Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Odds: What Mad Men Character Will Plunge Down the Shaft?

As we near the end of Mad Men Season 5, a dark cloud hangs over the program....and the bottom of a dark elevator shaft lies beneath the offices of Sterling Cooper waiting patiently all season for one poor character to fall to his or her death.  Which character will suffer a gruesome plunge in the shaft to mark the end of the season?  (And it has to be the last shot in the last show of the season.  Right?)  Shades of "LA Law," where character Rosiland Shays took the one-way walk (if she lived she probably would have made partner at Dewey LeBoeuf and we knew how that turned out).

So here are exclusive odds from The Mad Men Review on which character is likely to mistakenly walk into the office elevator only to discover the bottom isn't there.

Pete Campbell.  Losing Pete would be a moral victory for the show.  He's such a low-life he sort of deserves to be offed.  The show might suffer.  I guess Harry will have to kick it up a notch.

Bert Cooper.  Mr. Expendable.  The program won't him miss a bit.  The firm will be financially healthier (I'm thinking with Lane's head on my shoulders).  It will provide the appropriate shock value.

Megan Draper.  The character isn't working out.  And her acting career is catching on fire.  This would put Don back in the game and the show back on track.  

Roger Sterling.  Let's face it.  Roger's at the end of the line....both as an ad pro and a character.  He's on the verge of turning into a caricature....or Dean Martin.   We'll miss his quips but it will be worse to see his character flail in the coming seasons.

Peggy Olson.  Last week's showed ended with her entering the elevator so she's definitely in the best post position to take a fatal fall.

Michael Ginsberg.  This is creator Matt Weiner's chance to correct the mistake of bringing this character to the show.  He's a minor character and the show wouldn't miss a beat without him.

Joan Harris.  You know the old rule from horror films.  If you have sex, you die. Think about that Joan.  But she's got a kid and that may not be so PC (unless Roger swoops in to take care of the child....but now we're talking midday soap opera).

Lane Pryce.  He's such an original character that it would be a crime to kill him.  But he's also embezzled corporate funds so you do the math on his survival chances.

Harry Crane, Stan Rizzo and Ken Cosgrove.  Expendable?  Yes?  Buzzworthy deaths?  Hardly.  And that buys them time.

Don Draper.  The falling man, indeed!  The show would come full circle.  But there's no way they make Don Draper plunge into that shaft.  He's the heart and soul of the show (even if he's having an off year).

No one dies.  And it's just possible that Matt Weiner  cooked up with open door without the elevator a few episodes ago just to create some dramatic tension  and get people like me to write about it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mad Men Season 5 (Episode 11): The Other Woman

Why Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 5) Worked:
  •  The whole Indecent Proposal setup. was a bit implausible but it was a great device to stir the pot and make things happen.  It was a springboard into tense scenes like the one between Pete and Joan when he first brings up the idea of her sleeping with Herb the Jaguar client.  "You're talking prostitution," she protests mildly.  "I'm talking about business on a very high level," retorts Pete.  Surprisingly, Don and Roger resist the idea of Joan sleeping with Herb.  Lane also got in on the action with some helpful (and lucrative) advice to Joan about nabbing a 5% ownership of the firm.
  • The clever replay of Don's scene with Joan when he comes to her apartment to tell her not to sleep with Herb.  In the replay, we learn that Joan already spent the afternoon with Herb. 
  • Don's short but bitter scene with Megan where she says she'll have to spend three months in Boston if she gets the part.  It was one of their best ever.  I think Jon Hamm is a better actor when he's playing the aggressor but in this scene, he totally nailed it as the lost, powerless husband. 
  • Lane's fixation on the Christmas bonuses.  London....we've got a problem.
  • Megan's audition with three men who treat her like meat....kinda like the way Herb views Joan.  
  • Peggy's resignation speech to Don and Don's failed counter offer.  It was her best scene of the season (finally!).....and his too.
Why Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  •  Don and Megan hooking up in his office. Enough with the supposed hot sex already.  Most times when they're on the screen together, I dive into my Blackberry iPhone.
  • Ginsberg pitching Don new Jaguar copy.  Annoying.
  • The cutting between Don's pitch to Jaguar and Joan's rendezvous with Herb.  A little too slick for its own good. 
  • The title of the episode.  Why not "Indecent Proposal?"
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 5):  
  • B+.  Very solid effort.  The premise was a bit contrived but they pulled it off with some sharp writing and top-notch acting.  But the big question:  does Peggy walk into the elevator shaft as she walks out of Sterling Cooper?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gone fishing'

The Men Men Review is fishing in Florida. We'll resume the blog Wednesday night.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 5): Christmas Waltz

