Todd A. Kessler was the boy genius of the Sopranos writers’ room. In 1999, he wrote a teleplay, “D-Girl,” about a gangster who writes a screenplay (You Bark, I Bite) that was so good, it changed the rules of dark comedy on television. He was 26. It was the first Sopranos episode he’d done. By 2000, his standing at the show had risen to the point that rumor named him as the successor-in-waiting to David Chase, the Sopranos creator. The two became friends. That summer, when an episode they co-wrote was nominated for an Emmy, Mr. Kessler was elated. Still, he can’t have been much surprised. The episode, “Funhouse,” the last of the second season, is a brilliant piece of writing. The surprise came 10 minutes after the nomination was announced, when Mr. Chase phoned up Mr. Kessler and fired him. He was stunned. “The timing isn’t great,” Mr. Chase admitted during the call. Mr. Kessler wept, and although he obtained a reprieve, it didn’t last.
Had he been fired for being too good? The next act of Mr. Kessler’s career suggested that this possibility hadn’t escaped him. In 2007, he created Damages, an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning drama about a litigator who brutalizes her protégé. It was “based,” Brett Martin writes in his new book, Difficult Men, “in no small part on [Mr. Kessler’s] experiences working on The Sopranos.” Nor was its creator the only Sopranos alumnus whose later success involved getting even. Mr. Chase had a talent for inflicting the kind of trauma that results in a trip to the podium.
Matthew Weiner, the auteur of Mad Men, is set to direct his debut film, to be titled You Are Here. It’s to star Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, with Amy Poehler reportedly “in negotiations.” (Say yes, Amy!) Mr. Weiner is to work on the project between Mad Men seasons’ shooting. If he works Read More
Mad Men has been off the air since October 2010–a lengthy absence prolonged in part due to protracted negotiations between creator Matthew Weiner and AMC over the show’s budget. Perhaps Mr. Weiner could have cut a few characters to save money, after all? If there happens to be another struggle before season six, we have a few suggestions!
Whatever you may be doing on Friday night, chances are you’re not watching Friday Nights Lights on NBC. Now entering its fourth season, FNL (as it is known to devotees) is the best show on TV that no one watches. Last year, it was the 127th-most-watched program on network TV.
In all the endless dissections Read More
Maybe we’re being a bit finicky, but we have a problem with critics around the interwebs hailing 2009 as one of the strongest years for television in recent memory. Quite the contrary: from where we sit, this year felt decidedly weak. Perennial favorites, like Lost and How I Met Your Mother, were saddled by disappointing Read More
The final season of Lost isn’t starting for another five months, but just this week we found out the apparent title of the premiere, thanks to a viral video made with the help of creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (the episode is titled “LA X;” the space is deliberate). And Read More
John Slattery—Emmy-nominated for playing Mad Men’s other irresistible cad, Roger Sterling—talks to The Observer about good writing (Katherine Heigl, please take notes!), cigarettes and the secrets he won’t tell us about in season three.
Are you getting sick of people gushing to you about how great Mad Men is and how excited they are for Read More
If you’re tired of watching things like I’m a Celebrity… I Think I Can Dance, don’t worry: Come August 16, it’ll be safe to turn on your television again. On that Sunday, Mad Men returns for season three, ready to make the dog days of summer that much more tolerable. Precious little information Read More
The "will he or won’t he" saga that has become Matthew Weiner’s return to a third season of Mad Men looks perilously close to reaching "won’t he". According to intrepid Hollywood bomb thrower Nikki Finke, Lionsgate, the studio responsible for producing Mad Men, has been furiously calling agencies around Hollywood looking for names Read More
Could Sterling-Cooper actually function without its boss? No, we aren’t talking about Don Draper, who’s presumably still wandering around the hills of California looking to meet with whatever mysterious person knew him as Dick Whitman… we’re talking about Matthew Weiner. While Mad Men has been picked up by AMC for a third season, Read More