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Friday, 23 of April of 2021

Tag » Mad Men

Mad Men – “The Summer Man”

“There have been a lot of complaints.”

Don Draper stands outside the New York Athletic Club, observing a passerby.

“Hmm. Maybe it’s time to wreck someone else’s family.”

There is a lot to like about this episode but one thing to absolutely hate.

When Mad Men explores the hierarchical and power relationships within the lives of their characters, they put on a clinic. The exploration feels organic and, although the viewer will have an “ah-ha” moment once the writers convey their point, it’s done with subtlety and class. They let everything develop naturally so that, when the point of the story does come about, you don’t feel like anyone had to sit you down and tell you the moral. This is the major difference between this show and much of what we see on most network television. The revelation doesn’t have to be spoken in Act IV. Sadly, I can only think of Full House as a reference (possibly because, when I think of formulaic television, that is my prototype) but there’s never an Uncle-Jesse-sits-little-Michelle-down-and-tells-her-what’s-up ending in Mad Men. A lot of the time, the point they were trying to drive home is left up to the actor to convey with a look, a moment of silence, or an air of unrelenting despondency.

So why in God’s name do they give Draper a pen and let him pour his thoughts like an analog, depressing, mature version of Doogie Howser, MD?

Yeah, that made me about livid. I’m generally against voiceover narration anyway but here it feels more wrong, more antithetical to how this series tells a story. Then, on top of that, Joan breaks her stoicism again in a way that kind of cheapens the first time. To be honest, the first fifteen minutes or so of the episode almost made me think that this week was a breather episode from last week’s excellent “The Suitcase.” But they made up for it in their usual way, with their intelligent, non-condescending storytelling, the exploration of characters, and some great stuff with my girl Peggy.

If only they didn’t cop out and let Don tell you how he’s feeling. Out loud.

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What to Look Out For This Week

As you’ve probably read a thousand times today in your friends’ Facebook statuses and uninspired tweets, Labor Day marks the end of summer. But that means it’s only the beginning for television. The fall season is fast approaching and, with it, a slew of new content to watch, consume, and make you feel good about life/hate the hacks that trick you into watching stuff on the picture tube. Here at Monsters of Television, we hope to help you cut through the garbage and check out the things we’re looking forward to this week.

Mad Men – “The Suitcase”

I know this aired on Sunday night but the episode is that good. If you haven’t caught it yet, set your DVRs for the re-runs this week. Then read the reviews (including ours).

Gilmore Girls

You’ve heard me mention it about a hundred times on this site, between Parenthood reviews and any opportunity I can fit it in (it’s like Lost with Matt), but it’s time you caught up. ABC Family will start the re-run cycle of Gilmore Girls this Tuesday and play the entire series in order from the beginning. Stick with it. It’s good. Swear, dude. Well, until Season 3 and then it goes bad for a while. But come back for late season 3, early season 4. I defy you to deny Lorelai Gilmore. Starting Tuesday, 5PM on ABC Family

Warehouse 13 – “Where and When”

Bridging the gap between the end of summer TV and the beginning of the fall season, Warehouse 13 continues blending historical fiction with science fiction and adding to the reasons why Syfy might actually be able to compete with network and cable original programming. Allison Scagliotti (who plays Claudia Donovan, a student of the Veronica Mars school of snark) teased via her twitter account: “Ever wonder what would happen if #Warehouse13 ate an episode of #MadMen? Tune in tonight for a blast from the past.” Tuesday, 9PM on Syfy

Hellcats – “A Word Full of Strangers”

Stars Alyson Michalka and Ashley Tisdale aren’t just trying out for the competitive cheer squad, they’re gonna have to prove to the audience that they can step up from their Disney Channel pasts. Keeping with the CW staple of very pretty pretty young people and a Top 40 soundtrack, Hellcats is hoping to help land its network at the top of the pyramid. Will it stick the landing? Wednesday, 8PM on The CW

White Collar – “Point Blank”

The summer finale looks to explore what’s inside of the music box, a lazy plot point that has meandered through this season, ranking in importance just under what happened to Kate (something Neal has only had a casual interest in this season). Interesting in the promo is Neal’s use of a gun, which, as any viewer knows, is the mark of dubious characters in the series. 98% of me says that it’s part of a con but part of me thinks it might be the act of a desperate man (plus, Alex comes back — hooray!). Tuesday, 10PM on USA

Psych – “One, Maybe Two, Ways Out”

So Psych’s summer finale probably won’t finish as strong as the season finale (or probably most of the episodes coming up on the latter half of this season) but it should be a fun romp, especially now that they’ve introduced the possibility of Shules (though odds that something important in that relationship will occur here: slim). Wednesday, 10PM on USA

Terriers – “Pilot”

