As of Sunday, April 4, cable television suddenly exploded with the premieres of many beloved favorites including HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep” and AMC’s “Mad Men.” While “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” are veterans of the spring lineup, they are accompanied by newer shows like “Silicon Valley,” which just premiered its second season.
The return of “Mad Men” is especially notable as last week was the premiere of the last set of episodes. The show, now on its seventh season, has meandered around the life of its main character Don Draper. Unlike a plot heavy show like “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” features primarily character sketches. The drama comes from seeing the development, or lack thereof, of familiar characters. We’ve seen Don Draper go through two divorces with wives Betty and Megan and barely keep afloat at work, where he is supposed to be a visionary. While at the beginning of the show, Don Draper was seen as the pinnacle of masculinity with his success at work and harem of beautiful women, he has slowly declined into an older man, holding on to an old regime and left with several empty relationships.
Other characters have not fared much better. Many of the women, including Joan and Peggy, have reached career success at the sacrifice of their personal lives, only to find it is not nearly as fulfilling as they would expect. We’ve seen earnest young characters grow jaded and sleazy, including Harry Crane and the former Megan Draper. The new season of “Mad Men” seems to be emphasizing how the characters keep looking for happiness, only to find more despondency everywhere they look. Overall, this last season seems to be emphasizing the melancholy that drives each episode of the show, proving that the “Good Ole Days” probably weren’t so good after all.
HBO also returns with some hits, including “Game of Thrones” and “Silicon Valley,” which both have had issues in their new seasons. “Silicon Valley” suffered from the death of a main cast member, Christopher Evan Welch, who played a key investor in the characters’ start- up. The show had to work around the lack of a beloved character and to replace key comedic dynamics of the character. In addition, “Silicon Valley” has been criticized for its lack of representation of women and people of color. Most of the characters included white males, with the exception of Kumail Nanjiani. Despite that, the new season seems to nail the show’s combination of awkward earnest humor combined with black comedy.
“Game of Thrones”, an incredibly popular entertainment juggernaut, is also back on television. There seems to be a power vacuum in Westeros after last season. Our characters find themselves rearranging themselves to new alliances and vying for the Iron Throne. In addition, the fifth season sees the introduction of several new characters, including more background on the ruling family from Dorne. Despite its increasing popularity, fans of the original book series seem to be disappointed by the television show’s deviation from the plot of the book. “Game of Thrones” fans also battle with major spoiler phobia, with fans of the shows acting wary around books fans. In addition, the first four episodes of the season recently leaked. Despite the leak, the excitement surrounding the new season seems just as large as ever.
An interesting dynamic is how these shows all seem to be on cable television, while the long-running network TV seasons seem to be winding down. HBO and Showtime have always been on the cutting edge of innovative TV, but in recent years they have been joined by smaller networks such as FX and AMC. These cable networks seem run their shows on a more consistent weekly basis and for shorter seasons. These shows fill the rather dry and empty spring and summer television schedule, keeping us entertained all year.
Photo Courtesy of AMC