The very well-produced Netflix show The Crown has been generating a lot of controversy all over the world. It seems there’s a great divide: British people and the royal family themselves hate it, as they wish it were more faithful to reality and less disrespectful to their beloved monarchy. Commoners around the globe, on the other hand, love the exceptionally good writing, the dazzling performances and thrilling storylines. They watch it as a soap opera – as they should.
What nobody seems to be taking into consideration are the important lessons viewers can extract from the show. That’s what I’m here for: To assist you. Read below the main takeaways, which will help you become a more successful and happier human being:
Don’t try to emulate your opponent even if you admire and envy her: be authentic. Spread as much jam and butter on your toast as you want, while your beautifully slim rival, sitting across from you, sips tea, dreaming she could be bathing in a chocolate tub. You will win their respect eventually.
Keep quiet and do nothing in most situations: They will sort themselves out eventually.
Don’t give in to your children. No displays of love and affection, which will only weaken them. Discipline is what they need most. Let them be bullied and brutalised at school to prove they are real men.
Love your pets more than your family and friends.
On the other hand, if animals are not pets, just go out dressed as a peasant and shoot them ruthlessly.
Complain, complain, complain about the constraints imposed upon you, as much as you want…but never try to live a freer and more fulfilling life: The privileges and pleasures of the royalty prove unsurpassable.
All problems can be solved by heavy drinking and chain smoking, or by huge doses of extramarital sex.
Pretend you are the only person on Earth that has direct contact with God – whatever your religion. People will believe you if you don’t waver.
Power has a lot to do with accents. Especially in English. Open your mouth minimally to enunciate your vowels. Let people struggle to understand what you are trying to say.
Use the word Indeed as often as possible. It will impress most commoners.
Keep a bell next to you at all times and ring it often, even if you don’t have any servants to summon.
Don’t get a real education, it will not do you any good. Learn about manners, rites, some French travel phrases, and all about the Constitution. More than that will be useless.
Lie, lie, lie.
Never touch a book. Spend your free time in long walks in muddy terrain and cold weather, drinking tea or hugging your dogs.
Go back on your promises without hesitation if it servers your agenda.
If you are having domestic problems (like your wild son went missing), go bombard some faraway country – such as Argentina – to relax a bit.
I strongly recommend you watch the show. It is already a classic.
Even if the reader did not watch these shows when they first aired, there were reruns throughout the seventies, eighties, and nineties, and some of them can still be watched on cable TV and streaming services. Besides, most of them are available as DVD box sets.
Younger people may find it hard to believe we loved those shows. How could we stand the primitive and amateurish visual effects? How could we tolerate the bias against women, gays, blacks and other minorities? How could we sit still through the slow pace, and the lack of jokes and punch lines present every other second in today’s sitcoms?
Well, those were more innocent times, we were naïve viewers, we couldn’t anticipate the complicated nuanced plots, complex social analysis and great acting of shows like THE SOPRANOS, MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD or HOUSE OF CARDS. Those early shows were all we had back then, and the whole family gathered together in front of the bulky black and white TV set to watch them. Few families had color TV in the early seventies in Brazil. Besides, now and then, one of us would have to stand up and reach for the TV aerial to adjust it or pound on the top of the TV set to get the image to straighten up. Did I forget to say there were no remote controls either? Bad news for the couch potatoes.
These were the most popular shows among my friends in those days:
Lost in Space. This was by far the kids’ favorite show. When I was older, my mother explained the reason we were so into that show was that it featured a well-adjusted, loving family confronting the tough obstacles an ominous Universe put in their way. Could be. The aforementioned family – the Robinsons (any reference to The Swiss Family Robinson, the novel by Johann David Wiss published in 1812, is not coincidental) – sets off to investigate conditions to colonize a planet near Alpha Centauri, due to the overpopulation on Earth in the inconceivably distant future of ….1997!
Their trip would last 4 years, during which time they would remain frozen in suspended animation. However, many other nations were working on similar projects, competing with the US. Therefore, the wicked and ambitious Doctor Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), who worked for the US project as a psychologist, was hired as an agent by one of these competing nations. He carries the responsibility of sabotaging the mission. The problem is Doctor Smith gets trapped in the spaceship, the two-story disc-shaped Jupiter 2, seconds before it takes off, being forced to leave Earth with The Robinsons. The extra weight veers the spaceship off its original course and they get inevitably lost. He will be a burden to the family and their pilot, Major West, as they face innumerable perils in space or on the alien planets they sometimes land on. Rumor has it the producers’ plan was to feature the family patriarch Professor Robinson (Guy Williams, of Zorro fame) and his co-pilot Major Don West (Mark Goddard) as the stars of the show. But as the episodes developed, the focus shifted almost 100% to the adventures of Doctor Smith (played hilariously by Jonathan Harris), the male kid, Will Robinson (Billy Mumy), and their loyal Robot, who stoically took all the abuse heaped upon him by Smith. The trio simply stole the show. Smith was supposedly gay (and rather camp), but no one talked about it at the time, and there was never any fear that he could corrupt his young partner, Will. The visual effects were pathetic and look ridiculous by today’s standards. The settings and monster costumes are incredibly amateurish and silly too. But we loved the show.
I dream of Jeannie. Everyman’s sexual fantasy come true, there was never, however, a more innocent relationship between a master and his sexy slave than the one sustained by Astronaut Major Nelson (Larry Hagman) and the genie he finds imprisoned in a bottle on a desert island on the Pacific, setting her free.
Actor Barbara Eden, who played Jeannie, was at the height of her beauty and sensuality in those days, and, although the network decency guidelines wouldn’t allow us even a glimpse of her navel, she must have stirred the hormones of many a teenager and young man. Major Nelson, though, seemed immune to her attractions. We, on the other hand, were too young for those kinds of feelings and sensations. Girls loved the little doll house Jeannie lived in inside the bottle, while boys had the time of their lives watching the problems she caused Major Nelson by timing the execution of her magic tricks, accomplished by blinking her eyes and crossing her arms, to whenever Doctor Bellows (Hayden Rorke), the space program psychiatrist, was around.
The Time Tunnel. This show did what every school should be doing: teaching history in a fun and engaging way. This, of course, was far from the objective of the producers, who only came up with a clever premise to raise their ratings, without any noble educational purpose in mind. The show featured two scientists trapped in a time machine built by the US government in the shape of a tunnel, hence the title.
The machine gets out of control and the scientists cannot return to the present. Every episode would feature a story in which they’d land either in the future or the past. The episodes depicting important past events (the Second World War, the eruption of the Krakatoa and the sinking of the Titanic, among others) outnumbered the ones set in imaginary futuristic scenarios, which turned the series into great history lessons. We learned a lot from watching it, and had fun at the same time.
Batman. The most psychedelic show of the era, the 60s version of the Dark Knight was an explosion of color (for those who could afford color TV), unforgettable idiosyncratic nemeses (such as Catwoman, the Joker, The Riddler and The Penguin) and exciting fight scenes during which innovative onomatopoeic speech bubbles popped up on the screen (Pow! Plop! Bang! Craack!). The costumes worn by most characters were duly ludicrous and it never crossed our naïve minds that the whole thing was supposed to be a parody of the comic books. We took the adventures very seriously: the anthological death scene of Catwoman, falling from a tall building after dangling for a couple of tense minutes by the grip of Batman’s heroic hands before plunging into the void, depressed the most sensitive kids of the time. We all loved Catwoman, she was sexy and fun, who cared if she was evil?
Many other shows of the time were also popular, such as Land of Giants, Bewitched and The Monkees. Television evolved a lot in more recent years, and I daresay some of the new shows have way more quality than many of the movies we watch in theaters. I was lucky those silly shows coincided with my childhood and early teenage years: I was able to enjoy them fully without any sense of shame or guilt.
What was your favorite TV show of the sixties and seventies?
For months, I tried to get an exclusive interview with Homer Simpson for Father’s Day. His PR representative kept turning me down but I didn’t give up. Then I had a lucky break. As Lisa, his daughter, was browsing through my blog Linguagem,she came across the article Stephen King’s The Shining: Like Father, Like Son (https://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1IL) and got interested. The PR rep had neglected to inform Mr. Simpson as to where the interview would be published. Lisa convinced her Dad how important it could be for his career to talk to Linguagem. Consequently, Homer immediately granted me an interview. He couldn’t have been more apologetic about his employee’s gaffe. Needless to say, she got fired.
The next day I flew to Springfield and, after a wonderful dinner with the entire family, I spoke to Homer. Below, you will find a summary of the insightful conversation we had about his life and the importance of fatherhood:
Linguagem: Mr. Simpson, how do you plan to celebrate Father’s Day with your family? Are you going anywhere fancy?
