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Publisher's Summary

A riveting and revealing look at the shows that helped cable television drama emerge as the signature art form of the 21st century

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the landscape of television began an unprecedented transformation. While the networks continued to chase the lowest common denominator, a wave of new shows, first on premium-cable channels like HBO and then basic-cable networks like FX and AMC, dramatically stretched television’s narrative inventiveness, emotional resonance, and artistic ambition. No longer necessarily concerned with creating always-likable characters, plots that wrapped up neatly every episode, or subjects that were deemed safe and appropriate, shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Deadwood, The Shield, and more tackled issues of life and death, love and sexuality, addiction, race, violence, and existential boredom. Just as the big novel had in the 1960s and the subversive films of New Hollywood had in 1970s,television shows became the place to go to see stories of the triumph and betrayals of the American Dream at the beginning of the 21st century.

This revolution happened at the hands of a new breed of auteur: the all-powerful writer-showrunner. These were men nearly as complicated, idiosyncratic, and “difficult” as the conflicted protagonists that defined the genre. Given the chance to make art in a maligned medium, they fell upon the opportunity with unchecked ambition.

Combining deep reportage with cultural analysis and historical context, Brett Martin recounts the rise and inner workings of a genre that represents not only a new golden age for television but also a cultural watershed. Difficult Menfeatures extensive interviews with all the major players, including David Chase(The Sopranos), David Simon and Ed Burns (The Wire), Matthew Weiner and Jon Hamm (Mad Men), David Milch (NYPD Blue, Deadwood), and Alan Ball (SixFeet Under), in addition to dozens of other writers, directors, studio executives, actors, production assistants, makeup artists, script supervisors ,and so on. Martin takes us behind the scenes of our favorite shows, delivering never-before-heard story after story and revealing how cable television has distinguished itself dramatically from the networks, emerging from the shadow of film to become a truly significant and influential part of our culture.

©2013 Brett Martin (P)2013 Blackstone Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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lot of sopranos, but…

There is not enough coverage of Mad Men or Breaking Bad. I wanted more out of Matt Weiner's craziness and I didn't get it. The David Case material is Fantastic as well.

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The story is good the narrator is meh

I enjoyed the book. I actually have the tangible copy but wanted to revisit the content. Again, great story taking us through the ins and outs of what has become the rise of cable... But the narrator was a bit drab.

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  • Michael
  • DENVER, CO, United States
  • 02-26-14

Difficult Men is an excellent listen

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend this book to any one that is interested in the development of some of the best television programing of our time.

What about Keith Szarabajka’s performance did you like?

He made you feel like you were actually listening to the characters.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made you think. As the characters came to life, you couldn't help but think about the impact that ordinary people can have on so many.

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Thoughtful Treatise & Interesting Behind the Scene

If you could sum up Difficult Men in three words, what would they be?

Modern Television Defined

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The narrative inside HBO and FX and how it played out in TV shows they offered to the public

Which character – as performed by Keith Szarabajka – was your favorite?

No characters really

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Modern Television Defined

Any additional comments?

There's a lot of interesting information even if you're not a huge television fan. It's an interesting book if you're a fan of any of the modern anti-hero series of today.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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inside tv's best writers' rooms

Any additional comments?

For fans of TV's most remarkable shows of the last decade, this peek inside the factory illuminates how the best sausages are made.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacob
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 08-18-13

Awesome!

I loved this book! As a writer trying to get into television I found this book to be so informative and entertaining. I loved learning the ins and outs of some of my favorite shows. Keith Szarabajka is my new favorite reader as well.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Bill
  • Vancouver, WA, United States
  • 08-12-13

Terrific listen!

What did you love best about Difficult Men?

Inside information about my favorite TV shows. I enjoyed it immensely but if you aren't a fan of these shows then this probably is not a good choice for you.

What other book might you compare Difficult Men to and why?

Easy Riders and Raging Bulls or Pictures of a Revolution. These titles are thematically similar but about movies instead of TV. Both titles are available on Audible and recommended.

What about Keith Szarabajka’s performance did you like?

Nothing special but well done.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The fact that Stevie Van Zandt was the first choice to portray Tony Soprano.

Any additional comments?

Fascinating listen if you are a fan of the TV shows discussed.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Excellent

Very well researched and beautifully written. Like the high level artistic achievement of the TV shows being described, Martin's own work is something worthy of Sebastian Junger or Jon Krakauer. That's not to say there aren't some juicy details exposed about the psychopaths who have been writing the shows we love.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JM
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 03-31-16

Ent biz fun

I learned so much about Hollywood television. Great and fun read! Recommend it to anyone in the biz

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic insight into show runners

I very much enjoyed the book, although I imagine that it's much more interesting for people who either love the shows it details or are fascinated with tv production in general. For instance, if the book had been about football team owners (a sport I have no interest in) I can't imagine I would have loved it as much as I did, even if it had the same keen writing as this book has. But if you are interested in the subject matter, you will really enjoy the read.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful