Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden Globe noms are in!

And of course our dear Mad Men is nominated for Best Drama [was that ever really a doubt?!]. January Jones is also up for Best Actress in a Drama, which, good for her because based on that pitiful SNL attempt she'll never be up for any sort of comedy award. And Jon Hamm is up again in the category of Best Actor in a Drama, a nomination which he seems to sort of have on lock down. I hope he wins this year though, seeing as he deserves the award purely for his acting in that scene when he comes clean to Betty about Dick Whitman:

I'm really looking forward to these Golden Globes because not only will Jon Hamm be there, so will Matthew Morrison from Glee. It's the universe's Christmas gift to me. I am sure of it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Episode 13: I'll Be There For You.

So no one told you life was gonna be this way, right? Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA? Oh, and its probably like you're always stuck in second gear, when it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year? But don't worry - I'll be there for you! When the rain starts to fall! I'll be there for you! Like I've been there before! I'll be there for you! When your wife flies away to Reno with her new prospective husband to get a quickie divorce! When your company gets sold off and you have to start a new one! When you start up your new company in a hotel room! When you move stuff from your old office to your new one in a Velveeta box!

The third season of Man Men is over, meaning from now until next August my Sunday nights have suddenly freed up [who wants to hang out?]. And it ended with an episode that was simultaneously heart wrenching and heart warming - the ever perceptive Sally Draper made me shed a tear, and the ever witty Roger Sterling made me laugh out loud more than once. As we watched one family crumble, we saw another one take shape; the Drapers may be over after Betty and Henry land in Reno, but the Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce crew is just beginning. As the SCDP office tore into Trudy's offer of sandwiches, I couldn't help but smile along with Don - it seriously reminded me of an episode of Friends, the motley crew devouring a pizza while they jabbed away about whatever. [Though the thought of any of these folks dancing in a fountain with multi-colored umbrellas while The Rembrandts play merrily in the background is pretty ludicrous. Well except for Bert Cooper. He'd do it.]

But these people have done a lot of shitty stuff this season, so I think a reminder was necessary that we do love these characters - despite or because of their flaws. Like Don realized, we need them. Because for real, what the fuck am I supposed to do on Sundays now!?

One of the seemingly overarching complaints about this season has been that it focused too much on the domestic lives of the characters, often at the expense of their work lives. But this episode melded the two worlds together perfectly in that they didn't meld at all - instead they worked as mirrors, each shedding light on the other. Duality has long been a function of Mad Men, right down to it being one of the defining characteristics of its leading man. But in this episode it was front and center, and in its midst Don Draper might have finally proven he's a whole man.

Last week I worried for our dear Don, it seemed he might be swallowed up in the wake of the demise of both the president and his marriage. The Don Draper who lurked alone in his office on a national day of mourning was not the same one who told Peggy at the beginning of Season 2 that the best thing she could do was "Move forward." But it took another catastrophe to snap Don to his senses - Sterling-Cooper was being sold [again! As everyone in this episode was so kind to remind us], and he finally saw his opportunity to build something real of his own. Don has been haunted all season by his father's ghost, both for realz during drug trips with hippies in shady hotel rooms and in the form of Conrad Hilton who was so kind to call him "son" before he took away his business. Yet both Connie and Archie The Hallucination taunted Don with the same question: what would he be able to show for his life? Where was the tangible proof he had accomplished something?

For almost three seasons we dreaded that someone would find out about Dick Whitman, because surely that would mean the demise of Don Draper. But finally coming clean to Betty - even if it was forced - seemed to have the opposite effect. It was fitting that we saw Archie Whitman's death this episode because I think we also finally saw the death of that part of Don's past his ghost represented. By putting everything in the open Don himself was at last able to take his own advice and move forward, as his secrets were out and he was miraculously still standing. He was worse for the wear of course seeing as his wife was on a plane to Reno, but "Don Draper" as we know him was still in tact. The name "Don Draper" itself has played such a integral role this season, from the signature on the contract to Betty finding it emblazoned on incriminating documents, so it was notable that it will be part of the new company. Pete Campbell has his name being added to the SCDP roster as a "goal," but the Draper name is already there, it has survived. Archie tried to build a name for himself by striking out against his cooperative, and Connie by creating a hotel empire; but unacknowledged perhaps by even himself Don Draper has already built something of value, he has literally built a name for himself. And now he has the company to prove it.

So in yet another mirrored incident, this time of their meeting in a hospital almost 2 years ago, when Don told Peggy that "With or without you I'm moving on" I believed him. Mainly because it was clear that Don wasn't merely speaking about Peggy, he was moving on with or without Betty, with or without Roger and Bert, with or without the ghost of his father. Move forward, or as Roy Orbinson sang at the episode's end, "the future is better than the past."

Betty too is moving forward, but I'm not quite sure her future will be better than her past. She is after all going to live for six weeks in Reno so she can get a divorce from Don to get married to some dude who introduced himself by creepily putting a hand on her pregnant belly at a Kentucky Derby party. Also, she left two of her kids behind with Carla [Real talk: at this point just let Sally and Bobby live with Carla permanently because she's a better parent than either Don or Betty. She gives them chocolate milk and watches TV with them! <3] Oh, and have Betty and Henry actually seen each other for more than a total of like, 20 minutes?!

