Monday , May 20 2024
AMC's original series stand-out among the rest.

Summer Television: Mad Men and Rubicon

My internal calendar has informed me that the new television season is right around the corner.  Okay, fine, it’s less my internal calendar and much more the fact that the original cable series I’m watching this summer are promoing upcoming episodes using phrases like “only two episodes left in the most explosive season ever,” or “the hottest original super-specified ultra-sub-genre series with six female leads and three males who appear in alternating episodes every third week to ever air between 8:12 and 8:17 on a cable network that specializes in a completely and totally different super-specified ultra-sub-genre is about to finish the summer third of its eighth-and-a-half season.”  Which is all to say that I don’t understand the ways in which television shows our promoted. 

However they may be promoted, the truth of the matter is that I’m definitely going to miss a bunch of the shows that I’ve been watching this summer.  I’m not in love with the fact that there’s so much less on during the summer, but I definitely feel as though the choices are vastly improved from what existed when I was but a wee lad.

One of my current favorite summer series is also a brand-new one, Rubicon.  Airing after AMC’s brilliant Mad Men, Rubicon is a conspiracy theory show that, much like Mad Men, seems willing to take time to tell its story rather than rush headlong into anything.  It isn’t that nothing happens on either series, it’s much more that both shows appear to be far more interested in telling a good story — allowing it to develop organically, creating the right feel, and getting what they want from the actors — than promoting action for the sake of action.  I think that’s even more refreshing over the summer when it feels as though shows try to convince people to watch solely by promoting all the crazy excitement that is going to occur.  It’s good television instead of flashy television, and it has made for the best two hour block of shows on this summer.

A lot of the kudos also have to go to the series’ respective stars, Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and James Badge Dale (Rubicon).  I am not suggesting that both men play the same character, or that both go about their craft in the same manner, but both men have helped create fully three-dimensional figures. 

Don Draper is not always the most likable of characters – he does some rotten things — and Hamm never seems to shy away from those moments.  Watching Mad Men, you can definitely end up being angry or disappointed at this clearly fallible man.  There are moments when you can excuse his behavior for various reasons, but not every time, and those are some of Hamm’s best moments. 

As for Dale, his Will Travers is still something of an enigma — we don’t yet know what is happening inside of him, what he feels about his new position, how the loss of his family has affected him, and his exact opinions about his work.  Yet, watching Dale as Travers, all those things and many more seem to be percolating just beneath the surface.  While I have concerns that the producers of Rubicon may not have exactly figured out the conspiracy and the answers to all of our questions about Will Travers, watching Dale, those concerns melt away.  Even when Travers isn’t confident about what he’s doing, Dale appears very self-assured in the role and is a pleasure to watch. 

I do greatly look forward to start of the new television season, but at the same time I’m disappointed that as the season draws ever more near so do the finales of Mad Men and Rubicon.  Those shows did start later than most summer fare and consequently will run further into the new season, but certainly not long as long as I’d like.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

Check Also

Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Maggie Moore(s)

Tribeca Film Festival Review: In ‘Maggie Moore(s),’ Evil Lurks in a Small Town

'Maggie Moore(s)' is a multi-genre expose of the banality of evil represented by a quirky, hackneyed, criminal cast of characters in small-town America and the kindly, balanced Chief of Police who holds them accountable.