The Evil That Pop Ironists Do

The afterlife cop drama G. vs. E runs up against the mortality of hipness

Granted, no one in our culture really seems to have a handle on the whole Evil thing. A few years back, literary critic Andrew Delbanco's The Death of Satan charged that Americans long ago let rust the philosophical equipment necessary to truly understand evil--not in the loose Slobodan Milosevic or Littleton sense in which editorials toss the term around, but as a fundamental moral reality. Sure enough, G vs. E can't figure out why evil might be alluring. We don't even learn why you should sell your soul, since life seems just as grotty afterward. And we never know why we should root for good, either, when it's essentially stolid and bureaucratic; it's like being a fan of the postal service.

Quentin Tarantino at least had a video geek's intimation of morality--Harvey Keitel standing by Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs, Bruce Willis doing the right thing in Pulp Fiction. As yet G vs. E hasn't dared to give its central conceit that kind of ballast. And that is a shame: The frequent flashes of wit suggest a creative intelligence that should be able to figure out something worth saying. For now, though, the show languishes in limbo, neither touched by angels nor playing for the other team.

 

Heaven is for the hip: Afterlife agents Chandler Smythe (Clayton Rohner) and Henry McNeil (Richard Brooks) pose toward the pearly gates
Heaven is for the hip: Afterlife agents Chandler Smythe (Clayton Rohner) and Henry McNeil (Richard Brooks) pose toward the pearly gates

G vs. E plays 7:00 p.m. Sundays on the USA network (cable channel 17 in Minneapolis; 12 in St. Paul).

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