City of Men
If anyone is tired of May sweeps, I have just finished watching the four-part series "City of Men," which is showing on the Sundance Channel this month. It's made by the same people who made City of God, which I haven't seen, but now really want to.
It's about two boys who live in one of Rio de Janeiro's favelas, which are sort of hillside shanty towns. I'm sort of conflicted about it. On the one hand, it has this super-earnest after school special tone: The boys are always tempted to do something wrong (but not too wrong), and then they learn their lesson at the end.
On the other hand, it is something that you never see on TV in America. It is not cynical or sarcastic or loaded with product placements and pop culture references (not ones that I recognize anyway). The physical setting is amazing -- sort of squalid, but also gorgeous. This picture doesn't really do it justice. And it has poor people as its central characters -- not poor people as crime victims, or criminals, or patients, but as actual fully-developed characters. I can't think of a single American tv show that can say the same.