Why Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 5) Worked
  • .Lane's dilemma.  And here I thought Pete ranked as the sleaziest person in the office.  Looks like Lane needs $8,000 and he'll have to forge a company check to get the dough.  But will he get away with it?  This dilemma created enormous tension in episode 10.  The partners' meeting was particularly well written.  It looked liked Lane might get his cash after all, but the firm picked a more prudent course.  The brilliance of the writing is that the audience is rooting for Lane not to get caught even though what he's doing is highly immoral.
  • Harry's Hare Krishna flirtation.  There were so many nice touches in this subplot as Harry tried helping a former copywriter-turned-Hare-Krishna-devotee.  Harry's checked overcoat caught the look of the times perfectly.  His attraction to the former druggie/prostitute Lockshmir rang true.  The best (and very sly) part of this storyline was Harry's Hare Krishna friend giving him a spec scriptfor an NBC drama by the name of .....Star Trek!  
  • Don's supposed laziness and lack of fire.....and his surprising turnaround.  We saw him in the beginning of the episode resting on the couch in the middle of the day.  And Pete calls him out for always leaving at 5:30.  But in the last scene at a company-wide meeting, Don gives an inspirational speech telling the employees that they'll have to work every weekend through Christmas.  "Prepare to swim the English Channel and swim in champagne in Paris," he implores them.  Let's hope for the sake of the firm -- and the show -- that the old Don is back.
  • Don and Joan hitting a bar in the middle of the day.  Lots of sexual tension in the air.  That'll pull viewers back next week to see what happens.
Why Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  • Joan's tantrum at receptionist.  A bit out of character for her to lose it like that at work.  But the scriptwriters needed an excuse for her to leave the office with Don.
  • Lockshmir hitting Harry after having sex with him.  Her anger was not clearly explained.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 5):  
  • A.  Outstanding episode filled with action-filled subplots.  Tension abounded in most of the scenes.  Don finally got his cajones back.   For the most part, Megan took a back seat and that gave more time for the excellent office scenes.  There's definitely a need to tune in next week to see what happens with all these important plot developments.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 5): Dark Shadows

Why Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 5) Worked:
  •  Roger.  He was the best thing about episode 9.  He's still grooving on a  cool LSD vibe.  (Did you notice the day-glo orange scarf, the day-glo orange sofa cushion and the trippy psychedelic painting in his office?)  He also had some great lines like this one about the Jewish owner of Manischewitz Wine and his wife:  "How Jewish are they?  'Fiddler on the Roof''...audience or cast?"  And, "They make wine for Jews and now they want to make wine for normal people."  
  • Betty telling Sally that Don was married before. That 30-second conversation will result in $30,000 worth of therapy for Sally.
  • Megan and Don's fight over calling Betty.  
  • Don's elevator ride with Michael Ginsberg.   Don really gave him the shaft.
Why Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  •  Betty.  The show turns into thick porridge was she's on the screen.  Her eating disorder just doesn't seem that interesting (although power spritzing the Cool Whip directly into her mouth gave the show a much needed shot of adrenalin).  The scene with her and Henry eating steak at midnight was strictly low protein.  
  • The creation of the copy for the Sno Ball account.  Not very interesting.
  • Michael Ginsberg. He remains cartoonish and completely over the top.  The character sucks up way too much oxygen in every scene. 
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 5):  
  • C.  Nothing really happened in this episode.  No real intrigue in the office.  Nothing that reflected with tumultuous times of the mid-60s or the tremendous explosion of creativity and social unrest that marked the era.  And Don appears neutered.  He's lost his mojo.  And so did this episode. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 5): Lady Lazarus

Why Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 5) Worked:
  • Pete's fling with the desperate suburban housewife Beth and his subsequent infatuation.  He's certainly one of the uglier characters on the show, but he's now becoming the most interesting.  The set up with his one night affair with Beth was tension-provoking and intriguing.  Their pillow talk afterwards was realistic.  "This must never happen again," Beth says.  (Yeah...right!)  It's a strange season on Mad Men when Pete's getting more action than Don or Roger.  Wonder if Beth will be a re-occurring character.  The hope here is that she will be.
  • Megan's career dilemma.  The twist in this episode was that Megan really wanted to resume her acting career despite her success and talent as a copywriter.  The developments unfolded quickly and dramatically.  You felt the weight of her decision especially considering the position of Don.  The conversation she had with him in the middle of the night felt real and heartfelt.  Don seemed confused and even hurt.  Her decision may harm the marriage.  After all, their work seems all they have in common.  Joan's reaction to Megan's decision was completely pragmatic.  "She'll just be a failed actress with a rich husband," she predicts.  Ouch.  (But she's probably right.)
  • Don and Peggy argue in the test kitchen about the Cool Whip pitch. Finally, Don emotes this season but he lets Peggy swear at him.  Dude....time to slip into your big boy pants. 
  • Roger and Don's heart to heart after Roger learns that Megan has quit.  The old lions lick their wounds. 
  • The wordless sequence at the end of the episode set to the psychedelic music of the Beatles "Within You, Without You."  Brilliant song choice and great video editing.  Plus the shot of Peggy working at her desk smoking a joint was sly and pitch perfect for the times.  (CORRECTION:  The Beatles song was actually "Tomorrow Never Knows."  The New York Times published an excellent account May 7 on how the producers secured the rights for the song.)
Why Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 5) Didn't Work:
  • Don's passivity.  Except for the fight in the test kitchen, Don continues to be emotionally neutered for most of this season.  
  • The Jewish copywriter Ben Feldman.  This new character is cartoonish and annoying.
  • The open elevator shaft at the agency.  Was this an inside reference to the real tragedy of the advertising executive killed in an elevator shaft last December in New York?  If so, to what purpose?  It was confusing and felt somewhat in bad taste (or am I missing something?). 
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 5): 
  • B+.  Another very strong episode. Pete's fling and Megan's decision to quit elevated the night.