Thursday, July 4, 2013

“Bros”: A Review of the Latest High-Concept Drama Brought to You by Your Local Premium Cable Channel

“Mesmerizing…. Powerful…. Spellbinding….”
~Webster’s New World Dictionary

“The great fictional tapestry of our time.  The phrase ‘voice of a generation’ is often used capriciously and insincerely, so I hesitate to employ it on this occasion, but I will say this—decades from now, when they ask, ‘what was it like?’, they need only watch ‘Bros’ to know the truth.”
~ Drunk guy at Alpha Delt party in transit to toilet

“It’s like if you took War and Peace or Life and Fate or A Dance to the Music of Time or Remembrance of Things Past or something else I haven’t read and made it into an hour-long TV show with no commercials and lots of sex scenes and nudity and none of the boring parts and then had journalists in highbrow magazines get paid to watch it and host web forums about it.  That’s what it’s like.”
~The Atlantis

“The credo of the new post-feminism.”
~ The New York Review of Texts

Blake, Dylan, B.J., Cody, and the “Ice-Man” are eight friends (minus three) who together reenact the universal drama of self-creation on the campuses of five of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning.  Separated literally from one another by geography, and spiritually and metaphysically by the fickle judgments of U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings, these six young men are nonetheless “brothers” through and through—united by shared membership in the Delta Delta Delta fraternity/(where Greek life is not allowed) dining club.  “Bros” is the story of their loves, lives, triumphs, and bitter defeats, all borne together like the family they are.

Blake, the Princeton student, is the “bookish one” of the group—sensitive, shy, and functionally literate, he clearly stands out from his friends.  Interested in pursuing a career in journalism, or acting, or poetry, or publishing, or law, or medicine, or film production, or engraving, or antiquarian book-dealing, Blake struggles to find his identity in an unforgiving world in which no door is closed to him and no barriers intervene to help him make up his mind.  Over the course of the series, the viewer sees him move painstakingly from a round of torrid hook-ups with girls at parties to a marriage with a financial consultant who lives in Manhattan, from the tortured question of whether or not to purchase a horse to the eventual buying of a home in Westchester County.  Through it all, Blake heartrendingly struggles and fails to encounter some difficulty or setback which will compel him to decide between equally appealing life options.  The most poignant moment of all comes when Blake finally decides to put his dreams on hold for a few years in order to accept employment at a six-figure salary at Goldman Sachs while he contemplates the possibility of taking the LSAT.  Any viewer who can see it without shedding a tear for lost youth and idealism is not a viewer I want at my funeral.

Dylan, the Yalie, is the wealthy one of the group.  Clad always in his trade-mark Nantucket pants and yachting cap, he is the center of emotional interest in the story as well as the moral compass of the five friends.  When B.J., at Stanford, is accused of assaulting a caddy with a golf club on the course, Dylan is torn between his loyalty to his friend and the fact that he witnessed the incident taking place.  He eventually decides the only way to reconcile the two impulses is to disown his friendship with B.J. and vote for his expulsion from DDD but not to tell the police anything he knows.  The viewer is left in awe of his quiet moral dignity.

Cody, at the University of Chicago, has a low GPA and a limited intellect, and struggles to process the fact that despite his trust fund, he is outperformed in economics class by Singaporean students and “ugly chicks.”  His story ends on a bittersweet note, for though he never quite succeeds in making sense of this cruel reversal of fortune, he eventually graduates and finds more remunerative employment than his classmates at his father’s investment firm.

The “Ice-Man” is a black character who attends Columbia and whose true name is never revealed.  He is intelligent, kind, and good-natured, with no identifiable negative quality or tragic flaw, and by the end of the series he has moved on to a quietly successful law practice and seems happy in an inoffensive and unenviable sort of way.  He engages the viewer’s sympathy without demanding any real attention or emotional investment, which allows the viewer to feel good about himself for watching a show with a black character in it without asking him to take a real interest in anyone but the white characters.

In all, “Bros” follows a tangled skein of plot twists and turns which carry five exceptionally gifted young men from youth to manhood, from naïve idealism to the harsh adult realities of Wall Street and Cape Cod and the suburbs of Connecticut.  While it is no “Girls,” it does capture the spiritual angst and alienation of a generation of privileged men who, despite living through the financial crisis of 2008, somehow missed out on the excitement of their peers in job-hunting and resume-building and seeking for scarce employment.  Truly they are the “lost generation” of our time, whose story no one has had the courage to tell—until now.

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