This is the first of what I intend to be a monthly post where I share a few things that are either a new release, or a series return, or maybe even an event for the month. June marks the start of the northern summer, so over the next six weeks we’ll see a whole lot of new and returning TV in the USA, as well as the summer blockbuster movie season. Needless to say there’s plenty to look forward to for screen junkies. Continue reading
Author: Steph Bateman
What is going on in Wayward Pines?
I have two confessions to make.
1. I used to watch Lost. A long time ago, before the polar bears but after the weird smoke. Maybe it was the other way around? But I’m a quitter, and I quit Lost because I could no longer deal with the fact that this story might not have an end point and I never had a single one of my questions answered. It’s not that Lost wasn’t a good show. It was. It just was not made for me and my brain. During it’s final season I used to receive a weekly episode synopsis from a coworker who was still on the Lost train. We worked Thursday night shifts at a particularly small and deserted shopping centre, so you know, we passed the time how we could.
2. I have never seen Twin Peaks. I’m 27 years old, which makes me about five years too young to have been swept up in it when it originally aired. I like David Lynch too, but it’s just one of those things that I haven’t gotten around to watching. By the way, that list is virtually endless.
Why am I talking to you about Lost and Twin Peaks when the title clearly says Wayward Pines? These are the two shows that it seems to be getting the most comparison too, although that seems to be dropping off a little the further into the story we go.
My friendly neighbourhood cable TV provider, Foxtel, advertised the shit out of Wayward Pines for about three weeks before it premiered. I was intrigued, but I thought to myself “you cannot get involved in another never ending vortex of questions that you can’t answer. You don’t have a boring retail job that someone can spend their shift explaining it to you anymore”. I was pretty on the fence about the whole thing. Fortunately I did my research and was pleasantly surprised to find out that Wayward Pines would be a clean, tidy and finite ten episode mini-series. I was thrilled! A mystery with an END POINT. What I realise now is that this doesn’t actually guarantee answers, just a date where I’ll either be really impressed or really annoyed. I was almost turned away by the fact the series executive producer is M Night Shyamalan, well, because, M Night Shyamalan.
Obviously, based on the fact that I’m writing about it, I got past that and decided to watch.
And I am so glad I did, but I am so far down the rabbit hole it isn’t funny. I am ALL IN on this one. And it’s taken a grand total of two episodes to achieve this. It probably would have only taken one if Foxtel hadn’t essentially played the entire first episode as a ‘trailer’ to the point that there was virtually nothing left to reveal. Continue reading
Mad Men Series Finale: Person to Person
Not how it ended, but I would have been into that
It’s a sad inevitability that all good things must come to an end. This old adage does indeed apply to our favourite TV series, and that day came around for Mad Men fans worldwide earlier this week. We farewelled Don Draper and the various characters connected to him through his personal life or the the advertising world and received resolutions (of sorts) for most of the people we’ve come to feel as if we know over the last seven seasons.
If you’re still reading, and you haven’t seen the final episode of Mad Men, and you do intend to watch it, stop now. It’s great and I don’t want it to be spoiled for you.
If you’re still with me, then I’m going to guess that you HAVE watched episode fourteen, or you don’t care about spoilers. This would make you one of about three people on the internet who don’t. It seems right now that spoilers are basically the worst thing you could do to another person. The actual worst. And maybe it’s got something to do with how little surprise we have in our lives these days. You can discover anything you want to know by pushing some buttons on your smart phone, everything you might want to do has probably been done by someone before and they’ve written about it online, and access to this information plays to our love of immediacy and knowing everything that is happening RIGHT NOW. Good entertainment promises the allure of a decent surprise or big reveal, so I guess when someone takes that away from you it’s probably understandable that it makes you want to hit them with a chair. There’s so little opportunity to experience it anywhere else.
Mad Men has been a story not only about the incredible characters, but also about the 1960s, so I was pleased to see that we ended around October 1970, rather than heading any further into the next decade. Continue reading
The End of a (Mad) Era
One of the great tragedies of being a TV tragic is the attachments we form with our favourite characters and series. Tomorrow, I (along with millions of other people) will farewell some of my all time favourite characters. I am of course talking about the conclusion of the seventh and final season of the critically acclaimed AMC drama Mad Men.
