Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 11): Time & Life

Remember him? Jared Harris, who played the memorable but ill-fated character Lane Pryce like he had a giant 2x4 stuck up his you-know-what, directed this episode.  

Why Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 7) Worked:

  • The dismantling-the-agency scene.  You had to feel sorry for Don, Roger, Pete and Joan.  
  • Don's plan to save the agency.  Finally, he wakes up (literally)....gets his ass off the couch....and comes up with an action plan. He's always at his best in Mad Men when he's on the attack.  
  • The head of McCann giving Don, Roger, et al the "You're getting the five most coveted jobs in all of advertising" speech. He made it sound so good.  Yet you knew they'd get screwed over.
  • Peggy letting Stan know about the child she gave up for adoption.  It's about time that loose (story) thread was woven back into the plot.  Yes....the set up for the revelation was tedious but it ultimately paid off.  And who knew that Stan could be such a mensch?
Why Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Pete's showdown with the principal at the Greenwich Day School, which ended with him punching the principal in the mouth.  Probably the worst scene in the seven-year history of the show.  Just ridiculous.
  • Peggy's argument with the mother of the child who got a staple in her finger.  Another ridiculous, poorly written scene.  
  • Confusing office chatter about the conflict of interest with various clients.  Not exactly nail-biting drama.  And who cares?
  • Lou Avery's decision to go work for the Japanese.  A sub-par exit for an interesting minor character.  
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 11 (Season 7): C-.  The show is definitely sputtering to an end.  It's hard to get worked up about the work dilemmas.  We've seen entire seasons consumed by efforts to save the agency so this plot line in Episode 11 didn't exactly have us on the edge of our seats.  Don and Roger have no sparkle left.  Peggy and Joan are complete downers.  Pete seems lost and pathetic.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 10): The Forecast

Don Draper has a number of headaches that he must contend with.
Why Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 7) Worked:

  • Sally's speech to Don at the bus station before she leaves on a teen tour.  She was good and pissed that Don was responding to her friend's flirtatious behavior, and she called him out on it.  More than any other character on the show she sees Don for what he is.  (Let's hope she gets a well-paying job because she's going to need a lot of expensive therapy.)
  • Don's struggle to devise a corporate vision for Roger.  His inability to articulate what the company should be and where it's heading reflected his own rudderless life.  He is a man truly adrift without an idea of where his ship should sail.  
  • Don's showdown with the copywriter.  It wasn't a perfect scene but it had energy; that's for sure.  And the copywriter called him basically just a pretty face. Don, of course, is more than that but there's no denying that his looks and perfect hair give him a lot to work with. 
  • Don alone in the hallway outside his apartment after the real estate agent finds a buyer for his penthouse.  Great fade-out music (Roberta Flack's "The First Time I Saw Your Face") and Don looks terribly lost and lonely.  A bit artsy and pretentious but it helped lift this uneven episode.  

Why Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Joan's romance.  Whatever happened to one night stands?  Joan has sex with a divorced older guy and the next thing he's in New York telling her that he's not into her four-year-old son.  Before you can scratch your head, she's telling him that she'll send him off to boarding school (was that for real????) but no, he then says he'll take the boy and her mom and buy a place in New York. Sorry, I didn't buy it.  It was like the Cliff Notes version of Mad Men.
  • The drama around the Peter Pan peanut butter account.  Usually, the account problems provide the best drama in the show.  Not tonight.  It was convoluted, confusing and poorly plotted.
  • The return of Glen (part I).  The scene in the hallway with Sally, Glen, Betty and the random girlfriend fell flat.  Some outrageously stilted acting and contrived writing.
  • The return of Glen (part II). His scene with Betty barely made sense.  She offers him a beer while alone with him in her kitchen.  He comes on to her.  She rebuffs him because "I'm married."Then she puts her hand to his face and puts his hand on her face.  Where was this going?

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 10 (Season 7): C+.  This was the night of crazy shit where so many scenes seemed rushed and outrageous.  It was good to see the hard-bitten Joan finally involved with a man and it created some interest and tension in the subplot, but the speed in which the relationship unfolded was so quick that it seemed like the writers were trying to cram everything in before the show ends in a few episodes.  Other scenes also seemed poorly written like the real estate agent criticizing Don and the copywriter insulting the client.  This episode showed Don and Betty's compulsive need to be attractive to the opposite sex no matter how inappropriate that interest might be.  That was a good thread woven through the  episode.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 9): New Business

Mr. Lonely: Don Draper charts a solitary path as the final season of Mad Men winds down.
Why Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 7) Worked:

