Better catch up fast like me if you haven't seen it on TV yet, you never know when Netflix is going to yank it from their streaming service. I'll hold off on any big-picture comments since I've only gotten through the first season and a half.
It's true what everyone has said about the crisp writing, sympathetic characters, and lack of self-consciousness in the acting. Whatever the TV equivalent of a page-turner is called, this is it.
The emotional range isn't quite as broad as in Twin Peaks, although that's no fault here since part of what they're trying to recreate is a world where feelings were private. Nor does the plot have the same mythological quality, again fittingly given the exploration of the mundane. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes the TV classic with the next-most enduring reputation. Definitely the best in the past 15 years, when The Simpsons bit the dust.
Just some random thoughts from what little I've seen so far:
- There's an illuminating contrast between two helpers -- the Freudian psychoanalyst and the Catholic priest. The shrink tries to amplify certain of Betty's anxieties, and he blabs to her husband about what she has said, without her knowing. The priest tries to dampen the sinners' anxieties by reminding them that there's no offense so grave that God won't forgive them, so long as they change their ways, make an act of contrition, and so on. The priest allows himself to be influenced by a confession that he's heard, but he doesn't share it outright with interested parties (at least not so far).
- Twice so far overly ambitious characters have been told to knock off the Machiavellian bullshit, that they will be abandoned if they try to be feared instead of loved and admired. Since a lot of viewers, especially younger ones, won't appreciate the subtlety, it would be nice to hear an occasional reference to mafia-run ghettos as a reminder of where that dog-eat-dog mindset leads.
- Everyone has remarked on how different things are between 1960 and now. But what about how similar they are? There was lots of drinking and smoking, but just like today there was hardly any dancing. The dance culture gets started during the first half of rising-crime times and really kicks into high gear during the second half -- that was the mid-'70s through the early '90s the last time around, and the Jazz Age before that (when the Charleston blew up).
- None of the products push my nostalgia button, although I'm not their target audience in that respect. Still, it is a real treat to see bench seats in the front of the car. Bucket seats weren't so bad at first since they were still placed close together. Over time, though, the console between has bloated and pushed them farther apart. And forget about that Starship Enterprise-looking thing in a Prius. What's next -- a roof-to-floor partition between driver and passenger? The other person pushes a beeper button, and if you feel like talking to them, you can roll down the window between you.