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David Poland

By David Poland

Don Draper: Critic

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107 Responses to “Don Draper: Critic”

  1. Double D says:

    Rarely has show of such high quality sunk so badly so fast. This season of Mad Men has been a parody of Mad Men.

  2. lazarus says:

    You’re in the minority on that one, pal.

    This season has been getting better and better with each episode, though the premiere is up there among my favs.

    Most critics I’ve been reading feel the same way.

  3. Nick says:

    the show has always been highly over praised. it’s fun, but it’s soap opera. and it’s easy to see what’s coming far too much. I still like it bc the plot is fun, but I don’t go in expecting to be blown away by high art. although the plot is quickly becoming plot for plot’s sake. end of the day, i’ll still watch next season and get excited to find out how it ends. undoubtedly, this show will end with some form of controversy.

  4. Paul Doro says:

    This is easily the most overrated show on TV. The last few episodes have bored me to tears. Don and Ted’s endless bickering is mind-numbingly tedious. It’s covering territory it has already covered and then some in ways I just don’t find very interesting. Megan doesn’t interest me. Betty and Sally don’t interest me. Pete and Bob and Manolo don’t really interest me. I know critics love to love this show, but I’ve struggled to stay awake nearly every episode this season.

  5. Jay Shooke says:

    Jesus, really? What is this, an insufferable douchebag pissing contest? With the “meh” reactions to WOLF OF WALL STREET trailer in the other thread and the sunshine patrol coming in to shit on MAD MEN, what do you people want? Fucking pearls before swine. It doesn’t get any better than Mad Men. But we get it, you’re dismissive elitists.

  6. nick says:

    mad men is the family guy form of drama. just pick random things and make random events occur and instant drama is formed. cheep but effective. nothing great. not saying it isn’t clever at times.

  7. Random dude says:

    I hate that people who stopped enjoying Mad Men continue to watch it and complain about it. Why do they do it both to themselves and everyone else? It’s TV. You can flip the channel and watch whatever you want. Are they scared to be left out of the conversation? I honestly don’t get it.

  8. Keil S. says:

    I like Mad Men and own the first few seasons on Blu-ray. I don’t foresee completing the set, as the show has been spinning its wheels for some time. Yes, mediocre Mad Men is better than best seasons of most shows, but it’s not the television masterpiece it’s been lauded as for far too long.

    Modern shows that are better than Mad Men? Here ya go:

    – The Wire
    – The Sopranos
    – The Shield
    – The Office (UK)
    – Breaking Bad
    – Arrested Development
    – Freaks & Geeks
    – Veronica Mars
    – Friday Night Lights
    – Battlestar Galactica
    – Fringe
    – etc.

  9. christian says:

    Every show I watch on TV is the greatest show in the history of shows.

  10. Paul Doro says:

    I think Wolf of Wall Street looks awesome. I watch Mad Men because my wife likes it and it’s one of the few shows we both watch. The way some of you become hostile and petty and lash out because someone doesn’t like a TV show as much as you do is hilarious and sad. And nice list Keil S. I agree that just about all of those shows are better than Mad Men. I would add Justified, which I enjoy way more than MM.

  11. LexG says:



  12. Paul Doro says:

    If I could I would Lex. I want you to be happy. Unfortunately I am useless to you.

  13. LexG says:


  14. Paul Doro says:

    Please don’t do that Lex. Call 1-800-273-TALK or 211 before you do anything rash.

  15. Smith says:

    Mad Men was coming off one of its very best seasons, so some kind of let down was inevitable. Even with that in mind I think by the show’s standards this season has been a bit below average (especially early on – recent episodes have been very strong), but the overreactions by some of the show’s fans are ridiculous. If you never liked the show, well, your loss, but at least I get that – it’s not for everyone. But from fans? It’s the same fanboy mentality that permeates everything else in internet culture now (see also: Man of Steel reactions). If something isn’t the best thing ever it’s the worst. Mad Men has gone from the best show on TV to a parody of itself, or worse? Give me a break.

  16. LexG says:


  17. Sam says:

    “But we get it, you’re dismissive elitists.”

    What, because a couple of us weren’t having paroxysms of joy over a trailer or — gasp — don’t like a TV show anymore? (Note: I’m not in the latter category.)

    I think your outraged post says more about you than anybody else. Perspective, man.

  18. Paul Doro says:

    I know a lot of people raved about last season, but it’s when I started to really lose interest in the show (I was a big fan). The episode with Kinsey trying to write and sell a Star Trek episode was unbelievably awful, and the entire season didn’t do much for me. This season has been even worse. I don’t think it’s anywhere near a bad show. I think it’s wildly overpraised.

  19. hcat says:

    Cut the cord so I will have to catch up next summer, but this is a problem inherent with television, shows will almost always go on past their prime and then limp into a conclusion. Looking at Keil’s list, Freaks and Geeks and Arrested Development were actually fortunate to be canceled before they could lose their vitality.

  20. anghus says:


    I thought you were committing suicide last Saturday?

    Re: Mad Men

    This season has been a mixed bag for me. The metaphors have been painful and obvious. This season is deconstructing the era in which these characters flourished. Don is becoming a relic. Creatively impotent. Still searching for validation from women. They brought in the character of Ted to give Don a mirror. This is an alternate version of Don who still has a conscience and a sense of decency. Ted denies himself what he wants because it’s the right thing to do. Don has never had that level of control.

    A lot of this season feels like an epilogue. After last season the firm hits a new high. The stakes this year are remarkably low. It’s not make or break anymore. Even with everything, Don is still empty. Joan is still fighting for respect. Peggy is still trying to escape the shadow of her mentors. The only character who has shown an inkling of growth this year is Pete who has made so many bad choices ultimately destroying his life. When he finds out there’s another Don in the office, he realizes the mistakes of his past and changes course.

