Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Wednesday Book Review Club: DIFFICULT MEN, Brett Martin

The subtitle is BEHIND THE SCENES OF A CREATIVE REVOLUTION FROM THE SOPRANOS....

This was quite an interesting book for me because I am a fan of the shows Mr. Brett looks at here. He makes the case that TV is undergoing a third golden age in terms of the product it is turning out. He is not talking about network shows but rather the sort of shows being produced by cable and premium channels. The Difficult Men he refers to are the characters in these shows and the men who serve as show runners: Vince Gilligan (BREAKING BAD), David Simon (THE WIRE and TREME), David Chase (THE SOPRANOS), Matthew Weiner (MAD MEN).

He begins with the last golden age, the years of Tinker, Bochco, Silverman, etc and movies into comprehensive studies of the recent trends. Networks are no longer willing to experiment and take the sort of risks they did during the HILL STREET BLUES, HOMICIDE era.  They can make their profits through reality shows and traditional fare. Cable and premium services produce fewer shows and are able to give these show runners considerable latitude in how they tell their story. And their story is often one that takes at least one and possibly many years to tell. These shows are more about character and place than plot. I am a fan of this approach to TV; many are not.

If the evolution of TV interests you, you will enjoy this book.

For more book reviews, visit Barrie Summy.

7 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Jeff asked on here if the book wasn't similar to the Sepinwal book I review earlier and yes, it is. I guess I can't get enough discussion about how these shows are written, the process and the evolution.

Barrie said...

Interesting! From the title, this was not the type of book I was expecting. :)Male TV characters have certainly changed over the years. Consider the dad in My 3 Sons compared to the shows you mentioned! it's like they're not even from the same planet! Thank you for reviewing!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I was intrigued by the title, but the subject wasn't what I was expecting. I'm a big fan of Mad Men. So glad someone is doing decent programming. Reality TV has really lowered the bar. Ugh. I cannon believe how A&E and History Channel have deteriorated in terms of what they offer. Don't get me started!

Rick said...

I thought it was strange how he mentioned "The Shield" pretty much only in passing as an precursor when it seems to me that Vic Mackie should have been an important party of his theory.

As I recall, the author tried to distinguish "The Shield" because it was on a basic cable network rather than a pay cable network. Then he included "Breaking Bad" which was also on basic cable...?

That aside, I enjoyed this book very much.

George said...

I enjoyed DIFFICULT MEN, too. Today's male TV characters are a long way from FATHER KNOWS BEST.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

I adore Margo Martindale!
Interesting book. I agree with Linda, re: the lowered bar.
Great topic.

Sarah Laurence said...

I don't watch much TV but my husband has enjoyed those shows. He might like the book so thanks for the review.