TV Viewers’ (and TV’s) Wife Problem

Don Draper is a serial philanderer. Walter White is a meth kingpin. Nicholas Brody is a (possibly) reformed terrorist. Nucky Thompson is a gangster. These are not men who do good things. Why, then, do audiences hate their wives so much?

Don, Walt, et al. are enormously popular with viewers, and rightfully so. They’re not necessarily good people, but they’re not strictly bad people either; they’re contradictory, complex, nuanced, comprised of all the elements that make for great drama. If, like myself, you enjoy reading reviews or seeking out online reaction to each episode, though, you’ve probably noticed a worrying trend. Though many applaud the behavior of these characters, all murderers (save Don) and adulterers (save Walt), they’re a lot less willing to afford their wives the benefit of the doubt. Look, I’m not here to be the Moral Police; I’m not interested in discussing the pros and cons of infidelity, especially considering most of these characters’ wives are guilty of same. (Sidenote: I, uh, hope we can all agree murder is bad.)

And it’s not like I don’t get the appeal. I don’t watch Breaking Bad just because it’s a devastating portrait of a man sacrificing everything he holds dear at the altar of power. I also watch it because it is freaking awesome when Walt pulls off the perfect heist. How giddy did the classic “RUN” moment make me? Answer: very. And at the end of the Mad Men season finale, when Don gave the honey at the bar the patented Draper Staregoddamn. As a viewer, I know full well how thrilling and visceral it can be to watch these men do their dirt. The problem is when you view them as the heroes of their respective stories and any attempts–especially by their wives–to curb or question their behavior as hindering their quest, whatever you think that is. The numbers show that not a whole lot of people actually watch Breaking Bad, and I know that its small but loyal following contains some of the sharpest TV viewers around. But the Internet would also lead me to believe that a bunch of folks would be okay with a show where all Walt does is make meth, kill people, and become the most awesome greatest badass superhero on the planet.

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On DVD & Blu-ray, 7/19/11: ‘Peep World,’ ‘Boyz n the Hood,’ More

PEEP WORLD (DVD/Blu-ray)

How come TV actors so rarely get a break on the big screen? The general consensus seems to be that we’ve moved beyond the age of the Movie Star–just look at how little anyone cared about Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts’ Larry Crowne–so why is it still so hard for TV actors to make great movies? Take a look at Peep World. You’ve got Michael C. Hall, who’s given stunning performances on Six Feet Under and Dexter; this man should be working with A-list directors, but instead he makes stuff like Gamer. You’ve got the trifecta of Rainn Wilson, Judy Greer, and Sarah Silverman, all of whom have done very funny work on television. The closest any of them get to cinematic greatness is Wilson’s bit part in Juno. TV’s time-consuming, I know. But when you look at a mess like Peep World, you wonder how so many talented TV people got thrown into such a bad movie. In a way, it reminds me of The Great New Wonderful, an awful movie that inexplicably starred Edie Falco, Will Arnett, Jim Gaffigan, Tony Shalhoub, and Stephen Colbert. Peep World isn’t nearly as bad, but its story of an oh so dysfunctional family feels like an unpleasant tenth-generation copy of The Royal Tenenbaums. It has no style, little wit, and the narrative is all a-shambles. With this many talented actors involved, there are bound to be some effective moments, and there are. But if a filmmaker with respect for and knowledge of the medium had been given the same budget and the same cast, something special could have happened. Extras include deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer. 

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