I'm all about the fact that Betty seems to have a grown a backbone in the later part of this season - kind of spontaneously, but whatevs - because her overgrown whiny child act was beyond grating. But this move is just stupid. It's so stupid in fact that when Don called her a whore, at first I was like "Word!" and it took me a second to remember that Don is actually a huge man whore himself. Yet there is something about what Betty has done that makes her weirdly unsympathetic; her "affair" with Henry [and I mean "affair" because as Liz Lemon would say, they aren't intercoursing each other] seems to have more to do with spite than anything else. In contrast, Peggy's affair with Duck seems to have brought her some of the empowerment that Betty is striving for, as it awakened Peggy to the fact that "now is her time."

Betty too seems to think its her time, but its ridiculous for her to assume that Henry is so different from Don - after a few clandestine meetings in a Cadillac can she be so sure he's the man to offer her everything Don can't? Betty and Don are both pretty selfish parents, but to see Betty on that plane with Henry and only baby Gene - who lucky him, won't have any memories of the day his daddy left! - it seemed to signal the start of her whole new imaginary perfect family. Alas for Sally and Bobby, it was at their expense - their mommy would be in Reno for Christmas just so she could eventually marry that guy from the governor's office!

Speaking of being from the governor's office, Henry's marked aversion to political scandal in the lawyer's office leads me to believe that there probably will be a political scandal when this all gets out. Henry is clearly only marrying Betty because he knows that's the way to get into her plaid capri pants, and once the scandal hits he'll probably drop her like a pound of bricks and she'll be left with nothing. Oh sweet justice! I can't wait!

Grandpa Gene once told Betty that he didn't trust Don because "he doesn't have any people." But if Henry drops Betty, she'll be the one left without any people - the dispute over their father's will has left her on the outs with her brother, she's well on her way to alienating her children, and she did a pretty swell job of scorning Don. So surprisingly, this episode we found that Don really does have people who he can turn to when things go awry, even if they're not exactly the kind Grandpa Gene was talking about. Roger and Don are saddling up to the bar together again, and its glorious, like all is right in the world again. Peggy and Don are also unlikely BFFs, and their scene together in Peggy's apartment showed their mutual respect [But plz let's never have a Don-Peggy love affair mmmmkay?]. It even warmed my heart to hear Don simply remark "Joan. What a good idea" when our favorite officer manager came back to straighten the lost boys out.

The new Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce fam seemed all warm and gooey this episode, but of course there is still plenty of drama that can get stirred up next season. Don and Roger need to continue to rebuild their friendship, Roger and Joanie are totally going to do it again, Lane is going to have to find a way to convince his wife New York is awesome, the whole Peggy/Pete/Trudy situation is always awkward and seriously, Bert Cooper could kick the bucket at like any second.

As for everyone else? Well, I'm not sure. I hope the writers find a way to keep them around, though honestly if they didn't I'm not sure I would miss Kenny and his haircut or Paul much. I do miss Sal, so I hope he finds a way to reappear, even though American Tobacco is such a large part of SCDP. But Paul seemed pretty miffed that he wasn't asked to join the new company, so I could definitely see him trying to weasel his way into it somehow. Or maybe we'll get to see some of McCan-Ericsson, or however its spelled. Who knows? That's kind of the beauty of this season finale, it opened up a lot of new avenues without doing anything jump the shark crazy, which when your show is headed into its 4th season is just the shot in the arm it needs.

But that's all for, sigh, next August. For now I'll just bask in the glow of the newly formed SCDP before all hell breaks loose. And it will, because no one put the check on that crazy lady Ms. Farrell. It didn't seem like her story was completely wrapped up, so am I the only one hoping she comes back and wrecks some havoc?

But regardless, I raise my old-fashioned to you Mad Men. It's been swell while it lasted, and I can't wait to see you in 1964. And in the meantime, can someone please give my homegirl Sally Draper an Emmy?!

Friday, November 6, 2009

You're welcome ladiez.

So I was supposed to go to the movies tonight, but because my friends and I are terrible planners and time frames mean nothing to us, suffice it to say we are going tomorrow instead. Thus I am just chillaxin' at home on a Friday night surfing the interwebs, and lo and behold I came across this glory, and it had to be shared. Who knew Jon Hamm played in some celebrity softball game during the All-Star Game weekend? I did not, because I know nothing about sports. Like, literally nothing. [During the week my friend asked me if I could match up the correct city with its NFL team, and to everyone's surprise - including my own - I could. My knowledge ends there though, because its not like that powderpuff football I played in high school taught me anything legit.]

And now for your viewing pleasure, a photo essay:

Do you think Don Draper would approve of this white pants/black socks/white shoes situation?

What's this? A smile?! Now I know Don Draper
really wouldn't approve.