The pedigree is strong with the writer of Ocean’s 11 and Shawn Ryan from The Shield. Donal Logue appears to be playing the character I wanted Jason Lee to play in Memphis Beat, a detective down on his luck, sinking to rock bottom, hustling, trying to make it all work. It looks good and has a lot of potential, even though FX is throwing a ton of marketing behind it (which, as we know from Paul Blart, Mall Cop, that means they’re not sure the show can sell itself). Wednesday, 10PM on FX

Nikita – “Pilot

Remember when USA aired an action show about a highly trained operative with vague ties to the government? No, no, not Burn Notice. Le Femme Nikita! Yeah, it aired on USA from 1997 to 2001 (right before the network’s retooling began), and has no been remade with the ever awesome Maggie Q. No doubt some things have changed, but as long as there’s conspiracy and ass-kicking, it’ll hopefully be entertaining. Thursday 9PM on The CW

Chuck Presents – Buy Hard: The Jeff and Lester Story

While not necessarily something that’s going to air on television, the people at Chuck did the thing we hoped they would by making a webisode series based on Jeff and Lester going on the lam. (Un)fortunately, they used this opportunity to also tie in some sponsorship so the series will serve as a paid advertising for Halo: Reach. You can catch the web series all this week on the Warner Bros. page for Chuck.

Mad Men – “The Suitcase”

“You should be thanking me along with Jesus for giving you another day.”

Don and Duck confront each other over Peggy at the SCDP office after hours.

Peggy is all Charlie Brown since these two jackasses are the most important men in her life. Good grief.

God, does Peggy’s life suck.

Not only is she constantly being berated by her mentor, a man she’s saved on several occasions, a man she admires even as she watches him circle the drain, but she also has to contend with a drunker, more desperate version of a barely-lover trying to make a Peggy comeback. The only person that comes through for her a little bit in this episode is her boyfriend who she doesn’t even know if she likes. Her uncertainty is so unbalanced that she takes his planned surprise dinner with her family and turns into into a check mark on her con list, saying he doesn’t know her very well. Work is her only solace and, when it comes down to a decision between her having to choose between the shaky life she’s built outside the Time/Life Building and Don Draper’s ambivalence, she is programmed to choose the latter.

This is my favorite kind of episodes of any television series: where the A-plot is so strong/dense that everything else feeds into it like a nexus (or a black hole). Every other storyline in this episode (and there are several) only acts to service the A-plot. There is good reason for this format as everything is set-up for the final scene. And whether you like it or not, no matter what you take from Don and Peggy at the end of “The Suitcase,” the gesture is important enough to deserve an entire episode in dedication to building it up.

Just don’t go writing Mrs Peggy Draper on your notebooks anytime soon.

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Mad Men – “Waldorf Stories”

It’s all I have. That, and my ideas.”

Sorry everyone, but with Nick moving to Los Angeles tomorrow (perhaps to see his cancer-stricken ex-wife or have a Fellini-inspired romp with a girl), it means I get to review this week’s Mad Men. Happily, I’ve been enjoying this current season far more than I did the seasons leading up to it. The season thus far has given me exactly what I wanted: more ad agency goodness and Don Draper coming apart at the seams. But no pears yet.

However, that hot streak was doomed to die at some point, and it drank itself to death with “Waldorf Stories.” If anything, it gave me too much of what I wanted from the show, as Don’s descent in being a useless jackass is ever closer to rock bottom, and I find myself almost feeling sorry for Don.

But not as sorry as I do feel for Peggy. Read more »

Mad Men – “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

” … because you broke your own rules.”

Maybe it’s just because I watched the entire Extras series again recently but this episode kind of reminded me of a dramatic version of that episode of When the Whistle Blows when the Japanese corporate representative came into the factory. It was a bunch of white people cramming to figure out how to woo a high-powered, very traditional Japanese contingent while “the entertainment” did nothing but awkwardly offend said contingent.

Was Roger ‘aving a laugh?

Of course not. This is Mad Men afterall, where no one with a large part in the episode is allowed to smile, laugh, or enjoy themselves. For that, you have to become background (see Peggy riding a motorcycle in circles). Not only is that true of the series but it’s especially true of this episode, one the draws almost exclusively on concepts of shame and embarrassment as well as honor and loyalty. There were scenes this week that were so awkward, I was reminded heavily of a Ricky Gervais work where I constantly yell “shut up just shut up now!” at the television.

In related news, somehow, Betty has been upgraded from horrible mother to absolute fiend.

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There is a Problem with the Pears – This Week in Monster

These are pears.

We’ll discuss it later.

It’s been a busy week at Monsters of Television. This whole “summer-is-just-another-season/no-rest-for-the-weary” thing the networks are doing is wearing me out. But we can’t really complain about some of the great television we’re getting. Well, mostly great television. Hopefully Melissa & Joey doesn’t create a great abyss that sucks the life out of everything we hold dear. Forget the atomic collider in Switzerland: that show might obliterate the universe on its own, unraveling the fabric of time and space with ill-timed canned laughter and overacting that would make the cast of SNL blush.

