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Difficult Men: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad Paperback – 3 Oct 2013
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... this high resolution snapshot of American television ... is convincing as a discussion of the relationship between the economics of television and its creativity ... It also shines a light on the obscurely collaborative processes by which episodes of dramas get beaten into shape in writers' rooms ... It's core, however, pulsates with some of the most entertaining profiles of writers since Dr Johnson's Lives of the Poets. (The Times)
Brett Martin's insider understanding, built up by covering the industry for leading American magazines, makes his answers to these questions an entertaining read. You don't need to be a fan to enjoy his savvy insights into the key series; and his journalistic approach takes you up close to this parallel universe of show-runners, writers' rooms and beat-sheets, even into the Breaking Bad "room" for a day ... It is a complex story but Martin keeps it light and readable with a stream of nice nuggets. (The Sunday Times)
Brett Martin's Difficult Men does for the outstanding American TV dramas of recent years what Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls did for the great US movies of the 1970s: it's an entertaining and insightful history of how they came to be made. (Guardian)
Difficult Men by Brett Martin is a riveting and revealing look at how shows such as The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, helped US TV drama emerge as the signature art form of the twenty-first century.See all Product description
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If you're interested in the process and people behind the current era of TV, I HIGHLY suggest giving this book a go. This is one of the best books I've read this year. In fact, I'll go further, I think this might be one of the best books I've ever read about anything. That's lofty praise, I know, but the author really does a fantastic job of revealing the complex dynamics behind the explosion of high quality drama we've witnessed over the past decade or so.
As well as TV production itself, the personalities behind this revolution, the book offers thoughtful insight into shows themselves (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, etc. etc.).
However what a venal, childish and egotistical bunch these showrunners turn out to be. Plied with snacks and food and things to play with in their writers' rooms, the team behind "Breaking Bad" spends three days coming up with a minor plot detail that ultimately gets dropped. For a jobbing writer such as myself, the luxury of having days to come up with plot details as opposed to whatever time I can carve out while looking at myself in the shaving mirror seems unimaginable.
Brett Martin has clearly identified a phenomenon that has not only transformed TV but even how we interact with it socially through Twitter and our tablet computers. Binging on box sets has become a standard way to enjoy yourself.
Yet Martin has a painfully portentous writing style: "Sopranos" creator David Chase and his wife don't just like eating in the same restaurant, they are "creatures of gustatory habit." Or, talking about the decline in churchgoing, "...we are so many children in the wilderness, oyster spat drifting in search of something to attach to" ... eh? And what's "postfeminist discourse" when it's at home?
I suspect that, just as "The Movie Brats: How The Film Generation Took Over Hollywood" by Michael Pye and Lynda Myles, identified the phenomenon of the Steven Spielberg and George Lucas generation early on, so there's another book about this Age of the Box Set waiting to be written -- perhaps in the same multiple viewpoint style as "Edie". TV is, after all, a social phenomenon, isn't it?
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