Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mad about Mad Men

One of the best shows on TV just won a Golden Globe award, to add to its many other accolades it has earned over its 3 seasons. Mad Men is a show on AMC which is about people who work in the New York City advertising industry in the 1960s. This is a drama, but it has some comedic moments, and it has been a breakthrough show for the previously unknown cast. I have not seen a show with writing this good since The Sopranos. Once you start watching, you want to see more. Seasons one and two are available from Netflix. Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper, the suave ad executive with a mysterious past. His wife is played by January Jones, who is a Grace Kelly dead ringer that fights against a boring home life and a husband who is unfaithful. The Sterling Cooper ad agency is headed up by womanizer Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and the eccentric Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse). Two of the most interesting ad agency employees are Peggy, played by Elisabeth Moss, and Joan, played by Christina Hendricks. Peggy yearns to be more than a secretary at work, and to be seen as someone who can contribute. Joan is seen as the sex symbol of the Sterling Cooper agency. The set design and costumes are pulled off flawlessly to give the show a 1960s appearance. Down to the smallest detail, you feel like you are going back in time when you watch the show. The co-stars of this show seem to be activities like smoking, drinking, and men living a hedonistic lifestyle. Watching this show makes one realize how much things have changed since the 1960s, such as the roles of women in the workplace. Also, people are smoking (a lot) in the office, which today would be forbidden.

Monday, January 11, 2010

NBC's Unprecedented Late Night Blunders

NBC moved Jay Leno from 11:35pm back to 10pm only about 6 months ago. Conan O'Brien moved from 12:35am to Leno's old slot at 11:35pm as host of The Tonight Show. Conan has been working for NBC since 1993, when David Letterman left to get his 11:35pm show at CBS. The ratings for Leno at 10pm have been really bad, and he gets beat night in and night out, especially by the CBS dramas like CSI:Miami, CSI:NY and The Mentalist. His numbers are about what they were at 11:35, but in prime time those numbers do not fly. The numbers need to be there to get decent ad rates, and to keep the affiliates happy. Now NBC wants to end this little experiment and move Leno back to 11:35pm. His show may be only 30 minutes, putting Conan on at 12:05am. If this is the case, Jimmy Fallon would move from 12:35am to 1:05am assuming Conan's show is 60 minutes. If I were in Conan's shoes I would jump ship to Fox. ABC has Nightline at 11:35pm and Jimmy Kimmel at 12:05am, so Fox is probably the best bet. Maybe NBC should drop the unfunny Leno all together. I assume they will go back to dramas from 10-11pm on NBC and the affiliates are hoping their newscasts will get better numbers once Leno vacates after the 2010 winter olympics. Conan is not hurting for money. He gets $20 million per year for the next 4 years. Still, Conan has paid his dues, he deserves to be on at 11:35pm, and this is the biggest network blunder I can recall. Sure the networks have put on many shows that have flopped, but this was a 5 night per week, 10pm-11pm experiment that failed miserably. Their justification is that a talk show is cheaper to produce than a scripted show. But, what good does that do if the ratings are poor and you are affecting your affiliates numbers for their newscasts which provide a major revenue source? The once mighty peacock network has fallen a long way from the days of must see TV.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Best New Show of 2009 is "Glee" on Fox

There is a lot of buzz about the new Fox comedy/musical Glee. It takes place in a high school and it is about kids who are in the glee club. The cast is full of mostly unknown people, but they have become stars quickly. The members of the choir come from every demographic. These actors can sing, dance and act, and the show is often very funny. The cheerleaders are taught by the hilarious Jane Lynch, who has appeared in Best in Show and Two and a Half Men. She is a mean spirited, driven teacher who will do anything to make sure her group (called the Cheerios) are number one. The glee club teacher has a challenging home life with his wife and another teacher at the school has a crush on him. The show has dealt with issues like teen pregnancy and the challenge to fit in at a school where the glee club members are seen as geeks. The best part of the show is the music. Anyone who enjoys pop music or especially musical theatre needs to check it out. The music from the show has been put on CD and the mp3s have been selling well online. They perform some 80s songs such as "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey and "Bust a Move" by Young MC, as well as putting their spin on current tunes. Matthew Morrison is the glee club instructor, Jessalyn Gilsig plays his wife, Dianna Agron plays the cheerleader Quinn, Jayma Mays plays the germ-freak teacher Miss Pillsbury, and the breakout star has been the multi-talented Lea Michele, who plays Rachel Berry, the ultra driven glee club star with an amazing voice. She has performed on Broadway previous to doing the TV show.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

George Clooney hits a home run with "Up in the Air"

Starring George Clooney, and directed by Juno director Jason Reitman, Up in the Air is an outstanding film. Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, who has a job where he fires people for a living. He is based out of Omaha, Nebraska but is on the road for most of the year flying from one city to another. He is obsessed with collecting frequent flyer miles, and his goal is to reach 10 million. There is plenty of product placement for airlines, rental car companies, hotel chains, and the like. Bingham has no desire to get married, have kids, or "settle down" in any respect. He gives speeches about living a simplified life where we are not weighed down by possessions or obligations. He is a man who lives a detached life. Vera Farmiga plays a woman he meets on the road who is looking for the same thing he is; a fling with no strings attached. Anna Kendrick plays a hot shot young go getter who is sent on the road with Clooney so he can show her the ropes of how to do the job. She has suggestions to the boss about how they can save money, and these ideas may keep Clooney from travelling in the future. In this era of companies downsizing, the film seems especially relavent. The cast also includes Jason Bateman as Clooney's boss and Melanie Lynskey (Rose from Two and a Half Men), as Clooney's about to be married sister whom he hardly knows. The movie is good since it has a mix of romance, comedy, and drama, and there are not weak parts of the script or lackluster performances. The story makes you think about how we go about living our lives. Look for this to be honored by the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.