Sorry. I digress.

We have some really great reviews for you to take a look at this week, from Mad Men to True Blood to Sherlock to, gods help us, that aforementioned pit of despair. If you missed any, it’s new to you!

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Mad Men – Peggy and the Artists (from “The Rejected”)

“That IS writing.”

Common in the threads of Mad Men are counter-culture characters who embody the changing tide of the 1960s, specifically toward the well-oiled advertising infrastructure. From episode 1, we see a whiff of hostility toward what Don Draper does, from the affair he opens the series with to the college-aged kid he fails at seducing while visiting Anna. Generally, these threads are aimed at Don, the tailored-suit-armored embodiment of that super-structure, as they try to challenge him. The counter-culture characters are generally amazed when they come face-to-face with a man in advertising, as if they’re seen a “g-man” in the flesh; the concept is bandied about so much and so elevated that any tangible evidence almost feels unrealistic. “Really? You’re in advertising?” And then come the disparaging comments representing the movement. Don quells them with firmness but charm and they either decide they are at impasse or move on to something else.

Kinsey’s party (where we meet his girlfriend) also has a bit counter-culture in it (Kinsey being an interesting figure as a member of the culture while working in advertising) but, now that the show is into the mid-60s, specifically post-Warhol, it’s interesting to see how they maintain this thread. Sure, last week they had Stephanie clumsily represent but she lacked bite and true hostility. So why not see what happens when you deeply embed Draper-by-proxy into the anti-commercial artists’ culture.

Fight my battle, Peggy.

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Mad Men – “The Rejected”

“Did you get pears?”

Peggy peeks in on Don as he suffers the loss of his secretary.

This might be the funniest/most telling/allegorical/best/most fourth-wall-breaking/funniest again frame in the entire series.

WARNING: The following post never really discusses the nudity in Mad Men that probably didn’t need to be disclaimed. Reader discretion is advised.

The masks are slipping a little for Don and Peggy, more for the former than the latter, but they are quick to recover in the privacy of their own dominions. And while Don’s story with Allison is interesting, and I’m finally glad to see Pete in the line-up again, it’s Peggy that provides the most intrigue here.

I make it no secret that I have a penchant for the our gal copywriter but I’ve mentioned that, just as Don is being set up for The Big One (where Don finally falls on his face rather than his feet) that Peggy is headed for a fall herself, at the very least a tipping point. Don and Pete have big pieces of this episode but it all feeds into her. And that doesn’t even count the big L word they never even drop.

No, the other one.

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Mad Men – “The Good News”

“I had it coming.”

Ah, the incorruptible Lane Pryce. One night with Don Draper and you’re now just one of the boys.

Lane’s relationship has been somewhat tenuous for the length of his time on the show. He started off just as much a caricature as the rest of the limeys (limies?) that took over Sterling Cooper last season, a cup of tea and an elitist football reference short of a stereotype. While he was the most willing to accept America as his home (to his wife’s chagrin) and seemed the most sympathetic character in the new cast introduced in season 3, he has pretty much held on to the stuffy, stiff-upper-lip, moneyman type.  But he’s fallen on hard times, particularly in his marriage with his cold and “severe” better half (she is English afterall — which media has taught me is par for the course unless receiving a Joni Mitchell education), and wants a break. And who’s back just in time to drag a man of scruples into the tarpit that is his own existence? Fresh off his own stint of jackassery, it’s Don Draper, expert in swallowing pain and then drowning it in brown liquor and quasi-anonymous sex.

He really should wear a cape or a pencil mustache or something, just to warn people.

In other news, Joan finally gets a storyline this season.

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Mad Men – “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”

“Screw him. I love Christmas.”

Allision slowly, painfully, realizes Don does not want to extend their one-night stand.


Watching the opening credits sequence always made me feel like this show is supposed to be about the fall of man, his collapse while either being distracted by his industry or completely swallowed by it. Through the first three seasons, this mantle prophesied by the silhouette in free-fall was obviously supposed to descend upon our “protagonist” Don Draper since he is clearly the focus of the series. His path thus far, however, has been more horizontal than vertical, blowing in the winds of his times like a tumbleweed with a few hiccups that he has, more or less, escaped from unscathed.

This season, however, slowly chips away at his puffed-out persona. Now that he is alone, his actions, which aren’t terribly different than they were before the divorce, are suddenly more lecherous. Now that he is free to philander as much as he pleases, his affairs seem less smooth, more feral, uncivilized, more desperate. His confidence has been shaken and this almost feels like the beginning of that collapse we’ve been hoping would eventually occur (but probably won’t for a while).

Does Peggy really want to follow in Don’s footsteps that much? Also: does Glen remind anyone else of an escaped Todd Solondz character?

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