I confess I’ve spent the summer acquainting myself with Breaking Bad and Mad Men. I was able to “get current” on Breaking Bad just in time for the second half of the final season. I’m still a good deal behind on Mad Men. I enjoy both shows a great deal and it seems the one I enjoy more is whichever show I’ve watched more recently. Here’s my problem.
I watch them alone. My wife has zero interest in either show, so I end up watching them either when she’s gone or when she’s gone to bed early. Not only that, since I’m “binge watching” on Netflix, I’m watching them alone in a grander sense as well. When I’m sitting thinking, “Joan did NOT just say that!” everybody else was doing the same two or three years ago.
The other day I was watching the season finale of Season 4 and Megan was talking to Don about her college roommate who is an actress. She complains that her roommate told her she could never be an actress because of her teeth. My thought was that’s kind of meta on a few levels. First of all, Jessica Pare plays Megan and she obviously could be an actress with those teeth. More interestingly, though, somebody who works on Mad Men had to have had a conversation with Pare about her teeth. I mean, they either wrote the season and then cast Pare as the secretary with big teeth or they saw Pare’s teeth and wrote a line about her being self conscious of them. Either way, the Mad Men staff had to bluntly broach the topic of Pare’s teeth in a way similar to the way Megan is complaining about. This led me to wonder, “Is Mad Men actually a commentary on Hollywood?”
All this was spilling out of my brain as I watched and while I thought it would be an interesting point to discuss, there was nobody with whom to discuss. Sure, I could go on Twitter or Facebook and jot down some thoughts, but the likelihood of that generating any conversation is slim and one should really be careful about the topics you try to discuss in a 140 character medium. I could scour the internet for discussions, but the odds of that being fulfilling seems remote. When a future civilization comes across the ruins of our society, they will point to internet comment sections and wonder, “How did they not realize the end was nigh?”
I had a similar experience of pent up critique after reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I had thoughts and theories on various aspects of the book and nobody to share them with. Frustrated, I started a book club. That’s been running for about three years now. That leads me to wonder: are there TV clubs? That would be kind of cool. Agree to watch, say, half a season of some show on Netflix and then convene over beers to share your thoughts.
Reeling this back in to my original point, it’s interesting to me that with DVRs and Netflix and streaming we are taking what’s already a fairly solitary act – watching a TV show – and making it even more solitary. It would lead me to believe we don’t really care to talk about the TV we watch, but if that’s the case, why are we watching shows that generate so much conversation? Of course, I’ve found that when I actually ask people if they watch Mad Men or Walking Dead or Breaking Bad, a tiny percentage do. Nielsen ratings are dominated by shows like Big Bang Theory. When we watch so much television that’s not worth discussing, maybe we don’t realize we’re missing out when the other kind comes along.
I confess this is probably my worst effort ever at shoehorning what I wanted to talk about into the “Confession” template. With that in mind, I’ll toss a real confession out there. I love playing golf. Paradoxically, as a rule, I hate doing so with other people who like to golf.
My life is so hideous and boring right now that only a Lars Von Trier could capture its lack of essence on film. My hideous nothingness would be best rendered if viewers felt socially compelled not to walk out, so it has to be thé Lars Von Trier.
I hate cliffhangers. They bring out the worst in writers. Characters who were passed off for years as incorruptible turn out to be the root of all evil but manage to redeem themselves as heroes in the last instant. It’s all so biblical that I think the best treatment for writers of cliffhangers is to hang them from cliffs and then not continue the series in the next year.
As far as 50′ detective stories goes, The Family was for a long time on a strict All You Can Eat diet. It didn’t even bother us too much that the same scenario (inspired by the same lobbyists or product placers) was used across all of the formats. It is not uncommon to enjoy a same dish over and over again provided it is well made.
The cliffhanger thing is however spoiling the Family’s fun. Luckily in Europe we are mostly spared the non-suspense of the lead actors not fucking or the lead nemesis not actually being shot. Unfortunately this reveals the whole ridiculousness of a dramatic high point which is not at two thirds of a viewing but at the end of it.
