Television and Mad Men

So, the season premiere of Mad Men happened Sunday night. I DVRed it and watched it later that night. We’ll get into my thoughts on it later, but I’m glad it’s back. First, let me explain my television viewing habits: I rarely if ever watch network tv, I watch a lot of the History, Discovery channels and all their offshoots. I usually don’t sit down planning to watch something; I just check my block of channels and can usually find something interesting to watch. I have at the moment 4 shows that I actually keep up with and will religiously watch: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Homeland. I’ve watched other shows like Dexter in the past, but those four are my go to shows. Now I realize that makes me a bit of a tv snob since at least the first two are critically acclaimed but not actually watched by nearly as many people as many other shows.

Anyway, Mad Men is back after a fairly long hiatus. It at one time was my favorite show on television and I’d still highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys intelligent, well written, and well shot tv shows. But I have to say, I was more than a bit underwhelmed by the two hour premiere. In the past there’s been many episodes of Mad Men or the other shows I’ve mentioned where the time flew by and I was sad when they ended. Sunday night I actually caught myself looking at the DVR to see how much longer was left. It still looks great, has some great characters, and had some good scenes, but nothing that reached out and grabbed me.

Of course the one thing about Mad Men is that it’s one of those shows that’s often paced a bit slow, and even more often takes a few episodes to really get going, which is why those with short attention spans often can’t get into it. So I’m not going to stop watching it, I just hope that the next episode grabs me.

As I was thinking about why I wasn’t that impressed with the first new episode of a show I love, I came up with two theories: one being that after it having been gone so long and in the interim and me watching shows like Homeland and Game of Thrones which are far less understated and more conventionally “exciting” that my palate wasn’t quite prepared for the pacing of Mad Men immediately. This could very likely be the case so I’m hoping that I’ll get back into the world of it by the next episode.

My other theory was that Matt Weiner, the creator/showrunner, has a bit fallen prey to what I call the “David Chase” syndrome. David Chase if you don’t know him, was the creator/showrunner of the Sopranos, arguably one of the best, most influential shows of the past 20 years. I loved and still love the Sopranos, but towards the later seasons, Chase had the reputation of getting a bit full of himself. His vision of his show was the interactions of a family plus the psychiatric stuff, with the fact that it was a Mafia family being somewhat secondary. He reportedly didn’t like the fact that fans of the show focused on the violence and organized crime parts of the show, or even that they rooted for Tony, a complete psychopath.

There would be episodes composed entirely of Tony having a dream and his issues with his dead mother, or him in a coma dream where he was just a salesman at a convention, where it almost seemed like Chase was thumbing his nose at the people who didn’t “get” his artistic view of the show. Then there was the famous ending of the show *spoiler alert* where the family was all together in a diner and all of a sudden the screen just went black, so suddenly that people actually thought their cable might have gone out. But no, his ending was just a fade to black with no resolution, and since then in interviews he’s hinted one way or another as to what happened almost playfully. Many fans and critics actually took this lack of resolution as his ultimate fuck you to the fans who glorified in the violence of the show but didn’t get “his” vision.

Now I don’t know a lot about Matt Weiner, other than watching every episode of his show, and hearing some about his negotiations with his network, AMC, but I kinda get the idea that he might be in the David Chase mold of showrunners. As in he has his vision of the show and where it’s going to go, and doesn’t really care what other people think. There’s definitely been some Tony Soprano dream-like episodes of Mad Men over the last few seasons, and I get the feeling that Weiner considers his show more art than entertainment at times. So while I generally love the show, there may be times where I just don’t get his vision for an episode here and there.

The first episode of this season was certainly well crafted, written, acted, and shot, and I can appreciate that, but I found it ultimately unsatisfying, even boring at times. As I’ve said, I don’t know if that was because I have gotten used to more action and suspense filled shows and need to ease back into Mad Men, or if I just didn’t get Weiner’s vision in this particular episode. I’ll certainly be watching next week and I’m sure the rest of the season, I just hope that it really grabs me at some point as all previous seasons have.

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Rants and Ramblings

I’m on spring break now, which while it’s nice not having to worry about classes for the week, more makes me sad since I can remember when spring break actually meant something. I still have a bit of work to keep me busy during the day but I’m bored as all hell tonight. I don’t know if it has something to do with the fact that I live alone and am alone so much, or if it’s just how my mind works, but sometimes I just get a feeling I can best describe as malaise. It’s not just being bored, it’s being bored to the point where anything I can think of doing sounds boring too. So, I figured I might as well try to kill some time by writing for a few.

