Sorry for the hiatus fanboys & girls, but these bones (and stomach, heart, whatever...at least I don't pop Cialis) can fail on a brotha once he passes age 45 but still thinks he's 25. Will forward musings and relayed reflections on summer boondoggles such as Comic Con, UNITY (journalists convention) and the vaunted National Bookclub Conference (sponsored, it seems by the Gibraltar of African American literature...Triple Crown publishing) soon.
And now back to the topic at hand. With The Wire kaput (and Simon & Burns' new project Generation Kill a bit disjointed but still damn good), what is there to watch? Showtime's offerings such as Weeds are a bit too idiosyncratic; unless you are an unrepentent bamma there's no solace in Tyler Perry's House of Payne or Flavor Flav's coonfest, Under One Roof. Clowns lobotomized by too much G4 banter are drooling for Heroes. And maybe we do need Jesse, Sr. and Rev. Al to shut down VH1 once and for all. Have you seen the latest crap like Jamie Foxx and "Farnsworth Bentley's" From G's to Gents, and the frightening new stuff on the way, including the return of "New York?" Look, that foolishness with Ludicris and Barack was allegory for deeper divisions between normal people and miscreants. As DC native, radio/ol' Channel 20 star and street bard the late Petey Green once said: "I was a thief, a junkie and a plain damn fool, but see, I knew that about myself and never fronted, and I took the skills I learnt in those things and built myself a better man, not glorifying that shit." Lord, where did that 'tude go? Just because we can do something, does it mean we must? That should be the mantra for America in the 21st Century. So as an antidote to this comes--with all due irony--a show about the un-politically correct, plain vanilla, racist, sexist, robot world of our nation at the dawn of the 1960s. AMC's Mad Men. Nominated for beaucoup Emmies, star vehicle for perpetually despondent hunk John Hamm (and only the cool people realize the cute touch in making Robert Morse senior partner in a 1961 ad agency--reprising his role in the 1962 comedy, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Damn, if Rock Hudson was still alive he'd be perfect in a cameo). Critics love it. Hell, even NPR talked about. Even Newsweek. Of course Wal Mart/Dancing With the Stars "middle" America (I'm using an amalgam of mine and Bill O'Reilley's terminology) hasn't embraced it, and it's no surprise neither have the texting- and Xbox 360 youngsters to whom the current braindead ad biz is a slave, nor have the Fox News scumdits. That's some irony for you, as this show's a creature of the caricuture of the a halcyon US of A the Hannity and Limbaugh types and certain ne-cons seem to pine for. Smoking, drinking...white boys large and in charge and luvin' it. Negroes running elevators, women swishing their girdled asses. Hispanics, well, out of sight...Jews, well, annoying, left-wing and yet unobtrusive unless you live in Brooklyn or Greenwich Village. So it's the Bush White House in cuffed highwater slacks and collar pins. M-M-Maybe not. The Hitchcockian opening credits animation should give you a clue...
Rather, writer/creator Matt Weiner gives us a mirror on history--as shown through the banal activity of living. Reality, almost, though a TV drama. The prose and plot archs of the scripts are wonderful; unlike the overkill period-piece vernacular of a Deadwood, you don't have the flat sitcom language you hear in Bewitched reruns. People speak and act as they did back then, when yours truly came into this world, a babe of JFK's "Camelot," of a civil rights movement oiled and ready to spring, of a space race, of an arms race, of rural denigration and the first inlings of urban decay. Yeah, speaking of Bewitched, Sterling, Cooper (the ad agency) is Darrin Stevens's "McMahon & Tate" on a diet of benzadrine and Scotch. This is the world of Madison Avenue advertising agencies in the TV and magazine media's "golden age." It was a corporate hustle, man-in- the- gray- flannel- suit rat race, but it was also artful, poetic. You see and hear it in the both the prop copy and artwork and commercials on the show, and real ones. Yyou see and hear it lived through amazing characters. Yep, even through the black folks pushing mops on the show, because that's how it was. Even through the "girls" in the "secretarial pool" (in the 80s it was called "word processing") pushing their boobs up in reinforced bras. Actors playing "real" people engaged in selling fantasy. You gotta love those layers.
Funny, around that time in "real life," then FCC-chair Newton Minow declared TV a "vast wasteland;" Edward R Murrow delivered his famous RTNDA Convention speech (see the fictionalized version here from Good Night and Good Luck). Minow's aged and Murrow's long dead. Still I wonder what Murrow's ghost would say to Minow about television now, the fate of journalism, new media, info-tainment, advertising...our America? Yeah, I'd bet they'd hang with the late advertising guru, David Oglivie, and Minow'd lament wilst Oglivie and Murrow wail/chain-rattle in disgust like Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol. Both the living and the dead would have nothing to atone for but failing to beat it into our heads, so we could in turn beat into the heads of twentysomethings and teens, that we can do better, we can aspire, we can enrich a commonweal spiritually (and materially) and not just enrich ourselves or build fences around our households. But hey, they'd all be tuning in on Sunday to AMC's Mad Men, for sure. So should you. [Watch Season One episodes with your digital cable on-demand... Mrs. Nat did in two damn nights, no lie]. Other than Barack's nomination acceptance speech, a few Olympics events and an NFL pre-season game or two, what else better's on TV?