January 28, 2012
November 18, 2010
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October 18, 2010
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10 PM EST, AMC NETWORK…
October 13, 2010
Early this season on AMC’s smash hit Mad Men, Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss), who pulls no punches, told Don (above) “we’re all here because of you.” Peggy, eager to please her mentor, but also put off by his excessive drinking and snappy temper, was quite emphatic. The new agency, SCDP, was populated by people for the most part hand picked by Don. After Don gave a poorly received interview to a trade publication, the new venture, along with people’s confidence in the magical Don Draper was imperiled. Don would right his gaffe by giving a lights out interview to the Wall Street Journal. Later in the season, he’d win a prestigious award in his field–a monument to the new agency. Don even began exercising restraint with the bottle. It was a good sign for DD fans who saw his life careening out of control. It took a drunken tussle with Duck Phillips of all people for him to recognize the need for a more sober Don. How embarrassing it was when a much younger Don said “uncle” with Duck on top of him. But Don had fought to protect Peggy’s honor, and their relationship, which fractured some time after Don had come to visit Peggy in the hospital after she gave birth to Campbell’s love child, mostly because Don had been extra hard on Peggy and because Peggy perceived that Don would always get the credit for her work, was back on track. Unfortunately for Don it took a death to someone important to him–the real Ms. Draper–for Peggy to see Don in a different light. The rift between creative’s 2 most creative, especially after Don had brought Peggy back to the agency from oblivion, and after Peggy had bailed Don out of a Long Island jail on a DUI rap, had us very disturbed. We were happy to see things set right, and learning that Cooper (Robert Morse) had lost his testicles in the Great War and that Sterling (John Slattery) had been sexually ravaged by that cougar Ms. Blankenship was the cherry on top.
In many regards, it’s been a watershed year for Don. Don started swimming, pardon the earlier pun, and we noticed that the dullness that had set in after his divorce was departing. Perhaps it wasn’t quite the year we were expecting from him though. I for one, assumed that Don, newly single and unleashed upon the city, would display that “legendary prowess” with the ladies, to steal a phrase from Nazi party, um, I mean Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino. But Don has been leading a mostly quiet existence. For Don. He’s still in the same little apartment on Waverly which is well below his means. He consented to a few dates with Bethany (Anna Camp) at the urging of Roger and Jane (Peyton List), had sex with his secretary Allison (Alexa Alemanni), which led to her throwing a paper weight at him and leaving in tears–a drunken tryst which gave Don more reason to cut back on the booze–and to scale back the office romances. Slightly. Don would still hook up with Dr. Miller (Cara Buono), banged a prostitute on the regular who he liked to beat him about the face during sex, quite the commentary on Don’s self esteem, but the dapper Draper seemed downright uncomfortable at the Kit Kat Club with Lane (Jared Harris), whose dalliance with a hooker on his impromptu New Year’s Eve with Don seemed to create a monster.
Don has also resolved some familial issues this season. Despite Betty’s new husband Henry’s (Christopher Francis) obvious disdain for him, Don presented himself at his son Gene’s birthday party, intent on not becoming the forgotten man in Gene’s life. Don’s new life may not be ideal, but he has progressed as a man, shown feelings, and learned from mistakes. None of that helped him any when Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie) gave Roger the jarring news that Lucky Strike, the account that “kept the lights on”, had moved on. If that wasn’t bad enough, the aeronautics company that Campbell landed when Don left Pete stranded poolside in Hollywood to go off with a young hottie, was conducting background checks which left Don’s background exposed. Don ordered Pete, who knows Don’s secret, to drop the account. The firm went from profitable to the Titanic in one day, and Campbell, with a baby on the way, was furious at Don. With nobody in the business willing to give SCDP the time of the day due to the prevailing notion in the industry that they’d be out of business in 6 months, Lane arranged for a credit extension to keep the firm afloat. But the extension required an outlay of $100,000 from the senior partners and $50,000 each from Lane and Pete. With the company just about flatlining, Don did something. He wrote a letter to the New York Times criticizing the tobacco industry and the ad companies that stumped for it. The letter was met with outrage by the partners, especially from Bert Cooper, who made a most valid point: by not signing all their names to it, the letter submarined and undermined the other partners. Cooper was so incensed that he took his shoes and quit on the spot. Only Peggy saw the letter for what it was: a publicity stunt meant to gain SCDP much needed attention.
Where the episode left off on Sunday night, the letter had yet to produce tangible effects economically. But anti-tobacco organizations are dialing them up, and as Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) pointed out, those organizations have infuential members who sit on the boards of major companies. Don is enthused that they will have an opportunity to work, and that their work will surely lead to more work. With regard to Campbell, Don did the right thing by putting up Campbell’s $50,000–a source of strife between Campbell and pregnant wife Trudy (Alison Brie).
The fact remains going into Sunday’s finale that the firm is in dire need of new accounts. Layoffs have begun, the industry buzz is that they are dead men walking, and they need more than a letter to The Times to turn the tide. Don must make it rain. After all, he is the brightest star in Mad Men’s midst, and what Peggy said about them all being there because of him can be applied to us, the audience, as well. If Don didn’t feel that burden, he’d never have felt obligated to pay Pete’s share, or to assure Peggy her job. Are we really going to have to sit through an anti-climactic finale in which the agency goes down in flames?
We think not. Season 3’s ending was one of the great season finale’s we’ve ever seen, and one of the strongest Mad Men episodes ever. Last year, Don, with his family life crumbling, rose above his personal circumstance, found a way to circumvent his contract, and formed the new agency in dramatic fashion. We look for something similarly spectacular from Don this week, and we trust that ace show creator, writer, and executive producer Mathew Weiner will give to us.
We would speculate, gun to our head, that Chelcie Ross will reprise his role as Conrad Hilton–a man who “comes and goes” as he pleases, someone Don has a history with, and who has the clout and financial might to take the agency off life support.
As for last week, Weiner is to be credited for having his son reprise the role of Glen, and for having United States of Tara star Rosemarie Dewitt reprise the role of Don’s former lover Midge.
September 7, 2010
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August 10, 2010
AMC, the top dog in creating cable dramas, even ahead of the always busy new programming department at HBO, debuted its third original program this summer–Rubicon–starring James Badge Dale, who you may have caught in HBO’s Pacific. Their first two originals, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, are probably finest A and finest B, when it comes to acted dramas on television right now.
The bar is obviously set high on Dale, who will no doubt be compared to Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston, and on a show that takes its name from the Greek pass that the Roman army took on the orders of Caesar in 49 B.C., and which has come to mean “a limit that when passed or exceeded permits of no return and typically results in irrevocable commitment.” Dale, playing Will Travers, an intelligence analyst at a high level think tank, is a widower who lost his wife and daughter in 9/11, and who mostly lives an isolated existence. Travers’ father-in-law and boss, David Hadas (Peter Gerety), is killed in a train crash, and Will is quickly offered his old job of team leader. While Will was conflicted about remaining in their employ, he takes the job so he can pursue the mystery of what really happened to his father-in-law, who sent him a number of clues as part of a code he wanted Will to break in relation to his murder, we presume, which started with him parking his car on the morning of the train crash in spot # 13–something the superstitious Hadas would never do unless he was trying to get someone’s attention.
Before the crash, Travers was depressed, and had confided to Hadas that he missed his family and that he hated his job. After the crash, Will is quickly offered the promotion, though the dirt wasn’t dry on Hadas’ casket, literally. Will is approached by Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard), who is the highest ranking employee to work “downstairs”, at Hadas’ funeral. Will says he’s going to reject the offer, but pleas from co-workers, and more importantly, clues from David, compel him to change his mind. A retired analyst, Ed Bancroft (Roger Robinson), who Will has just met but who may now be his only confidante, figures out that a piece of information that David left Will was a match book code–one where each person has the same book, and they look up a series of letter postions to put a message together–ingenius, because it can never be cracked without knowing what book was used. David had given Will a book right before his death, and Will looks up the letters which form the sentence, “they hide in plain sight.”
