“The arc of Difficult Men involved this moment where the interests of business and art were in confluence. The fragmentation of media meant that in order to survive, you needed to have an identity. And in order to have an identity, you needed to have original programming. And that meant empowering artists.”
Ten years can be a lifetime (or two or three): Brett Martin returns to the show to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his book DIFFICULT MEN: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution (Penguin), and we talk about how the TV landscape — prestige & otherwise — has changed in the past decade, how it felt to revisit the book 10 years later, and why this anniversary was more startling than his turning 50. We get into how Difficult Men was lauded for its criticism and analysis at the time but now shines for its reporting and character studies, how the explosion of prestige TV was unsustainable but led to amazing shows, how the #metoo movement intersected with male-dominated writers’ rooms (and which show-creators in Difficult Men looked bad 10 years ago & worse now), and his feelings about the writers’ and actors’ strikes. We also discuss Brett’s writing career, what food media really talks about, his reporting on the history (& racial complexities) of Preservation Hall, what he’s learned about interviewing, why he’s crushed by the retirement of Bartolo Colon, what our favorite eras of M*A*S*H are, why he’s enjoying the heck out of Inkmaster and the new Night Court, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read the 10th anniversary edition of DIFFICULT MEN!
“One thing I came out of the pandemic feeling was much less of an urge to discover the new. I’m not as in touch with every trend that comes along.”
“I enjoy thinking seriously about restaurants as texts.”
“The discourse about restaurants — which had to stand in for restaurants in that period when no one was going to them — really became about how untenable they are, how the model is built on a lot of inequity.”
About our Guest
Brett Martin is the author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution. A tenth-anniversary edition, with a new preface, was published by Penguin Press in the summer of 2023. He is a Correspondent for GQ Magazine, a three-time James Beard Award winner, seven-time finalist, and a seven-time selectee of the annual Best Food Writing anthology. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit, Garden & Gun, Smithsonian, Outside, the New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, among others, and on public radio’s This American Life.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Brett by … someone; photo of Brett w/pipe by Cavin Brothers. It’s on my instagram.