August 16th, 2010

breaking bad


I was out all day yesterday, spent about 6 hours driving, and when I got home I thought I would flop out by the telly. But what to watch on Sunday evening? I switched on 'Vexed' which is a new comedy police procedural. God it was shite.

Obviously it's supposed to be transgressive and challenging, but it just comes across like it was written by a smirking ten year old. For the first half hour I sat their semi-somnolent, thinking 'Well, I won't tune in again, but there's nothing better on'. But about thirty minutes in it became so bad that I turned the telly off and went and argued with people on the Internets (some of them were wrong about stuff).

The Telegraph TV critic funnily enough picks out exactly the same moment:

Scene: a cosy flat. On the floor is the corpse of a young woman (communicator adds - crucially she has auburn hair and though clothed is sprawled on her back with her legs slightly apart). A female detective is already on the scene. Her male colleague arrives.

Female detective: “There’s a big ginger cat somewhere. [Male detective giggles.] Did I say something funny?”

Male detective: “Sorry. [He laughs again.] It’s nothing!”

Female detective: “Well, you’re laughing at something! What is it?”

Male detective: “It’s just that when you said ‘big ginger’, I thought you were gonna say ‘pussy’! [Snorts deliriously.] Ginger hair, ginger cat… ginger pussy! [Guffaws at length.]” (communicator adds - his laughter went on through the rest of this scene and into the next)
The Telegraph critic says:

Like many of the other scenes in this putative comedy drama, it left me pondering a deep and troubling question. Namely, am I losing my mind?

I just didn’t get it... I don’t know why the male detective thought his female colleague was going to say “pussy”, when she plainly wasn’t. Nor do I know why the idea made him snort with mirth, particularly given that he was looking at the body of a dead woman, the blood from a wound in whose skull was soaking into the rug. (The body was clothed, incidentally, which rules out a possible, if weak, reason for innuendo to be on the male detective’s mind.)

... At one point, while referring to another murdered woman, he used his hands to do the “boo hoo” sign, the one clowns make to represent tears.
I disagree with him here: I think these two examples actually explain quite a lot. The critic can't understand why this is supposed to be funny because he's a grown-up man.

The detective was looking at a woman's body supine, with her legs slightly apart, therefore the word 'pussy' is funny. He was talking about a woman's death therefore a pretend 'boo hoo' face is funny. Seriously, the 'jokes' (stretching the term) only make sense if you assume the tiresome misogyny of a teenage boy who has never kissed a girl. Possibly we are supposed to find it funny that the policeman is being misogynist, but - really - how much mileage is there in that joke? Misogyny is not exactly transgressive of social norms is it? If there's nothing but a policeman saying misogynist things about dead women, after half an hour you get the impression that someone is enjoying that one joke just a bit too much.

I can't remember the last time I posted on this blog saying something is unfunny, let alone for what you might uncharitably call political reasons. I'm not saying that 'we must resist the urge to find things like this funny', I'm saying I can tell these are supposed to be jokes by the way they are positioned in the story, but they just make me feel weary.
breaking bad

Mad Men 4.4 'The Rejected'

I don't know what to do now. Mad Men 4.4 was brilliant, but who can I tell about it and how? Most people haven't had a chance to see it yet - kalypso_v I am going to be particularly careful not to spoil this one for you, because it is a perfect and complex Pete Campbell episode. Also a lot of Peggy, who is a very inspiring character.

What can I say without spoilers? That, like Alien, you feel you must walk into the screen like Alice through the Looking Glass and fall into the almost tangible space just out there. Some episodes have seemed like dreams, but this is more like a memory. Incredible realisation of an entire universe. This may partly be because this is the universe I lived in, in my earliest memories - I was age three at the time this episode was set.

Some episodes work as big stories, with one big message, but this one was a series of lovely scenes and performances. It didn't have the big bang of a massive creative explosion - probably coming up in later episodes - but the small scenes and little movements of the men and women - fantastic, funny, sad, and with care for minute particulars.

Review by Alan Sepinwall here.

PS - Directed by Roger Sterling himself! Outstanding work.

PPS - actually I do know what the big message of this episode was: 'You can't use the past to predict the future'; even a powerful past like this. It's basically a hopeful message.