Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 9): The Better Half

Why Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The office tension between Ted and Don with Peggy in the middle.  Well written and well played.
  • Megan's outfits.  Super cool late 60s threads.  The clothes are more interesting than the character.
  • The budding relationship between Pete and Joan.  Where is this going?  Will she wind up in the sack with him?  How weird would that be?
  • Betty's seduction of Don in the cabin in the woods.  Expertly played as she walked into the cabin and left the door open.  Don tentatively follows her in.  "Close the door.  You'll let the bugs in," she says coldly.  Best line of the year.
  • Peggy stabbing Abe.  If she wouldn't have stabbed him, I would have.  That character needs to go.
  • Peggy telling Ted that she broke up with Abe (expecting that he'll leap into her arms).  But then he turns all business.  Didn't see that coming and you really felt for her.

Why Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 6) Didn't Work:

  • Melodrama.  Ted falling in love with Peggy.  Don and Betty hooking up.  Arlene kissing Megan.     Way too much like a soap opera tonight.
  • Pete's conversation with the headhunter.  Poorly scripted.
  • Don and Betty's visit with Bobby at camp.  That scene just lay there.
  • Henry and Betty in the back of the car.  Since when is Henry such a player?
  • Abe's mugging.  It's like watching an entirely different television show.  Like "Welcome Back Kotter."

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 6): C-.  Like many shows this season, this episode lacked humor and cohesion.  The powerful ending with Peggy in Ted's office redeemed it slightly.   The office is far less interesting since they merged with Ted's company.  Has Mad Men jumped the shark?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 8): The Crash

Why Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 6) Worked:
  • Dr. Feelgood giving everyone in the office amphetamine shots so they could work on Chevy over the weekend.  Yep....that really happened back in the day.  Best sequence of lines.  Roger to doctor:  "I have a heart condition."  Doctor: "Don't worry about it."
  • Sylvia's "Don't let me hang up on you" conversation with Don after she found his cigarette butts outside the back door of her apartment.  
  • Dionne Warwick singing "Going Out of My Head" while Don pines for Sylvia.
  • Grandma Ida robbing the Draper household. That was genuinely creepy and surprisingly well done. 
  • Sally.  She's turning into one of the show's more interesting characters. By next season, she'll be a total piece of work.
Why Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 6) Didn't Work:
  • The office on speed.  Almost the entire episode focused on this and it was way too much.  Lots of gibberish and too frenetic....just like speed.
  • Don's flashbacks and disoriented state.  Too much psycho-babble going on there.  And the personality of young Don in the whorehouse doesn't really work.  He comes off as a dork and it's hard to believe he was ever a dork, even at 14.  
  • Stan putting the moves on Peggy in the office.  Zero erotic tension.  Surprisingly, the scene was a bummer.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 6): C.  The show gets some points for trying to do something different but "Mad Men" is becoming too dark and depressing.  Advertising in the 60s was supposedly fun.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 7): Man with a Plan

Why Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The merging of CGC with SCDP.  The insecurities, the petty jealousy, the rough all seemed real.
  • The opening scene where Don overhears the heated exchange between his lover Sylvia and Arnold, her obnoxious husband.  Don definitely has a dog in that fight.
  • "Musical chairs" at the first executive meeting of the two companies.  Pete really blows it when he comes in late and discovers that there's no chair for him so he finds the lowest ranking person in the room and goes for her chair.  That scene spoke volumes about how it works in corporate America.
  • Ted calling out Don for being 40 minutes late for a creative session.  Don's response was priceless.  He looked at Ted like he wasn't there, turned, and walked into his office.
  • Roger firing Burt.  Burt's response:  "You're a prick!" Roger's retort to that: "Damn it Burt. You stole my good-bye."
  • Don reading "The Last PIcture Show" on the plane.  Nice nod to author Larry McMurtry or the great movie of the same name.  
  • The episode's last shot of Megan sobbing silently while watching the coverage of the murder of Bobby Kennedy while Don sits on the bed clearly upset, but obviously not about Kennedy.  Great song in the background:  "Reach Out in the Darkness."

Why Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 6) Didn't Work:
  •  Don as a head case.  We like him better as the cool, cocky, assured executive.  He seems like he's going off the deep end and it's not making the show more interesting.
  • Sylvia in the hotel room.  What was that about?  All the scenes in the room had strong domination themes but it just felt off-key.  Some of the scenes were ridiculous or embarrassing (like when Sylvia is obviously pleasuring herself at one point).  We're glad Sylvia pulled the plug on the relationship. The show couldn't take too much more of that storyline.
  • Pete's anxieties.  It worked once or twice but he's becoming way too shrill.  He needs to get his mojo back.
  • Joan's ovarian cyst.  Not sure why this was a subplot unless she's going to develop some fatal disease later this season.  
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 6):  B-.  There were many interesting things in tonight's episodes and the story moved along nicely.  However, the hotel room scenes and Don's overall weirdness brought it down a notch.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mad Men Season 6 (Episode 6): For Immediate Release

Why Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 6) Worked:

  • The opening scene about SCDP going public.  Great interplay between Joan and Pete (we rarely see that).  Good mix of sexual banter and business.  And Joan perhaps making $1 million in a public offering finally enabled her to get excited about something.
  • Roger shagging the flight attendant who oversaw the business class lounge for midwestern flights.  And dig that groovy outfit she wore.
  • The business dinner with the Jaguar client.  The wife was way too over-the-top but Don really grew a pair when he told the client basically to stuff it.  He was as cold and cutting as only Don can be and it was a welcome change for the show.  He's been too distant and remote (I know...I'm sounding like Megan.)
  • Pete's outburst to Don when he learned that Don fired the Jaguar client.  As usual -- as we've said many times on these pages -- the show works best when the focus is the work.  Joan really capped this scene with her own blast at Don and it was nice to see her show some from-the-belly emotion.  She's usually tightly wound.
  • Don's hail-Mary pass conversation with Ted at the bar in Detroit about merging agencies.  It made sense and the way that it came about was masterful.  The viewer never saw the details or the pitch to was all presented the next day as matter-of-fact in Ted's office with Don there as Peggy walked in surprised.  That's first-class writing at work.

Why Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 6) Didn't Work:
  • Peggy's relationship with Abe.  Bogging down and tonight's episode showing her and Abe in her new, noisy apartment was poorly written and had extremely cheesy set design (surprising for a show that gets most of those details so right).
  • Pete's hairline.  Don't mean to be mean but yikes!  Can't the "Mad Men" makeup department do something?
  • Joan's bustline.  It seems to be growing as fast as Pete's hairline is receding.  
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 6):  A.  The show was in top form with this episode.    There was a lot of drama, some good plot shifts, and key characters really spread their wings.  Can't wait to see what next week brings.