A new book by GQ writer Brett Martin called “Difficult Men” tells the behind-the-scenes story of the new “golden age” of television. You know the shows that make up this new golden age: “The Sopranos, “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “The Wire,” “Deadwood,” and several others.
Here are a few things you didn’t know about this new golden age.
1. After the pilot to “The Sopranos” was made, creator David Chase was kind of hoping that HBO wouldn’t pick it up. Chase was hoping instead that HBO would just give him the cash to turn it into a feature-length film. Chase always hated TV and wished he had been a filmmaker instead.
2. In “The Sopranos,” the interior shots of the Sopranos home in New Jersey were actually filmed at the SilverCup studios in Queens, NY.
3. David Chase hates the writing of Aaron Sorkin, and believes you can’t be a fan of both “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing.” Chase considers the too-smart style of dialogue of “The West Wing” to be unrealistic, and he hates the “walk and talk.”
4. David Chase also hates shots of the back of characters heads. When Matthew Weiner — who was a writer on “The Sopranos” and worked under chase — got his own TV show, he made the main logo just that: a shot of the back of someone’s head. You know the show and the image, and it was seen as a big screw you to David Chase.
5. Matthew Weiner carried around the “Mad Men” script for years everywhere he went so he could show it and give to whoever he saw.
7. HBO could have had “Mad Men,” but it went through a period of turmoil where creative types felt the network was not receptive to their pitches, and that’s how it landed on AMC.
8. “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm was the perfect person to play Don Draper. Not only does he possess that perfect old fashioned handsome look, he grew up in a messy home (lived alone with his dad and grandmother) that gave him the perfect background to play his emotionally damaged character.
6. In the early casting of “The Sopranos,” David Chase considered Steven van Zandt for the role of Tony. Of course van Zandt ended up playing Tony’s sidekick Silvio Dante. Van Zandt always had qualms taking a job away from an actual actor, though he ended up being cast to the role, which was named after a character that Van Zandt himself had written in a script.
7. The hit show “Damages” — about a brilliant and mercurial lawyer named Patty Hewes who treats her employees cruelly — was written by Todd Kessler, a former writer on “The Sopranos” who felt he himself had been treated cruelly and mercurially by “Sopranos” creator David Chase.
8. The cruel character Livia Soprano (Tony’s mum) was based on David Chase’s own mum.
9. The show “Breaking Bad” is inseparable from its gorgeous Albequerque landscape. But originally it was going to be shot outside of Los Angeles.
10. There’s a good reason that the final season (season 5) of “The Wire” was the worst one. Ed Burns, the longtime creative partner of show creator David Simon had left the production after season 4.
11. While shooting “The Wire,” Dominic West (who played McNulty) was the most popular celebrity in Baltimore among the actors. When it came to female attention, “a man could live off his leftovers” said another actor.
12. Before going with Dominic West for McNulty, “The Wire” creators considered names like Donnie Wahlberg, Josh Brolin, and even John C. Reilly.
13. The Old NBC show “Homicide: Life On The Streets” was based on a book written by “Wire” creator David Simon called “Homicide” based on his year spent going undercover with the Baltimore police department.
14. David Simon actually wrote one episode for “Homicide: Life On The Streets” but it was deemed too dark to run in the first season. So the episode (“Bop Gun”) about a tourist in Baltimore who gets killed ran in the second season.
15. “The Wire” character Stringer Bell was based on a real Baltimore gangster, who took business classes, and was heard on a wiretap discussing laissez-faire economics.
16. Of all the shows, the writers room for “Breaking Bad” was the happiest. Creator Vince Gilligan hates the concept of an “auteur” and says that everything is a collaboration. This is in stark contrast to almost all of the other shows, whose creators famously act like dictators.
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