May 2015 Media Round-up (TV)

Shows I kept current with: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Elementary, Game of Thrones, Inside Amy Schumer, iZombie, Jane the Virgin, Mad Men, New Girl, Orphan Black, Outlander, Penny Dreadful, Silicon Valley, The Flash, The Good Wife, Veep

Non-current shows watched: The 100 (seasons 1 & 2)

Pilots tried: Marco Polo (we may revisit this, because it’s very pretty, both in terms of costumes/sets/scenery and Zhu Zhu, but I was not super compelled by the plot or characters), No Heroics (I like the idea of this show so much more than its actual execution)

Shows on probation: Childrens Hospital (which hasn’t actually done anything wrong, I just never remember to watch it)


Things of note:

Mad Men

So, Mad Men ended and a lot of people talked about it and probably everything I have to say about it was covered last month. Still: I loved Mad Men, although I kind of forgot how much I loved it whenever it wasn’t airing—part of that is that it wasn’t one of those shows that I really discussed intensely with people, unlike say, Game of Thrones or Doctor Who or other genre fare, because I hang out with fucking nerds; part of it is that because everyone acknowledges Mad Men’s prestige, it feels very uncool to list it among one’s favorite shows, like naming The Beatles as one of your favorite bands.

When it first came out, Mad Men costume parties were a whole thing, and later on, there was perhaps a bit less aspiring to be like Don Draper and more in-depth analyses of his psyche and the show’s Themes and Symbolism and whatever, and those are all, you know, fine. But my favorite parts of the Mad Men fan culture were the crazy conspiracy theories and silly memes1, perhaps because of the juxtaposition of these sort of dumb internet things with this Serious Prestige Drama. It was similar for Breaking Bad, in that the show’s critical success and general reputation sort of disguised the fact that the show actually had a lot of comedic moments—which GIF-makers picked up on, certainly—without which the show wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling.

My feelings on the finale? Uh, it was solid. I was grinning throughout the whole Peggy/Stan Big Romantic Moment because I am shipper garbage, although I’ll admit that it felt somewhat tonally off, like a leap into a completely different genre; I think it got some criticism for being too fanservice-y, and that’s sort of fair and sort of not. Apparently Matt Weiner said that he wanted “[the] characters to be a little more happy than they were in the beginning” and that seems…reasonable, for a series finale. I don’t think it indicates that these characters are living happily ever after—Joan’s start-up might fail, Stan and Peggy might break up, Pete and Trudy might become dissatisfied with life in the Midwest, Don might go back to his old vices—but the series finale happens to capture them all at a high point in their lives. Ultimately, I think that’s much more satisfying than, say, Parks and Recreation’s crazy wish-fulfillment finale, where the characters’ ridiculous future success just feels kind of unearned and hollow, but I guess that’s a whole other post. I was sort of hoping Don would commit suicide; yes, that would have been very “obvious” because of the opening credits and constant suicidal symbolism, but:

  1. Perhaps because it was so expected, it would have actually been unexpected?
  2. Predictability isn’t necessarily bad, anyway. Because that’s kind of the point of foreshadowing, right? So that when you have the eventual pay-off, people can’t say it came out of nowhere?
  3. It would have been ballsy as fuck.

But whatever, the Coke ad ending was great, too. And it was kind of hilarious how everyone was trying to interpret it as this Legendary Ambiguous Ending that people would be discussing for ages to come only to have Matt Weiner step in a few days later and be like, “um, yeah, Don came up with the ad, that wasn’t meant to be ambiguous.” In the same interview, he also goes off on the people who thought the ending was cynical in a sort of “fuck all you hipster irony-bots who can’t see the beauty in this ad” way that:

  1. illustrates this weird disconnect that Weiner has with his audience that has come up a few times before. I think he’s said some interesting things about Betty and Glenn Bishop, but I can’t find the exact interviews. In general, one gets the sense that the show the audience is seeing is not quite the show he thinks he’s writing. Which, I mean, is presumably true of any TV show, but most shows probably aren’t as personal as Mad Men apparently is for Weiner and certainly aren’t combed as thoroughly by audiences for any scrap of symbolism and potential foreshadowing.
  2. I may sort of agree with, despite being a hipster irony-bot? Although the underlying philosophy that leads me to that conclusion is probably different from Weiner’s. But right, I don’t think the commercial motive behind advertising detracts from its capability to be art? I mean, how much of the art that we consider to be, you know, Art, was just made for its own sake (what does that even mean) and not for money or for the Church or to appeal to a specific audience or further a specific movement or some external purpose (again what does that even mean)? And so, if we believe that Don has found enlightenment and actually buy into the concept of enlightenment at all (which, I don’t know if we do), why is it any less valid for him to do so through creating an iconic ad than through any other form of art or, what, just meditating a lot?

The 100

Answering the question: what if Battlestar Galactica had aired on the CW? I mean, okay, that’s a bit reductive. A lot of the similarities are sort of surface-level aesthetic stuff—the setting, which cuts between space stations and post-nuclear apocalypse Earth (aka Vancouver), and some of the actors (Gaeta! Tory! Ellen Tigh! Other people who maybe weren’t super important on BSG!)—but the shows do also have some deeper thematic shit in common, in terms of dealing with questions of survival, leadership, colonialism, etc. The 100 has a lot of world-building and, I think, more moral complexity than is standard for the genre (and certainly for the CW)—it’s not ~dark and gritty~ just for the sake of it, but there’s also not the sense that the protagonists are morally infallible just because they’re protagonists. The characters are faced with hard choices, and sometimes they choose sub-optimally; the show neither supports nor indicts them, and it avoids dei ex machina—like , there are moments where you think, “okay, this is a CW show, so they’re not really going to follow through on [insert terrible decision here]. They’re just going to have the protagonists consider it to create a moral conflict, but ultimately present them with some unexpected solution that will allow them to retain their likability.” But no, more often than not, they actually follow through!

Also, you know, relatively diverse cast, solid female characters, first bisexual lead character on the CW, that sort of thing.

[1] Bob Benson conspiracy theories were the greatest. The actual pay-off was…eh. But at least we got “NOT GREAT, BOB!” and his hilarious short shorts. And then there was Mad Men Screenshots with Things Drawn on Them. And like, “Hell’s bells, Trudy!”, “A thing like that!”, “PIZZA HAUS” etc. ^


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