When I opened Difficult Men and found a gorgeous, graphic timeline of cable shows layered over one other and broken down by season, I gasped and nearly threw my other books across the room. Brett Martin had found his target audience. I don't watch a single show on network TV, nor do I watch comedies. Yes, I'm willing to admit that I'm a boring, typical product of my generation.
And my generation is one that grew up watching, what Martin calls, the Third Golden Age of television. Starting in the mid-1990's, with shows like Oz and The Sopranos, the TV drama began to shift in a radical way. Rather than the safe, self-contained storylines of network shows, cable writers began developing plots that spanned seasons and often left viewers with more questions than answers. Soon, those developing the shows came to be as complex and unpredictable as the characters they were creating.
Though I understand that the focus of Martin's book is, as the title states, the difficult men behind the television revolution, I think there was a bit of a missed opportunity to examine the role of female writers in Hollywood. While it could potentially fill a separate book on its own, I would have liked to see discussion of the low number of female showrunners as well as their comparatively harsh criticism from the media.
Still, Difficult Men is a fascinating peek into the evolution of television over the past 30 years, digging into backstories and histories of shows like The Wire, Six Feet Under and Breaking Bad, that will thrill even the casual fan.