quality television


A very strange thing happened at this year’s Golden Globes ceremony. Somewhere between Ricky Gervais’ biting monologue/critique and Robert De Niro’s uncomfortable lifetime achievement acceptance speech, an epic international arthouse film won the award for Best Made for Television Movie or Miniseries, beating out the other nominations in the typically HBO-dominated category. Olivier Assayas’ Carlos is, from an American perspective, quite difficult to classify. We first heard about it when it was met with rave reviews at Cannes and other festivals, then it was distributed theatrically through IFC (in its original 5 ½ hour run time) while it had a three-episode “miniseries” run on the Sundance Channel just as it had done in France when originally commissioned for French television. Now, before an explicitly planned DVD release (though there is some certainty that the film will be the latest IFC release to get the Criterion treatment), it’s available streaming in its three-part miniseries form via Netflix (which is how I eventually saw it). All this is to say that it’s quite a task to say with any certainty precisely what Carlos is and in which medium it belongs. The film was financed by French television, yet it’s shot in a widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1) typically reserved for theatrical cinema, and its 3-episode structure doesn’t follow the expectations of brief closure at the end of each segment typical of, say, an American television miniseries (it comes across more like a necessary break for exhibition and an arbitrary break in storytelling). Now […]


Don Draper Mad Men

I really love Mad Men. I talk about it a lot. Since The Wire ended in 2008, and I haven’t seen any episodes of Boardwalk Empire yet, then as far as my knowledge takes me it’s the best damn show currently on television. Nothing I’m saying here is necessarily new, but Mad Men effectively does a great many things I’ve never seen television do before in that it 1) delivers is an incredibly entertaining and engaging media object while it uses its protagonists to criticize and reveal the potentially manipulative processes of media itself, 2) interrogates any continuous notion of the ever-interpretationally-oscillating “good old days” by showing how they were neither that good nor that long ago, thereby criticizing our culture’s all-too-convenient rotating manufacture of nostalgia, 3) utilizes the past to criticize white male heteronormative hegemony and reveal a systematic culture of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and all the while 4) creates compelling drama as manifested by ambiguous, layered characters with the combination of beautiful cinematography and impeccable production design. Mad Men, in short, is an engrossing, enjoyable, and thought-provoking series in unprecedented ways. But for a show to engage in such a rare criticism of a cultural moment, a bit of negotiation is required. And it is in this respect that some major problems with the show have arisen recently.

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published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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