Who exactly are these other people?! The chick is clearly from Milwaukee and the dude who looks like T.I.'s evil twin is from St. Louis as well, but that does not help me in deciphering their identities. But it's really creeping me out how much that dude looks like T.I. [Was he in jail yet in July? Otherwise there is like an 60% chance it might actually be him.]

Problem solved - it's Chingy! And when else are you ever going to see Jon Hamm sitting next to Chingy?! Ah, baseball. The great American pastime.

I love ya Jon, but not gonna lie that neck vein is kinda creeping me out.

Ahahahaha, yes, let's waste time trying to imagine what was really going on when this photo was snapped.

STFU Jenna Fischer. It's bad enough that you get to hang with John Krasinski all the time, but now you're moving in on Jon Hamm too? Unacceptable.

"I thought you were just a high school football hero who hated his dad." Bwuhahahaha. It's funny. Because it's true.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Your random MM video of the day.

While looking for an only mildly related video for another purpose, I came across this video of Jack McBrayer on Jimmy Fallon telling the story of taking his sister to meet Jon Hamm. Apparently, when Jon appeared on 30 Rock Jack promised his sister he would find a way for her to meet him, which he eventually set up with a tour of the set of Mad Men. 1] Totally jealous. 2] I wish Jack McBrayer was my brother anyway even if I didn't meet Jon Hamm, because he seems like the purest and sweetest person on this planet and 3] If Jack's sister really did react this way, we could be friends. Because I am 100% sure I would act exactly the same.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Episode 12: O Captain! My Captain!

There is something heart-wrenching about watching someone be the last to find out about a horrific tragedy - not simply because they are behind in the loop, but because they managed to hold on to a shred of innocence everyone else has lost for a few moments longer, so it makes it all the more heartbreaking to witness them lose it. So as the rest of Sterling-Cooper huddled around Harry Crane's TV set, or a radio, or dealt with the phones literally ringing off the hook, Don emerged clueless from Lane Pryce's office only to be forced to ask the question on everyone else's minds: "What the hell is going on?!"

As soon as Don uttered those words my throat tightened and my stomach dropped, because I knew exactly how he felt - we all do really. Even if I wasn't alive in 1963 I was alive during 9/11 - another moment that changed our national consciousness dramatically and irrevocably. The mix of confusion and panic on Don's face instantly reminded me of what it felt like to be a junior in high school in a plaid skirt and knee socks who found out during 2nd period chemistry class that planes had flown into the World Trade Center, and who wanted nothing more than to run home and get a hug from her mom, just to know that some things in the world were still right.

But of course the paradigm had shifted, and they only way to deal with such an event, whether it be 9/11 or Kennedy's assassination, is to deal with the change. September 12, 2001 was different from September 10, just as November 23, 1963 was different from November 21. Betty told Henry the Derby Day party felt like it was a hundred years ago, and in some ways she was correct. The 1960s as we know them - I mean the '60s - were born out of cataclysm, and it will be those who accept that the times are a-changin' who manage to keep their heads above the water. You had better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone, my favorite gravelly voiced bard once sang, and it's time for the characters of Mad Men to take his advice.

Let us start with Don - whose question was never answered, because no one had an answer - who, like me, in the immediate aftermath of tragedy wanted nothing more than to be certain that the world was still right. But the more he told Betty, the kids, and Betty again that "everything would be all right" it felt less like a comfort and more like a denial. This was the lynch pin moment of his decade and I am afraid that if he doesn't sort out his act it might also be the moment Don Draper gets left behind.

But Don's denial of a change in the national climate mirrored his denial of the change on the home front - Betty told him she didn't love him anymore, and Don didn't know what to do except clench his jaw. "You can't even hear me right now," Betty spat at him, and Don could only agree as he tried to soothe her with more platitudes. Don thought Betty was upset and confused over the death of the president, but she was really upset over the [figurative] death of the husband she thought she had pegged as a "football hero who hated his dad." The episode's final shot of Don alone in his office on a national day of mourning yearning for everything to be like it always is spoke disturbing volumes about the path he might be headed down.

Betty on the other hand, saw that the rift in the national fabric was the perfect opportunity to expose the rift in her own marriage. Just as the facade was blown off the American Camelot, Betty finally saw through her fairy-tale life - she had everything she wanted, but none of it made her happy. Earlier in the season she warned Sally that the first kiss is the best and should be savored, a bit of forewarning perhaps that we might be later witnessing the last kiss between her and Don [let's be real though, probably not]. "You don't kiss boys, boys kiss you" Betty told Sally, and when Don tried to reassuringly kiss her at Margaret's wedding it was clear to Betty that she felt no spark. The romance momentarily rekindled on their trip to Italy turned out to be as fake as Betty's weave [because that beehive was obviously weave], and the brief flash of togetherness after Don finally revealed his darkest secrets evaporated in the front seat of Grandpa Gene's old Cadillac. Unlike Don, Betty understood that the world was shifting and instead of resisting, she rode the tide.

