Dennis Potter

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Comings & Goings: Mad Men, Viva Laughlin

Jon Hamm in Mad Men courtesy AMC

You could get vertigo tonight, scaling the heights of the finale of Mad Men on AMC, and then plumbing the depths of the tone-deaf misfire that is Viva Laughlin, premiering on CBS in the plum slot after CSI before moving to Sundays. There, only those with the most morbid curiosity to watch a show’s slow yet hopefully quick death are likely to follow (unless every critic I know is totally off the mark).First, a salute to the best and most fascinating new show to arrive on TV this year (and I’m even including my quirky new treasure Pushing Daisies in that equation). Mad Men, so hypnotic in its look and style as it recreates a classic movie-worthy image of 1960 Manhattan, is a period piece that says volumes about today, or about any era in which salary and status is tied to self-worth and where people construct a false reality to sell themselves on the American dream.Don Draper (instant star Jon Hamm) would seem to have it all. Besides the movie-star looks, he enjoys upward mo... read more

Any early thoughts on Hugh ...

Question: Any early thoughts on Hugh Jackman's CBS project Viva Laughlin? The musical/drama seems like a very ambitious project! Answer: Doesn't it, though. I loved the BBC America series it's based on (Viva Blackpool), a fantastical hybrid of musical and mystery with echoes of Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective, Pennies from Heaven). With characters breaking into song, basically singing along to pop standards on the soundtrack that comment on the action, it is definitely a big risk for this most conventional of networks. I'm sure comparisons to Cop Rock will be on the minds of all the inevitable naysayers. I'd love to see CBS swing the bat with this one. If it fails, it would do so grandly. But if it turns out that this is something America has actually been waiting to see (shades of Lost's early breakthrough), imagine the thrill ... read more

Tasty Imports
Savoring a British TV invasion

Stiff upper lips? Hardly. The best of British TV is anything but stuffy. From the guilty pleasure of the trashy Footballers' Wives (returning for a third season in February) to hauntingly dark mysteries and wacky comedies, BBC America has become one of my top cable destinations for the range of its bold and unpredictable programming. But the fun doesn't stop there. PBS still turns to England for classy drama, HBO has developed a crush on shows with an accent (Rome and Extras) and A&E will air a fourth season of gritty spy drama MI-5 in 2006. Here's a roundup of some recent arrivals. Bad GirlsTuesdays at 9 pm/ET, BBC AmericaThink: "Oz with Estrogen"The Lowdown: read more

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