    If there’s a point to this season, it seems to be about satisfaction. None of the characters have achieved it, and the world they thought they ruled is becoming increasingly unstable.

    The problem with this season is that its all so heavy handed. MLK gets shot! Bobby Kennedy gets shot! SOCIAL UNREST! It’s the least subtle season of the show ever. I would contend the first four seasons of Mad Men could be held up as the best hours of drama ever put to television. The last few seasons haven’t been as tight, but they’re still very good.

    re: Kiel’s post of shows better than Mad Men.

    – The Wire – you could make an argument, sure.
    – The Sopranos – ditto
    – The Shield – hmmmmmmm. Don’t think it’s quite in the same ball park.
    – The Office (UK)- Don’t know why you’re bringing a comedy into the mix here, but no way in hell.
    – Breaking Bad – you could make an argument.
    – Arrested Development – Yikes. Even the fourth season?
    – Freaks & Geeks – One season. This show had one season. While it’s a good show, being considered one of the best of all time i think would demand a level of consistency that one season doesn’t really buy you.
    – Veronica Mars – get off the crack.
    – Friday Night Lights – Nope.
    – Battlestar Galactica – good show. Not in the same ball park just based on casting alone.
    – Fringe – So you doubled down on the crack i’m assuming?

    If we’re having a realistic discussion about the best television dramas of all time, i think the short list goes like this, in no particular order.

    Mad Men
    The Wire

    I think that’s your gold, silver, and bronze medal winners in any order you put them in. If we’re really discussing the best ever, to me it’s between those three.

    Then there’s a pool of shows in tier 2

    West Wing
    Hill Street Blues
    Six Feet Under
    Friday Night Lights
    Breaking Bad

    As time goes on i expect to start hearing Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey get talked about in this second group.

  21. hcat says:

    I like both Game of Thrones and Downton, but can still admit they are romance novel beach reading trash. Addictive, sure, great production values, sure, strong acting, etc.etc. But on a basic level Games is Risk with tits and Dragons and Downton ignores the upstairs downstairs roots to be a period soaper.

    IMO Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Deadwood are the closest television has gotten to the great american novel. Though only the Wire seems to the only one that didn’t suffer from narrative creep, reinforcing the same points over again and padding the narrative to draw out the time until the conclusion. Whenever I look to see how many episodes of BB I have left to watch I always think “Christ, Micheal Correleone fell from grace too, but it didn’t take him 75 hours.”

  22. Mike says:

    To me, rewatchability factors into the debate over the best dramas on tv. I have watched The Wire all the way through at least three times, and in another year or so, I’ll want to watch it again. I watched Deadwood again last year and as Sepinwall does his summer watching, I’m a little tempted to watch that show again. West Wing, Friday Night Lights and thus far in Breaking Bad, I’ve watched 2-3 times each (well, I skip part of Season 5 of West Wing).

    I will never watch Mad Men again. There are times when I can’t be bothered to watch current episodes for weeks. The same happened with Sopranos. I respect and admire the work being done, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

    So, to me, it just reinforces the notion that “The best” is a subjective thing.

  23. tbunny says:

    Mad Men sort of typifies the Alexa look for me, in a good way. As a piece of craft it’s amazing, but the episodic writing can easily become repetitive.

    People assume the show is building up to some 1969 climax. But what if the final season was not 1969-1970 but 1979? Don looks like a bloated Roger and he’s probably gone to seed in some awful late seventies bloated and highly compromised way. Sally is all growd up. Joan is running her own shop. Roger had a coronary in disreputable circumstances at an orgy. Reagan’s Bushco boys are playing footsie with the Ayatollah. Final Scene, Don changing into leisure-wear in a cheaply wood-paneled suburban bedroom as his soon to be ex-3rd/4th wife sits on the bed watching the Gipper’s acceptance speech.

  24. Alex says:

    “I hate that people who stopped enjoying Mad Men continue to watch it and complain about it. Why do they do it both to themselves and everyone else? It’s TV.”

    Exactly. I bailed two seasons ago and haven’t looked back.

  25. Keil S. says:

    The Wire is my favorite show of all time, and I also think it is the best TV show of all time.

    As for The Shield:

    People who don’t think it’s in the same ballpark as Mad Men have probably not seen the entire series. The Shield was always enjoyable, but its popularity and awards show attention began waning as it began blooming into something much greater than the “merely addictive bad cop show” it was in the beginning. The show ran for 7 seasons, and I would consider Seasons 4, 5, and 7 to be its best. That’s a rare feat for any show, and it’s sad that most people who dismiss the series are usually basing their opinion on the first couple of seasons (or possibly even just on what they’ve read or heard about it).

    Plus, even its “weaker seasons” were still incredibly enjoyable, well made, wonderfully acted, etc. Last summer I finally watched all of Buffy, and its first 2 or 3 seasons were very difficult to get through, and certainly nowhere as good as those early seasons of The Shield. Therefore, as much as I enjoyed the latter seasons of Buffy, I could never place it in my top tier if favorites because it had a lot of problems before it got better.

    Also, for my money, The Shield offered the greatest series finale of any show ever. Granted, I haven’t seen every show known to man, but I doubt anything offered up as an alternative would prove as outstanding.

  26. Smith says:

    Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey are both so hermetically sealed within their fantasy worlds that it’s hard to see them ever entering the critical consensus pantheon alongside The Wire, Deadwood, Sopranos, Mad Men, etc. At least with Game of Thrones you could make an argument on the merits based on craft, the quality of the writing and acting, etc. Downton had a great first season but has already degenerated into a cheap, atrociously written soap opera. The third season was excruciating.

    If Veronica Mars had only lasted one season it would be, along with Freaks & Geeks, a great one season wonder, but it’s also dragged down by the decline in quality over subsequent seasons.