I think we've been waiting all season for Betty to blow up royally at Don, but it played the other way around- instead of me feeling pleased with Betty in a moment of "aha! gotcha!" victory, I am left feeling sorry for Don. For all his dalliances Don has never said he doesn't love Betty, even if it is only in his weird twisted way, and watching him sink into that chair in their bedroom with his head in his hands just made him seem like the sad, pathetic and lonely man he is. The big reveal of his past identity played as a man finally exposing his deepest self, a painful act that seemed to leave Don vulnerable and naked, not as an impetus for Betty to vengefully storm out or start a screaming match, which would have been a temptingly satisfying option. But as the weight of Betty's declaration seemed to sink in the next day as Don watched his family eat breakfast, it was like watching Don be last in the loop for the second time this episode. And it was painful.

As for the rest of Mad Men's characters, they all dealt with the national tragedy in ways that showcased their more personal and particular traits. Always harried and worried about his job, Henry Crane obsessed about the commercials that wouldn't air due to the never ending news coverage. Pete acted like the whiny little bitch he is, turning the assassination of the president into a reason to not attend the wedding of his boss' daughter, instead of the self-centered real reason, that he didn't want to be around people who wouldn't promote him. Trudy wore an awesome blue dress, and was the one who stayed level headed throughout the whole ordeal, as per usual. Jane got shit faced and complained that she couldn't vote for the handsome man for president, because really she's just a girl who needs to learn to control herself and not lock herself in the bathroom when she doesn't get her way [She may also need rehab, you know if they had that in 1963]. Margaret sobbed in her wedding dress that her wedding day was ruined, because what else would a spoiled little girl do? Peggy turned to her work because its what she does best, she's not frivolous like her roommate or emotional like her mother. Joan was calm and wise, and reminded us -and maybe Roger too? - why we love her. Roger tried to joke, but found this was one time a killer zinger wasn't going to make the problem go away. Bobby slayed with his one line about being able to attend Kennedy's funeral, his naivete heartbreaking in the face his father's trite "everything will be all right" sentiments. And Sally made a vast array of amazing facial expressions, culminating in that expectant look she gave her parents at the breakfast table, all of which only prove that girl knows what's up.

Oh, and Carla sat on the couch and lit a cigarette. Which basically made my life.

It was wise that Mad Men used Kennedy's assassination not for shock value, or as a plot device in a Grey's Anatomy "disaster of the week" sort of way, as watching the characters' reactions revealed more about their traits and motivations in a single instant that an entire episode sometimes can. This episode worked so well because it used a national calamity as an over-arching metaphor for the more particular problems of the Sterling-Cooper crew, and even the series itself. The assassination proved to be a turning point for America, just as these last few episodes have proven to be a turning point for the series; in an oversimplified kind of way it was the last remaining vestige of the shiny suburban veneer of the '50s that was ripped away that November day in 1963, and this whole season we have been watching the similar myth of the perfect Draper household crumble around us.

This episode also worked so well because damn, doesn't Jon Hamm look good in a sweater and khakis!?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Episode 10: The Writing's On the Wall.

The faintest ink is better than the best memory.

Paul's Chinese proverb proved to be not just the key to the problem of a new Western Union campaign, but to this episode and essentially, this entire season. Don's observation that "
The truth is people may see things differently but they don't really want to" applies especially well to memory, itself already a rather tenuous record of what was. And this episode was full of people seeing the truth - or the color blue, as it were - differently, whether it be Mother Sterling's observation of the young woman sitting next to her, Paul's perception of why Peggy was successful at her job, Don and Mrs. Farrell's differing visions of their affair, and at long last, Betty's image of her husband's past.

It's hard to deny the truth of the written word, even if it is the faintest ink - the book of John famously opens by telling us that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God" - but the entire premise of Mad Men is that what we see in print is often a lie devised to make us want the life presented to us.
But unlike a memory the written word is solid, concrete and tangible, a disadvantage when it manifests a memory you are trying to hide, as in the case of "Don Draper's" divorce certificate. A memory is mutable and fleeting as the loss of Paul's "big idea" illustrates, something not to be trusted. "I wish I had written it down!" we wail, because we know that if there is any truth in the written word its that the moment something leaves the murky recesses of our brain and shows itself on paper it exists in the real, permanently [Or, at least until the eraser and White-Out show up].

Of course, once an idea flies from our head to the page it becomes something else entirely, a new object with new connotations, and yes, memories attached to it. The writing itself can become sentimental, as Don acknowledged when he proposed that the tag line for Western Union be something like "You can't frame a phone call." [Also: Dudes, The Sound of Music premiered in 1959 so its really a shame that Rolf turned out to be a Nazi because he is the best salesman for telegrams I have ever seen. If I could be assured that a handsome man on a bicycle who was willing to sing and dance would always deliver telegrams to me, Western Union would have my business all the time.] A phone call ceases to exist once we hang up the receiver and resides only in the memory, opening it up to numerous different interpretations and reconstructions.

