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Mad Men: Public Relations

Mad Men: Public Relations

“Who is Don Draper?” People have been wondering that for years, not excluding Don himself, but no one has expected such a straightforward answer as the journalist from Advertising Age looking for material for his article on Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s superstar creative director. Like many before him who have asked in one way or another, he doesn’t get an answer. Don is not only still guarded and reluctant to hand out details, but seems genuinely mystified why anyone would care about him apart from his work. But Don’s life and work has changed over the past year, and this episode of his life is about him learning to understand what’s happened and how to change with it.

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My Favorite Vampire


I'm not very well versed on the whole Twilight phenomenon, but I'm also pretty sure I don't have to be in order to fully grasp what's it about. This isn't because I think the books/movies are all that one-dimensional (well, okay, it partly is), but really because I was into angsty vampires when the current crop of Twilight tween fanatics were probably still learning to read. It's nothing new. Sure, this version of vampire lust seems to have moved slightly more mainstream emo than the alternative goth edition I remember, but essentially, still the same. It's really too bad I didn't have these books back then, because I would have likely been, embarrassingly enough, the biggest Twilight fan ever.

At this point, however, I think it's a little behind me, much like the days of rereading Poppy Z. Brite novels, constantly spinning The Downward Spiral and watching The Crow for the 300th time. But nostalgia is fun, and the mention of Twilight does seem like a good opportunity to dredge up my favorite vampire saga from my own misspent tween-hood: Forever Knight.

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Mad Men on Twitter

You know what? I think Twitter might be the new fan fiction medium.


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I was already going to post about What Would Don Draper Do?, but then I came across What Would Joan Holloway Do? - which, I have to say, appeals to me more, because I've wanted to have a Joan around to tell me what I should do ever since Mad Men first started.

Under the Abbaya: Female Producers in Saudi Arabia

How did a group of women pull off a TV show in a country where women can’t drive, can’t vote, and really aren’t supposed to hang out with non-related males? Well, they have a saying in Danya’s hometown, "Jeddah is different." And for the record, so is she.

The producer of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Amy Teuteberg, tells the tale of making an episode in Saudi Arabia.


Because this is the kind of dork I am, I've been really into Masterpiece Classic's latest production, Cranford, an adaption of Elizabeth Gaskill's Victorian-era novels. Of course I'm a sucker any relatively smart British period piece, but this is a good one, with an amazing cast of actresses. The final episode airs tonight, and you can watch the first two episodes online.

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Major News, You Guys ...

Bea Arthur is to be inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame!

She's become a bit of a campy icon, but, seriously, she portrayed one of the first vocal feminists on television as Maude (Dorothy Zbornak wasn't any slouch in that department, either), and deserves all the credit for that she can get.

(Hat tip: Women and Hollywood.)

The Last Supper

Episode #50 - the final episode - of the Independent Film Channel's series Dinner for Five is available in its entirety for a short time online, and features series creator Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Peter Billingsley, Justin Long, and Keir O'Donnel.

The Backyardigans and the Life Aquatic

The Life Aquatic The Backyardigans

I'm wondering if perhaps the creators of the kids' show The Backyardigans are Wes Anderson fans. Anyone notice a resemblance to Team Zissou?

The IT Crowd: Season Two, Episode Six

I neglected to mention the release of the season finale of The IT Crowd last week. And it's too good to go without mention, so here's the first part.

Links to Part 2 and Part 3.

An Ode to The Upside Down Show

As I pointed out in another post, one of the more dubious joys of parenthood is being introduced to an entire new world of television programming. Some of it is surprisingly creative and worthwhile. Some of it is, well, less so. I've discovered one show, though, that is good enough to be become a favorite even beyond the "kids' show" designation - The Upside Down Show.

The Upside Down Show

The two main performers on the show, David and Shane, act out a variety of storylines with sound effects, invisible props, and considerable physical comedy skills. Which makes sense, since the pair is also known as the comedy duo the Umbilical Brothers. They're adept at sophisticated wordplay and grown-up cultural references - and yet at the same time, they can entertain my two-year-old daughter. Genius, indeed. Not to mention that they accomplish what they do by relying not on computer animation or marketing tie-ins, but only on their and their audience's imaginations.

Even though Noggin has shown a bit of typical television producer lack of intelligence by not renewing the show for a second season, it's still currently running on the channel. Check out the videos on their sites and enjoy. It's okay - I won't tell anyone you're watching kids' shows.

On the Lot: The Hit-and-Run Edition

Carrie FisherSo I promised (i.e., mentioned in an offhand way) that I intended to start blogging about Fox's reality show On the Lot. Then I forgot to watch the premiere episodes, which was fine because when I caught up with them online later, they turned out to be long, drawn-out, uninteresting affairs that had way too many participants on focus on, much less care about. Then they cut the show down from two episodes to one a week. Now there's rumors that it's going to be axed altogether. But I'm still going to write about it. Because relevance is for other people to worry about, not me.

Although I was initially intrigued by the premise of the show - film directors compete in a Project Runway-type contest, with weekly tasks to be done within a short time frame - it didn't take long for me to realize it's just not going to work. Filmmaking isn't that type of discipline. There are too many outside factors that contribute to making a film. It's not just a designer and a garment, it's a director and a crew, and equipment, and actors, and scripts, and and sets. I'm not sure how useful these prescribed, time-crunched exercises are in the process of revealing real directorial talent.