  • The action and dialogue relating to Don and Megan's split including the furniture removal from Don's apartment.  Turned out that Roger footed the bill (he gave Megan's mom $180).  Also good, the scene between Don and Megan in the lawyer's office (and a million dollars to her!!!).  Good writing and good acting especially by Jessica ParĂ©.  She called him "an aging, sloppy liar" and sold every word of her line.
  • Don's response to the waitress Diana showing up at his apartment in the middle of the night: "It's 3 a.m.  You know why you're here."  And good retort when she asked him why he was dressed in a jacket and tie: "I'm vain."  Glad he didn't have on a smoking jacket.
  • The scenes between Don and Diana.  It's still a bit of a mystery whey they connected and it feels like Don has suddenly become a compassionate social worker with her -- where did that personality trait come from? -- but there's no denying that the scenes were intriguing especially when he showed up at her apartment.  The big question: will we see more of her in the final episodes?
  • The thread featuring Harry and Megan.  He is such a weasel and Don totally caught on to his lame attempt to cover his botched seduction.  

Why Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Bad hair.  Roger's hair and mustache is so out of character that it makes all his scenes too cartoonish.  His look is slick....and now he looks anything but slick.  And Pete's hair won't win any awards this season either.  Sideburns are too long and he's sporting something of a semi-combover.  
  • Bad sex scenes.  Pema the photographer -- doing a Pussy Galore imitation -- jumps Stan the hostile art director in the darkroom.  Huh?  That was telegraphed immediately but it was poorly staged and written.  And then she hits on Peggy in another awkward, poorly written scene.  When Roger rushes to Don's apartment with moving money for Megan's mom, they quickly hop in the sack (er...make that the floor...the moving men might have taken the bed).  Another cartoon-like scene in a show that used to have more flair and sophistication.
  • Random milkshake scene with Don's Connecticut family.  Their agents must have been squawking about not being in enough scenes this year.  
  • Scenes with Megan and her sister.  Who cares? Besides, it very late in the series to bring in another character and her baggage.  

Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 9 (Season 7):  B.  Wildly uneven but the show ended with some strong scenes.  While it seems out of character for Don to be showing interest in the well-being and emotions of another woman, his relationship with Diana seems like a path for his redemption.  Will the show continue in that direction?  So far in this half season, Roger's scenes are flat and disappointing.  And agency life -- a reliable plot point in Mad Men's seven years -- has not really been a factor either in the first two shows.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mad Men Season 7 (Episode 8): Severance

The Mad Men gang is back and decked out in a lot of plaids.  Betty does not look like a happy camper....but what else is new?  Don looks a lot better in dark suits.  The tan slacks make him look like a swinging accountant.  
Why Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 7) Worked:  

  • No scene worked completely in this episode. They were all marred at times by implausible or incomprehensible plotting, weak writing, and subpar acting.
  • Peggy's date.  Perhaps the best-written plot thread of the episode.  It revealed how sad and lonely she has become as she achieves more professional success.  (Her date not sending back the dish he didn't order was sloppy, lazy writing.  There were others way to show that Peggy is assertive.)
  • The meeting Joan and Peggy had with the McCann account executives. was marred by over-the-top writing, but it yielded the best line of the evening as Joan and Peggy conversed in the elevator.  Joan: "I want to burn this place down."
  • Don lying on his couch during working hours.  Come on....we've all wanted to do that at work, but only Don pulls it off with such style.

Why Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 7) Didn't Work:

  • Don and the waitress.  What the hell?  Maybe it pays off later in the half season but this was a real head scratcher.  And Don just walking out the back door and having sex with her in the alley without blinking an eye was also baffling.  Where are these plot turns coming from and for what purpose?  Maybe Don will come up with a new drink for a whiskey client: Sex in the alley.  
  • Roger's mustache.  Distracting.  Felt like Sam Elliott was suddenly hired at the agency.  
  • Joan's hairstyle.  Did they not have time to comb her hair before the cameras rolled?
  • Joan's attitude.  When did she become such a boring and depressing character?
  • The Ken Cosgrove storyline.  Yawn.  Haven't cared about him for six seasons and we're not going to start now.  The scene with his wife was poorly written and acted. 
  • The Topaz vs L'eggs account issues.  Usually, agency business makes this show soar.  Not tonight.  It just wasn't that interesting.  
Overall Grade for Mad Men Episode 8 (Season 7): D+.  Completely disjointed episode.  Very few scenes really hooked the viewer.  The whole hour felt sluggish and drawn out.  Even Roger's scenes lack energy and wit.  Has "Mad Men" stayed on the stage one season too long?  Let's see what next week brings.