That isn't to say that text doesn't offer up multiple interpretations - it does, otherwise my English major wouldn't exist - but it does require proof of these interpretations. If I am reading the sentence "Jane pets her dog" I can't possibly insinuate that Jane is actually going for a swim, because that is nowhere in the text. Similarly, once Betty presents Don with actual proof of his stolen identity - "Dick" written on the back of a photo, a deed for a house in California, dog tags with the names Don Draper and Dick Whitman, divorce papers - how can Don explain them away as anything else besides what they actually are? [Though, this is Don Draper, so he'll probably think of something] On the other hand, the mysterious phone call to the Draper House was immediately assumed by Betty to be from Henry, and by Don from Ms. Farrell, because once Sally hung up there was no way to verify who it truly was. At that moment both interpretations of the incident were correct because there was nothing to contradict the assumptions, and the proof, both Henry and Ms. Farell denying their involvement, is dubious particularly on Ms. Farell's part. But unlike the objects in Don's locked shoe box of treasures it was probably for the best that the Drapers couldn't frame this phone call, because I am sure both Betty and Don were happy it allowed for some ambiguity. Because nothing says "love!" like a framed divorce certificate!

This season is rapidly unraveling to its conclusion, and it does indeed all seem to be riding on the burden of proof. Can Peggy prove she deserves her place at the firm, aside from lipstick and Aqua Net accounts? Can Betty prove Don is someone other than who he says he is? Can Don prove he is who says he is? Can Sterling-Cooper prove itself as something other than just that place where someone got their foot run over by a tractor? Can Sal prove it was Lucky Strike Man who wronged him, and not the other way around? Can Ms. Farrell prove that making date-nut bread doesn't make you insane? Can Carla prove she is the most sane and awesome person on this show? Can Pete prove he's not a douchebag?

The last few episodes should be pretty intense, considering the show has all these questions and probably a few more [legitimate] ones to answer. The most pressing is obviously the question of Don Draper's identity now that his Pandora's Box has been opened, and whether his sham will be revealed. Of course two people -Pete and Cooper - already know Don's secret, but they don't really know the extent of the lies. Betty on the other hand, has all the proof - now we just have to wait and see what she does with it. Being Betty, she'll probably sink into indulgent misery for awhile, and then lash out childishly. Or drown herself in the bathtub, because there were a lot of shots of her and the bath this episode and they were starting to remind me of that Grey's Anatomy episode where Meredith Grey's almost drowning in Puget Sound was foreshadowed by her almost drowning in the bathtub.

But the point is, as this season ends, everyone has something to prove. It was appropriate that this episode ended with Don toasting to 40 years of Sterling-Cooper memories, because as Cooper pointed out, dwelling on these past memories is often akin to a funeral. And Don now needs to prove that the memories of his past are indeed just memories, or else we may essentially be watching "Don Draper's" funeral in these upcoming episodes.

Don's written signature on his contract seemed to make us think we were watching the solidification of the Don Draper persona, but now that seems to have been uprooted by the name "Don Draper" appearing on other incriminating items from his past. So the faintest ink may be better than the best memory, except for when that ink preserves a memory you would rather have forgotten.

Sidenote: This is a tangent from the above musings, but we need to discuss Ms. Farrell, because girlfriend is crazy. She reminded me in this episode of Georgina Sparks from Gossip Girl, who is a psycho crazy stalker bitch who makes the wallpaper of her laptop a picture of her and some guy when they have been mildly seeing each other for like, a day. She also sends the object of her affection e-cards circa 1998. And when scorned, she reveals deep dark family secrets about missing love children. Insanity! The 1963 equivalent of this is obviously showing up on the morning train unannounced because your married lover didn't call you back like he had promised. Mad Men has been dropping hints all season that Ms. Farrell might be slightly unhinged, like her barefoot dancing, flower garland, eclipse observing party, long curly hair and even a wardrobe full of earth tones - all of which suggest that her last name is meant to be literal. She is feral; natural, wild and untamed. This is bad news for Don because when she caught up with him on the train there was a glint in her eyes that suggested - to paraphrase the great Beyonce - if a time should come when he was not her everything, he might become her nothing. In other words, check those pots on your stove Drapers, there might be some rabbit stewing there.
These observations on Ms. Farrell made me want to introduce Don to something called the "Hot/Crazy Scale" originated by who else, Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Barney warns his friend Ted that the new girl he is seeing might be off the Hot/Crazy Scale, because her level of hotness doesn't outweigh her level of crazy, and the two should have a direct relationship. But then I watched the clip on YouTube and made the greatest IMDB discovery in the history of ever - the crazy girl in question is played by Abigail Spencer...who also plays Ms. Farell! I think this effectively rests my case, and how did the world exist before IMDB!?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

RIP Kater Gordon.

Well not necessarily RIP because she's not you know dead, but Matt Weiner did fire her. The Mad Men camp released a statement about why he fired her, and of course its the typical useless platitudes:

"We think [Kater's] done a great job, particularly for someone whose career has progressed so quickly. Now, however, Matt has reluctantly decided that their relationship has reached its full potential. She'll be missed, but the series has consistently benefited from the influx of new writer talent, and there's absolutely no doubt that Kater will continue to have unprecedented success in her career as she spreads her wings. She leaves Mad Men with our love and respect and a well-deserved Emmy."

