Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Mad Men Spin Off

Deadline beat me to this but I'm going to pitch you a show. AMC is hurting as it relies on The Walking Dead, and the so-called "Golden Age of Television" that started with the arrival of The Sopranos might be ending. We could use something new. We also need to move forward with the nostalgia cycles, and get into the '70s.
It's 1975. It's New York City. A recent college graduate with a lot of family money to fall back on, a lot of connected people to use and few strings attached to her hits the city. She arrives fresh out of Vassar to explore the city as it faces financial crisis, devolution into "The Warriors" and "Taxi Driver" territory,  and the wild year of 1977 with everything that went nuts during the Summer of Sam and blackout. There are also amazing house parties where dance parties take advantage of the available drugs to create a movement that will be commercialized as disco. There is the absolute Peak Sex era as mid and late Boomers hit that 18-30 age window just as the pill is widely adopted, inhibitions are removed, clothing is revealing, there is NO AIDS and virtually no fatties. Inflation is rampant and nothing feels permanent. The city feels like it may sink into a hole. Watch as a young woman navigates it all. This young woman is one you've watched grow up. You know her family. Will she give in too familial destiny or will she survive and thrive. Tune in for Sally Draper.
Admit it. This would work. We can work on the title. The period piece echo of the '70s would work now due to nostalgia cycles ('70s/'90s currently). Sally Draper is played by Kiernan Shipka who is young, so AMC would want to wait 18 months or so for this. They can start filming when she is 17/18, since her looking young would add to the Alice in Wonderland feel to the show. She can be costumed and done up to look 22/23 easy, looking younger is always Hollywood's problem. A television show exploring the horrendous dark era of NYC would be great. This would get the chattering class going too as the SWPLs love to romanticize the gritty, authentic NYC that was in reality riddled with crime and degeneracy.

The reason why this works is also because the makers of Mad Men hit a God damn gold mine with Kiernan Shipka. Note that they moved her to a starring role designation as the show went on. Two things happened that made her a character that you liked seeing onscreen and usable. First, she managed to grow tall during a break so they could age her in the show and it flowed perfectly. Huge break there. Second, she managed to display better acting than most of the other women on the show. Only Elisabeth Moss as Peggy was better consistently. Watching her in season four, Shipka managed to switch how she would play Sally in a really fantastic way. She could play child of divorce Sally, little kid Sally, and then in a really weird mimic of what actual kids do, "Mini Betty". "Mini Betty" smoked, manipulated Don, threw fits, and acted cold. Sometimes Kiernan Shipka copied January Jones' mannerisms and behavior in a perfect yet weird way that you see children of divorce do when a parent is gone. Her growth from Sally who could never do anything right to Sally the rock of the family who acts more adult than the adults was great to watch because everyone has one friend who was more mature than their divorced parents.

We would watch this. Hollywood would have a built in audience, and could have a new female centric vehicle to explore '70s women's issues. Does she turn into Don with '70s hedonism more permissive than when he was on the prowl in the '60s? Does she chase older men to feed her daddy issues? Does she mimic her dead mom? That is part of the appeal. The other part is that this is practically ready made. Kiernan Shipka makes it happen. No one in the first season or two could have seen this coming. If the Emmys wanted to recognize an outstanding achievement, they could award Kiernan Shipka a special Emmy for exhibiting more talent before she could legally drive than most actresses show throughout their career. Whether this show happens or not, good luck Shipka making the leap to adult roles. If you liked Mad Men and if you like period pieces, you would tune in.


Alexandros HoMegas said...

Do you really think that '70s NYC can be made for TV?

I've watched a BBC documentary about NY in that period, the most interesting part was Rupert Murdoch supporting Ed Koch for Mayoship, Ed was the most fiscally conservative Democrat, this is a tactic of the Liberal jewish Elite, support the most fiscally sane Democrat.

Callowman said...

Not to mention the fact that Weiner didn't kill Don, so his character is still out there and implicitly more successful than ever. He can be an eminence gris, a conduit to an older layer of New York and a character in his own right if need be.