HS: What’s the point of going out? We’re just gonna wind up back here anyway.
Linguagem: I see. How do you feel about life in general?
HS: I’ve learned that life is one crushing defeat after another…
Linguagem: Do you follow any particular philosophy on how to educate your kids? Can you give us an example of how you discipline them when they are out of line?
HS: Now Bart, since you broke Grandpa’s teeth, he gets to break yours.
Linguagem: And what about when your boy reach puberty?
HS: …I told my wife how to go about teaching Bart how to become a man: The code of the schoolyard, Marge! The rules that teach a boy to be a man. Let’s see. Don’t tattle. Always make fun of those different from you. Never say anything, unless you’re sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do.
Linguagem: Hmmm. As a Dad, what are your hopes for your children?
HS: I believe that children are our future. Unless we stop them now.
Linguagem: Are you a religious man? Do you thank God for the great life and wonderful family you have?
HS: I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman. But I remember saying on one particular occasion: Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me. As an offering, I present these milk and cookies. If you wish me to eat them instead, please give me no sign whatsoever…thy will be done.
Linguagem: What would you do if there were some kind of emergency with your kids?
HS: Operator! Give me the number for 911!
Linguagem: What is the best advice you could give to kids who didn’t accomplish what they had wanted to?
HS: Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
Linguagem: Do you consider yourself a good role model for your children?
HS: I think the saddest day of my life was when I realized I could beat my dad at most things, and Bart experienced that at the age of four.
Note: all Homer’s answers are actual quotes from the very successful and funny TV show. Homer may sometimes sound harsh, but he is a loving father and adored by his dedicated wife. Happy Father’s Day to all.
The beginning of summer is a very exciting time for Netflix viewers, as a bunch of new seasons of great shows opens. In the past month only, we’ve had the launches of Bloodline (season 2); Orange is the New Black (season 4) and Bates Motel (season 3).
When the latter first came out, three years ago, many critics had serious reservations about it. They wondered what they were going to see after all. What was pitched to the press sounded like an easy, unnecessary and, more than anything else, disrespectful product to the memory of the great Hitchcock. Why write a prequel to one of his most famous and popular movies – Psycho – made more than 50 years ago?
The critics were in for a pleasant surprise, though. The show turned out to be great fun. One of the most entertaining and well-written horror shows currently available on the streaming service.
Of course, the main actors, Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and Freddy Highmore (Finding Neverland), who play, respectively, the domineering Mother (with a capital letter!) Norma, and her tormented younger son, Norman, deserve most of the credit for the show’s success. The near-incestuous relationship between Mother and son – which the writers have been tasteful enough not to make explicit so far – is the throughline from which a number of interesting subplots branch out every season.
Vera Farmiga’s performance is nothing less than dazzling. She portrays every possible nuance of this plagued woman with a terrible past, trying to make a fresh start after her husband’s accidental death, by moving to a small town in Oregon and opening a motel. The town, however, and the strange guests that keep popping up at the hotel seem determined not to give her a break.
British Actor Freddy Highmore
Highmore’s Norman, the son – who has probably become mentally unstable not only for sharing the experiences his mother went through, but also because of her obsessive love – is portrayed very sensitively, giving us a very convincing idea of what the original Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins in the iconic movie, must have been like in his youth.
Despite being a prequel to Psycho, the story takes place in modern day America. Through seasons 1-3, we have followed, among other things, the busting of hidden plantations of weed – whose commerce is the staple of the town’s economy; the mysterious murder of a high-school teacher who had tender feelings for the sweet Norman; and the return of Norma’s estranged brother – who fathered her oldest child. There seems to be a lot more in store.
More than the dark and, sometimes openly weird, storylines, however, what seems to draw viewers to the show is the constant atmosphere of suspense maintained in each episode, the stunning photography, and the charismatic supporting cast.
Writers versus producers
Shows like Bates Motel, which do not play safe, are, of course, the realm of great writers, not producers. Their freedom to take risks makes all the difference, constantly raising the bar for TV/Streaming products, which seem to be on an irreversible course towards excellence, unlike what has been happening to Hollywood movies. The viewers are grateful!
We had The Sopranos, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. All these shows made history by breaking new ground in televison, focusing on the excellence of scripts, stunning acting and great premises.
The Sopranos dared to show in our living rooms how disturbingly “normal” a Mob family could look as seen from the inside, and thus struck a powerful blow on corporate America by likening the lifestyle and “business” methods used by Mob leader Tony to those commonly employed by CEOs of huge companies throughout the world.