Lies! Well, maybe not complete lies but whenever you use phrases like "their relationship has reached its full potential" you know that's some bullshit and I want to know the true scandalous reason for firing a writer who just won your show an Emmy three weeks ago.
Rumors are floating around the internet and they range from Weiner pulling a Letterman as it were [when is someone going to blackmail Don Draper like that?! That's a good storyline! And I don't mean when Pete tried to do it, because whenever Pete does anything its half-assed and lame] to Weiner not being able to handle sharing an Emmy with someone else. Of course Weiner is an egotistical perfectionist, otherwise Mad Men wouldn't be nearly as meticulous and methodical as it is, so maybe that last one is true. But considering Gordon took the Peggy Olsen career path, starting out as a writer's assistant and quickly moving to staff writer, maybe Weiner just realized that "there's not one thing you've done here I couldn't live without." Via IMDB it looks like the only episode she wrote entirely by herself was "The Fog," and in context of the rest of Mad Men's episodes, I thought that one kind of sucked. So maybe the reason she was fired wasn't so scandalous after all.
People are also worried this will affect the quality of the show, but I honestly don't think it will matter. Mad Men seems to have a big enough stable of writers that she won't be missed, and let's be real, we all know Matt Weiner is the who has the final say at the end of the day.
But ahahahahha also according to IMDB, Gordon was a co-writer on the episode that's about the air in an hour. That's pretty funny.
So is the fact that her name is "Kater."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Episode 8: Ciao Bella.

This was, above all else, an episode of duality and contrasts. Of the life that could have been and the one that is. Of life inside the Sterling-Cooper offices and life outside its confines. Of innocent first kisses and calculated extra-marital affairs. Of life in the city and life vacationing at the shore. And most importantly, of shirtless Pete Campbell and shirtless Don Draper.

Asking if you prefer shirtless Don or shirtless Pete is like asking if you would rather have chocolate ice cream or uncooked spaghetti for dessert - there might be some freaks who prefer the latter, but then, that's why they're freaks. With Trudy on vacation with her folks [and by "on vacation" I mean taking time off to also film scenes for Community on NBC], Pete was left to his own devices, which included eating cereal while watching cartoons, passing out in a drunken stupor on the couch in the middle of the day, and struggling to yes, take off his shirt. For all his braggadocio Pete really can't take care of himself; he says he feels pity for his single secretary but he would probably be screwed in the office without her, and without Trudy he's more bored than anything else and reverts to acting like a 12 year old boy. A few weeks ago Doctor McNoBrainsInFingers came home drunk and Joan was kind enough to say she would help him get undressed, so clearly men in 1963 don't know how to unbutton their own shirts. I almost felt sorry for Pete, it was so sad to see him struggle with something so elementary like taking off a shirt, not necessarily because he was drunk and uncoordinated but because at heart he's actually a pathetic little child. But then I remembered he's also a smarmy little jerkface I want to sucker punch through my TV screen, and well, we'll get to that.

Shirtless Don on the other hand was glorious, but its not like we haven't been privy to that action before [I do vote for an increase in Don Draper in white form fitting t-shirts however. Thanks in advance Matt Weiner!]. But we haven't seen Don shirtless in a foreign country so clearly that makes it more exciting, or getting shirtless so much in one episode with - gasp! - his wife. While the Great Pete In Shirt Incident of 1963 only revealed his childlike tendencies, a half naked Don manned up, as it were, to task of keeping up with his hot and bothered wife. Ironically of course, Don might feel slightly emasculated if he knew Betty's friskiness could have something to do with the fact that she was getting kissed in parking lots by dashing political assistants.

Which leads us to those calculated extra-marital affairs! Henry swooped in like the chivalrous guy he is and saved the ladies of the Junior League during their meeting with the city council, and proceeded to celebrate by kissing Betty in the parking lot in her dead father's car...which probably leads to a ton of Daddy Issues that I really don't want to think about. Betty came home afterward and did a little dance in her kitchen not unlike this one, and then woke up Don in the middle of the night to tell him she was going to accompany him on his visit to Rome with Connie Hilton. Betty had a taste of the life she missed out on that night - she was desired, both romantically and professionally in some sense, and she wanted to regain that by visiting her glory days in Italy. Also, when you make out with another dude getting your husband out of the country ASAP to distract him with your sultry new black eyeliner and beehive probably isn't a bad move.

While Betty and Don were frolicking across the Atlantic, Pete was back home getting his exotic kicks another way, befriending a hapless German nanny who also lives in his building. Befriends is of course the wrong word, because it was really a Hey-Let-Me-Use-My-Pull-To-Get-You-A-New-Dress-And-Then-You'll-Owe-Me-Sex type of situation [and god, don't you just hate those situations?!], but German Nanny pulled a fast one and told Pete she had a boyfriend. Rejected! But Pete wasn't going to let that stop him, and after a few drinks he showed up at her door asking to be let in - a moment too disconcertingly familiar to a certain moment in the pilot. German Nanny, there is someone out there named Peggy Olsen. You two could be friends, you'd have a lot to talk about.