    The Shield ought to be right up near the top of anyone’s list. Ditto Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica and Breaking Bad, though BB has always felt, in its own way, as sealed off from the real world as Game of Thrones. There’s just something slightly too comic book-y about it. Doesn’t stop me from loving the show, just keeps it from being an all timer for me.

  27. Paul Doro says:

    I enjoyed Mad Men for many seasons, and even if I think it’s overrated and haven’t enjoyed it much lately, I still want to see how it ends. Not sure why that is objectionable. My all-time favorite series finale is Six Feet Under. I still get chills whenever I hear that Sia song.

  28. Keil S. says:

    I think people are too enamored with the look and feel of Mad Men to admit that it doesn’t live up to or deserve its masterpiece status.

  29. Keil S. says:

    Smith, if Breaking Bad can knock it out of the park with these final eight episodes it will likely starting showing up (higher) on many lists. People are just waiting to see how it’s all going to end.

  30. Keil S. says:

    And yes, adding Fringe on that list may have been a bit hasty, but it was rewarding for those who stuck it out past Season 1.

    I also love Justified, but while its always been great, it feels like its spinning its wheels a bit too. There doesn’t seem to be much happening with Raylan lately, and I don’t feel it was ever clearly or believably conveyed why the main case in Season 4 was so damn crucial. Still, I look more forward to watching Justified each week than Mad Men, because I know I’m pretty much always going to enjoy myself, and I always want to know what’s around the next corner. Mad Men, on the other hand, just flounders and occasionally contains a truly great moment (like Don confessing to not really loving or caring much for his kids when they’re little until one day they surprise you, etc.).

  31. Smith says:

    Keil – Totally. If BB sticks the landing people’s heads are going to explode.

  32. anghus says:

    “Mad Men, on the other hand, just flounders and occasionally contains a truly great moment (like Don confessing to not really loving or caring much for his kids when they’re little until one day they surprise you, etc.).”

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Usually there’s a central build in a Mad Men season. Some kind of undercurrent that helps carry everything forward. Last year they had the big score: get Jaguar. The whole season seemed to revolve around everybody willing to sacrifice what dignity they had left to get the car account. It unified everyone thematically. This season is like a thread unravelling. It’s deconstructing relationships and reducing things to soot and ash. At the end of this season, i expect everyone to have nothing. Nobody wins. That’s what this season has been about.

    “People assume the show is building up to some 1969 climax. But what if the final season was not 1969-1970 but 1979?”

    Weiner has made comments about moving the clock ahead for the final season. I would love that. Go ten years ahead. Start at Roger’s funeral. See what Don’s kids turned out like. Move into the epilogue of their lives.

  33. YancySkancy says:

    I think MAD MEN still gets a lot of mileage out of its somewhat elliptical, close-to-the-vest style. It has a unique pace, and it still offers surprises. But I don’t see any high ground, aesthetically or morally, in any specific opinion of the show.

    As for the best of all time, of course it’s subjective. For one thing, almost no one here has seen more than a fraction of the contenders in their entirety. I think the earliest show I’ve seen mentioned is HILL STREET BLUES. Not that any older shows would likely make a younger person’s list–I suspect nothing would be quite “edgy” enough.

  34. Yancy says:

    Nope. Mad Men is best show ever by at least a lap or two. And this season had been riveting.

  35. Mike says:

    Is Hill Street Blues worth watching?

    I’ve tried a number of classics recently, such as The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, NYPD Blue, Taxi, and found that a lot of them just don’t hold my interest. A number of them rely on formula too much, or didn’t have the opportunity to stretch beyond convention. If a show can’t hold up today, and only earns its place as being revolutionary for its time, I’m not sure it’s really among the best.

  36. christian says:

    I thought Don Draper doing the baby cry was the best thing I’ve ever seen on the show. I expected the joke to be him NOT acting out as a baby. It shows he’ll do anything. That’s subtle.

  37. hcat says:

    ‘ If a show can’t hold up today, and only earns its place as being revolutionary for its time’

    Which is what people will be saying about these shows in 30 years.

  38. LexG says:

    FASTLANE POWER. Also MAGIC CITY is like MAD MEN for people who aren’t lame. Danny Huston giving an insane Daniel Day Lewis performance on that and nobody noticing. HUSTON.

    That was a really good write-up about The Shield up above my Keil S. The last two seasons of that were positively Satanic, and indeed the most perfect ending to a show I can think of.

    WIRE has too many EMBARRASSING ELEMENTS, like Ziggy, Bubbles, and BUNNY COLVIN (the worst character EVER), and UGH “Brother Muzone.” CHRIST, hide under a couch. Also that show always seemed like lib-white coffee-farting newsman thinking they were DROPPING THE REAL when their black guy advisers and cop advisers were telling them about outdated street slang and culture. Kind of telling that absolutely NO BLACK PEOPLE watch “The Wire.” It’s great but it’s phony second-hand information and a lot of it is unpersuasive. THE GREEK? Cringe.

  39. lazarus says:


  40. lazarus says:

    While it hasn’t been part of the conversation here, because of the lack of thematic focus and the conclusion which angered many, I think LOST is going to have a long shelf life. It was revolutionary, and every imitator (FlashForward, The Event, etc.) has failed miserably by comparison.

    I don’t think it will be difficult for future generations to get caught up in the mythology, and the well-cast eclectic characters are archetypal enough to appeal indefinitely.

    So while the writing isn’t on par with something like Mad Man, its sheer entertainment value keeps it near the top of my all-time list. Nothing else will ever be as fun to watch with friends or speculate about between episodes.

  41. anghus says:

    There are three amazing seasons to be cobbled together from six seasons of Lost. And then there’s a lot of filler.

  42. Mike says:

    hcat, I’m sure some shows we’re talking about won’t hold up, but look at West Wing and Sopranos. Both shows appeared at about 2000. NYPD Blue was wrapping up about then, and both Sopranos and West Wing make NYPD Blue look like it came from another era. It can’t just be serialization that marks the change.

