Tag 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.

My favorite TV shows of 2012

sherlock and irene adler

Summing-up articles: It’s what writers do at the end of the year.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts on movies, TV and books in 2012, the first full year of this blog, and have enjoyed getting feedback from readers. The blog had almost 100,000 page views in 2012 so obviously a few people are checking it out.

I’m not going to rank my favorite TV shows – or the movies and books that will hopefully come in later blog entries – in order of preference. I’ll note, at times, those that I thought really stood out. But I didn’t see enough of any TV and movies and couldn’t come close to reading enough books to say conclusively these were the best of the best. They were just my favorites.

FYI you can probably find earlier reviews of most of these by clicking on the tags at the end.

Here are my favorite TV shows of the year:

“The Mindy Project” is maybe the biggest surprise (and one I haven’t written about yet). Mindy Kaling left “The Office” and struck out on her own with a smart and absurdly funny series that makes me think of “Community” in its mix of smart, funny and strange.

“Mad Men” struck some people as somehow deficient last season. I disagree. The tensions at home and in the office, the relationship between Don and Megan and the awful, horrible, sad end of Lane Pryce added up to a very good season.

Likewise, I’m sure some preferred the first or second season of “Justified” over the third, and I can’t totally disagree. But the third had so many wonderful moments and wild card characters like out-of-town drug dealer Quarles. And there’s no cooler lawman on TV than Tim Olyphant’s Raylan Givens.

“The Walking Dead” is only in the middle of its third season but has improved greatly over the second, farm-bound season. The prison, Woodbury, Michonne, the Governor and the return of Merle. How could you not like that?

“Parks and Recreation,” “Community” and “30 Rock” are my favorite comedies on TV right now. “Parks” is just so consistently funny and goofy, like the scene showing how people drink from the water fountains in Pawnee. “30 Rock” is about gone and “Community,” after losing its creator, could soon follow. But the bizarre “Liz Lemon as the Joker” episode of “30 Rock” and the meta chaos of “Community” will live on in my memory.

Last but definitely not least, we were treated to another three-episode season of “Sherlock” this year. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are close to becoming my favorite portrayers of Holmes and Watson. And Lara Pulver as Irene Adler? Wow.

Classic TV: ‘Firefly’ ‘Our Mrs. Reynolds’

For a show that aired on Fox for only a few weeks a decade ago, Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” has inspired quite a cult following.

And it’s a following that no doubt irritates some people. Before he hit it big with “The Avengers,” Whedon was the kind of writer/director whose creativity inspired devout fans, who in turn seemed to inspire detractors who posted online messages along the lines of “These shows, like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Angel,’ can’t be that good and Whedon is overrated and while you’re at it, go to hell.'”

“Firefly,” famously mishandled in its original network airing, nonetheless found a cult audience that very well might top “Buffy” and “Angel” in its devotion. The show’s “browncoat” fans are fervent to say the least.

It’s not hard to see why.

I watched a few episodes of “Firefly” when it originally aired in 2002 and thought it was … fine. It was a nice-looking, easy-to-follow “space western” about a group of shippers and smugglers who travel from world to world, licking their still-painful wounds from being on the losing side of an interplanetary civil war and trying to stay off the radar of the oppressive government.

The captain of the Firefly-class space ship Serenity, Mal Reynolds (played to perfection by Nathan Fillion) is surrounded by a crew that’s either devoted to him or willing to sell him out or, at various times, both.

The relationship between Mal and his crew was never better served than with “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” the sixth episode.

Mal, Jayne (the somewhat mutinous crew member played by Adam Baldwin), and Zoe (Gina Torres, his loyal former fellow soldier) help a town on a backwater planet rid itself of bandits and desperadoes, “Magnificent Seven” style. After a party honoring the crew, a groggy Mal wakes up on board the ship to find a beautiful young redhead, Saffron (Christina Hendricks, later of “Mad Men” fame), in the cargo hold.

In halting terms, Saffron explains that she and Mal are married and that she was a gift from her town for his help and she would be a good wife to him and doesn’t she please him? Mal is taken aback but is really disgruntled when his crew, led by ultra-loyal Zoe, begins mercilessly teasing him about his young bride.

Saffron sets about taking care of Mal, cooking for him, offering to wash his feet and sliding her curvy body between his sheets to warm his bed for him.

Mal has been warned by Book (Ron Glass), the ship’s resident preacher, of the dangers of taking advantage of such an innocent. “There’s a special hell for child molesters and people who talk in the theater,” Book warns him. “A special hell.”

