, titillate and amuse us. The shows that I mentioned a moment ago relied on witty dialogue, a quick pace and a certain degree of dynamic tension between the leads.

I’m not saying that we need to ban books, restrict television content and close art galleries. There should be boundaries, just as there should be those who challenge them. I just wish there were more elegant alternatives. I’m afraid that in order to surround yourself with elegance, you need to retreat to the past. Which may mean more books, more art galleries and more TCM and AMC.

I could be wrong; indeed, I hope I am. What’s out there that’s smart, elegant and new?

14 thoughts on “Surround… A Sound Idea

  1. That’s about all we’ve got. MadMen, and TCM. DVDs, obviously…
    The Merchant/Ivory films.
    Being that I live in Baltimore and am married to a police officer, we watched the Wire quite religiously. It’s amazingly well-written, well-produced, etc. Elegant, it is not.
    So we walk a tightrope of what there is…and it’s a black hole of wit.

  2. I long for the days of I Spy, which can still be viewed commercial free on Hulu.com.

    I am not into vampire stuff, but a great foreign vampire movie came out last year entitled, Let the Right One In. If you and Mrs. E are into vampire movies it is worth a watch.

    Regarding the HBO list, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency is worthy of making any Easy and Elegant Life list. It is so classy, well written, and devoid of profanity, blood, sex, etc. that it probably will not survive!

  3. E,

    I make it a point to try to get through at least three episodes of something before I veto it. Some of the concepts, when you think about it, are most irregular which is precisely why they charm. Admittedly, True Blood took some getting used to and the main title sequence is a little harsh on the eye, but sometimes, you have to trust in the talent. In this case Allen Ball. Originator of Six Feet Under. Screen writer for American Beauty. He’s amazing. And dramatically different. But genius usually is, no?

    Admittedly, you’re right on the dearth of The Thin Man, Moonlighting and Remington Steel genre. Perhaps a revival is in order. It would be most welcome. And while Mad Men is a bit closer to the mark, it lives more in the subtext. The characters you cite from time past were polished, glib and masters of badinage. They were hardly cerebral, yet just listening to their evenly-matched banter in well turned out sartorial splendor was usually entertainment enough.

  4. Loved Moonlighting! Great debut for Bruce Willis–young, cute, receding hairline and all. I remembered Cybil Shepard as a Glamour magazine model in my youth. She drove her BMW fast and wore her furs beautifully (and unapologetically). Great theme music, too! Can the re-runs be found anywhere?

    In terms of old movies, I watch Goodbye Columbus and Love Story for the wonderful wardrobes, music, and general nostalgia. Something about seeing Ali MacGraw dive into that pool in the opening scene of Goodbye Columbus . . . It’s A Lucky Day . . . well it is pure summer! I also loved the tennis scene.

    My husband and I pretty much believe in self-censorship, and we have encouraged our now grown children to do the same. We have walked out of more movies than I can count. Keeping the heart, mind, and soul pure and uplifted is hard work and requires discipline. We are what we eat. This is especially true for children.

    For elegant reading, I recommend Willa Cather. Beautifully written books.

  5. You are absolutely correct. I find myself reading, watching and listening to more of the “classics” than anything produced this century.

    And for the record, I did watch True Blood, but found the plotting and dialogue to be somewhat worse this season. Mad Men is about the only current show I watch.

    As long as I’m on a rant: What I also find irritating is that legitimate news organizations follow the doings of crass creatures found on reality shows as if they were of great import — people like the Gosselins, the Kardashians and others of that ilk. I go out of my way to avoid reading about these folks, but when CNN has Jon and Kate’s divorce as breaking news, I can only throw my hands up in surrender.

  6. “smart, elegant, and new”?

    Hmm…. Elegant seems to be absent from the modern entertainment lexicon. You really do have to reach back to the past for that. There are lots of smart writers writing smart things, from The Simpsons to The Onion to The Daily Show and more, but absolutely none of it is elegant, and much of it is irredeemably crass.

    We must block that which we find unacceptable from our homes and our minds, which means turning off the idiot box–even unsubscribing from cable–and walking out of offensive movies. Fortunately, Netflix supplies ample entertainment options (including Moonlighting) that end up being more affordable and more pleasant than a trip to a megamultiplex and the coarse, madding crowds thronging such venues.

  7. I think “House, M.D.” fits the bill….although meant to shock, it is done elegantly and with wit. The writing is smart and quick, the music is perfection, and no one can deny the elegance of star Hugh Laurie!

    And another vote here for Mad Men!

  8. I believe it was Aristotle who said the study of virtue ethics, there was no profit in the good or morally acceptable. Barbarian sells. How sad.

  9. Mad Men is great. I can’t watch that show and not want a martini. For the most part, this is why I stopped watching TV, with the exception of sports. One show that used to be on HBO that is no longer up there was “Rome” that show was fantastic. It was smart, new, told the story of the rise of Julius Caesar, and his fall. Not exactly elegant, but sexy none the less. It only lasted two seasons because it was so expensive. Netflix should have it available should you decide to check it out.

  10. It can be a challenge to find elegance in modern popular culture. I tried to do a little brainstorming and most things I came up with were remakes (Thomas Crown Affair) or set int he past (Mad Men). But, I did come up with a few ideas:

    Laws of Attraction
    Almost anything by Ang Lee
    Anything from Hayao Miyazaki
    My Big Fat Greek Wedding
    The Bond Movies
    Four Weddings and Funeral

    Arrested Development
    Many of the shows on USA

  11. I’m a little late to this thread–just discovered Mr. E tonight–but I wonder if any of you have seen the old TV show Bachelor Father? It aired in the late ’50s/early ’60s and stars the ever-so-charming and handsome John Forsythe as a white-dinner-jacket wearing, sweet-nothing whispering, champagne-drinking, irresistibly dashing Beverly Hills attorney whose niece (Noreen Cocoran) comes to live with him and his “house boy.” The shows are Leave It To Beaver-ish and really just about their everyday lives–“Niece Kelly’s” goings-on at school, Uncle Bentley Gregg’s working and wooing, etc.–but it’s refreshing eye candy for anyone who longs for a more graceful and elegant era. I haven’t been able to find the DVDs, but there are a few episodes on YouTube.

  12. How about Magnum P.I. He was debonaire and his style was always consistent! Sadly there is so little on of interest that reruns seem fresh again. Thanks Mr. E for constant inspiration.

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