I came to Mad Men a little later than some, I think season four had not long ended, and it was the middle of the infamously long stretch between that and the beginning of season five. I knew about the show of course, and it definitely seemed like something that I would enjoy. I picked up a copy of season one on DVD and then very quickly seasons 2, 3 and 4. What I discovered was one of the most brilliantly written pieces of television I’d ever seen. I was on board from the very first episode I watched. And now seven series later we’re saying goodbye to this incredible piece of work, and that is not an easy thing to do. Why is it so hard? Because stories told this well, with this much artfulness are rare.
What is it that has made Mad Men just so damn good for all this time? Three things: Characters, story and the use of time.
One of the greatest achievement of this series has been the creation and development of the characters, and sure, this is a hallmark of any great story, but the creation of characters is something Matthew Weiner does exceptionally well. The story has always been extremely character driven (Mad Men is like the second most famous show about nothing). Matt Weiner created Don Draper, who is in my humble opinion the best television character we’ve ever had. To me Don is a relatable every-man who appears to be an untouchable. Don Draper is the voice inside all of us that plays to our insecurities, our fears and our darkest desires. Don is self doubt and self destruction personified and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced that within themselves. Of course, there’s more to Don than this, like Don’s questionable life choices designed to teach us a thing or two about morality (which by the way, according to Don is universal. Don is always consistent with his application of his morals, and sometimes lack thereof).
One of my favourite things about the characters is the world they live in. Matthew Weiner created a cast of characters who exist in a world set 50+ years ago, a world that was real, and that a reasonable portion of his audience never lived in. That part of the audience relate to it only though the history books, popular culture and stories from their parents and yet it has an incredible sense of authenticity, even though we have no personal basis for comparison. I love the way that the show has marked time through its integration of real events from the decade, and what a decade it was. The 1960s were such an incredible time, particularly in American culture that it really was the perfect choice. Others have tried and failed where Mad Men struck the perfect balance.
There’s a lot of speculation about how and where we’ll leave the stories of these characters, and naturally, enormous expectation. I feel for the show runners in these cases, where something is so beloved and people do feel such a deep and personal connection to the work, it is impossible to satisfy everyone, and there are always going to be fans who feel like they are owed a certain resolution.
While I appreciate that nobody wants to be ‘Sopranoed’ I think it’s important to keep in mind that the ending of a show does not necessarily have to redefine your entire relationship with the full body of work. I don’t think that something as incredible as Mad Men can possibly be rendered null and void by what some people deem to be an unsatisfactory ending.
It doesn’t take away the 100-and-something episodes of enjoyment that we experienced.
I’m prepared to feel like I need more, but I also trust that Matthew Weiner has taken us on this journey, and that he knows how and when to end the story.
“I’m living like there’s no tomorrow because there isn’t one” – Don Draper
Welcome to my populent life
Yes, I know populent isn’t a word. Neither is populence. They’re actually hybrid words, which is to say they’re completely made up to suit my requirements for this blog.
I used to write a blog called the 1001 Project, which was a really ambitious film-watching endeavour, that like many of my endeavours, I did not complete. Mostly because it was such a monumental task and I really set myself too many boundaries on something that was supposed to work as an opportunity for me to write creatively, and also churn through watching 1001 of the best films ever made to somehow legitimise my self-appointed status as a ‘film buff’. Anyway, what I came to realise is I don’t particularly care for legitimising myself, what I actually care about is sharing the things I love with the world. Or the like, five of you who might come across this (hi Mum!).
So why did I make up this word to describe a blog? I got to thinking about the current state of entertainment consumption, and certainly the amount I consume and the ways in which I do so. I’m trying to tell you I watch too much television. I have too much so called ‘screen time’ in my life. Only, I don’t think it’s too much. It’s not enough, and it will never be enough while there are still amazing films and television series being made and put out there for me to see. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a time where my options for entertainment are so many and varied. There is truly something for everyone if you look for it. And you don’t have to look particularly hard anymore. My life is privileged in terms of the things I have access to. Welcome to my life of populence.
I don’t have any really structured plans as to what I hope to achieve with this, other than it being a place to share the things I really enjoy with other people. I don’t want this to be a place of negativity. I’ll never review something that I hated just to tell you how much I hated it. There’s enough negativity on the internet as it is, I don’t think I need to contribute to that in any way. That’s not to say I won’t speak critically of something, but this is a place to celebrate the things I love.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!