What's to Love About Media? Tina Brown, 'Mad Men' and Dr. Evil

Believe It or Not, Some Aspects of This Industry Make Even Our Crabby Columnist Break Down and Smile

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Every few months I somehow manage to put my trademark crankiness aside so I can take stock of some SMPs: Simple Media Pleasures. Herewith, the latest batch:
Print princess: Tina Brown, the editrix-turned-biographer, gets a warm welcome back.
Print princess: Tina Brown, the editrix-turned-biographer, gets a warm welcome back. Credit: Nancy Kaszerman

The return of Kent Brownridge

If all goes as anticipated, any minute now (in fact, possibly by the time you read this), Dennis Publishing's Maxim, Stuff and Blender will officially become the property of the investment firm Quadrangle, which backed the bid of Kent Brownridge, Jann Wenner's old business czar at Rolling Stone et al. You know, I didn't realize until his name popped up in the news in relation to this deal just how much I missed Ol' Kentster. A couple years ago, just before he left Wenner, I was quoted in The New York Times as saying that, when I briefly worked with Kent (on a stillborn magazine launch), I'd nicknamed him Dr. Evil "because there is actually an admirably playful edge to his evilness." Word got back to me that Kent was so delighted by my affectionately harsh assessment that he taped that quote (which appeared in David Carr's media column) up in his office. The magazine industry has been boring-er without you, Dr. Evil. Welcome back, unkind sir.

'The boss of it all'

Lars von Trier's sly, wise workplace comedy, currently in art-house theaters, is about a white-collar boss who invents a phantom, out-of-the-country superior "boss of it all" to whom he attributes all unpopular strategic and personnel decisions. The exact nature of the business at hand is unspecified, but anybody in the media or advertising rackets can definitely relate to this farcical morality tale about corporate blame-shifting. Depending on where you live, you may be able to view "The Boss of It All" at home tonight on digital-cable pay-per-view (as I did via New York City's Time Warner Cable), as a part of the new "day and date" distribution model at IFC, which simultaneously releases movies in theaters and on demand.

The return of Tina Brown

I have to say, as with Kent Brownridge, I didn't realize how much I missed Tina Brown! Seriously, I'm delighted that Tina Brown's new biography of Princess Diana is thrusting her back into the spotlight (well, somewhat), and I love the cheerfully humbled (well, somewhat) stance she's been taking regarding her career (i.e., admitting that leaving the editorship of The New Yorker to start up Talk magazine was a big mistake). For an incredibly smart take on Tina's legacy and who she is now -- and who she wishes she still was, or wants to try to become -- read Vanessa Grigoriadis's wonderful recent profile of Tina in New York magazine. (Full disclosure: I know and am personally fond of both Tina and Vanessa. And Vanessa I once hired -- for a writing job -- ages ago, so I'm a bit biased. But she just won the National Magazine Award for profile writing, so I'm not the only fan of her literary skills.) Anyway, Talk smalk. All is forgiven, Tina.

Soko's 'I'll Kill Her'

Just in case you haven't seen the endearingly low-fi video for this viral hit: You're welcome. I haven't been able to get this song -- a sweetly deranged revenge-fantasy folk-pop confection about a presumed romantic rival -- out of my head. The as-yet-unsigned cult band SoKo (their demo EP is available at iTunes) consists of a young, pixie-ish French chanteuse, also named SoKo, backed up by a guy guitarist. SoKo, the girl, is an indie-star-in-waiting with fantastic, slightly rumbled, pouty Parisian school-girl style.

The new Guardian Unlimited

My favorite newspaper in the world, The Guardian, is in the midst of a massive, 18-month revamp of its website, Guardian Unlimited, which it kicked off last month by redesigning its home page -- making it cleaner, easier to navigate and generally more elegant without being precious. The ease-of-use extends to Guardian Unlimited Today, "our daily snapshot of the top news stories," which most days is the smartest, most enlightening thing that pops up in my e-mail inbox. Sign up (free) at guardian.co.uk/emailservices.

'Mad Men' style

Read Andrew Hampp's set-visit piece about this new AMC original series elsewhere in this week's Advertising Age, then watch for its debut July 19. I've screened the first hour-long episode of this Matthew Weiner drama about Madison Avenue in the '60s, and I'm already hooked, particularly by the show's fabulous style and brooding subtext of workplace intrigue and extracurricular dysfunction. It's creepy and mean-spirited -- in a good way.

Marc Andreessen's blog

The Netscape founder, remarkably, just started blogging this month, but he's already proving to be an incredibly prolific and smart commentator about web business and culture. And I'm not just saying that because we're of a like mind on many issues; for example, see his June 5th "Why there's no such thing as Web 2.0" post, which I will self-servingly note nicely echoes my April 16th "Say Hello to Web 1.9 (If That)" column.

'Sopranos' finale Kremlinology

It's been great sport, watching all the gnashing of teeth over how David Chase decided to snuff "The Sopranos." Personally, I thought it was

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Send your SMPs to sdumenco@adage.com and they may appear in a future column -- and you'll be eligible to win a Media Guy Box-o-Swag. Media Guy's Pop Pick returns next week.
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