Film and TV

The Week in TV

Don Draper's coming back! (Eventually.) This was the week in TV Land:

• Weeks like this, I'm glad I only have to get a handle on TV news once every seven days. Just about every day last week seemed to bring some new development in the growing trouble between AMC, Lionsgate TV, and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner over the fate of the show and its chances of returning any time soon. Word got around that AMC possibly wanted to trim the show's run time by a couple minutes to allow for more ads, and to also push for more product placement within the show; the irony that this all happened regarding a show dealing inherently with the emptiness of advertising as a metaphor for human longing was apparently lost on the network. It was also rumored that the network wanted to cut cast members, and Weiner said he fought that by offering to take a pay cut, a move that only made the network give him more money. (The logic of that's pretty weird, too: Why would the network say, in essence, "We're trying to save money, so here's more money for you"?) Then AMC ordered a fifth season of the show by triggering their option with Lionsgate, meaning they were gonna get their show with or without Weiner. Basically, it was a high-powered pissing match between network and creatives about getting paid.

But a few days ago, everybody finally agreed to terms, and a deal was reached that will bring the show back for three more seasons, over which Weiner will be paid a (let's face it) ridiculous $30 million. The deal also sets an end date for the show: these next three seasons will be its last. That's undeniably a smart move for all involved, particularly Weiner. It's always better to set an end date for your story and aim to wrap it up as well as possible instead of just letting it peter out. Even if you end with a scene in which half your original cast hangs out in their own specially made spiritual limbo before moving on to heaven, at least you tried. Because of the protracted negotiations, Weiner and the writers will get started in a few weeks on the new scripts, with a July start date tentatively set for shooting. That means the fifth season of the show won't hit our screens until this time next year, so if you (like me) have fallen behind, now's the time to catch up via DVD.

• MTV unveiled a trailer for its TV version of Teen Wolf last week, and it was every bit as disappointing as you could imagine. The show is flop-sweat desperate to ride the last of the Twilight wave before that series' fans grow up and feel appropriate levels of shame for the years they lost to the work of Stephenie Meyer, so the new series is all about sensitive bad boys, supernatural soap operas, and love that's doomed because why not, it just is. That's why it's so bizarre (and more than little maddening) that the series is called Teen Wolf: it has exactly nothing to do with the 1985 comedy in which Michael J. Fox car-surfed his way into our hearts. The plot, characters, and setting are entirely different. Why use the title? Viewers old enough to remember the movie won't care about the show, and viewers young enough to watch the show aren't going to be pulled in by a reference that's twice as old as they are. Then again, maybe this is good news for the TV pilot I'm working on about a child prodigy who gets contracted by the Department of Defense to design weapons of mass destruction but goes on the run after stealing plans for a new long-range missile. He also has an affair with the female agent assigned to catch him, who may or may not be responsible for his father's death. I call it Real Genius.

• "The show is now an unmitigated disaster." Good riddance.

• The Peabody Awards are like the older, sober brother to the reckless Emmys and absolutely trashed Golden Globes. After the other award shows have their day, the Peabody crew comes in and calmly passes out medals to series they feel are worthy of recognition on an artistic and almost moral level. Last week, they handed out honors to series like Justified ("part morality play, part character study"), Sherlock ("audaciously updated for our high-tech times"), and If God is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise ("by turns beautiful, depressing and optimistic"). If nothing else, the list is enough to make me curious about The Good Wife. Who knew?

• Speaking of Justified: the writing on the wall a couple weeks ago turned out to be true, and last week the show was officially picked up for a third season. I'm running out of different ways to tell people to drop what they're doing and watch this show already; it's consistently one of the strongest dramas on TV, and it goes so much deeper than a simple cops-and-robbers show. This season has built fantastically on the foundation laid last year, from the troubled history between Raylan and Boyd to the way that some of the people of Harlan County are never far away from living beyond all laws. Solid adventure, great action, beautifully observed character drama. Getting another season is wonderful news.

• Never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, the folks over at Variety have a story with the headline "'Playboy' plants nudity prospect," which is the paper's tortured and barely literate way of suggesting that NBC's upcoming drama The Playboy Club will feature topless women. Now, there is no way at all this would happen. Sure, NBC -- or, in Var's slanguage, "the peacock" -- is in trouble, and parading naked women across the screen might bring in some viewers who don't have the Internet, but they seem pretty content to just let Meat Loaf pick fights with Gary Busey right now instead of flaunting obscenity laws. Of course, a few paragraphs into the story, the writers point out that the nudity clause that the actors signed would most likely be used if the producers wanted to shoot nude scenes that could be inserted for the DVD release. They also point out that no nudity has been shot for the pilot episode, and none is intended if the show gets picked up. So basically, you could at most wind up with a racy re-edit if the show is aired at a later hour. The bottom line is that Wednesday was a really slow news day for Hollywood.

• Even though 2010 was The Year of Betty White, she's still kicking around ideas for new shows. NBC last week picked up Betty White's Off Their Rockers, a hidden-camera show in which senior citizens play pranks on young people, presumably by giving them the wrong flavor of malteds at the fountain or spoiling the ending of Doyle's latest serialized adventure. (It was the philandering haberdasher?! No!) The show is actually a remake of a Belgian prank show called Benidorm Bastards, because every other idea in history has already been filmed, so it's time to start recycling. Good on ya, Betty.

• We're all done with "Friday" now, right? Right:

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Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson