Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Current State of Television

Entering the last week of March, the television landscape is changing dramatically.  Not in a bad way, or even necessarily a good way (although in this case it is, making this sentence relatively useless), but just in a way that old shows are ending and new shows are beginning.

The traditional "seasons" of television are beginning to become a thing of the past, where all shows began in September and ended in May.  This created many problems for the viewers, as they lost interest in a show that took place over 9 months yet was only on 22 times, leaving a number of weeks when there was nothing, oftentimes unannounced.

More and more networks are utilizing the midseasons to debut shows, or starting in January and running straight through.  "Alcatraz" is one such example, a show that started out with a good hook and decent pilot, lost ground, and then is finding it once again, as the writers prepared for a short 13 episode season.  Characters are working, plots make sense, and there is a greater sense of overall mystery and intrigue.

Today, March 25, a time when new shows wouldn't even think about beginning a few years ago, marks the return date for one of the 2 best shows on television, "Mad Men," AMC's 4-time Emmy winner for best drama (which is every year it has been on, for those keeping score at home).  Although not a family show by any means, Matthew Weiner's brilliant character study uses the 1960s to allow the audience to wax nostalgic and be treated to some of the richest characters and best writing ever to have graced the small screen.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is confused and conflicted, having taken on the identity of a war veteran with whom he served.  He used his new persona to build a life as an ad executive in New York, complete with the family (wife, 2.5 children, house, you name it) and mistresses that accompany such a life.  But it's not Don's moral compass that we strive to attain, it's his relationship with people, and how people react to him, that we watch for.  Like AMC's other leading man Walter White, Don Draper is not a moral man; this does not make him unredeemable (some would argue, like Walter White is unredeemable).  He struggles with his life and his decisions.

In short, Don Draper is human.  The focus of the show is his pyche, his nature and his decisions.  We get a glimpse into the human soul through those around him and through the life he leads.  We see people's interactions and relationships with God (especially Don's coworker Peg and her Catholic family).  We see success and failure, and we do so in a world that reminds us of our own, and yet is not.

Mad Men returns for its 5th season March 25 at 9/8 c with a 2 hour premiere.


  1. I think I need for somebody to give me a subscription to Netflix so I can pick up on some of these good series. Good writing is the basis for good acting. I appreciate your blog.

    1. Hi Barn, thanks for reading. Netflix is a wonderful tool for catching up on these shows, and there are so many that are worth the price. Likewise, there are others that are just a complete waste of time, and will leave you angry and bitter.

      I completely agree about the writing. If you look at the best shows on right now, they begin and end with writing. Stories that are tight, characters that are rich, dialogue that is immersive. Audiences are smart enough to know what is well-written and what is not, and they are mature enough to want the ones that challenge them.

    2. Barb,

      Netflix is $7.99 a month if you do the internet only version.