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by Matt Paproth

21 Mar 2012


Many amazing TV series have come and gone over the past 20 years (I realize television has been around much longer, but let’s start the clock for this post around 1990). One rule, though, that I cannot find a single exception for, is this: no series has had its best season after Season 4.

In fact, for most series, quality depreciates considerably in Season 5, with seasons 2-4 marking the high-water mark. Among the best examples of this trend: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (4), The Sopranos (2 or 3), The Wire (4!), The X-Files (2-4), Lost (…terrified of Lost fans), Dexter (2 or 4), Grey’s Anatomy (2?), and The West Wing (1-2).

by Matt Paproth

20 Mar 2012


The notoriously tight-lipped Matt Weiner has been giving many interviews, as have members of the cast, but everyone continues to play things close to the vest. In some relatively serious web-digging, I managed to find precious little concrete information about what to expect in Mad Men: Season 5, airing Sunday, 25 March.

In the process, I became fascinated at the hilarious ways in which Weiner-and-co. manage to converse about the new season without actually saying anything. From the eight or so short videos posted on AMCTV.com, the main thing I learned was about the various new menu items offered at Pizza Hut, whose ads (bizarrely, right?) ran before the video clips (also, gross!).

by Matt Paproth

19 Mar 2012


A pondering Don in the season 4 finalé, "Tomorrowland".

Season 1
It is 1960, and the historical event we move towards is the Kennedy/Nixon election. Much of this season is spent figuring out exactly where Don Draper came from. He cheats on Betty throughout, most notably with Midge (the Beat artist) and Rachel Menken (the Jewish department store owner), which Betty discovers in the season finale. We learn about Don (i.e., Dick Whitman) throughout flashbacks and his brother, who reemerges into Don’s life and later hangs himself.

When Pete discovers Don’s past (he took the identity of Don Draper, a man he served with in Korea), he threatens then attempts to blackmail him; upon learning the information, Bert Cooper famously remarks “who cares?” Oh yeah, and Peggy is unknowingly impregnated by Pete and, in a scene that perhaps inspired the series I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, gives birth.

by Kerrie Mills

23 Jan 2012


OK, I admit it… largely on account of I’ve just finished a lengthy essay on Horrible Histories, so there’s no sense denying it: My interest in new SkyOne Britcom Spy—currently also available on Hulu.com in the US—was initially about seeing more of one particular Horrible Histories star, Mathew Baynton, in an environment I didn’t have to keep justifying every time another adult walked past the TV.

On the plus side, this means the readership will be spared the usual rant re: how only in TV-land would we be expected to believe either Baynton or Spy’s star, 6’4” Darren Boyd, as random computer-shop schlubs. No offense to my local Best Buy, but one look at these two and I immediately thought of 87 questions I needed to ask about cabling alone.

by Kerrie Mills

10 Nov 2011


The thing is, the British attitude toward how one might go about teaching history is a bit more… relaxed than most.

Not that this has traditionally trickled down to UK classrooms anymore than it has North American ones; only that it’s not surprising that when the floodgates did finally open, it happened in the land of 1066 and All That, et endless seq.. When once you’ve decided to adopt Rowan Atkinson as a media icon, there’s not much use trying to prevent children learning about the Renaissance from the perspective of a sewer rat.

Thus was enabled the origin story of the best-beloved Horrible Histories franchise. When asked circa 1992 by Scholastic Books UK to write an historically-themed joke book with a few factoids thrown in, British children’s author Terry Deary had traumatic flashbacks to his struggles to stay awake during middle school courses on the subject. Wouldn’t it be much more fun, Deary suggested instead, if he were to write a book of historical factoids with some jokes thrown in…?

As he delved into the ‘serious’ history texts, that quite naturally evolved into lots of jokes—in fact, into the entire grand gold mine of black comedy that is human civilization throughout the ages, just naturally packed full of the kind of bodily-fluid-filled gags that invariably set children to squealing happily. All of it underpinned by the particular sort of shrewdly anarchistic cleverness that the UK media have been on high alert for, oh, just about f40 years now. Hey, “Chapter One: The Dead Pirate Parrot Sketch” has a nice ring to it…

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