September 15th, 2010

Mad Man

The Summer Man

The most recent episode of Mad Men was 4-08 'The Summer Man'. I think I can talk about three problematic stylistic devices it used without giving any of the plot away. My question to myself is - were these actual mistakes, is Mad Men going to jump the shark? Or do I have enough faith in Mad Men to think that three sharks in one episode makes it a plan? Makes it some kind of meta-message? Don't know. Particularly as, after last week's pivotal bottle episode, the tide may be turning in the doom of Don Draper - I mean things might just possibly be getting better. So that would be a bold nay reckless move - to pretend that the series has jumped the shark, just as Draper gets his act together.

The three problematic decisions were: firstly, protracted voice-over by Don Draper. Voice-over to reveal motivation violates a basic modern screen writing rule - but perhaps like a split infinitive, one that would be better honoured in the breach? And it violates the four-season long Mad Men rule, that we never see inside Don's head, we just infer.

The second decision is once again a double-violation. Firstly of a minor series rule - that a piece of era-defining music plays over the end credits. Not a crucial rule, but they broke it this time, with 'I can't get no satisfaction' over the starting credits - and utter silence at the end. More crucially, they illustrated each line of the song - like a slightly laborious fan vid - with literalisms: 'he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me' - Don lights a cigarette. Srsly?

And thirdly, towards the end someone mentions an Aesop fable which neatly points up a significant issue in the rest of the episode. Don firstly makes the person recount the whole fable, and then laboriously makes her explain the (perfectly obvious) meaning of the fable. This is very peculiar. They don't lead you by the hand down meaning lane in Mad Men. Nobody ever says 'this is what the story means'. This has got to be a joke for us, a meta-joke, yes?

So - interesting. I've got to believe this is on purpose. If so, it's very self-confident to play at poor writing and direction? I don't know.

The rest of the episode by the way was not crap at all, and did figure people blowing it, literally and figuratively.
breaking bad

Month zero

I am in a unique position, this month. For the first time in my entire life I think I have read every single fiction in a particular fandom. Certainly I think I have read every single slash fic (about five stories total - each one of top quality). The fandom is of course Breaking Bad. It's been incredibly slow getting going. To the extent that literally for the last couple of years if you Googled for 'Breaking Bad fan fiction', you mostly found other people asking where it was. I speak of course of a hypothetical and hypocritical person whose catch phrase is 'I don't read fan fiction'.

Whereas let us say Sherlock: there have been three episodes, and the fanfic writing is already going strong.

OK, why so little? There's almost no Mad Men fanfic either. I think these series are intimidating. They intimidate me. I think they both ask a lot, and conversely, a lot is already provided on screen. The reason BB fans have finally cracked and started writing is because of prolonged baiting by the show, IMHO. Man, they are asking for it!

What there is at the moment is bloody well written, and quite hardcore. Anyway, no doubt it will all take off big-time at some point, and there will be lots of romantic fluffy stuff that I won't read*, but it is quite nice to be able to feel I know the field, and I like it all. A strange and unique position.

(*ETA - I come back to read these words, and it sounds as if I am being dismissive of other people's writing, and I really don't mean to be. I just know what I am like: I prefer less romantic stories. Just my idiosyncrasy. I respect the writing that people do.)