Mad Men is all about contrasting society’s habits and especially womens’s position in the workplace by focusing on a a group of advertisers in the 1960s – the coolest professional category at the time – and having us analyse the context with today’s eyes. Has it changed that much? Do men, although behaving more subtly, still have the same demeaning attitudes towards women in the workplace? Food for thought. In addition to that, for those who work in the area of marketing, as I do, it’s fascinating to see how simple and direct it was for those Madison Avenue guys to lure and entice customers back in the sixties, when companies kept all the power of communication, especially through television, as opposed to the shift and landslide caused but the Internet and social media these days, which have given the customer a lot more voice and power in dealing with product/service sellers.
Walter White, the iconic protagonist of Breaking Bad, taught us that not all human beings are stable enough to maintain a solid and permant state of sanity and acceptable social behavior intact when exposed to extreme circumstances and under brutal pressure (in his case, the fact that cancer would eventually kill him and leave his family – wife and two kids – financially unprotected, after years of slaving away as a chemistry school teacher). He decides then to use his brilliant knowledge as a scientist to start a new and illegal business, becoming the fearless and cold-blooded drug dealer Heisenberg. Again, it’s been said that watching the show would easily substitute for a formal business course at Harvard! More than that, however, it demonstrates the lengths a person will go and the changes in personality that may occur as the result of one’s feeling abused and wronged by the institutions of one’s community.
Now we are watching another one of these groundbreaking series American TV has been lavishing upon us for the past 15 years or so. They are becoming even more daring as they stand on the shoulders of previous giants. Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, for example, under the pretext of depicting thelife of the inmates of a women’s federal prison, explores the feminine universe in all its details. The prison reflects of course what goes on with women in the American society as whole. With a lot of humor and irony, but also delicacy and poignancy, the show discusses the nuances of real (as opposed to stereotyped) lesbianism and homophobia, the violence and prejudice against minorities (women, blacks, latinos, homosexuals, immigrants, religious cultists and transexuals) and, not less interestingly, how power is gained, maintained and lost at different times in a community. The show is very political in bringing to light the different kinds of negotiations and shady deals one has to strike at all hierarchical levels to survive and keep one’s dignity and rights in society. I will not say anything about the ensemble of great actors who compose the cast. Suffice it to say that the acting is superb and the actos’ looks are initially revolting – until you grow accustomed to them and realize that’s what real people look like. Unlike the fake ” ugly ” looks worn by the likes of Meryl Streep in Ironweed or Charlize Theron in Monster,the women in OITNB look rather common, it’s just that we are not used to seeing them on TV. I have just read an article on the Internet pointing out that the show is effectively changing peoples’ negative opinions and attitudes towards the minorities it featured. Besides great entertainment, what more can you expect from a TV show? Well done!
Orange is the New Black
Do you watch Orange is the New Black? What do you think of it? Please leave a comment in the appropriate section of the blog before you move to another page.
No, I’m not making any references to the famous John Lennon phrase in the beginning at of the seventies (“the dream is over”), although this historical period will coincide – I suppose – with the historical time in the series when the storyline will be over.
I have not seen the second half of the last season of MAD MEN yet (it’s currently on). I’m in fact talking about the imminent end of one of the best and most revolutionaries TV shows of all time.
I clearly remember the first episode of MAD MEN – it was already more than 10 min into the show when I switched on the TV, and, already in the armchair, took a punch in the stomach by what I saw: I had no idea what I was seeing. Could not label or classify it in any of the common categories we use for TV shows and movies. Could it be the rerun of a famous movie of the nineteen sixties (the image looked too crispy and glossy for that, though), a soap opera, a miniseries? It all looked so strange and new. Regardless of what it was, I was immediately hooked by the vivid colors on the screen, the nuanced dialogue, the strange and depreciative way the women characters were treated in the workplace, the out-of-place boyish and silly behavior of grown men in what seemed to be the setting of an advertising agency, the glamour of the characters’ wardrobe. What was going on?
I remember clearly that the first scene I saw showed the character Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) in the process of being hired for a job as a secretary (what else were women allowed to do back then?), but the atmosphere of the workplace seemed totally weird: men were being rude and sarcastic to women to their faces (some still do that today, but usually behind that backs), employees were chain-smoking at the office and nobody bothered. All the offices themselves seemed to have a fully stocked bar for whoever wanted to get smashed during work hours. Sexually inappropriate jokes were being thrown right and left among the male employees.