But while Pete and Betty were using sex as leverage, little Sally Draper was just learning that sometimes you kiss a boy in the bathtub and then later you get teased about it. Just wait for college Sally! Carla returned thank god, to actually raise these fucking Draper kids since no one else does it, and caught Sally wailing on her brother because he spied her planting a wet one on neighbor Ernie's cheek. When Betty returned home she schooled Sally, not necessarily on the fact that she beat up her brother, but told her she needed to learn that "You don't kiss boys, boys kiss you." Oh indeed they do, especially after they hook you up with a new dress or help you stop new water tanks from being built and then expect something in return. And considering Sally decided to ask Ernie if he thought she was pretty after watching her mother get dolled up for her City Hall rendezvous, its safe to say Sally is catching on that making yourself into an object of lust might just get you what you want. Sigh, and you thought she was going to be a "little lesbian" Betty and Don! Haterz.

Sally play-acting the married life her parents lead with Ernie was especially sad because we learned this episode that her parents are still play-acting, and even sadder that seems to be the only time they're actually happy. A trip to Italy reminded Betty of the life she abandoned, a life where she was in control, self-actualized, and comfortable even in a foreign tongue. It was cute at first seeing Don try to "pick up" his newly reinvigorated wife, until it became clear that this was the game he always runs - if it wasn't Betty, there would be a good looking stewardess he'd be using the same lines on. Betty was playing dress up and Don was playing the charming cad, but the supreme irony of it all was that for once they were actually playing themselves. Betty was playing the girl she always [and to some extent, I think still] imagines herself to be, and Don was playing the man who fancies himself reinvented through his choice of one night stand, but this time he became what he truly is - Betty's husband. In last week's episode Don feared a formal acknowledgment of "Don Draper" would mean he wouldn't be able to shake the persona, and this week the man of the shifting identities shifted into the one he held all along.

It is indeed a strange shift because Betty and Don seem to be flipping roles - Karen Valby of EW.com wondered if this episode would seem to suggest that this time it might be Betty who leaves Don, instead of the other way around. I think that might have some weight, as Betty clearly hates everything about her simple provincial suburban existence, and the taste of what might have been did nothing to quell her feelings. Strangely Don this episode seemed content that a golden charm would be a good enough token of the Life That Could Have Been, a brief reminder and not the thing itself. But Betty wants the real thing, and I'm starting to think she'll go to lengths this season to get it we haven't seen before.

All in all, this episode was unsettling because it showed that behind their cigarettes, drinks and swagger our favorite Man [Wo]Men are just sad, and a little pathetic. And I didn't even talk about our dear Joanie who is now waiting on Pete in dress shops! Get it together girl! But while Don Draper is good at selling you the life you want to lead, there was never any guarantee he'd get to lead that life himself.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two Emmys for Best Drama? Who cares!

You know you've really made when you're on Sesame Street. Sesame Street used Mad Men to illustrate emotions [because hey, its right there in the title!], not to teach kids how to drink and smoke, sadly. Don Draper would not approve obviously, since it's a necessity for Sally to bring him an old-fashioned when he is too tired to make one for himself.

John Hamm's Muppet is a pretty good rendering, so its a shame his Dr. Drew wasn't in that 30 Rock segment where it was revealed that Kenneth sees the world like its Sesame Street. Especially because we all know Kenneth the Page's real name is Dick Whitman too!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Even Britney Spears Watches Mad Men.

I mean that's only what I have to assume since she released a song called 3 extolling the virtues of you guessed it, threesomes, just days after Don Draper found himself drugged up with some hippies in a hotel room. And come on, you know if hallucination Daddy Whitman didn't appear, Don would have hit that.

So, yeah, hoping John Hamm appears in the video:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Episode 7: Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Leave it to Mad Men to make me fully appreciate Bonnie Tyler's now karaoke standard in a whole new light. That song is kinda deep man! To silence the haterz who complain nothing really happens on this show except for Joan wearing fabulous dresses, shit went down in this episode and my caffeine deprived brain realized a lot of it actually aligned with Bonnie's song. Like, seriously.