Obviously Hadas is referring to Will’s co-workers and superiors. Will’s assistant (Jessica Collins) happens to be secretly giving info to Kale Ingram about the different members of the team. Kale makes a point of asking if Will is overly preoccupied with David’s murder. Kale may very well know what happened to Hadas, and their boss, Truxton Spangler (Michael Christopher), it looks like, may be part of the group responsible for Hadas’ death. Will’s first meeting with Spangler was tense, at which, Spangler shows them a picture of George Beck, a German Muslim person of interest to the agency, and says of the two guys in the photo with him, “I’d like to know who they are.”
Will, who walked up to the roof and stood out on the ledge for a minute, before walking in and taking his new job, has eyes on him. His rooftop dalliances are being photographed (by Isiah Whitlock Jr., who played state senator Clay Davis on The Wire), and Will is being followed. David, who gave him his motorcycle before he died, left Will a revolver, and a strip of coded numbers inside the seat–numbers we would later learn correlated to the dates the Yankees won their 27 championships, something David knew Will would know.
David wasn’t the only person to die early on in Rubicon, as in the very first scene, we see billionaire magnate Tom Rhumor (Bill Murray buddy Harris Yulin), upon seeing a green four leaf clover on his morning paper, take out a gun and blow his brain’s out. The clover was significant to Will, who spotted a trend in the crossword puzzles of a few major papers, that there was a pattern of clues representing the 3 branches of government, and the fourth–the intelligence community–all represented by a four leaf clover. Will would piece together the signifcance, that the crosswords were a go code for revenge killings, after another analyst tells him that a similar pattern in 11 newspaper crosswords in 1983 came right after a terrorist attack, and that a few days later, a number of senior Hezbollah money men went missing.
Will thinks that David’s train crashed because of that go code, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this all connects to George Beck, and has terrorist implications. It wouldn’t surprise me–in fact–I predict that at some point we will learn that the agency where Will works knew the towers were going to fall. Will, to find the truth, must pass the rubicon, and probably has already. Dale plays an intellectual, not a brute, so it should be interesting to see how he handles himself with that gun, and with the weird shadowy types who are following him.
Will Travers may not be Don Draper or Walter White, and the vague intrigue of Rubicon may not yet compare with beauty of Mad Men or the grit of Breaking Bad, but Will is a character to root for on an intelligent show.
Will Travers, welcome to the Layer Cake.
August 2, 2010
The return of a few pivotal guest characters and some very funny moments, in some situations that those characters–Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie), and Glen Bishop (Marten Weiner) created. Garner, may not appear much, but I’m sure many Mad Men fans are displeased with the character who is the reason that closeted homosexual art director Sal Romano (Bryan Batt) was fired. Remember when Garner made a pass at Sal who nervously rebuffed him? That’s all it took for Lee to tell Roger to cut Sal loose, which don didn’t hesitate at doing, once Roger told him it was for Lucky Strike, their number one client.
I certainly hope everyone remembers the divorced neighbor’s (Darby Stanchfield) son, Glen Bishop, who Betty (January Jones) babysat for and who developed a crush on Betty. One day the mother confronted Betty at the market after finding out that Betty had given Glen a locke of her hair, calling her juvenile and questioning her judgment. Glen is played by Martin Weiner’s son, who does a creepy good job with the role. Last night, Sally (Kiernan Shipka) and Bobby (Jared Gilmore) ran into Glen while Christmas tree shopping, and Glen seems to take a liking to Sally, whom he tells, “I saw your new dad. My mom said that would happen.”
Then Glen calls Sally (top pic), tells Carla that his name is Stanley, and then tells Sally that her parents will not get back together because, of Betty he says, “she’s doing it with somebody else.” Little Sally didn’t even get what that meant, but she did tell Glen she’s miserable, and Glen told her she would be miserable until she moved. Later, Glen and a friend, who Glen calls a “shithead”, trash Betty’s house, because Glen feels he is helping Sally by getting Betty to think about moving. Glen continues the onslaught by making crank calls to the old Draper resident in the middle of the night.
