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Mid-Spring Season TV Roundup


Mad Men

The last two seasons of “Mad Men” were by far the best of the series; so far the current season — also the penultimate of the show — comes off as largely unnecessary. “Mad Men” could have, and maybe should have ended with last season’s perfect finale of Don in the bar being asked if he’s alone.

Season 6 is largely an additional spin cycle of well-covered territory.

Yet again the writers are spending time establishing that Don is shallow hypocrite who has so little emotional affect towards other people (including his family) and life in general that he wouldn’t mind if he got hit by a bus. Both Joan and Peggy continue to battle sexism in their quests to win respect and power in the workplace.

And Pete is Pete.

While there is nothing necessarily wrong with characters that never develop, they at least need to be confronted by new situations.

This is what happened on “The Sopranos.” The Tony Soprano in season 6b is largely the same Tony Soprano in season 1, but each season he’s confronted with new situations in his personal and professional life that were usually a reflection of life in the late ‘90s early ‘00s.

What I find incredibly frustrating about the current season of “Mad Men” is that Don has zero reaction to the rapidly changing world, most notably Civil Rights.

As self-consumed and narcissistic as he is, I refuse to believe that he has no views about how the country is changing given that he still dresses as if it’s 1955. While I suppose his indifference is precisely the point, I just don’t buy it as believable.

I’m not saying that he has to be an emotional civil rights activist or segregationist, but he has to have some kind of articulated viewpoint about what’s happening.

Game of Thrones

This season there has been too much hopscotching between characters, where any one is lucky to get more than five minutes of screen time per episode — the show is trying to juggle too many characters at once.

This is being caused by the fact that a lot of the characters from books/seasons 1 & 2 have small parts in book 3 or do not even appear in it all, but the actors who play the characters are under contract so they might as well be used because they’re being paid. The bottom line is that I don’t like having screen time taken away from the Lanisters so we can hear from Rob’s tiresome wife (who is barely in book 3), as well as seeing Theon getting tortured (who is not even in book 3 and all of this happens off screen).

The show has also made what I would consider its first major adaption blunder: inexplicably having Catelyn express regret for her treatment of Jon Snow, and the reason Jon gives to Mance for why he wants to join the wildlings being that treatment.

In the books Catelyn hates Jon on principle because he’s a bastard.

She, like the rest of the Starks, is so hung up on these storybook notions of chivalry and honor that she is unable to see that Jon is really the best of the Stark children — he’s as moral and compassionate as Ned, but far more shrewd. But since she cannot see these qualities, he’s pretty much banished to the wall. 

And on the other side of this, is that Jon doesn’t hold Catelyn’s treatment of him against her. He has every reason to hate her — which is why Mance believes him — but he’s able to rise above it.

I suspect the writers have done this because Catelyn is so easy to hate in the books, but these characteristics are what makes the Starks the Starks — why they’re always being outmaneuvered by their enemies.

Amazon Pilots

Holy crap are they all awful. The shows reek of Amazon saying: let’s just copy what’s popular..

The template for all of the shows seems to be “The Big Bang Theory” — a bit goofy and lighthearted, not too edgy, not trying to be all that original. While there’s nothing wrong with that per say, it’s problematic that all of the shows have the same tone.

And then the shows are about the du jour topics of the day but offer no real insight into them. For example, there’s “Alpha House” which I don’t think you can really call political satire because the jokes poke at the most low hanging fruit, such as: Republicans hate gays, and the ones who are the most vocal turnout to be gay themselves. The genius of a show like “Veep” is that instead of dealing in cliché Republican and Democratic jokes, the show is non-partisan and is about all of the ridiculous things people do for power in DC.

Then there is “Onion News Empire” and “Browsers” which are both supposed to be satires of the media, but don’t go any deeper than “Anchorman” (and in fairness, I don’t think “Anchorman” was trying all that hard to be biting media satire).  Jokes are often so over the top that it seems like the writers are afraid we won’t get that they are jokes unless they tell us.

Finally, there are shows that fall into the category of: “I’ve seen that movie before,” such as “Those Who Can’t” about teachers behaving badly, and “Zombieland” which of course was already a movie. I liked “Zombieland” the 2009 movie, but the movie was short and to the point (less than 90 minutes) — it knew there was only so far it could carry its shtick. The show is a cynical attempt to cash in on the cult status of the movie with now vision that goes beyond the movie. And the plot device of the OnStar woman providing updates about what’s going on around the country undermines the a tenant of the zombie genre about having no information about what’s going on in the world.

Veep

This is officially my favorite show on TV. 

As I mentioned before, what makes the show so clever is that it’s about the most powerful people in the United States, but inside this cohort everyone feels powerless and is constantly struggling for more power.

The writing is simply inspired where brilliant non-sequesters are fired in rapid succession. My favorite: “Selina, when you came to Washington you didn’t have any power. But at least you had balls.” “-And now I have a dick and balls.”

The show captures so many true-to-life clichés of people who work for elected officials, such as the ID badge being a status symbol.

I’ve worked for elected officials from City Councilmen to Governors, and I’ve known many people that kept their ID badge on at bars thinking that a small plastic placard saying “Office of the Mayor” would really lead to a one-night-stand with a model. Sometimes the show is like watching reality TV.

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