Of course, Saffron isn’t what she seems. She’s part of a plot by some spacecraft scavengers to capture the Serenity for the value of its parts. Saffron seduces Mal, tries to seduce Zoe’s faithful but flustered husband Wash (Alan Tudyk, priceless) and even, in a desperate moment as her plan begins to unravel, sets her sights on Inara (Morena Baccarin), the high-class “companion” traveling with the crew. The moments near the end when Inara tries to distance herself from her reaction to both Saffron and helpless, unconscious Mal are hilarious.

Likewise, disreputable horndog Jayne’s lust for Saffron and his offering of Vera, his prize gun, to Mal in exchange for his young bride.

The episode played up not only the unlikely bond between the Serenity shipmates but also the excellent cast of “Firefly.”

And who didn’t come away from seeing “Our Mrs. Reynolds” and think, “Wow, Christina Hendricks is beautiful and a wonderful actress?” It was no surprise she found fame as Joan on “Mad Men.”

“Our Mrs. Reynolds” is a high-water mark even for a consistently terrific show like “Firefly.”

 

‘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.

TV: What I’m watching, given up on and looking forward to

When I was a kid, besides going back to school and the run-up to Halloween, this time of year was a big deal for me because of the new fall TV season.

Yes, I was a TV geek.

I eagerly anticipated the fall season, which usually had at least one or two shows that I wanted to see. Besides, who could guess just how great “The Night Stalker” or “Planet of the Apes” (the TV series) might make the fall of 1974?

There’s less anticipation about the fall TV season nowadays because the TV year is so fractured – worthwhile series debut throughout the calendar year – and, speaking only for myself, I watch less TV.

Because I watch less TV, I try to make every random hour and half-hour count.

So here’s what I’m watching right now as well as what I’m anticipating, what I’ve given up on and what I’m worried about.

“Copper” is a BBC America series – the channel’s first original production – that just debuted last Sunday. It’s about cops in New York City in 1864. The city was a lawless place, full of casual cruelty to children and others who couldn’t defend themselves, and the police department wasn’t much better. Into the mix comes Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish-American veteran of the Civil War who has come back to the city to find his wife missing and his child dead. The series, which has a nice gritty tone, follows Corcoran as he investigates crimes – the murder of a child prostitute in the first episodes, for example – and patrols the grimy streets and brothels of the city.

“Justified” is returning for a fourth season sometime in early 2013 and it’s likely that our favorite Kentucky-born-and-bred U.S. marshal, Raylan Givens, and his longtime friend and sometimes antagonist, Boyd Crowder, will find themselves up against some new lowlife. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins lead a great cast.

We don’t have to wait until next year to see “The Walking Dead.” The AMC series returns on Oct. 14 for its third season. The series will be split between the prison the survivors were near in the final episode of last season and the town of Woodbury, presided over by the Governor. The first eight episodes air this year, with eight more beginning in February.

I’m not sure when “Mad Men” and “Falling Skies” will be back – hopefully early in 2013 – but I’ll be watching the two very different series. Both came off solid seasons this year.

Few series have been as enjoyable in the past three years as NBC’s “Community,” an odd and offbeat show about a group of misfits who become friends in a study group at a second-rate community college. But I’m worried about “Community” this year after the departure of creator Dan Harmon. By most accounts a genius with people skills issues, Harmon got fired at the end of last season. The cast is great and the stories – complete with blanket forts, paintball apocalypses and genuinely nice character moments – are wonderful. But can the show survive without Harmon? Or will it become another kooky sitcom like “Scrubs?”

I’m not sure I’ll be around for a second season of “Longmire,” the A&E series based on Craig Johnson’s enjoyable series of mystery novels about a Wyoming sheriff. The show looked pretty good and the cast was fine, but the mysteries were mediocre. When the show did take a page from one of Johnson’s stories, as it did in the season finale, it didn’t bring the author’s charms.

I’m not sure I’m looking forward to anything on TV quite as much as a live-action Marvel Comics series set in the “Avengers” movie universe. Luke Cage? Daredevil? S.H.I.E.L.D? Where will creative genius and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” mastermind Joss Whedon take this series? Wherever it is, I’m following.

The best part about TV is that, in any given season, some really terrific show can suddenly appear and make you glad you gave it a try. I’ve felt that way about every show on this list at one time or another.