And because no other episode of Mad Men will feature an actual eclipse [probably!] its clearly time to reduce this excellent episode to Bonnie Tyler lyrics for further analysis:

Every now and then/I get a little bit nervous/that the best of all the years have gone by

Ever since Duck told Peggy that "now was her time" she seems a little bit anxious that she's letting the prime of her life pass her by, which is ironic of course considering of all Mad Men's women she is the one who seems to be making the most inroads when it comes to shattering expectations for her life. On the other hand, the best of all the years really have gone by for Betty, as in previous seasons we see that continuing her modeling career is basically out of the question thanks to Go-Watch-TV-Sally, Bang-Your-Head-Against-The-Wall-Bobby and now Ghost-Baby-Gene. Betty is a selfish parent because she never got the chance to sort her own Self out before she was saddled with a few other human beings, and honestly, if she knew the route Peggy had taken she would probably be jealous and wished she had thought of it first. Yet as much as Peggy fancies herself as "one of those girls" that isn't to say her life is easy or glamorous by any stretch - she still gets dressed down by Don for asking for a new account and is easily seduced by Duck's not so seductive "I can taste the whiskey on your breath" line. But as Peggy walked into Sterling-Cooper wearing yesterday's clothes [just as Don did the same] the sly look she shot her boss clearly said that she knew his game, and that she could play it too - her life might not be glamorous, but she was living it for herself.
From its opening cuts, this episode did an excellent job drawing a line of parallel between Peggy and Betty, a connection that wasn't necessarily all that fleshed out before. But both women really are the two sides of the same "what if?" coin; while Peggy turned to adoption and used the birth of her child as a sort of emancipation - she didn't "shame" Pete into being with her, but instead sought to unhinge herself from him permanently - Betty looks at her children as merely accessories needed to keep up the front of her perfect household. And while Peggy at least has the initiative to bump her head against the glass ceiling, Betty is passive enough to lay on a Victorian fainting couch because some man told her she needed one [And the Victorian shout out only reinforces my belief that Betty will be Yellow Wallpaper crazy by the end of this season].

Every now and then I get a little bit restless/ and I dream of something wild

Everyone knows that Don is more than a little bit restless, he's always restless and restless enough to continually want to become someone else. Last week Don got a taste of something new when he was mistakenly made to believe he might become an ocean hopping executive, only to be brought down to size by some uppity Brit's flow chart. So it must have smarted doubly this episode when his bosses handed him a contract good for three years - the fact that he probably would still be at Sterling-Cooper in three years of course didn't mean as much to Don as the fact that he didn't have to be at Sterling-Cooper in three years.
Don has been surprisingly restrained this season [I mean, for Don] so of course the only way to handle such an upset was to go careening wildly in his Cadillac and pick up two drugged out hippies headed for Canada and go with them to a seedy motel room. Don's many affairs are basically like him living out one of those Choose You Own Adventure books over and over, just each time picking a different woman, and a different outcome. And Don's new hippie friends were certainly a boon in the Don Draper Affairs Department, as they offered drugs [reds!], cheap three way seedy motel sex [Almost happened! Don't you just hate when hallucinations of your dead dad kill the mood?] and most importantly, a younger version of Don who was also keen to abuse the strict rules of the military to find himself a new life.

Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time/I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark/We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks

This episode of course featured an actual eclipse, the shadow of which actually did weigh heavily on Don and Betty's marriage. When Roger calls the house under the pretext of looking for Don but really to convince Betty to force her husband to sign his contract, Betty realizes she really is always in the dark when it comes to the life Don leads in the city. But what Betty won't admit to herself is that being in the dark is actually what she wants - would she really be all that interested if Don came home and started talking to her about Patio campaigns and Connie Hilton? What she really wants is a man like Henry who tells her she needs a Victorian fainting couch and who literally puts her in the dark when he chivalrously shields her eyes from the eclipse.
This is perhaps why Don finds himself so attracted to Ms. Ferrell, she looks right at the eclipse in a contraption of her own creation without the help of the those boring dads just hanging uselessly about. Oh and calling Don out on his similarity to all the other dads there? Well played, Ms. Ferrell, well played. Now he only wants to give you and your drunken loose bra strap self more of a go around then before.
Obviously Don always wants what he can't have so now when he actually does give Ms. Ferell the go around [Thanks 1963! The "go around" is now my new fav euphemism!], the powder keg might actually explode. This season has been slow building, but the sparks are starting to fly, which can only mean that the inevitable explosion will be all that more awesome. To quote Don quoting Sal quoting Balzac, our worst fears do indeed lie in anticipation.

Forever's gonna start tonight

7-23-1963. The date Don Draper became Don Draper permanently. This is at the very least what Don fears when he signs his name to his contract, as if the act of writing in non-erasable ink his adopted name inks into existence this persona forever. Ms. Ferrell was right, Dick Whitman is bored with his "Don Draper" existence, and even worse his contract now makes him acknowledge that he is stuck in a world of his own creation, and one which he now can't stand.
In his hallucination Archie Whitman told his son that all he grew was bullshit, which is of course true. The entire premise of Mad Men is lies, and Don is the master - in advertising he writes lies for a living, and as Don Draper his living is a lie. But now that the name "Don Draper" has been inked with certainty, a lie has finally become the truth.
The point this season seems to be unraveling to is that Don's game might be up; to pull a Simon Cowell, he's not as good or as special as he thinks he is. In this episode Peggy showed that she could play with the boys, and Mrs. Ferrell made Don realize that one plaid shirt really isn't that different from another plaid shirt. And most devastatingly, Cooper reminded us and Don that he really does have the means to end the game entirely - if Dick Whitman could be replaced, who's to say that Don Draper can't?