What we read while we all just got along…
What we read while the Indians were mathematically eliminated…
FlashForward ended its run with more Emmy nominations and wins than The Wire. That should pretty much destroy any semblance of credibility the Emmys ever had. But other than the Golden Globes (which didn’t do so great themselves this year), there really isn’t another awards show that is taken seriously for television, so we have to deal with Emmys and all of its mistakes.
And while this year certainly had its fair share of mistakes, it was generally better than expected: Continue reading »
In case you haven’t heard, the fourth season of AMC’s Mad Men premieres tonight at 10 PM. But you’ve probably heard. As I mentioned last year, Mad Men is quite the buzzworthy show, which means promotional material and spoilers are somewhat hard to avoid.
Luckily, I have been able to stay somewhat sheltered from the released information about this season—I prefer to enter new seasons with no preconceptions. This is particularly exciting in the wake of last season’s Mad Men finale, which set up a totally new realm for the characters to inhabit.
Season Three ended with almost all of the main characters—Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Peggy Olsen, Pete Campbell, etc.—leaving Sterling Cooper to start a new agency. Meanwhile, Betty was flying off to Nevada to marry Henry Francis. In other words, there are a lot of things to be explored as the new season picks up.
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The Golden Globes were last night and since, as host Ricky Gervais kept reminding us, actors are the best and most important people in the world, we here at NPI cannot let that the occasion pass without some commentary. As usual with awards shows, it was a mixed bag.
The Best Three Things:
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Yesterday’s overview of the television of the Aughts made the claim that this was the Golden Age of television. Well, here’s the proof. These are the ten best seasons of TV to air from 2000 to 2009. The criteria are simple: The season had to begin and end between January 1st, 2000 and today (that rules out Season Four of Friday Night Lights). Also, I have to have seen it. (A person can only watch so much TV, so with apologies to fans of Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Rome, The Shield, and Breaking Bad Season Two–all of which I have yet to watch–I cannot include these seasons.) Finally, the list is not limited to one season per show, but it is heavily weighted against a show’s second-best (and third-best, etc.) seasons; I didn’t want to just make a list of seasons of The Wire and The Sopranos, but depth deserves some credit. Even within those parameters, though, several very good shows could not make the cut. Here is the illustrious “Honorable Mention” category:
All seasons of The Wire and The Sopranos not already included, Lost Season Four (2008), Mad Men Season One (2007), Breaking Bad Season One (2008), Heroes Season One (2006-07), The West Wing Season Two (2000-01), Dexter Season One (2006), Firefly Season One (2002-03)
And now, the Top Ten:
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Probably the best illustration of television’s place in the culture at the beginning of this decade are the routes taken by its most prominent auteurs to the field.
David Chase, the creator, head writer, and executive producer of The Sopranos, settled for a career in television when he was unable to break into film; when Fox didn’t pick up the pilot, Chase planned to re-edit it and release the first episode as a film. Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, was a screenwriter for plays and films; The West Wing was actually developed from unused plot elements from his script for 1995’s The American President. Joss Whedon, creator of cult hits Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and others, originally wrote Buffy as a film. Friday Night Lights, of course, was developed loosely from the film—and book—of the same name.
And, of course, David Simon and Ed Burns, the creative duo behind The Wire (as well as The Corner, Homicide, and Generation Kill) came directly from the subject matter they would be writing on: Simon as a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun and Burns as a homicide detective, and later a school teacher, in Baltimore.
In short, good TV was something that seemed to happen by accident. Accidentally or not, though, the television produced during the Aughts was better than anything that came before it. Continue reading »
Mad Men, which premiered its third season last night, is a cool show to like. Stuff White People Like (which, let’s face it, should really be called “Stuff White Hipsters Like”) sums it up pretty well: “Mad Men is a TV show on cable with low ratings, multiple awards, critical praise, and full seasons available on DVD. It’s no surprise white people love it.”
But it’s not just white people who like the show; everyone loves Mad Men: black people like it (though not the way it deals with race), women like it, the Emmys love it, Banana Republic loves it.
There are a lot of reasons Mad Men is so well-liked (the most important probably being that it is a very good show). One reason is that it manages to balance prurient, intellectual and emotional appeals all at once; it is simultaneously inclusive and esoteric.
Last night’s Season Three premiere, for example, uses the pregnancy of Don Draper’s wife (Betty, played by January Jones) to examine his own birth, how he feels about his oncoming child, the nature of wishes and wish-fulfillment, which dovetails nicely with a secondary plot in which Peter (Vincent Kartheiser) and Kenny (Aaron Staton) receive the same job. But it also had Don and Sal flying to Baltimore, where Don (Jon Hamm) takes a flight attendant to bed while Sal gets hit on by the bell-boy, only for them both to be interrupted by a fire alarm. Continue reading »