Friday, July 25, 2008

"I don't believe it would sound any better if it were true..."

In Praise of Mad Men: the blank Qs is an old idea of David Foster Wallace's; the stilted writing is de moi.

Scene: AMC Headquarters; Alexandria, Viriginia; Network head's office.

Enter UNIDENTIFIED MAN

Hi, I'm Matthew Weiner. Nice to meet you.

Q.

Never heard that before, honest. It's actually pronounced "whiner," but good one nonetheless. You probably don't know me, but I was David Chase's right hand man on The Sopranos...and I actually wrote 12 of the episodes.

Q.

Yeah...one of those dream episodes was my doing. (Two if you include "The Test Dream.") Sorry about that. I don't know what the fuck we were thinking. I think Chase was secretly high on mescaline for a few weeks in '06. Can you imagine if that had actually been the last season? We'd have been crucified!

But I wrote the one where Christopher died! Props for that?

Q.

Yeah, true...it did kind of suck after the first five minutes. My bad. Hmmm...come to think of it, I didn't really write anything of consequence on the show ("Soprano Home Movies" probably comes closest) Still, I wasn't as bad as Imperioli!

Q.

Outstanding question! I'm actually hear to pitch my new show to you. Are you ready? OK. Remember all those really shitty ads that aired in the fifties and sixties? It'll be about the guys that created those. Awesome, right? It'll be great!

Q.

Your blank stare says it all: you're hooked, aren't you? Well, then, allow me to continue. These "Mad Men" (a short form for Men who work on Madison Avenue, a term the ad men coined themselves), will all be on the wrong side of history: afraid of technology, skeptical of gimmick advertising, treat TV with disdain. Wait it gets better: they're Nixon men that are gutted when JFK wins--I know, right?

And they'll treat women like absolute dogshit. I mean like reckless affairs at every turn, talking about women like they're not even in the room, dismissing their input, and jokes like this:
[as the ad men enter the conference room] ...so the doctor says to him: "I hope you're happy. While you were out finishing a round of golf, your wife was in a horrible accident. She's going to need round-the-clock care. Bathing, toilet..." Then the doc turns to him and says "I'm just kidding, she's dead. Hey, what'd you shoot?"
One episode will even center around Don (he's the main character)'s wife going to therapy because she's a borderline depressive. She'll pour her heart out to this therapist throughout the episode and then, at the end, Don will call in to speak to the shrink, and he'll tell him everything about Betty! Ho ho. Boy, will she be embarrassed. Or, worse, maybe I won't reveal to her that Don knows about these sessions--that'll make it extra excruciating when she eventually finds out!

Q.

And you're going to love the actors we've got lined up. Remember What About Brian?

Q.

No, not him. You think AMC has Barry Watson money? Good luck!

Q.

No, not her either.

Q.

the little guy that looked like a gnome? No. Remember Dina? She was married to Dave and had the three kids. Well...remember that dick she had an affair with? It's him!

Q.

No, don't go on imdb, I'll just tell you. His name is Jon Hamm. He's also been on Providence, The Division, The Unit, and CSI: Miami (for 2 episodes!). I know! I can't believe he was available either!

Q.

Who else? How about January Jones? She was in American Wedding! And John Slattery (aka the smug principal on Ed). And we've landed Elizabeth Moss, one of the Barlett daughters from The West Wing.

Q.

No, the uglier one. [beat] We've even got one of the guys from Angel.

Q.

...Well I'll have you know that that "little snot-nosed douchebag" can act, good sir!

Q.

Now, I can sense by the way you've been eyeing up that gold letter opener for the past ten minutes, having now just grabbed it and presently attempting to slit your own throat that you're somewhat skeptical about this project. But, let me assure you, it'll somehow work.

Hamm will be an absolute revelation, and will bring the goods every single time. He'll be so convincing that you'll want to buy a carton of Lucky Strike even though you haven't smoked in years and build your house out of Bethlehem Steel. (Hell, you'll even try drinking scotch--even though your experiences in this department have universally been negative--just because it looks so damn cool on the show.) In the season finale, he'll deliver a pitch to Kodak, based around the seemingly innocuous and decidedly unsexy slide projector (then a novelty) that'll be so pitch-perfect, so riveting, and so jaw-droppingly fantastic that you'll be moved to tears.

He'll be the most charming asshole--sorry Mr. Soprano--in TV history. The most complex and inscrutable television character in years and years. You'll be repulsed by him, yet charmed. Disgusted, yet undeniably drawn to him.

Some of the other men, like Kartheiser, will be, admittedly, pretty loathsome, but you'll buy into to it because you know that, surely, there were (and are) assholes exactly like this one, and you root, weekly, for his comeuppance. (Rightly or wrongly, these Mad Men are completely oblivious--or, perhaps more accurately, indifferent--to the consequences of their actions, and that will make them strangely compelling.)

Unlike Breaking Bad, we'll actually give our female leads something to do [note: contra sister-in-law's kleptomania], and, more to the point, they'll deliver. Jones, as Betty, will do far more with less than you ever imagined, and break your heart in the process. Christina Hendricks' Joan, on the other hand, sees the world as it really is (or rather: sees how the men of the world really view her) and uses it to her own prurient ends. And then you'll have Moss's Peggy, the up and coming receptionist cum nascent copy editor, torn in either direction.

And when our rookie season ends people will be so stunned that they'll look at other new shows this year that we'll have sprinted by so quickly that it'll appear they're standing still and wonder aloud "what the fuck were these other guys doing? How can one new show be so far and away better than anything else that premiered this year, as for it to be almost embarrassing--that it seems almost unimaginable--that they all fall under the same category of 'television program'"?
So...am I wasting my time here?

Q.

Not sold, eh? OK...how about this? You let me put this on the air and I'll give you a sure-fire hit for free.

Q.

Ready? Gay Sherlock Holmes. Watson's his lover, and Sherlock is convinced that the doc is stepping out on him. Also: he knits competitively.

Q.

[collects bag of money] Weiner, you've done it again!

END SCENE

3 comments:

The R.O.B. said...

Hilarious.

maritimexpat said...

You're getting better at non-spoilery reviews, sir. Rats off to you!

Also, Gay Sherlock Holmes' best friend is a talking pie.

Mark P said...

Dude, Joanne McLeod has got to be pushing fifty at this point.