I had mentioned before my intrigue was partly inspired by my memories of the original filmmaking reality show - Project Greenlight, the Damon/Affleck-backed vehicle that approached the idea of a filmmaking contest much more practically. They started with a months-long search for good scripts, and a separate search for good directors. Then the real meat of the television show documented the making of the winning script into a film by the winning director. It only lasted three seasons, and never produced a truly successful movie. But I found it interesting, especially now when placed in counterpoint to On the Lot.

The thing to realize about On the Lot, though, is that it's very decidedly about the business of filmmaking, not the art. If you watched the last season of Project Greenlight, you'll know there was quite a tussle between the film's producers, who wanted to make a commercially successful movie, and Matt Damon, who wanted an artistically pure one. (Affleck just showed up looking like a bum and apparently not caring much either way.) There is no such controversy on the Lot. Those contestants are there to earn a chance to work in the Hollywood studios. Their challenges are not just about crafting a film, but also about pitching it to executives. Perfectly respectable. But it also is less involving. At least for me.

Audiences don't seem to be digging it much either, though. The show is currently floundering beyond belief. I have a theory for why that really is. And it is simply: Americans don't care much about film directors. The auteur is not a significant element of the American movie experience. We tend to go for story- and star-driven films. If someone is telling us about a new movie, we'll ask, "Who's in it?" well before we'll even think about asking, "Who directs it?" American movies have generally always followed that principle. Director Frank Capra used to brag about how he got his name above the title of his films on the marquees back in the '30's, and it's still something worth bragging about. Few people since have done it. In this type of movie-going mainstream culture, why would a show about directors really take off? The slice of population who would like to see that are also most likely put off by the lack of emphasis on art and craft. And so you've got a dud.

However, I'll still periodically check in and see if the series becomes more interesting. As long as it lasts, anyway.

Oh, and by they way - I read somewhere someone dissing judge Carrie Fisher's appearance. I have no idea what they're talking about. I think she looks great. Very well dressed and put together. She is 51, you know. Princess Leia can't stay nineteen forever, fanboy.

Of Potatoes and Blue Wiggles

Max & RubyOtherwise entitled: Some Irrelevant and Probably Inappropriate Observations on Modern Children's Television Programming.

  • I would like to have a bit more exposition on some of the characters and situations taken for granted in these shows. For example, why is there a talking, walking potato on JoJo's Circus? And why is he naked? Even the frog character has a tutu. Which, frankly, is a whole other issue, but I'd be willing to let it go if the potato can be satisfactorily explained.
  • Hip Hop Harry features a very large bear with a huge gold emblem reminiscent of a clock on a chain around his neck (and a giant wristwatch, just to make the clock connection stronger). Presumably, this prepares children for the rite of passage we all have to go through someday: watching Flava of Love.
  • My sister informed me that Wilmer Valderrama voices Handy Manny, which seems to bring his post-70's Show resume up to Manny and Yo Momma. Not to mention makes me wonder when Manny's going to start trading insults with those mouthy tools.
  • I discovered that They Might Be Giants provided theme songs for both Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Elizabeth's favorite thing EVER), and Higglytown Heroes. Which is cool. Also reminds me of their fantastic Tiny Toons spot for "Particle Man".
  • Another reason to love Noggin: Chris Meloni pops up periodically to encourage us to read. How nice.
  • I'm kind of creeped out by the practice of encouraging audience participation by asking questions and then pausing for answers. My daughter is too young to respond much yet, so it usually results in Mickey Mouse staring at us in silence for ten seconds. Slightly disturbing.
  • The Doodlebops are more than slightly disturbing. I can't quite put on finger on why, but they definitely are.
  • You know, the Blue Wiggle is kinda hot. But don't worry, that's as far as I'm taking that particular thought - I will not become these women.
  • I think the creators of any given children's show only make about five episodes of the show, probably on the presupposition that kids don't care what Dora's actually doing, as long as they're watching Dora do something. But what about the adults watching the kids? Do you realize I saw the same three episodes of Dora the Explorer in less than a two-week period? Is that really necessary? As the old saying goes, architects should be forced to live in the houses they design, and children's show creators should be forced to watch the same three episodes of the shows they create.
  • That red-haired kid on Little Einsteins has got to be gay. Maybe they should next explore the life and works of Oscar Wilde to help him puzzle it all out.
  • Max and Ruby. I love this show. I will sit and watch this show even when Elizabeth is taking a nap. And it's impossible to explain unless you a) watch the show yourself, and b) have a bizarre, childlike sense of humor.

I realize this makes it sound like my daughter watches insane amounts of television, which really is not the case. Even when I leave the TV turned on for her, she often loses interest after a while and wanders off to find her toys or books. Sometimes she comes back for songs, and then leaves again. Which often results in me looking up from my computer or whatever else I was doing and realizing I'm the only one still paying even remote attention to Little Bear.

You childless folks have no idea what you're missing. Don't worry, though - I'm sure that by the time you bring your own little ones forth, the same five episodes of Dora the Explorer will still be playing.