Category Archives: Mad Men

‘Mad Men’ sets up the final pitch with ‘Waterloo’

mad men waterloo don peggy

Don Draper is one of the biggest mysteries, as well as one of the most anti-heroic anti-heroes, on TV.
Through six and a half seasons of “Mad Men” on AMC, we’ve rooted for Don (as payed by Jon Hamm) even though we probably wouldn’t want to work with him and we certainly wouldn’t want to be married to him.

The temperamental artist, serial philanderer and distant father has been undergoing a transformation in the seventh season, however. After hitting rock bottom – rejected by his latest lover, despised or pitied by coworkers, left behind by his latest wife, who’s off in California to pursue her dreams – Don seems to be trying to remake himself.

He offers to do the right thing by Megan. He hands off a successful pitch to Peggy, who had, probably rightfully so, grown tired of the behavior of her mentor. He turns down offers from women who fling themselves at him (well, mostly; does the threesome that included Megan count?). He even inspires loyalty from Roger Sterling, who – in this week’s final episode of the year, before the final seven episodes of the series play out next year – rallies after a season of restlessness and experimentation to save not only Don but the partners in the agency.

It’s difficult to tell where “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner is going with the series, but then it always is. While we might have had a sense of forbidding about Lane Pryce a couple of seasons ago, this past season or two Weiner has been stringing us along with foreboding balconies and Sharon Tate hints. Who would have thought we would reach the final episode before the last seven episodes only to find that Don has mostly righted himself?

“Waterloo” was satisfying in the way that good “Mad Men” episodes are. Almost every character gets his or her moment, from Pete’s goofy comparison of Don to a thoroughbred to Peggy’s version of Don’s classic pitches to clients to Roger’s newfound steel – and his punchlines – to young Sally’s continuing voyage through teenagerhood.

mad men waterloo bert cooper

I still don’t think the series knows what to do anymore with Don’s estranged wife, Betty. And old Bert Cooper was never more alive, ironically, than at the end of “Waterloo,” a moment that let vintage song-and-dance man Barry Morse shine.

What do we want to see in the final seven episodes, coming in 2015?

A clear path for Sally. Will she rebel or follow her mother into conservative stuffiness?

A bright future for Peggy as the queen of Madison Avenue.

Roles that feel comfortable for Roger and Joan. Maybe even together.

Maybe a successful comic strip for Lou Avery. Anything to get him out of the ad business.

Enough success to choke schemers and graspers – even enjoyable ones – like Pete and Harry.

And maybe redemption for Don following a lifetime of deception and deceit and self-loathing.

Tune in next year.

Neve Campbell latest fave on ‘Mad Men’

neve campbell w don mad men

There was a lot going on in last week’s season premiere of “Mad Men,” what with the bi-coastal Sterling Cooper office antics, Roger showing why tiny cell phones wouldn’t have worked in 1969, Peggy and that damn little neighbor kid, Megan’s channeling Sharon Tate and Pete’s plaid pants and sweater, the latter worn over-the-shoulder-style.

And yes, that was Neve Campbell on the plane, snuggling with Don.

neve campbell mad men

Neve Campbell of “Scream” and “Party of Five.” Looking amazing and 1969-period-appropriate.

Campbell wouldn’t acknowledge, in talking to Entertainment Weekly, if that’s her only appearance in this, the split-in-half last season of “Mad Men.”

But c’mon, we know it can’t be.

She’s too recognizable to have just a couple of quick scenes. As, as Entertainment Weekly pointed out, the end credits even gave her character a name: Lee Cabot.

Neve has joined the ranks of past TV stars like Madchen Amick, Alexis Biedel and Linda Cardellini playing partners/playthings of the “Mad” men.

So here’s to more of Campbell this season.

madchen amick madmen hd

And – we should be so lucky – more Madchen.

Today in Halloween: AMC has a little bit of Fear Fest left

amc fear fest

You know, I’m a big fan of today’s AMC. What’s not to like? “The Walking Dead,” “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad.”

But this time of year I miss the old AMC, the all-movie network that couldn’t really compete with Turner Classic Movies … except for the last couple of weeks of October, when AMC programmed virtually non-stop horror movies.

From the old Universal Monsters classics to Hammer horrors, AMC made me want to sit in front of my TV 24-7.

Well, a lot of the classics have fled elsewhere – I’m guessing TCM – and there’s a preponderance of “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” movies during the final two weeks of October on AMC now.

But that’s okay. Cause you can never see John Carpenter’s classic “Halloween” too many times. And none of us have seen the offbeat “Halloween 3” often enough.

And yes, I’ll stop and check out a “Friday the 13th” movie, if only long enough to determine if it’s the one with Kevin Bacon.

There are a few schedules online for AMC’s lineup this year. True, too many of the timeslots are filled with inferior stuff.

But beginning with a “Walking Dead” marathon over the weekend leading up to the new season premiere at 9 p.m Sunday and great movies like “Slither” on tap, AMC will still give us some Fear Fest this year.

Don’s new fling: Linda Cardellini in ‘Mad Men’

Linda-Cardellini

Every few scenes in last night’s season premiere of “Mad Men,” I was wondering: Who’s the actress playing the wife of Don and Megan’s neighbor, heart surgeon Dr. Rosen?

After the final scene, I was wondering: Who’s the actress playing the wife of Don and Megan’s new neighbor, heart surgeon Dr. Rosen, whom Don is boinking? (The wife, that is. Good god, people. He’s not Don’s type.)

madchen amick mad men

She looked so familiar, but I couldn’t figure it out. Was this another actress from the 1990s, like Madchen Amick as Don’s flirtation last season?

The credits went by way too fast to catch a name, so I turned to online sources and was shocked to discover the character was played by Linda Cardellini.

Lindsay from the classic TV show “Freaks and Geeks!”

linda cardellini mad men

Mind. Blown.

 

‘Buffy,’ ‘Angel’ and modern-day cable

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” ran seven seasons and its spin-off show, “Angel,” ran a too-short five. Both aired on what were considered “mini” networks, The WB and The CW, but networks nonetheless with obligations to meet the standards of broadcast networks and bring in some semblance of traditional over-the-air ratings.

But we can only dream about how those Joss Whedon series as well as his “Firefly” and “Dollhouse” series might have faired if they had aired on channels that were decidedly off-network.

I’m thinking of TNT, FX, USA, AMC and A&E, channels – not networks, since networks are networks of stations, while cable channels have no physical presence out in the real world – that schedule, carry and nurture high-quality episodic drama.

Can you imagine “The Shield” or “Mad Men” or even “Falling Skies” on network TV?

I can’t. I can’t imagine those niche shows pulling enough viewers to stay on the air. “Firefly” sure didn’t.

I can’t imagine the networks allowing the creators of those shows to produce as few as 10 or 12 or 16 episodes per season, something that’s become routine with shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.”

There seems to be less pressure without a 22-episode, big network season. Less expectation of Super Bowl-sized ratings. Less expectation of quickly meeting the 100-episode threshold for syndication.

With those shorter seasons, you can weed out the deadwood episodes. Okay, some of us were a little impatient with how long last season’s “The Walking Dead” spent on the farm. But it didn’t have to be that way. Look at last season’s “Mad Men” as an example. While the season had its critics, I thought almost every episode was riveting. Would that have been the case if the creators had been compelled to turn out twice as many episodes to fill out a network season?

Who doesn’t think “Smallville,” for example, would have been better with about a half-dozen fewer episodes per season and a little less filler? How about “Lost?”

There are some drawbacks. Out of sight, out of mind. “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men” took their time and sometimes a year or even more passed between seasons. It was torture but it made us look forward to their return even more. That trick wouldn’t work for every show, however.

And admittedly, there’s still less visibility on cable, at least for some audiences. We live in a world where the biggest ratings are still garnered by standard network fare like cops-and-robbers procedurals. We can take solace in knowing that we’re cooler because we know all about “Justified.”