    Lex, is Magic City any good? I see the ads, but you’re literally the first person I’ve heard ever mention anything about it, good or bad.

  43. LexG says:

    It tries way, and I mean WAY too hard to be Mad Men meets Godfather 2 meets Sopranos, but it’s Mitch Glazer unleashed in absolutely foul form, and again Huston is a maniac on the show. But Jeffrey Dean Morgan, an actor I usually like a lot, is too much of a Boy Scout in the lead, too square to ever be much fun, and there’s a whole lot of HOTEL drama that’s kind of pokey. It’s a mixed bag, but I enjoy it. There’s also so much hotness abounding that Olga Kurylenko is the THIRD hottest chick on the show.

  44. hcat says:

    ‘both Sopranos and West Wing make NYPD Blue look like it came from another era. It can’t just be serialization that marks the change.’

    But Mike back when it was ER, NYPD Blue, Chicago Hope, and West Wing people talked about how we were in a golden age of television drama since they were head and shoulders above Northern Exposure and LA Law (which themselves were heralded as examples of excellance). Everything has been dwarfed by what comes next, television drama has had a steady rise in quality since I started paying attention to such things.

    Joe can probably tell you that there was a time when Dallas was hailed as ‘the best there has ever been.’

  45. christian says:

    Dallas was hailed as ‘the best there has ever been.’

    Nobody ever said that except for its fan base. And TWIN PEAKS changed TV not its copycat for urban squares, NORTHERN EXPOSURE….

  46. leahnz says:

    ha, i was just going to point out the PEAKS not getting a mention for best of all time, you all must be on crack (cept christian)

  47. Paul Doro says:

    My mom and I watched China Beach and L.A. Law together, but the first show to make a real impression on me was Twin Peaks. It’s definitely one of my all-time favorites.

  48. hcat says:

    Nobody said it execpt for its fan base, which was about 30 million viewers a week.

    And looking at the lists we are compiling, there is something to be said about Mad Men and a few others like Friday Night Lights that are able to create drama without life threatening situations. Sure Shield was tense, but they were constantly dodging bullets, and Walter White has had one foot in the grave the whole run. Mining tension and drama out of work and family seems a little tougher to me.

    I also loved Peaks, but not sure how it changed television, I haven’t seen anything that batshit crazy since.

  49. leahnz says:

    Paul, also not on crack (good for you, say no to crack – just look at charles sheen); i just watched the first two epic seasons of twin peaks with my 15 yr old and was unprepared for just how obsessed he became with it, so wonderfully perverse and hilarious and horrible and weird and mysterious and distasteful and jaunty and nightmarish, there’s nothing else like it

  50. Foamy Squirrel says:

    (good for you, say no to crack – just look at charles sheen)
    That’s “Carlos Estevez” to you!

  51. palmtree says:

    Game of Thrones definitely should be a candidate. Outside of its production value and other visual pleasures, it has scope. Even if it is a hermetically sealed world, the world is so huge and full of more complexity that any show except maybe The Wire.

  52. movieman says:

    Did anybody give a shout out to “St. Elsewhere”?
    That was “The Best TV Show Ever” back in its day, too.
    Not sure how (or even if) its held up; I haven’t watched an episode since the original airings. But I was definitely a fan.

  53. movieman says:

    And “The Larry Sanders Show” sort of reinvented the sitcom wheel–and began the era of HBO branding.

  54. christian says:

    TWIN PEAKS completely changed TV, incorporating dark surreal narrative with a genuine experimental presentation. I still say the “Dream Dance Of The Little Man” is perhaps the most surreal moment in TV history and things are a lot more free today because of TP…And definitely LARRY SANDERS.

  55. Keil S. says:

    Pre-Homicide TV, like most pre-Brando film, is far too unrealistic, no matter how cleverly conceived or innovative it seemed at the time. How can a nation raised on HBO dramas possibly sit through even the most respected “classic” TV shows without rolling their eyes at the hammy/theatrical acting and unrealistic dialogue? Most sitcoms, even current ones, still suffer from this, which is why something like The Office (UK) or Arrested Development garners so many instant die-hard fans. I tried watching a couple of random sitcoms in the past year, and I seriously thought I’d stepped into a time warp.

    It’s funny that American TV has reached its pinnacle by becoming more cinematic, while at the same time the American film industry has gone down the shitter by flooding the marketplace with action spectacles and comedies that are so moronic and outlandish that most cable channels wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole.

  56. Joe Leydon says:

    Bah, puny mortals. The Fugitive remains the best show in TV history. (Though St. Elsewhere and Homicide aren’t far behind.) And Harry O could have been even better if ABC hadn’t wimped out and canceled it after just 2 seasons.

  57. Keil S. says:

    I wish I could see The Fugitive, but it’s not available on Netflix or Hulu. Of course, I’d be interested to know when you last saw it in its entirety. And which of the shows I mentioned have you NOT seen in their entirety.

  58. leahnz says:

    “That’s “Carlos Estevez” to you”

    Ha foamy, ‘Carlos Estevez’, frequent customer of Pablo Escobar

    wow, i haven’t thought about st. elsewhere in ages, good call.

    (i think this thread shows how frighteningly young this blog tends to skew)

  59. lazarus says:

    hcat made a great point, something I’ve also brought up in discussions with friends. Mad Men is one of the few big shows of the last decade that doesn’t traffic in suspense on a weekly basis to the extent of the others (The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, The Shield, Game Of Thrones, LOST). And when the tension does come, it’s usually just some business matter, and isn’t heightened by music (which Mad Men tends to use in a more downbeat, introspective fashion).

    The tone, the pacing, the atmosphere…there really isn’t anything else like it in memory.

  60. Keil S. says:

    Lazarus, what about Treme?