After hired, Peggy was given pointers by one tough Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) who seemed to be the personification of a sixties beauty – when women were supposed to be curvaceous, have a huge bust and impossibly narrow waistlines. Joan enhanced her looks by wearing stunningly colorful dresses for work, topped by a shiny updo of red hair, carrying an authoritarian dominatrix look about herself, exuding sexuality and power: I had just met one of the most original and nuanced characters on TV history.
Then enter Dan Draper (Jon Hamm), from a classic stock of handsome movie stars from yesteryear, not very fashionable nowadays, incredibly seductive with his square chiseled jaw and deep dark eyes, a man’s man, who seemed to seduce all the women around. With eyes glued to the TV and ears attentive to every bit of non-naturalistic but expertly crafted dialogue, which exuded excellence, humor, insight, and irony, I wondered if that was one of the Oscar-winning movies I might have missed from previous years,
The last scene of this first episode was very eloquent, and gave away this was a new TV show I was not allowed to miss: Don Draper gets home. Despite all the unashamed flirting he exercised during the office hours, he comes to a serene household in the suburbs, where a loving wife and two kids await. The spouse is blond and almost a caricature of a fifties housewife in the bland and domesticated way she looks, except you can immediatey tell from those eyes that Betty Draper (January Jones) is in reality a lot more complex psychologically than she lets on at first sight and more fitting for a jaded woman of the XXI century. Don walks up the stairs heading to the kids’ bedroom, tucks them in, and kisses them good night in their sleep, as we hear the beginning of the beautifully evocative chords of My Fair Lady’s song ON THE STREET THAT YOU LIVE. We immediately sense something is awfully off in that supposedly peaceful household. The credits begin to roll.
For the next 8 years or so, I haven’t missed one single episode of MAD MEN (I tend to buy the DVD sets with the complete season, and spend wonderful weekends binging on it, never ceasing to be amused, surprised, awed and moved by the beauty, sophistication, elagance of dialogue, pathos, superp acting and general charisma of Mathew Weiner’s show.
Well, all good things come to an end. Let’s just hope that in the near future American producers and writers will fight hard to put out modestly successful shows, by the standards of American movies and TV anyway – like MAD MEN, and THE SOPRANOS, which preceded it – undeniably too refined to be appreciated by the barbaric masses who crowd the theaters with their stinking huge bags of popcorn for the next installment of THE AVENGERS. In the case of Brazil, let’s hope TV people learn and try to shake and shape the sensibility of tired workers who get home after hours in the traffic to nagging wives and whining kids, and, beer in hand, can do nothing but resign themselves to watch catatonically the pathetic episodes of the latest prime time soap opera or Reality TV show.
Streaming TV (Netflix and Amazon) is the future – we need more shows that push the envelope and, through fiction and documentaries, provide us with unusual angles and insights into life, which, for now, only good literature can impart.
I say goodbye to Don, Peggy, Roger, Joan, Betty, Sally (the extraordinary child actor who plays the Draper daughter) and all the exceptional ensemble of the show with a deep pain in my heart. They will live in my mind forever, like characters of a Philip Roth novel.
It all started when a mob family guy began to have panic attacks after a flock of ducks flew away from his backyard leaving him with an irreparable sense of loss and despair. He started seeing a psychiatrist. We also noticed an uncanny resemblance between the way he conducted his mob activities and the way big companies operate in the real world. Was this possibly a metaphor of corporate America? Then there was the focus on his family – unusual in mafia movies (except for The Godfather). We had hardly ever seen a mob wife on the small screen before, with all the details of her lifestyle, including a sense of how her ambition blinds her to the criminal work of her husband. As long as she is able to afford the nice house in the suburbs of Newark and the espresso machine, she is not complaining. If you add to these ingredients the fact the the husband is played by the ultra charismatic late actor James Gandolfini and the wife by the remarkable Edie Falco, you begin to understand why TV is changing into a medium of great content and art work. Of course I’m talking about The Sopranos in this case, the show that basically changed the way cable TV producers, liberated from the pressure of sponsors, started to want to experiment with new formats. The revolution is continuing in streaming video now.
