In an unnamed, perpetually sunlit city there is a park lined with immaculately trimmed four-foot hedges. Along the hedges a lightly dispersed array of manicured flowers reach toward a sun whose rays strike the ground through gaps in leafy boughs. Under one such bough sits a lone bench made of thin iron curlicues. Intimate gatherings of young people and their companions convene at this hallowed spot to jovially gossip and aimlessly banter, the sun lightly baking their tender minds.
Now what if, perched upon a nearby bough, a camera recorded the conversations on the bench below?
One could sit and watch, two minutes at a time, snippets of (scripted but easily believable) real-life happenings. No contrived scenarios and embellished drama for a known audience, just the banal exchanges that mark the passing of our days.
This is the premise behind Windsor Park. Kevin Luperchio and Chris Nicoletti set out with a mission to teach people to appreciate the exciting moments in their lives by creating a series filled with none. There’s no overall plot to the series that links one park bench coupling to the next. And there’s no action, only well-written dialogue that spotlights the interaction in between experiences.
Let’s step away from the series for a minute. These days it is a form of social currency to express revulsion at “reality” television and all its gamey offspring. But we armchair critics also understand how awful it would be to watch a television show that was pure, unadulterated “everyday life.”
Television is supposed to be an unreal, alternative image of how life plays itself out. It does so at the cost of eliminating (or at least downplaying) the role of moments that do not affect the plot. The Wire is an amazing television show because it captures the possible drama of real scenarios without getting bogged down in the minutiae of the everyday. At the same time, Bunk’s and McNulty’s drunken conversations by the railroad tracks are entertaining in part because of the contrast with the pace of the rest of their lives. If it was just been a show about two drunk cops it would have ceased to be interesting rather quickly.
Of course, there are always exceptions that prove the rule, and sometimes Windsor Park is an exception.
In the episode below Luperchio and Nicoletti are able to summon empathy from the viewer because we can not only relate to the character, but because we understand that it’s not a discardable moment. Most of our conversations with friends or co-workers are eminently forgettable which is why we couldn’t care to watch other people’s similar moments. We do, however, recall that failure of nerve in situations where the pressure seems to be on. That’s why this poetic snippet works.
The cliché is that a picture paints a thousand words. Good poetry, then, must reciprocate that sentiment with a volley of images for each carefully chosen word. Windsor Park attempts to synthesize those two ideas. I think what Luperchio and Nicoletti would like to express is that there is something worthwhile in all the “in between” minutes of our lives. That’s a tricky premise. The dialogue contains none of the subtle emanations necessary to rise out of the mundane. Even so, if it did rise to such a level, those moments would no longer qualify as “in between.”
Still, at moments, Windsor Park does manage to intrigue. In the least, the series is a worthwhile thought exercise. In better installments, you’re left with caring questions about the characters and wishing the window to their private conversations was wider.
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