I’ve been watching Mad Men Season 1 on DVD, and it inspired me to post. Not about the intelligence and subtly of the scripts*; nor the depth and perception of the characterisation, or the sheer quality of the acting; not even the breathtaking beauty of the design and photography. No, what I wanted, need to say was about… the blurb on the sleeve.
Specifically this quote, from Metro: “AS NEAR TO GENIUS AS TV GETS”
As near to genius as TV gets. As near to genius as the dumb, humble, upstart medium that has given us The Wire, The Sopranos, Shameless, I Claudius, Buffy, The Singing Detective, Fawlty Towers, Cracker, Dexter, Doctor Who, Band of Brothers, Edge of Darkness, Boys from The Blackstuff, Blackadder, The Simpsons, Hustle, The West Wing, Twin Peaks, The Twlight Zone, Generation Kill and The Clangers gets?**
Paxman recently called the public a "bunch of barbarians" because watching TV is our favourite leisure activity, which David Mitchell brilliantly dealt with here evoking the memory of Why Don’t You (Just Switch Off Your TV And Do Something Less Boring Instead?) There’s an ad that crop up occasionally on the BBC encouraging people to read that perfectly sums up this snobbery. It shows celebs reading aloud - not just poetry and literature, but trashy romances and and celeb gossip magazines. The message from Auntie to the proles is clear: TV bad. Reading good. In other words, you’re better off reading Mills and Boon than watching, say, The Wire or the Beeb’s searing Iraq drama Occupation
Of course there’s a lot of crap on the telly. But guess what? 90% of everything is crap (It’s called Sturgeon's law) You could even argue that TV is the most exciting medium at the moment, certainly in America.*** Can you name a body of work in any medium as entertaining, as exciting, as innovative, as insightful as the output of subscription cable TV networks like HBO and Showtime? (The Sopranos, The Wire, Dexter, Mad Men etc.) Because if you can, I’d love to read/watch/listen to it.****
*although if I was I’d certainly include this key line from the Pilot “So we’re supposed to believe that people are all living one way but secretly thinking the exact opposite? That’s ridiculous,” spoken by repressed homosexual Salvatore Romano that prefectly captures the tension between appearence and reality that is arguably the shows dominant theme. But I'm not going to.
**and of course Blake’s 7
***British TV struggles to match it despite the occasionally Red Riding, The Devil’s Whore, the aforementioned Occupation, but doesn’t have the budgets to (and/or the will??) to do it as consistently.
****Film Animation is the only example I can think of - the mighty works of Pixar and Dreamworks.