Oh, you guys.
After binging for three weeks on the greatly underappreciated AMC drama, “Turn: Washington’s Spies” and participating in a successful campaign to get it renewed for a fourth (albeit final) season, I was ready for a new endeavor to round out summer. Via Twitter, I learned that Samuel Roukin, who brilliantly portrays the sadistic and sassy Captain John Graves Simcoe, is slated to debut a character on the third season of WGN America’s “Salem”. In preparation, I eagerly “turned” (see how I did that?) to Hulu to bring me up to speed.
It’s no secret that I’m a AHS fan (see previous blog post “Why Freak Show Was Better Than We Thought”) and following that vein (clever) I figured that “Salem” would be worth my time. I’d seen previews and noticed the phenomenal Lucy Lawless joined the cast for Season 2, so I had high hopes.
Oh, you guys.
First of all, in the most respectful way possible, I think this show is written by George R.R.Martin’s illegitimate children. One of the first scenes involves a very sensual interaction between two women, followed soon after by a complete disrobing of one of the women. Which would have been appropriate if it served a point other than to have her naked. Which I bought until the next episode, in which the body part necessary to be uncovered was done so without her taking off all her clothes.
I feel fairly comfortable in saying that after watching the first episode I needed a cold shower or cigarette. I’m also fine with using “soft core” to describe a romantic encounter between Rev. Cotton Mather (yes, THAT Cotton Mather) and Gloriana, his ginger temptress. Even for basic cable, I was pretty surprised at the amount of flesh that was possibly harmed in the filming of this scene. If I sound prudish, I assure you…I may be descended from the dreaded Puritans depicted in “Salem”, but I’ve been known to show my elbows in public, so…
Point being: less can be more. Shadows, innuendos, raised eyebrows…they all work pretty nicely to set the mood. (See “Turn, Washington’s Spies”). Just sayin’.
And then there’s the history. Sure, the names are familiar: Mercy Warren, Mary Sibley, John Alden, Tituba, Giles Corey. But that’s where the similarity ends. If you know the story, you know Corey was the only man to die as a result of the witch trials. In this retelling, as portrayed by the stalwart and divine Kevin Tighe, Corey bites it in the pilot. Which is unfortunate for all of us, I think. As for Captain John Alden, the embittered love interest of Mary Sibley, well…the real Alden died in 1687. Which is the year the show begins. So that right there is a bit of a let down. Well, that and the assumption of actual witchcraft being practiced in Salem. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, but it needs to be within parameters of reality.
If that makes sense. Probably not.
Historically, what happened in Salem was more frightening than a re-imagining of the story. I think we’d like to think we are now above finger-pointing and name calling and more tolerant. I think we’d be wrong.
In summation: this period in time was more serious and resonant with the creation of this country than to just be reduced to horror clichés. I feel it could be so much scarier to point out the parallels of the world in which we live to those over three hundred years ago, when blood-letting was thought to cure almost any disease.
Or when people didn’t bathe. How did they get over the smell? How did they live in close quarters like that? How did the human race not die out?
Will I stop watching? I’m half way through the first season, and like a fungus, it has begun to grow on me. But for my opinion to change, I’m going to need more substance. Or as Giles Corey remarked, “Give me more weight.” (His exact words. Except paraphrased.)
I’m really holding out for Samuel’s character. I’m hoping he rolls his eyes. A lot.
‘Til the teapot rattles and the storm clouds roll in…