Friday, August 28

Tom Shales of The Washington Post doesn’t like AMC’s Mad Men. Which is fine, I guess. But wait until you hear the reason. Here’s what he said in an online chat at the paper’s site a few days ago:

I’m with you — baffled by the success of “Mad Men.” I guess I see the retro appeal but as you say, people can watch REAL old movies elsewhere on cable – mainly on TCM, my favorite channel by far — for escape, I guess — so why watch a simulated old movie? The scenes are long and drag, the characters are mostly kind of nasty, and sorry but I’ve never
found the world of advertising all that fascinating. Hence Cary Grant leaves it behind within the first five minutes of “North by Northwest.”

Remember, the media have over-covered “Mad Men” and it is watched in fewer than 2 million homes during a regular season, as I recall.

I know this was a chat and he’s answering questions on the fly, but it seems to me that he has put some thought into why he doesn’t like the show, and his reasoning is downright baffling. Let’s take his statements one at a time:

People can watch REAL old movies on cable so why watch a simulated old movie?

I don’t know if Shales realizes it or not, but this is one of the most
mentally-unbalanced things a TV critic has ever said. So he dislikes every new TV show, film, book, play, or musical that is set in a different era, just because there were already TV shows, films, books, plays and musicals from that era? What a horrible way to go through life. Shouldn’t you be looking for the quality of a show first? In other words, isn’t a great Mad Men episode better than an old movie that’s bad, regardless of the fact they are both set in the same era?

The characters are mostly kind of nasty.

I know, don’t you hate interesting characters like that? I keep waiting for the episode where Pete does something sneaky at Sterling Cooper, but at the end of the hour he learns a lesson about family and the Drapers invite him over to dinner and they adopt him and the dog comes over and jumps in his lap and they all have a great laugh.

The scenes are long and drag…

It’s called good writing. It’s called depth. It’s called maturity. If you think the scenes on Mad Men are long and drag you probably spend too much time watching music videos and posting to Twitter.

The writers and directors let the show breathe. It’s not like most
shows these days that are edited to feature quick cuts and short scenes for our ADD culture. The pacing of this show is one of the reasons I love it. I love the pace and edits of sitcoms like 30 Rock and Family Guy and hour-long dramas like Heroes,
but this is a completely different show telling completely different
stories in an almost a literary way. I wonder what he feels about Lost?

I’ve never found the world of advertising all that fascinating.

So that means it’s a bad show? I think any topic is interesting if it’s handled well. (Besides, not watching Mad Men because it’s “about advertising” is like not watching Friday Night Lights because it’s “about sports.”)

Remember, the media have over-covered Mad Men and it is watched in fewer than 2 million homes.

Oh, you know you’re in bad shape when you’re a TV critic and you start quoting ratings statistics to prove that a show isn’t good. And while I agree that there’s been a ton of coverage of Mad Men the past several months, I’d rather see a great show get the attention than shows that usually get even more attention (American Idol, Jon & Kate, to name just a couple).

Shales isn’t a bad TV critic because he doesn’t like Mad Men.
We all have our different tastes. But he seems to have a real distaste for it, honestly thinking that it’s not even a “good” show. There have been many shows over the years that haven’t been my cup of Twinings, including The Sopranos and Hill Street Blues, but even I can acknowledge they were great shows. It almost seems that Shales has something really personal in his dislike for the show, as if he resents that it is critically-acclaimed so much he has to find ways to lash out at it.

Actually, you know what? Shales is a bad TV critic because he doesn’t like Mad Men. There, I said it. Sometimes the show that a person dislikes (or likes) can tell you everything you need to know about that person. The reasons he gives for not liking Mad Men tell me that Shales is on TV critic I never have to read again.

I mean, why read Shales when you can read REAL writers instead of a simulated one?

In other news, there’s a hurricane coming tomorrow, Hurricane Danny, which sounds like the name of a boxer. And the boil water order I mentioned below is still going. So tomorrow there’s going to be a ton of water, we just can’t use any of it. Have a great weekend!

3 thoughts on “Friday, August 28

  1. And one other thing: Mr. Shales is a TELEVISION critic, and his “favorite channel, by far” shows nothing but old MOVIES?
    Ahem. Mr. Shales, perhaps it’s time to consider a different type of employment.

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