Mad Men won’t be back until January, but if you need a quick fix of besuited men treating women badly, you can relax – AMC’s got you covered. Their new web series, The Trivial Pursuits of Arthur Banks, a comedy starring Adam Goldberg, centers around an egocentric, self-destructive playwright who drinks too much, fucks too much, and suddenly finds his life spiraling out of control – which, let’s face it, he kind of enjoys.
It’s a tale as old as time, and (obviously) it’s also the plot of almost every Woody Allen movie ever made… which is (for better or worse) exactly what it looks and sounds like since it’s shot in black-and-white and features a persistent jazz score. To be clear, it’s not so much an homage as it is pure imitation, taking memorable plot points from both Manhattan and Annie Hall, transporting them to Los Angeles and witling them down to silly, twelve minute bites by way of Wes Anderson-style narration.
It goes without saying that some viewers may find the premise too derivative and whiny, not to mention ridiculously misogynistic – but those are probably the same people that swear by Modern Family. After all, the world is basically divided into two camps of folks: those who worship Woody Allen’s early films, and those who loathe neurotic humor and believe statutory rape is no laughing matter. Fortunately, we fall into the first camp because in the pilot episode, Goldberg’s Arthur Banks accidentally “pulls a Polanski”. Oops!
Overall, the three episode arc (currently available on Hulu and AMC.tv) isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly more entertaining than any web series has a right to be, mostly thanks to Goldberg who stutters through his lines like the best of them (Owen Wilson, your services are no longer needed) and turns in his funniest performance in recent memory. Some of the best exchanges take place during his therapy sessions with his cool-headed analyst (played by the irresistible Jeffrey Tambor) and during his weekly meals with impeccably-dressed best pal Chandler played by Pete Chekvala (hopefully someone will add a photo of him to imdb soon).
There’s no word yet as to where the show will go from here or when we can expect more episodes, but in the meantime maybe Adam Goldberg and Pete Chekvala will get some much-deserved attention for their talents and Woody Allen’s lawyers will have time to look the thing over… you know, just to make sure this is legal.