Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (June 27, 2013)
Released this summer, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad comes from the genius mind of Brett Martin.
What this book really looks at are all the antiheroes that have appeared on television over the last decade or so. All the hit dramas of the 2000s and 2010s can trace their way back to Hill Street Blues, a series that aired on a broadcast network.
Known for airing movies or syndicated reruns, networks like Showtime, HBO, and FX all decided that they wanted original programming. Soon, AMC joined them.
Executives were not focuses on creating likeable characters or content that was considered to be safe and appropriate. Because of this, the path for the third Golden Age of Television was soon paved. Series focused on issues such as life and death, love and sexuality, addiction, race, violence, and existential boredom in such a way that reflected on the American Dream during the start of the 21st century.
This kind of television was not a substitute for film--although many film actors and actresses started taking TV roles rather than film roles--but rather a new kind of art form, especially with the serialized episodes that stretched out over 10-13 episodes rather than 22 episodes.
What Martin does here is combine deep reporting with cultural analysis and historical context as he recounts the dramatic rise of an art form that is on par with the "auteur" films released in the 1970s. In doing so, he interviews David Chase, James Gandolfini, Matthew Weiner, Jon Hamm, David Milch, and Alan Ball. This is in addition to so many other writers, directors, etc. as he takes us behind the scenes of our favorite programs and delivers never-before-heard stories--both good and bad--as he tells us how these shows were made what they are.
A fun fact: FX originally ordered a pilot of Breaking Bad but things fell through. In addition, HBO, Showtime, and TNT all passed on the show that became a hit series starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.