Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 5): The Flood

Why Mad Men Episode 5 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The real estate story line.  This was the most interesting part of episode five.  Peggy's interactions with the real estate agent felt real.  There were lots of great details like the reference to the Second Ave. subway that was going to be built soon and add value to the Upper East Side, where Peggy was looking.  
  • Pete's squabble with Harry in the office about the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Who knew that Pete would come out on the side of being sensitive?  That scene produced the most tension in a slow-moving, dark hour.
  • The awkward way the executives dealt with the black subordinates after the death of MLK.  The scenes weren't long, but they were powerful.

Why Mad Men Episode 5 (Season 6) Didn't Work:
  • The death of Martin Luther King.  The show handled this in heavy-handed manner that felt more like a history lesson than a piece of television drama.
  • Michael Ginsberg and his father.  Oy vey.  A hornet's nest of cliches and bad Yiddish accents.  And what's with the blind date with the school teacher?
  • Betty.  When she's on the screen, take a two-minute bathroom break.  I guarantee nothing's going to happen.
  • Don.  Since when did he turn into the Dark Knight?  He moped through the entire episode.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 5 (Season 6):
  • D.  This could have been one of the Mad Men's finest episodes ever.  Instead, this episode focusing on the aftermath of the death of Martin Luther King suffered from poor writing, few if any interesting plot points, and slow pacing.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 4): To Have and To Hold

Why Mad Men Episode 4 (Season 6) Worked:

  • Harry's epic scenes.  Wow....Harry really crushed it in this episode.  His showdown with Joan about her firing his secretary was searing and his subsequent showdown with the partners and then Roger and Bert bristled with realism.  
  • Joan firing Scarlett (Harry's secretary).  Wow...Joan really crushed it in this episode.  With those curves, we mistakenly believe she's hot.  But in reality, she's wickedly cold and it showed when she pink-slipped Scarlett (and was subsequently overruled by Harry and not backed by the partners).
  • Sideburns.  Harry and Pete look very appropriate for the late 60's.
  • Dinner with the swingers.  Don and Megan go out to dinner with Arlene and Mel from Megan's television show and discover they want to swing.  The conversation was expertly crafted and was dotted with pointed references to the war in Viet Nam.  Well done!
  • Don watching Meagan's love scene in her soap opera.  Masterful acting by Jon Hamm without saying a word.  And the fight in her  dressing room showcased the episode's strong writing.
  • The pitch to Dow Chemical.  Love the tag line:  "Dow Chemical: family products for the American family."  Yeah right....Dow was manufacturing napalm that was being used in the Viet Nam war.  More excellent, sly writing.

Why Mad Men Episode 4 (Season 6) Didn't Work:
  • Joan's scenes with her friend Kate.  Not awful; just flat.
  • Dawn's scenes.  Not awful; just flat.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 6):  

  • A-.  Strong writing and memorable scenes made this an excellent episode.  As usual, when Mad Men focuses on the office politics and office problems, the show rockets to another level.   

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 3): The Collaborator

Why Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 6) Worked:

  • Pete.  He's so oily but he's so fun to watch.  Not sure what makes him so attractive to all these desperate housewives, but all his scenes click.
  • North Korean references.  Very sly and reminds savvy (or old) viewers that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Brenda.  The domestic abuse scene was harrowing, especially with her dashing to Pete's home to "save" her.  And nice scene in Pete's apartment where he seduced her.
  • Dinner with Don and Sylvia.  Spicy stuff. That was dialogue fra diavolo.
  • Dueling marital deceits by Don and Pete.  Good editing.  And who's the bigger shit?  Stay tuned.

Why Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 6) Didn't Work:

  • The midday sex.  How does the agency thrive with Don and Pete in the sack so much during the day?
  • Love thy neighbor.  Don's affair with Sylvia is a bit ridiculous. The odds of him getting caught seem incredibly high.
  • Herb the heavy Jaguar dealer.  Overly heavy handed.
  • Frau Peggy.  She's been cast as such a frumpy buzz kill this season that it's hard to watch her scenes.  Meanwhile, on The Sundance Channel, she's lighting up the screen as a brooding, gun-wielding detective on the case in New Zealand in "Top of the Lake."  She's turning in the year's top of the hill performance for an actress in a drama.  
  • Pretentiousness.  The final scene of Don sagging in the doorway and the flashbacks of young Don in a rooming house.  The show bogs down when plot elements bubble with too much hidden meaning.    
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 6):  
  • B.  Pretty solid show (hey...Betty wasn't in it).  No real memorable scenes, but Episode 3 was miles better than last week's season premiere.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 1): The Doorway

Why Mad Men Episode 1 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The problems with the clients that both Don and Peggy faced at their respective agencies.  Once again, as in previous seasons, the troubles of running an ad agency generated the most tension and drama, and offered the best opportunities for razor-sharp writing.
  • Photo of JFK in Peggy's apartment.  Nice touch.  But the apartment was a dump for a frump.  
  • Roger's one-liners.  When Don returns from a holiday in Hawaii, Roger says, "Hello Don Ho."
  • Use of music.  Nicely done from the Hawaiian music in the opening scenes to the violin music played by Sally's friend Sandy.  Very subtle but deft.  

Why Mad Men Episode 1 (Season 6) Didn't Work:

  • The two-hour length.  Felt slow and pointless for most of the lonnnnng 120 minutes.  No real narrative drive.  
  • Betty.  She's gained weight and lost her mojo.  Her scene in the village crash pad was poorly staged and poorly written.
  • The prosperity of Don's agency.  Huh?  How did it become so successful?   That needed a few explanatory lines.
  • The death of Roger's mother.  Most scenes about her passing almost single-handed put the nail in the coffin for this season-opening episode.  
  • Dr. Arnold Rosen.  Paging all ethnic stereotypes...please report to AMC on Sunday night.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 1 (Season 6):  

  • D.    A real hodge podge.  Feels like the show has jumped the shark.  Not sure "Mad Men" will work in the groovy part of the 60s.