So in my alternate reality TV word, “Buffy” and “Angel” and “Firefly” are still chugging along, well  into the double-digits in years on the air. They’re just airing fewer episodes and every episode is greeted with a sense of anticipation and celebration.

‘Mad Men’ ends strong season with low-key ‘The Phantom’

If the fifth season of “Mad Men” wasn’t its strongest, it was certainly one of the strongest, with Don and Megan hitting more than a few bumps on the road to domestic bliss even while Don coasted at the office, Sally struggling her way into her teenage years, Roger floundering, Peggy finding the strength to move on, Joan literally prostituting herself for the ad business, Lane meeting a tragic but inevitable end and Pete becoming even less likable, if that’s possible.

Yeah, “Mad Men” has had a busy 13 episodes.

That’s what makes Sunday night’s season finale, “The Phantom,” seem even more anti-climactic.

A day after watching the episode, I’m hard-pressed to remember what happened, right up until the end, when Don got Megan a part in a TV commercial then wandered into a bar, where he was propositioned by a young woman. We don’t hear Don’s answer. This was the season when Don choked his philandering tendencies to death in an especially memorable dream. But is he still feeling that conflicted, I wonder?

After the previous episode, in which Lane hanged himself to escape disgrace over his financial improprieties, this week seemed kind of forced and lackluster.

Pete’s little friend Beth got shock therapy.

Roger, maybe still trying to recover the high he felt when he took LSD, got buck naked in front of a hotel window.

Don and Peggy were briefly reunited at a movie theater playing “Casino Royale.” (Was it just me, or did anyone else feel uncomfortable, remembering the last time we saw Peggy in a theater?)

Pete got punched a couple of times — neither time as effectively as the whipping Lane administered earlier this season — but got an okay from his wife to get his apartment in the city.

Megan double-crossed her friend and won the TV commercial.

And the remaining partners, buoyed by the success of the firm, ended the episode looking out the windows of the floor upstairs from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, contemplating future office space and their future.

That’s about it.

I really enjoyed this season’s “Mad Men” and its emphasis on the desperation of its characters played out against a background of the most jarring news of the day. Despite the lackluster season finale, the show remains one of the best and most absorbing on TV.

 

‘Mad Men’ puts a price on ‘The Other Woman’

I want to be clear that I haven’t seen every episode of “Mad Men.” I watched early on, then faded on the show for a while, then came back and have watched religiously — every Sunday! — for the past three seasons.

So bear that proviso in mind when I argue that this season of “Mad Men” might be the best.

Part of that belief might be because so many episodes this season seem tied to a specific event — one in the news from that period or even just in the personal lives of the characters — but I think a lot of that feeling seems to be because this season is about something.

Desperation.

Sure, the series has always been about desperation to some extent. Don’s remaking of himself; Roger’s realization that his career is fading; Pete’s attempts to claw his way up the Madison Avenue ladder.

But this season the show has reached new highs — lows — of desperation, from Don’s love-hate relationship with the women in his life to Roger, Pete and Lane’s self-destructive behavior.

This week’s episode, “The Other Woman,” pushed the characters even closer to the edge. As Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce tries for a second time to land the Jaguar account, a tri-state Jaguar dealer lets Pete know how he wants to seal the deal: A night of sex with bombshell Joan.

Pete is slimy enough to take the idea and run with it and most of the other partners agree. Only Don, who has more conflicted feelings about women than anyone else, seems repulsed by the idea. But he expresses his displeasure only by saying “no” and walking out of the room.

Meanwhile, Don turns to Ginsburg for the perfect pitch for Jaguar, while Peggy fields a pitch of her own: She’s asked to join a rival ad firm at a substantially better rate of pay.

Outside the office, Megan meets resistance from Don when she wants to pursue her acting career in an out-of-town play.

Thoughts while watching the episode:

Is Pete irredeemable by this point?

For several episodes we worried that Roger was headed for a fall. Will that happen in the final two episodes?

Could Don have been more dismissive and offensive than when he threw money at Peggy, and more pathetic than when he sank to his knees before her when she said she was leaving?

Surely we haven’t seen the last of Peggy?