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Review of 'Watchmen' 1.1

by Paul Levinson 2 years ago in review

Promising Alternate History

I guess I'm either the best or worst kind of person to watch and review Watchmen on HBO: I've of course heard of the iconic comic book story and its adaptations over the years, but I never read or saw any of it, and really know nothing about it. But with a cast consisting of Regina King and Don Johnson, and the creator being Lost's Damon Lindelof, how could I resist?

Here's what I now know after watching the first episode: This is an alternate history or reality in which, by 2019, Vietnam is a state in the United States, which must mean we won that war (undeclared and therefore illegal, and badly lost in our reality). Police wear masks so they don't risk killers in the public, well, killing them. So far, this is taking place mostly in Oklahoma, to the point where the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical plays a big role.

Now, I'm a sucker for alternate realities—I have a song, "Samantha", on my new album coming out early next year, which I'll no doubt tell you about later on in these weekly reviews, but for now I'll just mention that that song is about star-crossed love across alternate realities (ok, here's a rough mix of it). And I thought Counterpoint, now sadly departed, was one of the best shows on television in the past few years (not to mention The Man in the High Castle, which with one more season left is almost sadly departed, and is flat out one of the best shows ever on television, period). So, yeah, I'm a fan of alternate reality TV and novels (here's what I said about J. Neil Schulman's The Fractal Man), and I very much like the set-up so far of Watchmen.

I also liked the narrative. Don Johnson's character is killed at the end of the episode (sorry, that's a spoiler in this reality), but the laws of television say that a star that big won't play a character who gets killed after one episode, so that means Judd (Johnson's character) either isn't really dead, even though we saw him hanging there, or he'll come back to life, which amounts to the same thing.

I also liked the music, not only because I always liked "Oklahoma"—my wife may have played a part in some summer camp production (I'm not sure, and she's sleeping, so I'll ask her tomorrow*)—but all the music is original (i.e., meaning, you don't usually hear it in a television series, even one on HBO), with, for example, a powerful rendition of a song that accompanied Judd's hanging body.

*Note added next morning: She did!

So, yeah, I'm liking this a lot, and expect I'll be reviewing Watchmen once a week.

More alternate reality — "flat-out fantastic" — Scifi and Scary


Paul Levinson

Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; his LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; his nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan have been translated into 15 languages.

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