Tag: Television

Conspiracies and Manipulation (the good kind of both)

A couple Mad Men notes this morning.

MadMen

STOP!

While reviewing the past couple episodes in preparation for tonight’s first-viewing of the new ep, a couple interesting lines of thought came through.

First off, I’ve noticed in the past couple years, that Mad Men has been leading the charge against DVRing and fast-forwarding through the commercials. While some are going for the “we’ll make them stop and watch the commercials” by turning off the ability in some devices/cable systems, AMC is accepting the practice will continue, and programs to take advantage of it, or at least mitigate the damage.

When you fast-forward through video content, you are watching with the maximum amount of attention you have, because you’re trying to determine exactly when to hit “play” and resume watching the show. AMC is inserting quick Mad Men promos in the commercial blocks in order to trigger that “STOP” reflex. They get promo views, and hopefully, the fast-forwarding viewer will assume the show will be right back, and lays off the accelerate button. I would imagine the advertiser whose spot follows the FF-break pays a higher rate.

Last season, an advertiser created a campaign that looked and felt like Mad Men, and would always cause me to stop the advance, but I can’t remember the client, so I guess that explains it’s absence. Here’s an NPR story on the campaign.

There’s also an ongoing rush of Mad Men stars starring in ads that play during the show. Christine Hendricks (“Joan” on the show) does a whiskey spot, and John Slattery (Roger) voices and appears sometimes in commercials for Lincoln-Mercury, but the best is Jon Hamm as the voice of American Airlines, the big fish his firm of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce needs, but never gets. Ironically, Hamm’s character, Don Draper, has always been against going for AA, since they have an airline client in the small, regional (and fictional) Mohawk Airlines.

Foreshadowing?

NewImage

In the episode “The Better Half” recently, Megan was seen on the balcony of the Drapers’ Central Park high-rise apartment in her underwear. Some viewers, understandably, didn’t notice the emblem on her t-shirt, a large red star. No, Megan isn’t displaying her support for AMC’s newest show, The Amerikans, but she is wearing a shirt identical to the one actress Sharon Tate wore in an Esquire Magazine photo shoot. Sharon Tate, you may remember, was murdered in the Hollywood Hills by Charles Manson and his band of merry crazies.

Internet blogs and discussion boards are buzzing with the theory that Megan will be killed, citing Don and Betty’s daughter, Sally, was reading Rosemary’s Baby (the movie Sharon Tate was starring in when she was killed, by the way) and the season’s poster, which features a number of police officers. Here’s a good roundup of the rumors.

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Line of Duty

American TV used to be good at the mini-series, the first of note being Roots, another being V. Heck, even Battlestar Galactica (the new one, not the old Star Wars ripoff version) was initially a mini-series that found an audience and became a several season series.

But, for a number of reasons, American TV moved away from the 5 or 6 episode series, to more open-ended shows that, if they proved to find an audience, could go on laying golden eggs for a long time. It’s a shame we do that, because when a show is designed to go on and on, there’s great motivation to not mess with key characters. Certain standout shows have been able to refresh by changing characters out, whether the method used is death or moving on. Law and Order (oops, sorry, I meant THIS ONE) comes to mind, as does House. More recently, Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy have killed main characters off, but in truth, both of those shows have arcs that are designed to play out in a relatively short time.

Television in the U.K. continues the tradition of the mini-series though, and do it really well with Line of Duty, available in the U.S. on Hulu+ Though Line of Duty has been picked up for a second season, the five episodes that make up the first season are a complete story with an extremely final and conclusive (if not perfectly satisfying) ending. Oh, it’s satisfying as storytelling goes, it’s just not the kind of “feel-good-balance-and-justice-is-restored” kind of ending American audiences love. If you doubt that, ask yourself why the awesome Rubicon on AMC wasn’t picked up for a second season.

Lennie James is a familiar face if you are a fan of Jericho, the aforementioned The Walking Dead or Hung. Of course, if you do know James from any of those shows, instead of from, say, Snatch, you assume from his accent (or lack thereof) he’s American. He’s not. He grew up in South London. In Line of Duty, he is fabulous as a somewhat (not very, but a little) crooked cop, who because of a couple bad decisions, ends up a very crooked cop. There are elements of The Shield  present in Line of Duty, but it is a very original and interesting story. Well written and directed, it’s a thrilling 250 minutes of television. 

I’m very happy Line of Duty is going to continue on to season two, and whether or not it stars Martin Compston and Vicki McClure, I’ll be watching.

Side note, also starring is the wonderful Neil Morrissey, known as the star of the British Men Behaving Badly, one of many shows American networks tried to translate from British TV but botched. The Brit MBH was awesome. He was also the British voice of Bob the Builder, and my personal choice as the actor most like to play Paul McCartney when Sir Paul’s definitive bio-pic is produced (at least that’s what I told Sir Paul when I had the honor of doing a one-on-one interview with him in 2001).

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The Straits

I’ve been a Hulu+ user since the beginning of their pay service, and at first, wasn’t a big fan. There didn’t really seem to be any benefit to paying for the content, since not everything was available, and you still had to endure commercials.

Except for the commercials, that’s all changed. There’s a lot of content, some of the best being The Straits, a bit of a melding of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and even a little Sons of Anarchy thrown in. It’s dark, funny, and full of drug and gun-running crime. Oh, family stuff, too.

The story, an Australian ABC1 production, centers around Harry Montebello, played by Brian Cox. Harry’s London born, but came to Australia in his 20s. He has a Torrest Strait born wife whose mother was Maori. Kitty helped Harry create a thriving crime family with their four adopted children.

The writing is excellent, the characters sharply drawn, making it easy for the viewer to understand the setting and the conflicts from the first episode.

Like Line of Duty, Hulu+ is coming through with great content. Well worth the monthly fee.

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