  61. Smith says:

    RECTIFY is another no – or very little – suspense show, but I don’t think many people saw it.

  62. hcat says:

    Was Rectify the mini on Sundance Channel?

    ‘It’s funny that American TV has reached its pinnacle by becoming more cinematic, while at the same time the American film industry has gone down the shitter’

    While we can talk about all these great series, the majority of tv is still absolute shit, as bad as its ever been. Sure the studios rarely make the great movies of the year, but few of these series are made by the majors either (I would argue that sony while a major in film, is comparable to Lionsgate in television, both in terms of their product and lack of network and television interests).

  63. movieman says:

    Good call on “Homicide,” Joe.
    It was the first truly sophisticated (stylistically/narratively) cop show on network TV, and essentially created the template for the best of today’s procedurals (cable and otherwise).

  64. Smith says:

    Yeah, Rectify was on Sundance – not a mini, though, it’s coming back for a second season next year.

  65. christian says:

    Nothing on GOT has approached the levels of truth and insight of BEFORE MIDNIGHT. So please curb these silly “TV versus Film” debates that actually, only binge-watching cable viewers seem prone to bring up. It’s like saying, “Novels are better than poems!”

  66. palmtree says:

    One more since I don’t think it’s been mentioned yet…The Walking Dead.

  67. Paul Doro says:

    I don’t think The Walking Dead has ever been more than OK. It has flashes of greatness, but just as often is remarkably stupid.

  68. anghus says:

    Walking Dead is the most baffling show to me ever. When i heard it was coming to television, i was excited. I watched the first season and thought it was fighting to get to average. The second season is a master class in terrible pacing. Four episodes into the season and the kid is still wretching in bed from a gunshot wound. I was so bored i stopped watching.

    I have friends who encourage me to watch. I tell them how i stopped watching in season 2 and most say this

    “Oh yeah, the second season is terrible. But it really picks up in the third season.”

    It all kind of goes back to that fanboy stuff we were talking about earlier. People will watch a show, even one they consider to be not great, because it’s a show that speaks to their sensibilities. Like women with Sex and the City. It doesn’t matter how bad it gets, they will hang with the show.

    And for awhile i thought it was because there were so few shows out there speaking to a certain audiences. Geeks were ignored for a long time in mainstream television. But now everything is Sci/Fi or Supernatural. Hell, CW is now nothing but genre programming for teens. Every major network is putting out sci-fi geek friendly programming.

    There are so many choices out there now for the nerd-conscious consumer. It’s not like back in the day when you had Star Trek the Next Generation in syndication and maybe got a Hulk TV movie every couple of years. The market is flooded with content. You would think that would force people to be more creative, but the shows are often remarkably lazy. The Walking Dead is a lazy show. Plodding, intentionally slow, and stretching out storylines to interminable lengths.

    I’d call The Walking Dead the most wildly overpraised show ever, but even it’s fans openly admit it’s faults.

  69. Paul Doro says:

    I wasn’t impressed with season 3. It’s really not much of an improvement on the painfully slow second season. The Governor never fully works as a character or foil for Rick and Andrea becomes a complete disaster. One of the worst, most annoying characters in television history. Some fans openly admit its faults but it sure does have a lot of passionate followers, many of whom will not admit it has any faults whatsoever.

  70. palmtree says:

    1. I’m not a fanboy, and The Walking Dead is not my sensibility. I hate zombie movies and zombie stories. Never interested in them until this show.

    2. Yes, it’s slow, but I never took it for being a fast show. In fact, it’s there from the beginning…the first episode is extremely slow and eerie and uneventful. Why it needs to be constant action and constant danger is beyond me, especially when so many here are quick to praise Mad Men for doing just that.

    3. I don’t care what faults a show has if it is able to reach amazing heights. Walking Dead can and has reached those heights. A completely faultless show probably doesn’t exist. It’s far too easy to dismiss any show based on a faults, but a lot harder to deny that a show has taken its characters, its story, and its audience on an unforgettable journey. Sorry to get dopey about it.

  71. Paul Doro says:

    I’m not looking for and don’t expect constant action from The Walking Dead, but season 2 was incredibly slow and extremely dull. Felt like they were on the farm for years, and too much focus on Sophia, a previously minor character. Season 3 wasn’t much better. The best episode was the one focusing mainly on Rick and that other guy (the one from season 1) just talking. Andrea seriously didn’t bother you at all in season 3? Her constant stupidity? She was insufferable. And for me the Governor just never clicked. The Walking Dead has huge, gaping faults.

  72. Keil S. says:

    I enjoy Walking Dead, but it’s never been great. Weak characterization and a bland main protagonistis are its primary flaws. Still, it has at least avoided becoming as ludicrous and scattershot as True Blood.

  73. Don Lewis says:

    That “Dream Dance Of The Little Man” sequence in TWIN PEAKS scared me so fucking bad (and I was like, 19 at the time) that I literally RAN to a friends house 4 blocks away to tell him what I just saw. His phone was busy when I tried to call. Ah, memories.

  74. movieman says:

    I actually thought Season 3 of “Walking Dead” was the strongest to date (largely because of the addition of The Governor).
    But silly me. I kept telling everyone last summer that “True Blood” was having its best season since the first (2008) one, and everyone else seemed to think that’s when it officially jumped the shark (which I kind of thought it had done the previous year), lol.
    Still enjoying “GOT,” but it’s just never been wildly compelling to me. Maybe because it’s so hard to keep track of characters (and their relationships to each other, familial and otherwise), battles, continents, vendettas, etc. if you haven’t read the books.
    I think it’s pretty safe to say that “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” really are the best shows on TV today. Certainly the two finest series to premiere in the post-“Sopranos” era.

