Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 5): At the Codfish Ball

Why Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 5) Worked:
  • Dialogue was exceptional tonight.  So many characters reeled off great lines.  The episode ended with a phone call between Sally and her weird male friend, a short while after secretly witnessing her step-grandmother performing fellatio on Roger Sterling.  Sallly told him she was in Manhattan.  "How's the city?" he asks.  "Dirty," she replies.  Cut to black.  Brilliant. 
  • The small period piece touches such as Ken getting the Heinz client tickets to the new Edward Albee play and Don in bed reading a James Bond novel.  Marie (Megan's mom) falling asleep in her bed with a lit cigarette was priceless, especially after Megan casually took the cigarette from her hand as ifthis type of behavior was normal (and it probably was to some extent in the mid-60's). 
  • Roger's conversation with his first ex-wife as he reveals some of the details of his trip.  
  • Megan saving the Heinz account.
  • The bonding between Peggy and Joan.  It's like witnessing first-hand the rise of the feminist movement.  Peggy reveals that she wasn't engaged at dinner but that Abe merely suggested they live together.  Joan tells Peggy they are "shacking up" (haven't heard that term for ages).
  • Megan's dad's line when he sees Sally dressed up for Don's award dinner at night.  "Little girls begin to grow up and spread their legs and fly away...."  "Spread their wings Daddy," Megan corrects.
  • The awards dinner.  So much was happening.  Pete's explanation to Megan's Communist dad of what he did for a living was brilliant.  Roger's flirtation with Megan's mom created tension and paid off with their hook-up in a seemingly empty room adjacent to the banquet hall.  And kudos to the beautifully framed last shot of the awards dinner with Don, Megan, Sally and Megan's parents all sitting unhappily at the table.
  • Peggy's mom delivered a powerful monologue when she learned that Peggy and Abe were "living in sin."  It captured all the moralizing blather of the political right from the 60s delivered with a harsh Queens accent.  You had to feel for Peggy (because nothing good will come of her relationship with Abe). 
  • Peggy's horrible checked coat.  If the producers dressed her in it to make us feel sorry for her, it worked. 

Why Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  • Don getting turned on by Megan in the cab ride from dinner with the Heinz client after she saved the account.  It was over the top.  

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 5):  
  • A-.  Crackling dialogue and some superb scenes (the awards dinner, Peggy's dinner with her mom, the Heinz account dinner), elevated this episode.  And Roger Sterling finally got his mojo back!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 5): Far Away Places

Why Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 5) Worked:
  • Don and Megan's trip to hell (to HoJo's near Plattsburg, NY).  Great details like the interior of the HoJo restaurant, the goofy hotel manager, the fried food for lunch  And the fight that erupted between the two of them was a long time coming with Megan expressing anger at the way Don pulls her away from her work (which also hurts the show).  The season finally sprang to life.
  • Roger's LSD trip.  This scene could have gone either way but it captured the spirit of the times.  The note he received when he began his trip with his name, address and the words "Please Help Me" was priceless.  The trip opened his mind to the fact that his marriage is dead.  Maybe he should trip next week to get his head back in the game at work.
  • Peggy hopping the rails.  Lots of interesting things going on with our favorite copywriter.  She insults clients, leaves work early to catch a midday movie, smokes a joint in the theater, and gives a strange man in the next seat a handjob.  Then she goes back to the office, bangs out some copy while drinking some Canadian Club and falls asleep on the office couch.  Is she having a nervous breakdown?  Not sure, but the show got damn interesting.
  • Bert Cooper.  He snaps at Don, "You've been on love leave!"  Don tells him to mind his business.  Bert:  "This is my business!"  Pow!  Take that Don.

Why Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  •  Maybe Peggy overreacted a bit too much during the Heinz presentation.
  • Roger's LSD trip may have been a bit too long. 
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 5):  
  • A-.  Finally, we had some action tonight.  Don and Megan's scenes were their best ever together, and it felt like we were spying on a real marital spat.  We still need to see the cool, calculated Don Draper for the show to really soar, but there are hints that we'll see him soon.  Most of the great Mad Men episodes take place in the office, so this episode was rare in that most of the compelling action took place away from the office. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mad Men Episode 5 (Season 5): Signal 30

Why Mad Men Episode #5 (Season 5) Worked: 
  •  The pub scene in the beginning with Lane and his wife.  It was a small window into his complicated life.
  • The first partners' meeting where Lane practically boasts about his discussions with Jaguar.
  • Roger's advice to Lane on how to be a great account executive during a business lunch.  "Be nice to the waiter....and don't let him near the check."
  • Don's checked sport jacket that he wore to Pete and Trudy's Saturday night dinner party.
  • Don and Pete's awkward ride in the taxicab after the evening in a whorehouse (where Don did not participate).  "Why do I feel like I'm riding with a nun?" asks Pete in the line of the evening.
  • Lane kissing Joan.  Her response was priceless (after she opened the door to his office):  "Every man in the office has wanted to do that." A beat.  "Hit Pete Campbell." 
Why Mad Men Episode #5 (Season 5) Didn't Work:

  •  The fist fight between Lane and Pete.  Very implausible on so many levels.  Lane should have just slapped Pete or thrown water in his face.  The show teetered on the edge of slapstick here.  I almost winced watching it.  .  
  • The scene in the brothel.  Somehow, it wasn't staged right.  The only part that hit the right note was when Pete went into the room with one of the women and the camera held on his cold face.
  • The driving school scenes with Pete.  Not sure where they were heading.  So many scenes this season go nowhere and this certainly was one of them.  

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode #5 (Season 5):
  • C-.   Another subpar episode.  Don has becoming boring!  When Don is reduced to fixing faulty kitchen sinks, you know the show has sprung a leak.  Roger appears weak and helpless.  The show's two big guns are shooting blanks.  And the big tension is that Kenny's after-hours fiction writing escapades have been discovered.  It will be interesting to see how the conflict between Pete and Lane is resolved. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mad Men Episode 4 (Season 5): Mystery Date

Why Mad Men Episode #4 (Season 5) Worked:

  •  Henry's mom giving Sally a Seconal to help her sleep.  Better living through chemistry.
Why Mad Men Episode #4 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  • Don's cough and sickness.  Yes....I know that was the setup for him to hallucinate about him strangling his ex-lover, but the show is strong when he's strong.....and it's weak when he's weak.  And Don was completely weak tonight.
  • Don's hallucination about Andrea showing up at his apartment.  Good try but then never really pulled it off..
  • Most of Sally's scenes.  Slowwwwwwwwwwwwww.
  • Peggy's scenes with Dawn the black secretary.  Never really went any where.  
  • The running theme through the show of the murder of the 8 nurses in Chicago.  That never paid off in any meaningful way.
  • Gregg's homecoming.  Poorly written and stilted.  Joan's smackdown of him at the breakfast table had some spark to it but the marriage fell apart so quickly, that it felt rushed.
  • Michael Ginsberg.  Annoying.  And cliche meter is clanging loudly. 
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode #4 (Season 5):
  • D.  Maybe one of the worst Mad Men's ever.  For this show to work effectively, at least half of it has to be about the world of advertising in the 60s.  Tonight's episode barely touched on that world and the show suffered. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 5): Tea Leaves

Why Mad Men Episodes #3 (Season 5) Worked:
  •  Betty's health crisis.  Didn't see that coming.  But it was a clever way to provide cover for actress January Jone's real-life pregnancy.
  • The cool modern furniture in Don and Megan's apartment.
  • Henry smoking dope backstage at rock concert and then getting the munchies.
  • Henry finally gets a good line.  "(George) Romney's a clown and I don't want him (John Lindsay) standing next to him."  Hmmmmm...was there a 2012 message in that sentence?
  • Henry showing his nasty side. Don calls to ask about Betty's health and Henry doesn't tell Betty when she asks who called.
  • Pete's office speech after the company landed Mohawk that dissed Roger.  Finally we got a wee bit of office politics in this episode.
Why Mad Men Episode #3 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  • Betty's tea with her friend after learning she might have a cancerous tumor.  Poorly acted.
  • Backstage at the Stones concert.  Poorly staged and very poorly cast.  Didn't ring true at all.  
  • Peggy's interview with the Jewish copywriter.  Completely over the top. 
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode #3 (Season 5):
  • C.  I said it last year and I'll say it again this year:  when the show focuses on Betty, it bogs down.   "Mad Men" is at its best when the show is anchored in the office and not enough happened in the office in this episode.