The new TV
Almost ten years after the end of that seminal show, we have now an offer of excellent series and made-for-tv movies all over the place, competing in quality of content and presence of great actors in the cast. The bar is being raised continuously. Movie stars don’t think twice before crossing the bridge to the former lower land of television, when the invitation is tempting enough. Some of them, such as academy-award winner Kevin Spacey even bring their own projects to new media channels (which is the case of the successful House of Cards on Netflix.)
I’ve always been a lover of the movies, but I must confess these days I’d much rather watch an episode of Downton Abbey or Mad Men from the comfort of my couch than struggle to park at the nearest mall to watch a superhero blockbuster or a silly Brazilian comedy on the big screen. Besides, there is the new pleasure of binge watching on weekends, that is, covering sometimes a whole season or two in less than 48 hours. I’m aware of the perils of addiction, don’t worry. Look at the tragic end that befell most of the Candy Crush Saga players…
I forced myself to think why it is that TV is so much better now. Could I pinpoint some of the main differences between Charlie’s Angels in the seventies and The Shield?They are both cop shows. Therefore, they’re basically about catching the bad guys, right? So what’s new? Well, for starters, the protagonists in the new shows are not saints, but multifaceted human beings. They all have a dark side and are badly flawed somehow, like the heroes of Greek tragedies. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), one of the main characters in The Shield, for example, doesn’t think twice before partaking in the spoils of war the drug dealers he chases accumulate. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) of Mad Men has a compulsive infidelity drive, despite the nice and caring women who love him. He also hides a dark secret from his past. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from Breaking Bad or Dexter(Michael C. Hall) from the show of the same name are both hardcore criminals! Walter runs a meth lab and is the kingpin of an international drug operation. His family knows nothing about it at first, but then his wife gets coopted and starts working for her husband. Dexter carves his victims with sadistic pleasure: OK, they only get submitted to the horrific ritual if they’ve committed crimes themselves but then again… Nurse Jackie, also played beautifully by Edie Falco in the show of the same name, is a committed nurse, who loves and cares for her patients, always going the extra mile to help them. Only she has sex with a coworker, jeopardizing the stability of her nice family structure, to have access to the painkillers she is addicted to.
The new TV
In addition to the flawed heroes, you will notice that most of these shows are about ensembles. There’s of course the main hero and his journey, but all the other subplots are as interesting or sometimes even more enticing than the main one. Supporting roles are usually played by very accomplished actors, so even a small scene played by a guest star can be a little gem.
Last but not least, there is the superb writing. If movies are the domain of directors and producers, as they have total control over their work, TV or streaming video is the realm of writers. They run the show there. And surely this is a very strong reason why plots, structure, dialogues, and subtext have gained a lot more prominence over their big screen counterparts. A lot is not said in these shows’s plots. The subtlety of the dialogues, the importance of silences and the facial expression of great actors add a lot to the the depth of a scene. Also, the fact that sometimes the storyline or specific scenes focus on very small things of everyday life, and yet highlight unusual details and reveal interesting motives of a character make for great entertainment: the theft of a bottle of wine by a gay footman (Downton Abbey) or the puberty troubles of a girl (Mad Men) add a lot to the attraction of a show, illuminating areas of the human experience that in the past were limited to literature or art movies.
If you have not watched any of the shows we discussed above, I strongly recommend you have a go at them. Let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts in this space.
In the meantime, check out my Pinterest board on BEST TV SHOWS (click on the picture below):
This is what it takes to succeed in advertising in Madison Avenue:
1. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (this could have come from Kubrick’s The Shining as well).
2. Clients need to be wined and dined to the point of stupor to close a deal.
3. As an employee – especially a secretary – you will get in trouble resisting the sexual advances of superiors or VIP clients. Give in. Homosexual advances must be turned down, however, and the proponent is allowed to be called a pervert.
4. Count on Don Draper to save any campaign presentation at the last minute by changing his tone of voice. It gets lower, and the speed of his delivery slows down. He will also look deeply and meaningfully into the clients’ fascinated eyes. It helps if the musical score rises at the climactic moment.
5. Getting stoned and drunk at the office makes creative work a lot more productive, although most of it turns out crappy in the end.
6. Chain smoking or coping stoically with second-hand smoking is a strong indication that you are on your way to stardom. Wives of marketing executives will not hesitate to reward their thirteen-year-old daughters with a cigarette to celebrate school accomplishments.
7. Get a good-looking wife or husband if you are in the business of advertising and be unfaithful to them. A necessary step to further your career.
