I watched Mad Men for the first time the other night. Maybe I'll watch it again, maybe not. It looks like 'Desperate Housewives' with tact. Fernandez over at the Belmont is working on his theory of its appeal. I have mine.
There are two angles to middle class entertainment. But right in the middle is drama. Everything has to be overtalked, and characters have to *do* something - which is to say follow their idiot instincts in ways that *we* in the middle class do not. And so we are introduced to human characters that we understand completely, whose secrets and desires are known to us, and then we just follow them off the cliff. That's entertainment. But like I said, there are two angles. One is the scumbag and the other is the douchebag.
The Scumbag Protagonist
The scumbag is somebody who is fundamentally bad but strives to be good but is only rewarded for being bad. They are clear and untroubled about their badness, but are trying desperately to keep up appearances. It never quite works for them. This generates empathy in the audience. The ultimate SP is Tony Soprano. He deserves society's blessing, for the actual good things that he does, but he never gets it. We in the audience give it to him but we are safe in knowing we could take it away. The thrill the audience gets is in transgressing.
The Douchebag Protagonist
The douchebag is somebody who has society's blessing but doesn't deserve it. This person looks fundamentally good or should be fundamentally good, but has an unforgivable dirty secret or vice that the audience knows. Still, they are rewarded for appearing good. The DP lives in fear of being found out. We give them his blessing because we wish we could get away with the things the DP does. At the same time we hate them because they look like heroes and the people who act superior around us that we suspect have humbling faults. Nip/Tuck is a DP show.
It is this mix of good and evil in protagonists that keep audiences riveted. Clearly the guy in Mad Men is a DP. So let's look at the formula in other shows, shall we?
|TV Drama||Protagonist Type|
I leave the rest of the TV schedule to you as an exercise.