Right now I have Chopped on the Food Network on in the background. I actually like the show but it reminded me of something that annoys the hell out of me: commercials. Chopped is one of those shows that does the cliffhanger commercial break before they eliminate someone etc. Obviously if it’s a show like Mad Men that I actually follow I’ll DVR it and fast foward through the commercials, but on a night like tonight where I’m just flipping, I’m forced to watch them. I think maybe I’m one of those people that tends to notice annoying or stupid things more than other people: obviously a great talent to have.

I think it was watching a lot of the NCAA basketball tourney that pushed me over the edge, because they not only have mandated tv timeouts but towards the end of games they go to commercial practically everytime someone is fouled and whenever a coach calls a timeout, which is a lot. I’ve realized that I despise most commercials. Now I understand that the reason that I’m getting to watch the NCAA’s or whatever show for free is that there are commercials and that they are a necessary evil. I just hate the fact that people that get paid millions upon millions of dollars per year..ie…the advertising firms, can’t come up with something even mildly clever and non insulting to my intelligence 75% of the time.

Granted, and not to sound arrogant, I realize that I’m more intelligent than a large amount of people in this country, and that I also have a tendency to get annoyed by things that others don’t notice, but seriously. Whether it’s the fact that most commercials portray men as bumbling idiots, or all groups of people together are apparently legally mandated to include a minority, or that every 4th commercial is for an insurance company that’s trying to tell me what great people they are and how they are going to improve my life, I can barely take it anymore.

Quick(or not so quick sidebar): I know I’ve bitched about insurance company commercials before but I feel the need to get deeper into that. As far as insurance companies go, we are either legally mandated to buy your product..ie…car insurance, or we buy it for peace of mind as in life or homeowner or other types of insurance. In turn, you bank on the fact that your customers will pay you more than you will ever have to actually pay out to them in claims. You’re a business, and from the fact that five or six insurance companies can afford to buy huge amounts of advertising time during big sporting events and primetime shows, you’re apparently raking in the cash. So quit trying to make out like you’re some charity made up of great people that just want to help your customers and that our lives will be better if we have an AllStateFarmGeico insurance policy. You’re looking to make money, not unlike any other business, but Starbucks doesn’t try to convince me that they are making my coffee to make my life better.

Insurance company ads are about as disingenuous as beer commercials where they basically imply that you have to have Bud or Miller or whatever beer at your party to have a good time, yet in tiny words at the bottom of the ad they tell you to drink responsibly. They don’t want you to drink responsibly, they could care less as long as you buy their product. They probably would prefer you don’t headon a family while driving drunk, but outside of that, they are responsible for as many deaths as cigarette companies, yet noone is up in arms at Anheuser Busch or Coors. I looked this up one time, because with people who have been shot suing gun companies, I was surprised that an alcohol company had never been sued for a drunk driving death. But apparently the alcohol lobby is strong, because it’s never happened.

But, despite the fact that the hypocrisy of these various industries’ ads, the ones that bother me the most are the ones that just flat out insult my intelligence. Every now and then you’ll see a clever ad campaign, but most of them are just mind numbingly stupid. Whether it’s the myriad of commercials that imply or flat out show that all men are apparently morons, or the commercials for a product that you’ve never heard of that do nothing to tell you what that product is, to the GoDaddy commercials that imply if you log onto their website that you’ll see Danica Patrick naked, just ugh. And then you have the pharmaceutical commercials for drugs for things that most people don’t really want to know about..ie…ED, problems with pissing, herpes, etc. And of course the government mandate that they tell you all the possible side effects that invariably sound worse than whatever was wrong with you in the first place.

Anyway, I could rant about this all night long but I’ll stop now. I’d just like to say that if your job is to get paid a shitload of money to come up with an ad campaign, earn your freaking money and don’t act like EVERY person in this country is a drooling moron.

Late night commercial rant

As I’ve said before in several posts, including my last one, I’m a night owl and also a frequent sufferer of insomnia. So I watch a lot of tv late at night if I’m not reading or while I’m doing stuff on my ipad. The shows on late at night aren’t always that bad but the commercials are literally so bad that they both make me feel bad about myself for apparently being in their demographic by being up at this time and make me want to throw something.

Some of my personal “favorites” include the lawyers(scumbags) trolling for Mesothelioma victims and people who took various drugs where everyone knew the side effects but apparently that doesn’t mean you still can’t sue. I mean I’m a guy and yet I know that if you take birth control pills there’s an increased risk of blood clots or stroke, and I’ve known since I was a kid that if you take too much tylenol it can fuck up your liver, but apparently you can sue for these things now.

Then there’s the nice lady who wants to have your catheter supplies sent right to your house! Complete with testimonials about how great said catheters are from “real” customers.

Then there’s the Lipozene commercial. This is a “drug” for “warning: only people who want to lose serious body fat”, complete with testimonials from real satisfied customers and claims of a university double blind study. I’ve always thought that if I was such a bad actor that the best I could do for a job was to play a satisfied customer on a bullshit late night commercial for a sham product, I’d think maybe it was time to find another job because acting just isn’t working out.

I think it’s honestly the bad actors/spokespeople that annoy me more than anything else about these commercials, combined with the fact that there really must be people dumb enough to fall for them or they wouldn’t be on.

The last one I can think of right now that annoys the shit out of me is for the various companies that try to talk old people into getting $10,000 life insurance policies. These have some of the worst actors/plots of anything, ever.

Some woman checking her mail and another woman comes up and says she’s sorry her mom died, but the woman checking the mail isn’t too broken up about it because she just got the check from Liberty US American AARP Insurance company for that 10k policy her mom was smart enough to take out before she kicked the bucket. There’s even worse ones than that..they defy description.

Anyway, end of my rant for now. Feel free to chip in your own “favorites”.

Happy Monday Ramblings

Well, after a weekend of me doing nothing but watching football and laying around, and a busy day of work/school, it’s time for me to get back to writing the golden content that you’ve come to expect. I do apologize to anyone that hates or is indifferent towards football, but my weekends are mostly consumed by it during the season. The stuff I wrote Saturday night was probably a bit weak since I was involved in the game and drinking a few beers: though I’ll stand by my dissertations on why I love college football and why I love sports that I wrote earlier in the day.

Now that I’m huge in Australia, it’s time for me to start getting into the hard hitting subjects, such as what I’m going to have for dinner, which book I’m going to read next, and the other hotbutton issues of the day.

Quick rant: everyone already knows about my feelings on and ambivalence towards Facebook, but during political season it’s becoming quickly insufferable. I don’t EVER want to talk about politics on this blog because I find them depressing at best, and infuriating at worst. I don’t subscribe to any party because I’m smart enough to make up my own mind on issues; I don’t need to follow a pre-formed platform of views. I’m probably conservative on some things and liberal about others, so I can’t belong to either party because I don’t agree with either in a wholesale manner.

I’m also incredibly cynical about politics, particurally in America. I think presidential candidates are two sides of the same coin: they both take massive amounts of money from people that they are then beholden to, they both say they’ll do things that they won’t, and nothing ever really changes.

So anyway, back to Facebook: I don’t care which candidate you pull for. I don’t want to hear about it, don’t want to see links to such and such’s campaign or be prompted to like so and so. I just don’t care. I only keep Facebook to keep up with my friends’ lives that I’m not in regular contact with. Luckily I don’t have THAT many people on my Facebook so it’s not that common an occurence, but if I could ignore all politics until this election is done, I’d be fine with that. Sorry, /end rant.

It’s kinda funny to me that as a kid, the fall sucked because that’s when you had to go back to school, but now it’s my favorite time of the year. Obviously it’s beautiful up here when the leaves change, and I enjoy cooler temps over hot ones. But now it’s the start of the football season, when new shows come out and old ones come back; can’t wait for Homeland to come back later this month. There’s also a number of books coming out in the next month or two that I’m really looking forward to: particularly Justin Cronin’s followup to “The Passage” which I have previously mentioned was one of my favorite books of the last couple of years.

So it still feels like summer up here mostly, but I’m ready for the fall. Anyhow, enough ramblings for now. I need to find some dinner but will post more later. Thanks for reading and hope everyone has a great night.

Weekend thoughts

Well, at around 6 I finally got my lazy ass off the couch, went and got some food, and started a load of laundry. That’s really about all I accomplished this entire weekend and I’m cool with that. There’s something to be said for a weekend of doing nothing. I just ate good food, drank some good beer, and watched a lot of good football. My Dawgs won last night and my Falcons won today, with the added bonus that the New Orleans Saints, who have some of the most annoying fans on earth…lost.

So life is good even if I spent more time lying/sitting on a couch for the last 72 hours than anywhere else. The only negative is that I was too lazy to cook tonight so I drove to Zaxby’s to get food. There’s nothing wrong with Zaxby’s…if you don’t have it in your area it’s a chicken finger fast food place basically. As far as fast food goes it’s on the higher end, but it’s still greasy fast food…and I always seem to forget that while I might enjoy eating it, unless it’s 2am and I’m drunk, I’m going to feel shitty afterwards.

