Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Revolution Was Televised (by Alan Sepinwall)

I read the self-published version of this book, which has since come out through more traditional publishing channels, so I'm not sure if anything has been added or changed in the new version. (Such as new interviews.) But this is a look at twelve TV series that revolutionized television, including Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men. It's essentially one chapter on each, with an introduction and a prologue to tie everything together.

The individual chapters don't entirely hinge on whether you've seen the show in question, but it helps. (The Deadwood chapter was the only one that felt slow to me, because I've never seen it and am not interested in it.) I thought in terms of arguing for a "revolution," some chapters were stronger than others. (I loved the chapter on Oz, for instance, even though I've never seen the show.) Sadly, the one that really sticks out to me is the one on Buffy, which doesn't fit into the timeline and isn't tied as strongly to any of the other shows. I get the idea that Sepinwall was really missing a female-centric story* and shoehorned it in a bit.

*Borrowing his convention of the asterisks--I wonder if his traditional publisher let him keep that one--I will say that reading this book really does bring home how basically all of the great dramas of this era have featured male protagonists, and hardly any strong female characters. At least we have Dr. Melfi and Peggy Olson. But maybe the next revolution can be born out of shows like Scandal and The Good Wife and Girls and Homeland, with women more at the center. To Alan's credit, he addresses this a number of times within in book as well, and even mentions several of these shows in the process.

I would have liked a little more big picture discussion of  how each show specifically changed television--although some are argued very clearly (Oz, The Sopranos, Lost) some of them I am still left wondering about (Friday Night Lights, Buffy, Deadwood) beyond "this is a really strong drama." But overall, the idea of a "golden age" of TV drama is clear and persuasive, and I really enjoyed reading about each of the individual shows. Recommended!

Oh, and if you don't read Alan Sepinwall's TV criticism on a regular basis, you are really missing out. He's the best in the business and can be found here.



Blogger Maureen said...

I love Alan and his reviews-and I enjoyed his book. I didn't feel the same way you did about the Buffy chapter, because I know how much of fan he is of the show.

I felt the same way you did about Deadwood, until enough people recommended it. It is truly a wonderful show-all the things I didn't think I would like, the violence, the language-seem very organic to the story. In fact so much of the writing reminds me of Shakespeare-it has that kind of resonance.

4:53 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Oh, don't get me wrong, Buffy is probably my favorite show in this entire book, and I love all of Alan's writing about the show. It just didn't fit as well into the overall narrative, for me. But I'm glad it worked for you!

Someday maybe I will get to Deadwood... I have to watch Breaking Bad and finish Friday Night Lights first. ;)

5:08 PM  

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