What’s a network to do
when the great shows go?
when the great shows go?
AMC (formerly American Movie Classics, though they mainly showed the second-rate) took off in 2007 with Mad Men. It was their highly successful attempt to become a buzzed about cable network in the manner of FX and follow the premium cable networks HBO and Showtime, which had pioneered the magic formula a decade earlier. The “open sesame” is an original series that few actually watch, but critics, bloggers, and loyal fans can’t stop talking about such as Oz, The Sopranos, Rescue Me, Six Feet Under, The Shield, Queer as Folk, etc.
|Megan and Don at Howard Johnson|
first episode, I was arrested by the attention to period detail and how professional culture was tied so closely to the history of the 1960s. The writing, acting, directing and, most tellingly, the art direction pretty much outclassed any other drama since The Sopranos had gone off the air.
|Cranston and Paul of Breaking Bad|
Breaking Bad ended and Mad Men ends next year, though I think it might have been stronger to end it a year ago. AMC hopes for a replacement on Sunday nights, first with Turn, a Revolutionary War spy drama that didn’t grab me, and now with Halt and Catch Fire, which premiered the beginning of June. It’s not based on an earlier work and it’s a period drama about the work/family spheres of its characters. At this point, it’s a mixed bag, which makes it very different from those other three earlier shows, which electrified audiences and caught fire immediately.
|McNairy and Pace of Halt and Catch Fire|
The two major problems are the era and the profession. Yes, it looks like the early 1980s, but the clothing, hairstyles, interior design, automobiles, and lighting of that time were pretty unattractive and certainly not anything anyone would seriously revive in the fashion world. Planning ad campaigns and organizing an illegal drug business are inherently more intriguing dramatically than building a computer and writing lots of code. It’s not as if many – if any – could understand the code anyway since it usually gets wiped out at least once an episode. The animal imagery (armadillo in the first five minutes, a struggling to survive bird in the third episode) engaged with greater thematic relevance than almost anything else so far.
Postscript: The later episode further developed the characters played by McNairy, Bishé, and Davis, especially the relationship between the women. This direction will only strengthen the relevance of this show. Jamie Pachino, a Chicago playwright and colleague of mine from college, who serves as the Executive Story Editor is already building greater interest into the plot. Her work is cut out for her, but this show has potential.