Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 7): Waterloo

Why Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 7) Worked:
  • Culter's take-down of Don.  Vicious.  His assessment of Don's talent was chilling: "I am deeply unimpressed." The depth of Cutler's evil corporate ways is bottomless.  He's really blossomed as a character.  j
  • Don's forceful response to Cutler trying to push him out of the agency.  Don finally grows a pair this season.  A BIG pair.  
  • Don's split with Megan.  A masterpiece of minimal writing.  Hamm's face says so much.  And great use of dead air.  
  • Bert Cooper's assessment of the leadership talent in his company in a discussion with Roger.  Incisive.  The guy may be weird but he knows how to manage.
  • Bert Cooper's death.  Brilliantly handled the way it was brought up.  For a few minutes, we weren't sure exactly who from the agency had died.  It was easy to speculate that Don committed suicide after the breakup  of marriage and the attempt to push him out of the agency.
  • Sally kissing Neil.  Neil's response: "What do I do now?" He returns to the office.  And Sally?  She whips out a cigarette.  A future ice queen is born.
  • Peggy's pitch to Burger Chef.  Pitch perfect.
  • Joan's slow change to a cold-hearted businesswoman.  Chilling.  
  • The moon landing.  Well produced as the show cut from various groups of Mad Men watching the landing, cementing the theme that television was the great unifier of the time.  
  • Cutler's surprise vote for the McCann merger: "It's a lot of money," he reasons.
Why Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 7) Didn't Work:
  • Don's squeaky-voiced secretary and her surprise kiss.  Out of character and out of left field.
  • Peggy's chubby young neighbor.  The bond is baffling.  Worse yet, it's really boring.
  • The merger.  The partners agree to a $65 million sale in a two-minute meeting.  Completely implausible especially for a show that really sweats the details in the office.
  • The ghost of Bert Cooper singing and dancing to "The Best Things in Life Are Free." What a weak wrap-up to a very strong episode.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 7 (Season 7): B+  Don and Roger asserted themselves big time in this episode and that really made this episode sing. (Although the song and dance number really hit the wrong notes as a first-half conclusion.)  The bare-knuckles politics in the office continued to  provide great dramatic fodder although the McCann buyout was a bit hasty.  It's hard to know exactly how the ball will bounce in the second half of this season but there are enough loose ends to make us wish the season begins sooner rather than later.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 6): The Strategy

Why Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 7) Worked:
  • The early tension between Don and Peggy over the Burger Chef campaign.,
  • Don admitting that he just came from the movie "I Am Curious Yellow." Probably only 27 people watching even knew about the movie but it was a very cool thing to do in 1969.  (It was a porn film, in case you're interested.)
  • Don explaining to Peggy about how he works creatively.
  • The Madras sports jackets.  Pete and Bob Benson really rocked them.
  • Bob's "proposal" to Joan.  He needed her to be his beard so he could rise in corporate America. He thought she'd need his security.  Her response: "I want love." One of the better scenes in recent weeks that didn't revolve entirely around the office.
Why Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 7) Didn't Work:
  • The work for the Burger Chef tv commercial.  Usually, "Mad Men" shines when it focuses on the creative work that goes into an ad campaign. However, almost all of the scenes about the Burger Chef campaign were about as bland a limp lettuce.
  • Bob bailing out the gay client from jail.  The scene in the cab as they left the jail was confusing and poorly written.
  • Pete's fight with Trudy at their Cos Cobb house.  Another confusing and poorly written scene. 
  • Don and Peggy drinking in the office, having a heart to heart, and then dancing to Sinatra's "Strangers in the NIght."  Another scene where one could only wonder: What is this about?
  • Stan's beard.  It's so bushy, it's practically its own zip code.  Distracting.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 6 (Season 7):  C-.  A lot of nothing happened in this episode.  Don still hasn't recovered his mojo.  His marriage appears tenuous. He's become...uh....what's the word -- boring! Peggy feels pathetic now. Pete's relationship with his girlfriend doesn't ring true. Let's hope for a first half season-ending wallop next week. This was pretty thin gruel tonight.    

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 5): The Runaways

Why Mad Men Episode 5 (Season 7) Worked:
  • Don's barging in on the tobacco pitch meeting at the end of the episode. Ballsy.  That's the Don we love.
  • Stan getting high in the office.  He was taking a semi-hidden puff at his desk, right? Did you catch it?
  • The mini-skirts.  Can't get any shorter.
  • Don's management advice to Lou. Lou's reply to Don: I'm not taking management advice from Don Draper.
  • Ginsberg spying on Cutler and Lou in the computer room.  Shades of Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."
  • Henry's outburst at Betty. Finally, he has an interesting scene. But who knew he was such a male chauvinist pig?
Why Mad Men Episode 5 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Ginsburg's nervous breakdown.  Poorly played. Over-acted. Didn't ring true. Enough with his obsession with the computer.
  • Stephanie the pregnant niece. Hard to know what that was about. And hard to get emotionally involved in her story.
  • Megan's party. Eh.
  • Sally's nose. Eh.
  • Don's threesome with Megan and her friend. The most cringe-worthy threesome since "House of Cards." And those awkward morning after moments.
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 5 (Season 7):  C.  Another mediocre episode.  Only Don's scene at the end with the tobacco executives saved it and gave viewers something to look forward to next week. His relationship with Megan is going in reverse, and even worse, it's boring.  The only upbeat part of the episode is that hopefully Ginsberg become institutionalized and never sets foot again in an ad agency -- or on "Mad Men."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 4): The Monolith

Why Mad Men Episode 4 (Season 7) Worked:
  • Freddy's rah-rah speech to Don after he goes on his bender. Finally, someone gives Don some useful advice and some harsh medicine to swallow.
  • The computer installation in the office.  Yes....computers represented disruption in every sense of the word.
  • Lou's salary increase to Peggy -- with nasty strings attached. 
Why Mad Men Episode 4 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Don's degradation.  It doesn't feel like an interesting plot twist now; it's more like he's being dragged through the mud for 60 minutes.
  • Don's alcoholism.  Yes, we know Don has a drinking problem but this episode really brought it front and center instead of keeping it in the background.  And that pushes the show in a dangerous direction. We don't want Mad Men to be a program about substance abuse, we want it to be about the 60s and advertising.
  • Roger's visit to retrieve his daughter at the commune. Grade D melodrama featuring some of the worst writing and plotting of the season. It was like a watching a completely different show.
  • Peggy. She used to be one of the show's most interesting characters.  Now she's a one-note bummer.
  • Lloyd, the computer installer. It was hard to figure out his role in tonight's episode. The interactions with Don were strange and stilted.  
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 4 (Season 7):  C-. This episode was way too downbeat.  Don's boozing in the office. Don's degradation. Roger's dysfunctional family.  There was nothing remotely entertaining or upbeat about "The Monolith." Let's hope Don comes roaring back with some great copy and takes his place at the top of the food chain.