  75. movieman says:

    I’d never dispute the mastery of “Twin Peaks” (even the truncated second season which everyone else seemed to loathe).
    But it seemed like such a one-off at the time that it barely registers today as something that was ever on network television.
    I wonder how many seasons of “TP” FX, AMC or HBO could have squeezed out of Lynch if they’d been around back in the early ’90s…

  76. Don Lewis says:

    I’m with what anghus alluded to this above: if a TV show had ONE amazing season, it shouldn’t qualify as a “best TV show ever” candidate. It’s like saying your sports team would have won it all if not for injuries. Well, winning teams don’t get decimated by injuries. Winning shows last more than ONE season. Ask HEROES about that one, great season and their place on the “greatest TV shows ever” list.

  77. palmtree says:

    I think the Governor was one of the stronger elements, because more than being a foil, he is a true villain. That he comes so late in the story makes his potential that much greater…I’m excited to see where it goes.

    The Sophia subplot was tedious perhaps but again it paid off!

    Also, I admit since I don’t know anything about zombie culture that perhaps my excitement for it lies in learning about zombies. I simply had no idea you could do such interesting things with them.

  78. christian says:

    One season of TWIN PEAKS towers over 90 percent of any multi-season show (and its influence coms from all those show creators who watched and sublimated its style and daring. Remember, Lynch made the cover of TIME for TP)

    And if the shows start sucking in the third or fourth season — as most do — then that makes the show less worthy? Most series DON’T KNOW when to end and thus start sucking because most shows suck by that metric. And there have been some great “one season” shows. But without endings, they’re all “in process” so how to judge?

  79. LexG says:

    Absolutely every friend in my age range — 35-45 let’s say — finds it inconceivable, INCONCEIVABLE, that I’d pay 10 bucks and spend two hours watching something like, say, 21 AND OVER or THE INTERNSHIP in a theater…

    Then they spend like NINE YEARS OF THEIR LIFE watching Dexter.

    Different strokes.

  80. YancySkancy says:

    “How can a nation raised on HBO dramas possibly sit through even the most respected ‘classic’ TV shows without rolling their eyes at the hammy/theatrical acting and unrealistic dialogue?”

    I’d say this simply doesn’t describe the “most respected” classic shows. Sure, there are aspects of style and technique that become dated, but these should be allowed for as much as possible when trying to judge the shows. To me, this often adds to the experience, because these shows reflect the time in which they were made, as we would expect most good shows to do.

    I watch and love a lot of current shows (including MAD MEN, JUSTIFIED, THE AMERICANS, BREAKING BAD, SUITS, LOUIE, GIRLS, BATES MOTEL, GAME OF THRONES, NASHVILLE, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, RIPPER STREET, REVENGE, LONGMIRE, etc. — luckily, only a few of these are airing at any given time, or I guess I’d never leave the house). But maybe the best thing on TV right now is Me-TV’s repeats of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW, even if its roots are in vaudeville and it was made under the restrictions of 50s network television. A lot of great Western shows still hold up, too — HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, THE RIFLEMAN, WAGON TRAIN, MAVERICK, THE WESTERNER. LEAVE IT TO BEAVER gets a lot of crap as an “unrealistic” or idealized show, but the kids in that are 100 times more real than the average modern sitcom kid. The 50s version of DRAGNET has a lot of great visual storytelling, as spare as Bresson, but everyone just wants to make fun of the staccato “Just the facts” dialogue delivery. Such 60s shows as THE PRISONER and I SPY don’t fit the mold. THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW is wonderful human comedy. I could go on and on.

    As hcat said above, most TV is shit–same as it ever was. But there’s great stuff from every era. You just have to look a little deeper sometimes.

  81. anghus says:

    The art form has evolved. Both cinema and film.

    That’s my obvious statement of the day.

    You watch old movies, the acting is hammy. The first time i watched Sunset Boulevard, i laughed audibly. And this was in a classroom. Techniques improved. Actors learned to reign it in. That less could be more. And the craft vastly improved. So did the movies.

    Television used to be played broad as well. Television was seen as a second class medium. Real actors did film. Television was where people who couldn’t cut it on the big screen ended up. That’s just not true anymore.

    The last fifteen years has really been a revelation for what TV is capable of. And yes, your best shows of all time all probably come from the last decade or so. Simply because HBO stepped up and so many other cable networks stepped up and said ‘me too’. Showtime, AMC, FX are putting out great shows. Other networks are starting to catch up.

    What’s funny is how USA has become hugely popular simply by aping what used to work for the networks. Shows that you would have seen on NBC or ABC are now filling up their original programming. Stuff like Burn Notice, Suits, etc. The network is basically the kind of programming that used to be popular on network television.

    There are some great old shows. But they look kind of rinky dink next to some of the new ones. Not their fault, simply a product of the evolution of the medium.

    And i just read James Gandolfini passed away.

  82. Greg says:

    What a surprise! I’m shocked!!

    Who could have seen his death coming?

    He was such a pleasant fellow and took such good care of himself.

    Im guessing his family is wishing he would have taken a little better care.

  83. PcChongor says:

    So, are most of these “television finally coming into its own” posts from U.S. viewers? The BBC has been killing it for decades now, the pinnacle of which was the original debut of “The Singing Detective.”

  84. YancySkancy says:

    “You watch old movies, the acting is hammy.”

    This is reductionist and ignores a lot of old movies and great actors. Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Cary Grant. Are there people who prefer the subtleties (cough) of Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi? Some actors overact, some don’t. Then and now. Dialogue was indeed often more stylized back then, and the performances reflected it. But much of the vaunted realism of “the Method” now looks ridiculously over the top, and was even parodied fairly early on. At any rate, just about any style of acting can work if it’s appropriate to the material.

    “The first time i watched Sunset Boulevard, i laughed audibly.”