8. Take 4-year-olds to watch Planet of the Apes and don’t worry if they start having constant nightmares afterwards and wish to get rid of the family dog because they can’t stand getting near fur any longer. These little family problems should not concern a senior executive any way.
9. Back-stabbing is a very normal and acceptable part of the business. You will have your chance to get back at your ex-best friend eventually.
10. The most important question to ask about an applicant if you have not seen them yet is: is she black or white?
Well, we are in the sixties after all. Jokes apart, the show is brilliantly written and should be watched.
Television is changing. Its shows, especially after the advent of HBO, Netflix and Showtime, are becoming more and more sophisticated and nuanced. I would even dare to say that TV shows in general are a lot more fun than the average Hollywood movie, one reason being that they are shorter and therefore able to pack a lot more punch into their compressed 30 or 60 min length. Of course, you can, and probably will, binge watch whole seasons of Breaking Bad on a single weekend, but the experience is usually more satisfying than spending 3 hours at the movie theater. I know, I’ve done it.
That’s why I’ve decided to narrow my choices and include only TV villains in this post. Maybe in the future I will have another go at it, and focus on the big screen baddies.
Here’s the list of my favorite TV villains. They are NOT listed in order of preference. All of them are contemporary, so the reader will hopefully know who I’m talking about. I also understand that my choices may not be terribly original, but I’m sure some of my reasons might surprise you.
1. Dexter Morgan (from Dexter): strong organizational skills, love of kids, sense of humor and irony are some of Dexter’s virtues I respect and relate to. He also cleans after himself and has an elegant method of avoiding leaving behind a messy crime scene. We could easily be flatmates. I also really like the cool thermal shirt he wears when he goes on killing jobs. I’ve been looking to buy one. I will have to lose a few pounds to fit into them though. Quote: “People fake a lot of human interactions, but I feel like I fake them all, and I fake them very well. That’s my burden, I guess.”
2. Frank Underwood (from House of Cards): yes, you love him too, I know. But I even love his wife better, she’s next on the list. Single-mindedness, strong sense of purpose, ability to focus and to design well thought-out strategies, in addition to a very keen sense of politics are all enviable treats of Francis’s (as his wife calls him) personality. He is also a great reader of peoples’s feelings and emotions. He knows when to back off. Excellent at prioritizing his battles. Quote: “There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.”
3. Claire Underwood (from House of Cards): extremely beautiful, proving that you can still be stunning in maturity, Claire has a great sense of fashion and style. She also has total control over her feelings. Like Frank, she picks her battles carefully, has strategic vision, and doesn’t mind being upstaged by her husband, as she knows she is really the boss. Besides, she goes jogging regularly: I wish I had that kind of determination. Quote: “Now tell me, am I really the sort of enemy you want to make?”
4. Walter White (from Breaking Bad): fearless trend-setter: he’s fifty years old and looks cool wearing only a long-sleeved green shirt, white underwear, socks and leather shoes. The ultimate entrepreneur. Manages his business like a proper CEO. Highly intelligent. A perfectionist in every sense of the word: he is very proud of the purity of the the blueish product he puts out with the utmost care and dedication. I’ve read somewhere that watching the whole Breaking Bad series is equivalent to taking a business course at Harvard. I got my degree last month! Quote: “What I came to realize is that fear, that’s the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So, get up, get out in the real world and you kick that bastard as hard you can right in the teeth.”
5. Bart Simpson (from The Simpsons): you may not even realize he’s a villain, but don’t be deceived by his innocent looks and strange feminine voice. Bart Simpson is evil. However, I like the fact that he is very cold in his decision making process, when necessary. Outcomes are what really matters for him. He’s great at practicing his calligraphy (at the beginning of every show you will always see him writing the same sentence – a different one per episode- on the blackboard hundreds of times). Take Steve Jobs, for instance: didn’t he study calligraphy and allegedly applied his knowledge in the making of the beautiful fonts available on the first Mac computers? So, Bart deserves brownie points for his efforts too. Another career option for Bart would obviously be teaching, given all this expertise handling the chalk (not sure if this will be a widely sought-after skill in the profession in the near future, though). Finally, he’s one of the few major TV characters who tries to speak Spanish: ¡Ay, caramba! Quote: (to his sister Lisa) “You got the brains and talent to go as far as you want and when you do I’ll be right there to borrow money.”
Well, I hope I’ve been persuasive in explaining why I love these guys. Now it’s your turn. Share with us the list of baddies you care about.