Advertising has provided great fodder for prime television, including the characters Larry Tate of Bewitched, Kip Wilson and Henry Desmond of Bosom Buddies, Jack McLaren of The Closer, Mason McGuire and Conner of Trust Me, Ann Romano of One Day at a Time, and Don Draper et. al. of Mad Men.
And, of course, there’s the mercurial, talented, and sometimes devious Miles Drentell of thirtysomething.
While enigmatic, Miles reveals details of his past in droplets of conversation. When talking about his early days in advertising, he says that he could see around corners where his peers could not even see the corners. When a friend’s son wanted to learn about advertising, Miles revealed his stint in the armed forces; he worked with the boy’s father. They shared a desk as well as a rather jaundiced view of the military as they participated in the propaganda machine during the Vietnam War, aiming to gain the hearts and minds of the enemy’s population.
Miles provided a stark contrast to Michael Steadman. Michael, who largely exhibits a nice guy personality, emulated the Miles Drentell style of manipulation in a story arc about a potential takeover of the agency, DAA. A client, Minnesota Brands, wants to add DAA to its portfolio. To achieve its goals, Minnesota Brands employs Michael to commit corporate espionage. He secretly attempts to obtain the acceptance of the two As in DAA. Two out of three, after all, make a majority. They are, by all indications, silent partners.
Jack Ashley had no sense of reality. He wanted Michael and his creative partner, Elliot Weston, to take the roof off the building. Initially, Michael and Elliot thought he meant the phrase figuratively, as in let creative people do their work with no influence. He actually meant removing the roof.
Carol Arthur was the second A, the widow of Miles Drentell’s other partner. Unbeknownst to Michael and Elliot, Miles had Mrs. Arthur in his pocket; she spent her whole life trying to escape her Midwestern roots. Miles explains that she would never sell to Minnesota Brands.
DAA keeps Michael and Elliot, despite the subterfuge. Miles tips his hat to Michael, assessing that the attempt, though failed, showed creativity, initiative, and strength. He says that Michael’s already thinking about how he would run the agency differently. And who’s to say that Michael won’t succeed the next time.
Miles Drentell also appeared on Once and Again, which aired on ABC from 1999 to 2002. No great mystery, here. Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick created both shows. Miles died of pancreatic cancer during Once and Again. The May 17, 2001 article Miles Drentell, R.I.P. analyzed the effect of character’s effect: “Miles is a warning to baby boomers that those who most fully embrace their generation’s quest for spiritual purity are most likely to subvert their generation’s collective sense of decency. Within such people, boomer exceptionalism blends seamlessly into Nietzchean megalomania. Which is what has happened to Miles. He cares for no one else, he has no regard for ethics, and he is entirely focused on worldly success.”
thirtysomething aired from 1987 to 1991 on ABC, gaining accolades, awards, and audiences for its nuanced portrayals of yuppie angst. It also received criticism for being self-involved about matters that affect the affluent.
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