Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 3): Field Trip

Why Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 7) Worked:
  • Don calling his secretary Dawn in the opening scene.  We feel Dawn's tension as the phones in the background are ringing off the hook.  We also get a front row seat at Don's anger and humiliation at his increasing marginalization at work.  Then the ultimate insult happens: his secretary puts him on hold!
  • The meeting Peggy, Stan and Michael had with Lou Avery.  So uncomfortable.  And Lou Avery secures the crown as the world's worst boss by taking the meeting with his legs wide open. Ick! He looks like he does "strategic consulting" for Spiro Agnew.
  • Megan giving Don the boot minutes after they made love. Wow....that was a powerful scene.  It was difficult not to feel sorry for Don.
  • Betty's non-stop smoking. So interesting.  (And the only thing interesting about her these days.)
  • Don's job hunting dinner at the Algonquin.  It was a small scene and generally good, except that the blonde coming to the table -- and apparently coming on to Don -- was a bit confusing.  (Or I am stupid in not fully understanding it?)
  • Don's return to the office. That had to be the most awkward scene of the  year in television.  It was impossible not to squirm watching it.  It was SO apparent that he wasn't supposed to be there. Don's humiliation apparently knows no bounds.  It was brutal -- but absolutely compelling to watch.
  • Roger (John Slattery) states his case for Don to return to the agency. Fiery! Slattery's finest dramatic scene (not humorous) on the show in years, perhaps ever.
  • Don agreeing to the awful terms for coming back to work.  The humiliation continues.  And reporting to Lou Avery?  Gotta tune in next week to see this food fight.
Why Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 7) Didn't Work:
  • The school trip to the farm. We'd rather have watched corn grow.
  • Bobby Draper. We'd rather have watched corn grow.
  • Betty. So boring.
  • Henry. Can't remember the last time he was in an interesting scene.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 3 (Season 7):  A-. Another excellent episode. The office scenes just explode off the scene and they crackle with tension and energy. Don's plight and downward spiral are driving the show to new heights this year. Will these developments lead to a Don Draper redemption  for the season finale?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 2): Happy Valentine's Day

Why Mad Men Episode 2 (Season 7) Worked:

  • The Valentine Day's flowesr gimmick.  That was an exceptional plot device and only faltered when Peggy blew up at her secretary (see what didn't work).
  • The faulty squawk box gimmick.  Nobody liked the squawk box, not even in 1969.  Clever writing.
  • Don's failed attempts to cover up his absence at the office.  It was easy to feel sorry for him.  The show is better when he's a cad, but this adds an interesting new dimension to one of prime time tv's most compelling characters. 
  • Don letting his hair down with Sally. Another well-written, completely believable scene.  Don is changing and it's happening before our eyes.  
  • Sally.  She played a critical role in this episode and it helped make this a memorable one.  Her unexpected visit to the office to see Don after she lost her  purse was dramatic and Kiernan Shipka made the most of these scenes.  
  • Secretary merry-go-round.  Everyone seemed dissatisfied with his or her secretary and all those personnel problems rolled up on Joan's desk. Nice subplot.
  • Lou. Such a dick.  But so believable.
  • Shirley's (Peggy's secretary) groovy orange dress.
Why Mad Men Episode 2 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Downbeat tone.  We're not having a lot of fun in Season 7. 
  • Pete's (Vincent Karheiser) bad hair piece. Distracting.
  • Pete's hot LA girlfriend. Really? She can do better.
  • Peggy's rant about her flowers. A bit much.
  • Pete's rant about the ineffectiveness of his role in LA. A bit much
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 2 (Season 7):  .  A-. Great writing and intriguing subplots made this episode memorable.  Everyone at the agency seems unstable and on the verge of collapse.  It's highly stressful to watch -- but completely addictive.  Can't wait until next week to find out what happens next.

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 1): Time Zones

Why Mad Men Episode 1 (Season 7) Worked:
  • Fashion.  The producers (and costume designers) really caught the groovy late 60s fashion zeitgeist, especially Megan (and especially the head scarf!). Don is looking dapper but pretty square.
  • The music. Using the  60s music is an easy call, but the producers worked it in deftly, especially the last scene of the episode with Peggy.
  • Freddy's opening monologue.  Clever.  Now that's a series opener!
  • Don gliding on the electric walkway at LAX.  The scene was brilliantly stolen from the opening sequence of "The Graduate."
  • Joan's scenes with the CMO from Butler Shoes.  She kicked ass.
  • The delivery of the tv console the size of a coffin to Megan's Laurel Canyon home.  That's how the rich watched tv back in the day.
  • Roger's breakfast with his daughter.  Extremely well written, especially the daughter's line.  He's so out of touch with his child that it was sometimes painful to watch.

Why Mad Men Episode 1 (Season 7) Didn't Work:
  • Don and Megan's relationship. We know that there are huge problems between the two of them.  However, it's just not that much fun -- or interesting -- watching the relationship implode.
  • Don's encounter with a strange woman on the LA-JFK redeye.  Yawn -- Don's excessive philandering is becoming a drag.  And it feels a bit implausible that every woman he meets in every encounter wants to bed him.
  • Ken's rants.  Over-the-top.
  • Roger with the hippie woman.  60s cliche alert.
  • Peggy.  She's a bummer, man.  (However, we are interested about what's going to happen to her.)

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 1 (Season 7):  B.  The final season got off to a strong but not spectacular start.  It's a bit downbeat but overall we're optimistic about where the series will go from here.