    There’s one over-the-top performance in SUNSET BOULEVARD–Gloria Swanson’s. But she’s playing an insane woman who was a top silent film diva. The broad gesticulating was appropriate to her history and her madness. If William Holden and Nancy Olsen had performed in the same style, I, too, would have laughed the film off the screen. (By the way, Wilder intended audiences of that time to laugh at much of Swanson’s behavior, just like Holden is amused by it–when he’s not horrified.)

  85. YancySkancy says:

    Greg: Yes, let’s take the opportunity of Gandolfini’s death to pass judgement on what we presume his lifestyle was. Because, as we all know, everyone who’s packing a few extra pounds dies early. Why, just look at Charles Durning, who only made it to 89.

  86. christian says:

    “The first time i watched Sunset Boulevard, i laughed audibly.”

    Glad you weren’t at the screening I saw with Billy Wilder in attendance. We all laughed audibly too — at the great satire and witty dialogue.

  87. movieman says:

    The restaurant scene between Doug and his dad in “Not Fade Away” is Gandolfini’s greatest non-“Sopranos” moment, and one of my favorite movie moments from 2012.
    He deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination for that film, and might have gotten one, too, if anyone had actually seen “NFA.”
    Bon voyage to one of the finest–and surely most iconic–actors of his generation.

  88. Paul Doro says:

    I vividly remember seeing True Romance for the first time and thinking who is this guy. He sure makes an impression. Have been a huge fan ever since. He will be missed. Very sad.

  89. MarkVH says:

    “You watch old movies, the acting is hammy. The first time i watched Sunset Boulevard, i laughed audibly. And this was in a classroom. Techniques improved. Actors learned to reign it in. That less could be more. And the craft vastly improved. So did the movies.”

    “This is reductionist and ignores a lot of old movies and great actors.”

    I’ll go one further – it’s complete horseshit, and shows absolutely zero appreciation for or understanding of the cinematic art itself. I sat in film studies classrooms and heard people around me laugh audibly at old movies too, and found the ignorance of these people, who were supposed to be serious about studying films, astonishing. I’ve got news for you – if you were one of them, the problem isn’t the “hammy” acting or the movie. It’s you.

    Opinions like this are why film appreciation is dying, and geek culture has taken over. It’s reductionist, all right, and stupid, and wrong. Get your head out of your ass.

  90. palmtree says:

    I saw Gandolfini on stage in God of Carnage. He was great, and will be missed. And my first memory of him was in Get Shorty…RIP.

  91. anghus says:

    My head is squarely out of my ass. Finding some old “classics” hammy isn’t remotely part of the problem. The problem is those who don’t even bother to watch. The people with those shrink wrapped DVDs of classics they don’t even bother to watch them because they’re streaming the second season of American Chopper on Netflx.

    Never fault those of us who took the time to watch. Because trust me, I’ve watched them all. And yes, I laughed at some hammy acting. Its a natural reaction and fuck you for assuming its wrong you sanctimonious twat. Art is subjective. There is no wrong reaction. Love. Hate. Whatever.

    I love when people claim you’re watching a movie wrong or you had a wrong reaction.

  92. christian says:

    Watching an older movie and acting superior to it is a common pov among the culturally aloof and unaware.

  93. MarkVH says:

    Anghus, allow me to apologize for the “head out of your ass” comment – it was uncalled for and unnecessary.

    That said, Christian is right. You can call me a sanctimonious twat all you’d like, but laughing at older movies IS a part of the problem, and a major one. It assumes a sophistication and superiority to the material that just isn’t there, and I have no problem telling you how to react – or, perhaps more accurately, how not to react to them. While taking the time to watch older films is admirable, the way you say it makes it sound like you’ve put yourself through some kind of torturous exercise just so you can say you saw them. Taking the time to watch is only the first step. Good on you for doing so. The next one is taking the time to appreciate.

    More to the point, however, is that making a blanket statement about the “hamminess” of the acting in older films shows a remarkable cultural ignorance. You can say that acting techniques have evolved, but assuming they’ve “improved” as a result of this is a fallacy, and a dangerous one. It makes the natural leap that audiences accustomed to viewing modern acting are somehow more sophisticated than those who grew up on “old” movies, when I’d argue that the opposite is the case. More importantly, though, it robs the films themselves of their cultural relevance and makes them artifacts, when in fact they’re living, breathing works meant to be engaged and enjoyed and appreciated today as much as novels or paintings. It’s like arguing that artistic works created before the 20th (or 21st) century lack relevance today simply because they’re old, and it’s preposterous on its face.

    Let’s take a more recent example. I don’t think there’s a person in the world who would argue that Montalban’s performance as Khan in Trek II is not “hammy.” But does that automatically make it inferior to Cumberbatch’s work in the same role in Into Darkness simply because it was made 30 years later? Does it make “Wrath of Khan” itself worthy of derision? And by that rationale, are we to assume that the acting in ’80s films is somehow inherently superior to that of those in the ’70s simply by virtue of the fact that it came later? Or the ’90s to the ’80s?

    Certainly there’s going to be an urge to laugh at some of the acting in older movies. But at a certain point you learn to resist it, and then you move past it. Those who are unable to do this are as much of a problem as those who refuse to watch altogether.

  94. Sam says:

    Acting style is just that: style. Style is like anything — different styles go in and out of fashion. Because moviegoers today tend to only see new releases, they’re only ever exposed to whatever happens to be current. They get used to it, and so if they see something different, they judge it substandard. They presume it is aspiring to be like the current standard and failing, rather than trying to be exactly what it is.

    If audiences of the 1940s saw movies from 2012, I wonder if they would also laugh at the “hammy” acting. They would be just as wrong to do so as someone from today laughing at acting from back then. But what I’m getting at is that acting hasn’t improved so much as evolved.

    It is the unevolved filmgoer who doesn’t recognize this.

