TV Review: Mad Men (2007-2015)

Original Run: July 19th, 2007-May 17th, 2015
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: David Carbonara, RJD2 (opening theme)
Cast: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Batt, Michael Gladis, Aaron Staton, Rich Sommer, Maggie Siff, John Slattery, Robert Morse, Jared Harris, Kiernan Shipka, Jessica Paré, Christopher Stanley, Jay R. Ferguson, Kevin Rahm, Ben Feldman, Mason Vale Cotton, Alison Brie, Joel Murray, Peyton List, Harry Hamlin, Linda Cardellini, Rosemarie DeWitt, Randee Heller, Caity Lotz, Ray Wise, Stephanie Courtney, Patrick Fischler, Alexis Bledel, Anna Camp,

Weiner Bros., Silvercup Studios, Lionsgate Television, @radical.media (pilot only), Lionsgate Television, AMC, 92 Episodes, 47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Last night saw the end of an era, as the series finale to Mad Men aired. The show was one of the best shows of the last ten years and frankly, one of the best television shows of all-time.

Sure, maybe I’m late in reviewing it because it is now over and it has been on television since the summer of 2007. I also didn’t have this blog back then and I like to wait and review television shows after they have had time to establish themselves.

Chances are, most of you reading this have already seen the show and formed your own opinions. Most of you probably loved it or at the very least, liked it. Sure, there is the minority that didn’t and that is fine. Regardless, it is what this show brought that makes it so iconic and important.

As viewers, we were thrown back into the 1960s. The time and the style of the show ignited nostalgia in a lot of folks and thus, had them engaged from the first scene: Don Draper sitting in a bar trying to solve the dilemma of marketing Lucky Strikes cigarettes.

The strongest element of the show was not its style however, it was its substance. With that opening scene, you knew that you were in the past, where things were quite different. A time where minorities and women were treated generally, pretty poorly. Also a time where cigarettes could be marketed and people were a lot less concerned about the health risks of smoking, drinking and sexually transmitted diseases. As the show traversed its way through the 1960s and into 1970 – in the final season, our characters were faced with a multitude of issues and many of them had to deal with the consequences.

There isn’t anything in this show that hasn’t been dealt with our addressed in entertainment before but what this show did, was take all of these issues and put them in one place. Mad Men was a brilliantly executed smorgasbord of the social, economic, political, health and safety issues of the time. It also doesn’t hurt that the show was just always stunning to look at and perfectly acted.

Whether it was the set designers, the creative directors or the wardrobe people on set, it all became a happy and perfect marriage and gave us something special and unique. It has also paved the way for other shows on non-premium cable television to take more risks and not be fearful of being too edgy.

Without Mad Men, AMC wouldn’t have become a television powerhouse. For those that forget, AMC used to just show old black and white movies and that was it. Mad Men opened a door at the network that led to shows like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, Hell On Wheels, Halt and Catch Fire, TURИ: Washington’s Spies, The Killing and the soon to debut Preacher, Fear the Walking Dead, Humans and Into the Badlands. Mad Men also inspired a resurgence of period dramas on other networks – some successful and some, not so much.

With the last episode now having aired, I can say that Mad Men lived up to its continued hype and never disappointed. It was quality from day one and maintained its superior level of television storytelling all the way up to the very end. And ultimately, it had the balls to take everything it told you from the beginning and flip it on its head at the end.

The show had a unique ability to reinvent itself and its characters without the viewer realizing it in the moment. That being said, the characters on Mad Men could very well be the most human characters in television history.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Magic CityHalt and Catch FireThe Astronaut Wives Club and Manhattan.

TV Review: Legends of Tomorrow (2016- )

Original Run: January 21st, 2016 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Phil Klemmer
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Caity Lotz, Franz Drameh, Ciara Renée, Falk Hentschel, Amy Pemberton, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Matt Letscher, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Nick Zano

Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 33 Episodes (so far), 42-45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

With the success of Arrow and The Flash, the CW had to put out another superhero show in that universe. Plus, those worlds were getting too big and they needed a place to ship off some of those characters. So why not make them into a team.

Add in time travel and we’ve essentially got a superhero version of Doctor Who. It also doesn’t hurt that they added a fan favorite actor from Doctor Who lore to lead this team through time and space.

The premise of the show is interesting but ultimately, we are left with the weakest of CW’s DC Comics television series. The show is enjoyable and it has some good moments but it all just feels like filler and the threat, as great as it is, just doesn’t seem that threatening overall.