I confess that, ridiculous or not, it is mostly impossible for us to live without the closure on the other end of a cliffhanger. The empirical fact that it is never either creative or surprising has little influence on the desire to know the outcome. It is not the cliffhanger episode that finally spoils it but the resolution episode. Such is the tragedy of one-too-many.
Let me provide The Weblog story with a cliffhanger: I might happen to be in Evanston in one of the next months. Would Kotsko, Adam feel that my being there provides a sufficiently ‘sincere’ reason for using the corresponding L-stop?
I hate what happens to Ari in Entourage year 7. I love Ari. I don’t particularly care for Vince, his brother, his side-kick, the cameo’s, the porn star and the new side kick. I kind of cared for Turtle once until they have proven Craig right: delete the ‘tle’ and replace with a ‘d’. He didn’t convince The Wife anyway and I will never forgive him.
But I do love Ari. When he was happy I was happy. Now he’s down, I’m down as well. It is so unfair. I suspect he will come out having learned something from going through that ordeal. Redeemed, and all that good old American stuff. As I only read one spoiler column and I know the author of that spoiler column hates Entourage, I won’t know for a long time. That’s fine because during that time I can make up all kinds of story lines. Ari running for president on the slogan: “Yes, we fuck!” Endless possibilities for infinite joy. Hell, I’ll even work in the side kicks, Vince doing Amy Winehouse karaoke and a bunch of well known people I don’t actually know.
I love many things about Ari. First and foremost I love that I share the love for Ari with The Eldest Kid. We also like Lloyd by the way (now I’m being honest I may as well go all the way). Secondly …. hmmm, no, that’s all I got. It’s just television after all.
Maybe somebody on FaceBook could start a group called ‘Free Ari!’ and get some good old internet activism going to get rid of all of the Entourage.
Probably somebody already did.
I hate not being original.
Except only: I don’t.
I blame television. And YouTube. Google in general. Maybe FaceBook and Twitter too, although my intelligence on those is limited. I hate how all of those conspire to bring us every piece of bad news as if the world is coming to an end, a bloody and horrible end. I hate how somebody got Paradise and Armageddon in the wrong sequence. I hate how everybody fits the facts to that sequence. The right order is: first Armageddon and then Paradise. It’s all uphill from here. Take television or YouTube or Google (don’t know about FaceBook and Twitter), without them we wouldn’t know a percent of the bad news that is out there. The point of bad news is that it is recognized as bad and as news. The absence of good is news. I hate we do not cope well with the higher perceived frequency of bad news. I hate we’re all lousy statisticians. As if what you don’t see doesn’t exist, or didn’t exist.
I hate left and right equally insofar they agree on thinking that there were better, more innocent times in the past. I hate it that many people seem to accept as obvious that Paradise was lost. I hate it that even more people think that Paradise has to be regained, if necessary forcefully and overnight. There would be a lot less hatred if we’d put the whole Paradise thing in the garbage bin, in the metaphor crusher, out with the bathwater. Time to grow up.
Call me naïve. I’ll hate you for it. Tell me it’s nothing special. I hate nothing special. But first and foremost I hate stress and a sense of urgency and platforms, particularly when they are burning. I hate activism as much as I hate fatalism.
I do not hate that people want to feel rich. I do not hate that Ice T and Coco make up for the most popular search items to get to this site. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be like Ice T or Coco. There is everything wrong with not being able to be like Ice T or Coco. What would the world have come to when we would have gotten stuck in more innocent times?
Ah yes, I hate Tolstoï too.
This season opened with the reporter from Advertising Age asking who is the real Don Draper, and it closes having gotten not much forwarder on the question. Continue reading
I’ve been sick, so no analysis, just some questions, comments and one long-winded, half-baked noodling:
In last week’s episode, Faye spoke very explicitly about her decision to forgo motherhood in order to have a career. That women were (and still are) often forced to make a painful and exclusive choice between career and family is surely not news.
But among the women on Mad Men, Faye, who at least got to make an affirmative choice, is relatively privileged. Continue reading