Another old character, the affable Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray), walked in to the new agency clean and sober, with a major account in toe, and was hired back on the spot by Roger. Freddy had a great line when he said of Roger’s (John Slattery) office, “it looks like an Italian hospital” and a very interesting one when he told Roger he didn’t want Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) anywhere near his account, and that he was surprised when he heard they brought Campbell along. Remember that Campbell made fun of Freddy when he was on the way out due to his alcoholism, and when he pissed himself. Freddy seems very sharp, and out for revenge on Campbell, who he also made a dig at in a meeting in Don’s (Jon Hamm) office with Peggy (Elisabeth Moss, looking large) and Roger.
Speaking of alcoholism, let’s do our Don Draper update. Early in the episode, Don drops his keys at his door, and is observed by his neighbor, as he wobbles to get down to pick the keys up. Phoebe (Nora Zehetner), lets Don in and puts him to bed while resisting his advances. Don tells her she’s good at this and she zings him with “my father was a drunk.” The presence of a female around don usually means one thing: Don’s gonna tag her. But with “Christmas Comes but Once a Year”, s4, e2, we see Don drinking too much–a fact pointed out even by Sterling Cooper all-star drunk Freddy Rumsen, when he asks Don f it isn’t too early in the morning to be drinking. Also, the new artist calls Don pathetic, and it wasn’t the first time that he has made a remark about Don, to Peggy or some of the younger SCDP employees. Last night, when he calls Don pathetic, nobody disputed him–an interesting tell on the state of Don Draper right now. That’s why I’m not sure if Phoebe is there as Don’s neighbor this year as a romantic possibility, or as someone who is going to be coming to his rescue.
Then you have the Christmas party, where Don spoke with another potential hookup, Cara Buono, who played Phaye Miller, a consultant that the firm has brought in. You might remember Cara Buono as Kelly Moltisanti, Chris’s wife, from The Sopranos, and also as Artie Lange’s love interest in Beer League. But the party was made by the spoiled SCDP top client, Lee Garner Jr., who strong armed Roger for an invitation to the party, causing the party to be changed from a small, quiet affair to a fete worthy of the man who “keeps the lights on.”
Lee asked Roger to play Santa Claus, then insisted, waving off Campbell who tries to take the bullet for him, and staring Roger down and saying of the costume, “Seriously. Put it on.” Sterling trudged off and then trudged back as Santa, making for one of the funnier Mad men moments we’ve had. Lee Garner Jr.’s Christmas present was a Polaroid camera, and, ballbuster he is, made everyone get on Roger’s knee for a picture.
When Alison (Alexa Alemanni), Don’s secretary, brings Don his keys after the party, Don makes a crude, drunken pass at her, and she resists at first before kicking her shoes off and laying back. Joey, played by Matt Baird–the new character with a lot of venom for Don–seems to be dating Alison, a nice potential plot complication for the future. And while Alison tells Don, or attempts to tell him she has a boyfriend after they have sex, she was clearly preoccupied with Don all episode, from her reading Don the letter to Santa from his kids, and she seeemed on the verge of tears after Don acted coolly towards her the morning after at the office.
And Sterling had us laughing until the end, when he greets Don that morning with, “Did you enjoy the fuhrer’s birthday?” in a German accent–a comment all the more valid when comparing the proclivities of Adolf Hitler and Lee Garner Jr. But if Don is firmly walking in the land of the dangerous alcoholic this season, where he has tiptoed for years, and he has a tense office romance going with Alison, which could turn very badly, then Don might not be the hero this season that we have come to associate with his dapper character during the life of the show to date, and we probably won’t be laughing too much at all.
Here’s to Don getting it together. Getting dissed and called a type by Cara Buono can’t be a proud moment, and it was only one of many inglories that Don suffered last night.