  95. brack says:

    I have only watched this show on blu ray or dvr. I’ve never seen it live. One of my favorite shows, but did it deserve all those Emmys year after year? Probably not. But I hate the Emmys in general because they overlook a lot of “lesser” network/cable channels year after year. I’m taping all of this season though. My guess is that this show is probably losing its novelty, seems to be getting mixed reviews this season. I thought last season was its weakest. I’ve avoided all spoilers thus far. Will catch up with it all soon.

  96. YancySkancy says:

    anghus, all due respect, it absolutely IS possible to form a “wrong” opinion about a movie if you misinterpret what it’s doing. If you mistake the intentional humor in SUNSET BLVD. for unintentional humor, that may be on you, not the filmmaker. This is not to say that intentional humor can’t suck–but that goes more to taste than interpretation. If you “get” the humor in SB but just don’t find it funny, no worries. If you think it’s being funny in spite of itself, I’d have no problem calling that a “wrong” interpretation.

  97. anghus says:

    Im certainly not stupid enough to argue that wasn’t intentional humor in Sunset Boulevard. There’s no confusion there. I’ve seen it a few times. And yet, i would still call that performance unintentionally funny. Here’s a clip as an example:

    It would hardly take a genius to see the funny in this scene. But i still think Swanson’s eye-bugging delivery is kind of… well, i think it’s better suited for the stage playing to the back of the house. I get that’s part of the character, and why SB might not be a great example since Swanson is playing that kind of actress. You could endlessly defend her performance by saying ‘that’s the character she’s playing’. So bad example on my part.

    My whole point was ‘acting has gotten better’. SB may have been a poor example to illustrate that point.

    That kind of painfully over the top ‘acting’ is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I’m the guy who chuckled through The Iron Lady because i thought Meryl Streep was doing Mrs. Doubtfire. And they gave her an Academy Award for that. So maybe im not the expert in this category.

    But Yancy, just because there’s intended humor in a scene doesn’t mean it can’t be unintentionally funny. In that scene i posted, i wasn’t chuckling at the witty banter or the morbid nature of the scene. I was laughing at her facial ticks and cadence. But i suppose you’re asserting those are intentional…

    The moral of the story… Never use a movie about a bad actress to make a point about bad acting

  98. MarkVH says:

    “My whole point was ‘acting has gotten better’.”

    And your whole point is wrong.

  99. YancySkancy says:

    anghus: Shhh…you’ll wake up the monkey.

    Well, we can certainly agree that Swanson’s performance in SB is a bad example for your argument. And yes, I will assert that “her facial ticks and cadence” were intentional attempts at humor. I mean, right there in the scene with her is Holden, whose character notices and reacts with amusement to her over-the-top demeanor and dialogue. It’s pretty much the point of the scene. Of course, Swanson wasn’t obligated to play it that way; she could’ve brought it down a notch or two and still been effective. But to say that her (and Wilder’s) choice is somehow indicative of the general style of acting in 1950 is simply off the mark. Again, Holden is disproving this in the very same scene.

    I think there’s a general tendency (not saying this applies to you) for young people to see a handful of older films and make the assumption that they are somehow typical of EVERYTHING made prior to their birth. But there are innumerable examples of subtle, nuanced acting in films throughout the 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. Heck, even many silent film actors did rather naturalistic work (look at John Gilbert in 1925’s THE BIG PARADE–utterly natural and low-key; one of the best performances I’ve ever seen).

    The real problem with giving examples of bad acting in old films is that there are way too many counter-examples. Conversely, I could put together a reel of films from the last few years jam-packed with ridiculously over-the-top or undercooked performances, but it wouldn’t “prove” that acting has gotten worse.

  100. palmtree says:

    Fascinating discussion.

    I’d like to submit Streetcar Named Desire as an exhibit. What more extreme example than Marlon Brando’s legendary Method performance next to the histrionics of Vivien Leigh. Of course it just fed into her delusional character.

  101. YancySkancy says:

    I should probably admit that I would have probably agreed with anghus about Swanson if someone had asked my opinion after my first viewing of the film, when I was in my teens. I didn’t immediately appreciate what she was doing.

    As for STREETCAR, haven’t seen it lately, but yeah, Leigh definitely seems more traditionally “theatrical” than Brando, in terms of how her performance is scaled. But I’m guessing it would still work for me because of the nature of her character (as palmtree suggests). Brando is brilliant, but I’ve always felt his style (and “the Method” style in general) was just as stylized as most other styles of acting–sort of like realism in quotation marks or something. Or emphasizing different aspects of realism (the inarticulate aspect, for instance).

  102. anghus says:

    I’m not totally anti old movies. On the Waterfront is still one of my all time favorites.

    When I read that previous sentence, it sounds like the cinematic equivalent of “some of my best friends are black”.

    Mark,we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  103. leahnz says:

    it’s a gross generalisation i know but roughly moving from the classical era into ‘new hollywood’ acting style became more ‘naturalistic’ as film-making techniques and the way movies are staged changed, but it’s a serious stretch to say acting has gotten ‘better’, you could provide a kazillion examples to the contrary

  104. MarkVH says:

    It’s ageism, essentially, only instead of saying acting was uniformly better “back in my day” you’re trying to make the case that it’s better now simply by virtue of the fact that the performances are being created in the modern era. It doesn’t fly, and it’s damaging to any attempt at serious study or appreciation of the medium.

  105. palmtree says:

    Method is super-stylized…that’s part of the point that no one style is correct. There’s now a backlash against actors who think they are “method,” because it’s seen as self-indulgent. They use method as an excuse for bad behavior and forgetting their lines, etc.

  106. GexL says:

    Who has TIME to watch all this nonsense? Do none of you have jobs/lives/families/fulfilling artistic careers like me?

  107. Sam says:

    I present the following performances for our review:

    * Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box
    * Mark Wahlberg in The Happening

    What? Of course these are random performances, not cherry-picked at all.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon