Friday, October 22, 2010

Rubicon

I remember watching Charlie Rose a couple of years back when they had on Tom Shales of The Washington Post to talk about the upcoming TV season. "What do you think of this new Mad Men show?" Rose asked Shales. "Oh, I don't watch AMC," Shales said dismissively and Charlie Rose laughed. Of course we know who had the last laugh: with Mad Men and then Breaking Bad AMC have produced two of the most original shows of the 2000's which impressed first, a cult audience, then the critics, then the Emmy Awards and then a mass audience. Mad Men season 4 I think has picked up a bit from the gloomy season 3 (except for that rushed and rather silly finale) and Breaking Bad has been consistently brilliant from the getgo. Even HBO has been on the defensive in the face of AMC quality product.
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AMC's new show Rubicon however wasn't quite in the same league as either Mad or Bad. It was an homage to the slow burn conspiracy movies of the 70's like The Conversation and Three Days of the Condor but crucially those films where meant to be watched in a single 2 hour sitting. Rubicon draw out those ideas over an entire season. Its pace was glacial. Slow packing can be tolerated on, say, Mad Men where your eyes can feast on the suits, Joan, the Danish Modern furniture etc. but on Rubicon there are no Joans, the central lead is a depressive introvert, the other staff are also introverted and the interiors are dimly lit. There wasn't much of a story to Rubicon and what there was was eked out in tedious increments. I think we were supposed to be impressed by how brilliant everyone was but if they're so brilliant why did they say and do such obvious things. The crack intel analysts of Rubicon seem to have gotten most of their information about the world from reading Tom Friedman in The New York Times.
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I'm speaking of Rubicon in the past tense because I'm assuming it won't be picked up for a second season. I don't know who the show runner was but he or she made a mistake when they decided to focus on the characters and not a hard driving twisty fast paced story - the characters, I'm afraid, just weren't interesting enough.