• Tywin Lannister

A week limited to basic cable can drive a fellow to desperate measures, and in my case this meant watching hour upon hour of the History Channel. To be fair, I was multitasking—pitting cherries for a pie while staring slack-jawed at the inception of the American century as rendered in The Men Who Built America, a six-hour-long miniseries that’s both risible and hypnotic.

The MWBA are Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford. They are played by unknown actors obviously chosen for their ability to sit at desks, suck on cigars, and look shrewd, visionary, and ruthless. They have few actual lines, and most of what we learn about them is told by an off-screen narrator. Every so often one of a rotating chorus of talking heads (Donald Trump! Mark Cuban!) pops up onscreen to assure us of the brilliance of these Founding Plutocrats and shamelessly insinuate that they, the talking heads, belong in the same company. At that task, they don’t make the slightest headway.