Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mad Men Episode #10 (Season 4): Hands and Knees

Why Mad Men Episode #10 (Season 4) Worked:
  • Don Draper's panic attack. Wow. He really freaked out coming into his apartment. Great acting by Jon Hamm; he really aired it out. Totally plausible. The neatly constructed lie that is his identity is starting to unravel. What an unexpected and totally fascinating plot development.
  • Don getting his daughter Sally tickets to Beatles concert. (Hold on to the stubs Sally....sell them on eBay in 40 years!). Great line: "You won't be mad if I wear earplugs." That shows how tone deaf Don is to the youth rebellion percolating all around him.
  • Dinner at the Playboy Club. Very risque and sophisticated for 1965. Mad Men's sense of time and place is impeccable.
  • The Feds visit with Betty. Lots of tension....would she sell him out? But she covered for him. She is definitely a Bond girl.
  • Roger and Joan's visit to the doctor where Roger showed that he was a stand up guy....after being a stand up guy in the alley.
  • Don's secretary's pink dress. Can you say knock-out? Can you say Temptation Island?
  • Lee Garner of Lucky Strike firing Roger in a restaurant. Another Mad Men business scene that bristles with reality. It felt like those scenes have actually been going on for decades in the expense account joints flanking Madison Ave.
  • All the scenes with Don and Pete. So much going on. But in the end, after all the tension, Pete was a stand up guy for Don (especially in the board room).
  • The partners meeting. The place seems like it's going to fall apart. So much was unsaid at that meeting.

Why Mad Men Episode #10 (Season 4) Didn't Work:

  • Many of the scenes with Lane seemed far fetched. Lane dating an African-American Playboy bunny. The bunny being attracted to Lane. Lane getting assaulted by his elderly, cane-needy dad.
  • Faye's scenes with Don. The actress can't carry the part. It's hard to understand why Don would fall for her.

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode #10 (Season 4):

  • A-. Terrific plot developments. Some stunning acting. I can't wait to tune for Sunday's show to find out what happens.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mad Men Episode #9 (Season 4): The Beautiful Girl

Why Man Men Episode #9 (Season 4) Worked:
  • Miss Blankenship dying at her desk. Nice unexpected touch of black humor.
  • The artfully directed scene shot from the glassed-in conference room where an important client meeting was taking place while in the background staffers frantically tried tossing a blanket over Miss Blankenship (still dead) and wheeling her in a chair to another room, just so the meeting wouldn't be disturbed. More black humor, expertly served.
  • Soundtrack of Petula Clark's "Downtown" during the bar scene. The use of music in "Mad Men" is never overdone, very subtle and always pitch-perfect.
  • The way the uncomfortable but necessary topic of social issues that defined the 60s keeps bubbling up in the script. It's not heavy-handed but it keeps reminding viewers of the change that was about to sweep over the country far from the boundaries of Madison Avenue.
  • Roger and Joan making love against a wall on a dark street after the holdup. An unexpected development (for me at least....I thought Joan would know better by now).
  • Kiernan Shipka's acting as the rapidly unraveling Sally. Well done. This girl will get work. (But let's hope she doesn't turn into the next Lindsay Lohan.)
  • The last shot of Peggy, Faye and Joan standing wordlessly in the office. Was a very simple scene but it had a lasting effect on me.
Why Mad Men Episode # 9 (Season 4) Didn't Work:
  • Scenes with Faye. I don't think Cara Buono (Faye) has the chops to carry the role. And I don't think the role is written well.
  • Peggy's friendship with her lesbian friend Joyce. Not sure where this is heading and at this point it feels like an unnecessary plot point.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode # 9 (Season 4):
  • B-. Solid but lacking some of the intensity of the office politics that propel this series to great heights.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mad Men Episode #8 (Season 4): The Beautiful Girls

Why Mad Men Episode #8 (Season 4) Worked:
  • The elevator scene between Joan and Peggy. Seemed like Peggy got the shaft...or did Joan have a point about being PO'd with Peggy coming to her defense? I really wanted Peggy to get the credit but the outcome was surprise and a bit of crafty screenwriting.
  • The "Satisfaction" soundtrack at the top of the show. It really signals that there's a revolution taking place "out there" far from Madison Avenue. (Any bets when or if Don starts wearing sideburns?)
  • The mooning of Joan when she was chewing out Joey the copywriter. It was so subtle at first I wasn't sure that I saw it (thanks DVR!) but it really happened.
  • Joan chewing out the creative staff.
  • Speaking of the mooning, have you ever seen a US tv show supported by advertising with so much foul language and boundary-pushing antics? This is also one of the pleasures of Mad Men and it was on display for Eppy #8.
  • The Ray Charles joke.
  • The back-seat-of-the-car canoodling and then some. First Bethany goes "downtown" on Don Draper as the cab heads uptown. A few weeks later Don and Faye kiss passionately in another cab leading Faye to invite Don to a more intimate setting. Don declines. (The character is changing his behavior, always an interesting turn in a tv series.)
  • Peggy firing Joey. Very satisfying moment. Did most men really behave like such morons in the 60s or was it only Mickey Mantle?

Why Mad Men Episode #8 (Season 4) Didn't Work:

  • Don's voiceovers. Pretentious and contrived.
  • Almost any scene with Henry (although the dude is ripped as evidenced by the gratuitous scene at home without his shirt). The show slows to a crawl with him.
  • Miss Blankenship, Don's secretary. The joke is wearing thin.
  • The restaurant scene where Don and Betty bump into each other. Felt stagey and didn't hit the right notes.
  • Don's date with Faye. Another slowwwwwwwww scene.

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode #8 (Season 4):

  • C. Weakest episode of the season. My feeling is that the politics of the office anchor the show; most everything else is a sideshow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mad Men Episode #7 (Season 4) The Suitcase

Why Mad Men Episode #7 (Season 4) Worked:

  • The betting on the Liston-Clay fight. Another nice period detail.
  • Duck's birthday flowers to Peggy with the business card showing her as a creative director. The man can sell! But then the pitiful phone call where he's sitting home in the middle of the day hitting the sauce. In this show, booze comes across as public enemy #1 in 1960's advertising.
  • Don Draper's anti-Clay rant. It really shows that he's not really in touch with the new cultural realities of the mid-60s. I wonder if this will foreshadow some future business failures.
  • The fight between Don Draper and Peggy over creating advertising and who gets the credit. Best scene of the year (possible ever on Mad Men? Weigh in please.) The writing started going into Mamet territory. High praise indeed!
  • Peggy admitting she had never been on a plane. (A small moment but another great detail about the mid-60s. Airplane travel was a novelty for most Americans back then.)
  • Don Draper and Peggy drinking at the bar. At first I was getting nervous that this was going to take a sexual turn (and it was hanging in the air). But then it got to the baby she put up for adoption while the Liston-Clay fight was on in the background. Lots of interesting things happening all at once. Masterful.
  • Duck showing up in the office later that night and attempting to defecate on Don's furniture (even though it was really Roger's). And then the fight with Don. And Don puking. And then Don passing out in his office. OMG! So much happened. And all written and acted so perfectly.
  • And Don looking fresh and clean cut the next morning like nothing happened. What else did we expect? (Well...we are expecting him to really hit bottom at some point, right?)
  • The Simon & Garfunkle song at the end of the episode. The perfect ending to the perfect episode.

Why Mad Men Episode #7 (Season 4) Didn't Work:

  • Peg's mom had a botoxed forehead (during the dinner scene). A rare blown period detail. They couldn't find a middle-aged actress who had some age-appropriate wrinkles that would be standard in 1965?

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode #7 (Season):

  • A. Best episode of the season.