NZT said...

It's interesting to hear you say this because I always thought Shipka was a weak link on the show, with her only 2 modes being "affectless" and "bratty". Especially after the divorce her storylines were always very distant from all the real interesting action on the show (how many scenes do we need of Draper's long-since-ex-wife and precocious daughter sniping at each other? Or hanging out with Glen Bishop?) I would have much preferred to see some storylines with one of Don's sons, but as Pman notes Jews don't seem very interested in boys' coming-of-age experiences despite their having a lot more dramatic potential.

In any case even if this got made and got rave reviews I'd avoid it, just because I'm sick of all the spin-offs, remakes, and sequels these days. Same reason I have zero interest in Better Call Saul; for once I want to see something end and be done. It's creepy the way fans seem to have literally infinite appetites for the exploits of this or that character, even when it means you eventually get forced, crappy storylines.

The only thing that would potentially make it interesting would be if it realistically portrayed the gay hedonism and black criminality from that era. But obviously that will never, ever happen.

peterike said...

I like this idea. You could really show her in a downward spiral. Riding the carousel. Going to Plato's Retreat and being passed around. Having a few abortions. Ending up drunk and coked up and maybe finally dead, killed in cold blood in a street murder for the ten bucks in her purse. It could be a cautionary tale.

But instead since it's Hollywood they'd make her a feminist icon, show her working for some radical 70s publication like the Village Voice, busily exposing greedy white men and the corrupt New York 100% WASP power structure, and tooling around town with her black boyfriend whenever she's not hanging with her fabulous gay friends.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Peterike - I'll disagree with almost everything you said. I think a standard issue show set in '70s NYC would do much of this. Not a show set around Sally Draper. Her rebellion from her parents could take many many many different forms. They would have some women's lib shit in there, but her socioeconomic status would make the underclass and bizarre more a weird thing to interact with on occasion.

PA said...

Jenny in "Forrest Gump" was shown something along the lines of Peterike's suggestion.

Suburban_elk said...

"The Anticlimax, or how Sally Draper becomes a woman."

The proposed idea is solid. The 70s in New York? i wish, interesting summary on the origins of disco. The anticlimax is the story for her though, as suggested by Peterike.

Alternate title number two: Coked.

But to get back to anticlimax, an inherently awkward word - for an inherently awkward situation! Reminds of third-rate English lit grad students, striving hard and not getting it. However … the idea is very much at the essence of this disappointing post-modern experience. The wasteland again in the woebegone eve.

Suburban_elk said...

My recent comments have been try-hards. Sorry about that.

But Sally Draper having for a young and subsequent adult life, an anticlimax … it may not be exactly right, but isn't it worth considering, those terms?

The whole awful word of it and how it was, sometime whenever maybe 50 years ago, a bullet point concept in tenth-grade honors English, but now it's an awkward cliche. But that concept, that awkward word (for an awkward situation!), isn't that the symbol of things, in this our great age of nothingness and disappointment?

Life was going to be something, and how does it turn out? Hey this isn't about me or you lonely internet characters - though we are recursive parts in the play, and as such our stories matter …

Look, people have reflected upon themselves to death. Mirrors and infinite regress, give me a break. But the problem is that such self-reflection, is something of an inevitability when there is too much time and isolation. The human mind is not evolved to handle that. What has become to be called "narcissism" is simply the result of too much in the holding tank - when no one else is around, the mind does not work. Speaking of narcissism, whatever happened to what's-his-name, didn't he used to post here?

In any case, this experiment will continue until it doesn't. Allow me a couple links. Greer this week on what he calls the Age of Impact,

"The end of industrial civilization will be a long, bitter, painful cascade of conflicts, disasters, and accelerating decline in which a vast number of people are going to die before they otherwise would, and a great many things of value will be lost forever."

And for those driven to drink by Greer's indubitably correct prognoses, and more generally by the mortal coil and its metaphysical reflection,