I don’t know if it’s a mental or physical thing for me. I would assume mental because I don’t think the large amounts of fats and transfats and who knows what else I just ate have already found their way into my bloodstream. I think it’s more the thought that I just ate a bunch of stuff that’s horrible for me that makes me feel like crap. Eating fast food just makes me feel lethargic these days.

It’s not like I’m eating a diet of egg whites, fish, and kale at home. I eat a fair amount of red meat, not enough vegetables though I try, and late at night I might cook some pretty unhealthy crap, but outside of the most processed foods, anything you cook at home is probably 10 times better for you than anything from a fast food place.

Anyway, enough whining about that. I’m trying to figure out what I should do with the rest of my night. I should do some schoolwork but why spoil my full weekend of indolence by doing something constructive?

I’m like three episodes behind on Breaking Bad now and I think I forgot to DVR one of them so I’ll probably have to buy it on itunes or something. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I’m probably one of the few people under 40 that actually buys stuff instead of looking for it on torrents or whatnot.

I used to use limewire and such to get free music but got sick of having to find a new program every few months when the last one got shut down, and taking the chance of getting malware on my computer, and because I figured I was just unlucky enough to be one of the 5 people out of millions that the recording industry used to take to court to make an example of every so often.

So it’s not for any real moral reasons but I buy all of the media I consume: partially out of laziness and partially out of it probably being the right thing to do. If I had anything worth selling I’d probably be pissed if people were stealing it.

I just wish that the media companies would wise the fuck up and not make it so difficult to get their product if you’re willing to pay for it. That’s why I love HBO, with the HBOgo thing you can watch any of their current movies and every single episode of every show they’ve ever made streaming whenever you want as long as you subscribe to HBO.

Some other companies, like Showtime for instance, make it next to impossible to watch their shows if you don’t DVR or catch them being broadcast, even if you’re willing to buy them. And I pay for Showtime. AMC is a bit in between in that you can’t watch missed episodes on their website but you can buy them on itunes…which is annoying but at least an option.

I just find it annoying how so many companies refuse to realize that their old model of doing things doesn’t work anymore. And with the big cable companies trying to get into the content war I’m sure it’s only gonna get more complicated and worse as it goes.

Anyway, enough rambling for now. Hope everyone has had a great weekend and thanks for reading.

Homeland

Alright, so I know in my tagline that I claimed I would be including music, movies, tv, and sports in my ramblings and I’ve yet to do so, so I think I’ll talk about my favorite show from last season that is starting its second season in September I believe: Homeland.

A bit of background on my tv watching habits so you can decide if my recommendation means anything to you or not: my favorite shows for the last year or so have been Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. I also have to admit that I watched and enjoyed Downton Abbey but outside of those, most of my tv watching is netflix streaming of documentaries and such.

I didn’t catch Homeland on it’s first go round because even though I have Showtime, I missed the first few episodes before I heard about it and didn’t want to start part of the way through. Unfortunately Showtime hasn’t grasped the genius idea that is HBOgo where if you’re a subscriber you can stream every single one of their shows/movies to your heart’s content.

I don’t do torrents and such and Showtime’s website didn’t offer full episodes so I just tried to avoid having Homeland spoiled for me and figured I’d catch it when it came out on dvd because I’d heard great things about it. Finally one weekend Showtime decided to show the whole run and I dvred all the episodes and blew through them in a day or so..nothing like binge watching a great show.

So anyhow, Homeland is apparently based on an Israeli show. It stars Claire Danes, who I can never decide if I think is hot or not, as a CIA agent that gets a tip that an American POW in Iraq has been turned into a terrorist. Shortly after, a Marine Sergeant is discovered in a prison/hole in the ground and she suspects that it’s him..despite the fact that everyone else hails him as a returning hero.

There’s a lot of “that guy” actors in the show..with good performances from Danes and Damian Lewis who plays the Sergeant in question, and a nice role by Mandy Patinkin as Danes’ mentor/boss at the CIA.

The other twist in the show is that Claire Danes’ character is basically batshit crazy and is unable to see a shrink because it would cost her her CIA job..so she cadges pills off her MD sister when she can.

I can’t really go into too much more detail without spoilers but as I’ve said, it’s my top show of the year in terms of suspense, twists, and just great acting jobs all around. So if you have the chance to pick up the first season on dvd, I highly recommend you do so before the second season starts next month.