Month: September 2009

So, around a month ago, Lex posted a blog giving all the reasons why “Mad Men” is way overrated by the critics. While the show will, without a doubt, walk away with a lot of Emmys on Sunday, and the critic gushing will continue for a few years, I would like to make a few points regarding the show’s own merits. Those points, in my opinion, haven’t been made enough in the mainstream press, and really, who could blame them.

This week, we learned that Oprah Winfrey would host a 60s-themed show next week, in honor of “Mad Men”, with the Drapers on her couch, or rather, Jon Hamm and January Jones. It’s really cute of her, and any publicity is good publicity. As Lex would probably say, it continues to “crown” endlessly a show that has been marketed as “the little show that could, so it’s cool to root for it”. But by doing this stunt, Oprah misses the point of the show completely.

The show is meant to surgically deconstruct any good memories we may have had, or our parents may have had, of the swinging sixties. While “American Dreams”, a network show that was chronicling the same period-to be fair, the pilot episode of the show picks up after the Kennedy assassination, while Season 3 of “Mad Men” will probably end there-was perpetuating the myth of a solid family, through the Pryors, without omitting social issues and rampant segregation, “Mad Men” still portrays a corporate, sexist world full of cynicism, which may change too fast for the advertising employees that work there. But, most importantly, it chronicles the slow downfall of a marriage, those of the Drapers. Each season, the viewer anticipates the moment where Betty will walk away from Don, and sign divorce papers, only to be disappointed-last season, with the pregnancy, was seen as the final straw that can keep the household together.

And that leads me to the main point I want to make: “Mad Men” is not a soap opera. Nevermind the attractive cast, it takes great pleasure in making them the most unlikable characters on TV. There’s barely any love or interaction in the Draper household, no matter how effectively they try to keep it together. It’s reminiscent of the Tony/Carmela relationship in the final seasons of “The Sopranos”: the marriage was seen more as a business partnership than anything else. Don is still an unrepentant cheater, now stuck with Betty’s dad. The show is about keeping appearances, it has been said many times by many people. But it’s funny to see people gushing about these characters like they were on “Grey’s Anatomy”. Maybe because the media loves the glamour and extra-clean atmosphere of the 60s of “Mad Men”. But to me, this clean atmosphere hides a deep discomfort, almost in the manner of “American Psycho” if it makes sense.

The show has often been accused to be dull, since it doesn’t even stay on the topic of the “Client of The Week”. But to me, this dullness is on purpose: there are not that much displays of love or affection in the show, if you look closely, not really physical violence. The moral values are strongly implied in the show, so any outburst, like the fired advertising guy at the beginning of the season, or reprehensible behaviour, like Roger Sterling in blackface, is noticed, but barely mentioned. The show is more about fleeting frustration, lost “accounts” and lack of good ideas for their campaign. To me, every week, “Mad Men” gets more oppressing in its depiction of characters rotting from the inside, characteristically unhappy. That a show still manages to attract viewers despite the depressing content is, to me, an amazing feat.

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About the Author

Based in Southwest France, Lordy is a local reporter in all areas of France (really, look it up). As a hobby though, he has a keen and often deconstructing look on the entertainment business, even as a simple fan. – You can follow him on @lordofnoyze

Tron: Legacy has now a release date: Dec. 17, 2010.
It will, like Spidey 4, be digitally remastered for the IMAX.

As you probably have heard by now, District 9‘s Sharlto Copley and Jessica Biel are joining Joe Carnahan’s A-Team cast.
Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson and Qinton “Rampage” Jackson have already been cast, respectively playing Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peckn John “Hannibal” Smith and Sgt. “B.A.” Baracus.
Biel is set to play Faceman’s ex and Copley be Capt. “Howling Mad” Murdock.

Ron Howard is coming back at FOX with another comedy, this time multicamera, and about an IRS district office. The Simpsons/The Office‘s Brent Forrester will write the pilot.

Oh and Arianna Huggington will have her own multicamera sitcom for ABC, brought to you by How I Met Your Mother‘s exec Greg Malins. The show will be about “the friendship of three freshman members of Congress — two men and a woman — who live together in D.C.”

And since we’re (almost) on the subject:

With almost 18 million viewers last night, NBC’s The Jay Leno Show premiered as expected with high numbers. It will be interesting to see how well it fairs in front of say, CSI (Miami and New York), in a couple of weeks/months.

I dared to watch yesterday’s premiere just to see what all the fuss was about.
For months, there was all this talk about how this would revolutionize the talk show formula, etc.
But after having seen the premiere, I’ve got to wonder:
Is that it?

Seriously, think about it, how is it any different from other talk-shows?
It just looked to me like Oprah meets the Tonight Show.
Nothing was really different, except all the 10s painted everywhere in the gigantic studio to show he was now on at, you know it, 10PM.

Sure, there’s no desk (to a point), but come on, all the guests are still comfortably sitting in their chair.

They’re not doing anything unusual; they’re just talking and cracking jokes (for the most part).

Regarding the monologue, the Dick Cheney joke he made was eerily similar to one Conan O’Brien made last week.
The pre-taped bits weren’t all that funny either, and unfortunately so was (or rather wasn’t) Dan Finnerty. That was disappointing.

As for Jerry Seinfeld, what’s up with his earpiece?

Was someone feeding him jokes…or was it used for the fake Oprah “interview”?

And by fake, I mean that there was no video feed on stage. If you look carefully, she was CGId in. The biggest clue is towards the end of the interview, as the camera moves, so does the fake screen (same movements).
You can check the video again, it’s pretty evident (especially with that fake chrome mount).
So anyways, she wasn’t really on the Leno show after all. At least not when it was shot.

Now, besides her faux-guesting, you might be wondering why the hell I’m comparing the Leno show with the Oprah show.
First off, look how Leno was greeted when he came in. It looked like Jesus had returned to his people.

There was also the awaited Kanye West interview.
I’m not gonna talk about what happened at the VMAs (seriously though, why the hell is this news?).
However, Kanye’s (almost) one-on-one with Leno felt like an Oprah Winfrey moment.

I think it was pretty cold of Leno to ask, almost out of the blue, how West’s (now-deceased) mother would feel about the whole VMA incident.
“Do you think she’d be disappointed?”
That looked like a douchey question just asked to get an emotional response out of someone.

What was almost even weirder however is seeing, only moments later, Kanye West jumping back on stage to sing next to Jay-Z and Rihanna.

Overall, it was your typical Jay Leno talk-show.
There was no “revolution” here, just me being mostly bored.

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Alex Freedman

I'm Alex Freedman, the writer behind TV Calling.

I started this site in 2008 to chronicle my own journey in television writing.

693 posts and 9 years later, TV Calling has also become a comprehensive resource dedicated to the full TV writing industry — from spec to success.

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