Vandal Savage, who was introduced in a crossover event on The Flash and Arrow, is the main villain of the series. The problem with the show is that they either kill him or nearly kill him almost every episode but for some reason he keeps coming back or isn’t killed because the writers have to stretch him out over the whole twenty episode campaign. He just feels like a total pushover instead of the immortal evil bad ass he should be. And the characters’ motivation when they don’t finally just pull the trigger is laughable and some of the worst writing ever.

None of these people seem stable or even rational enough to pull off this very important mission. I also find it hard to believe that in all of space and time, this motley crew is the best that Rip Hunter could assemble for a mission that is sold as the most important mission in the entirety of this universe.

I enjoy Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter and I have always been a fan of Brandon Routh’s Atom and Caity Lotz’s version of the Canary. Even the Prison Break reunion of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Captain Cold and Heatwave is pretty enjoyable. Firestorm is okay and Hawkgirl is somewhat interesting but all in all, this crew just doesn’t hold it together as an ensemble.

It feels like a forced union, which it is in reality and in fiction, but there should still be more chemistry. It’s chemistry that has worked so well for The Flash and Arrow. That magic just isn’t recreated here. And maybe the writers, between three shows, are stretched too thin.

This isn’t a show that I plan to give up on. Depending upon what they do for the second season, this show could turn it around. I’d like to see more characters rotated in and out of this group as the show goes on. I think that would work at keeping it fresh. It may also solve the chemistry problem.

Some of these characters are great but after seeing them full-time, they may play better on a part-time basis.

TV Review: Arrow (2012- )

Original Run: October 10th, 2012 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Colin Donnell, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Susanna Thompson, Paul Blackthorne, Emily Bett Rickards, Colton Haynes, Manu Bennett, John Barrowman, Echo Kellum, Josh Segarra, Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Kelly Hu, Alex Kingston, Chad L. Coleman

Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 115 Episodes (so far), 40 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2014.

Comic books have not historically been well-represented in television form. Some people will argue that Smallville was great and that The Incredible Hulk was awesome. Both had some good moments. Ultimately though, neither were amazing, The 1970s versions of Spider-Man and Captain America were pretty awful. The 1960s gave us Batman, which is one of my favorite shows of all-time but as a faithful adaptation, it falls in more ways than it succeeds. In 1990, we got The Flash, which I particularly liked even with the villains being pretty bad (excluding Mark Hamill’s role as the Trickster). However, that show didn’t make it more than a season, despite a great Danny Elfman score and popping up on the heels of the super successful 1989 Batman movie (the first one with Michael Keaton). We got other shows based on superheroes like Heroes and M.A.N.T.I.S. but neither were adapted from a comic book and both had promise but fizzled. There were other superhero shows but nothing that really captured the essence of a comic book.

Then there came Arrow.

This CW show followed up Smallville and its ten year run. While there was a Green Arrow on that show, with this show, they decided to start from scratch and I am glad they did. Green Arrow was one of the cool things about the later seasons of Smallville but for the character to have his own show, it needed to be darker and more real. The climate changed between the start of Smallville and the end of it, as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films completely changed the game. Arrow is a reflection of that and a pretty solid contrast from Smallville.

The acting on this series is pretty damn good. Stephen Amell is great as Oliver Queen a.k.a. the Arrow. In fact, he may be close to perfect. His sidekicks played by David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards are quite awesome. The other main cast members also hold their own. Doctor Who and Torchwood alum John Barrowman owns it as the sinister Merlyn. I would say that my favorite character on the show thus far though, is Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, who is played by Manu Bennett.

While the tone of the show is gritty, it often times doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously, as there are good lighthearted moments and some humor worked in. It also makes use of flashbacks very extensively, as each episode follows two stories – the story of the present and a story from five years earlier, when Oliver was trapped on an island.

Arrow is a unique show in that it feels like Batman Begins meets Lost. Two seasons in, it is off to a good start and I hope that the show keeps moving forward and improving as it goes. Its success has already led to a spin-off show for the Flash, which starts pretty soon. I hope Arrow and The Flash can maintain the quality I’ve now come to expect from this new era in DC Comics television shows.

Update:

Arrow lost some steam in the third and fourth seasons but in season five, it picks up steam again and gets closer to its roots. It becomes more of a flawed show as it progresses but cast changes and new threats keep it interesting enough to stick with it. At the end of season five, the game has seemingly completely changed going forward and I am still ready and willing to check out season six in the fall.