Thursday, June 27, 2013

What I Watch: The MAD MEN Edition!

If you're a MAD-MANiac who STILL hasn't gotten around to watching the Season Six finale...first of all, what the hell is wrong with you? Secondly, don't read any further.

This will NOT be a recap of the entire episode. Not even close.  If you're craving such a thing, there's plenty of sites out there that can give you an exhaustive and entertaining rundown of every last detail. If you wanna hear some schmuck try his hand at his first ever podcast recap after just one viewing of the episode -- then you can check out my guest appearance on The Geek Girl Soup podcast.  It runs about 45 minutes and feels only slightly longer than that.

Back to the blog...

From the start, MAD MEN has been tracing the opposite paths of Don Draper and Peggy Olsen. Peggy's journey has been clear, with obstacles ranging from her unacknowledged pregnancy, perpetually bad taste in men and the very challenge of being a woman in the 1960's.

1968 is well remembered as the year of tumultuous change and chaos in the US, and Peggy is constantly at the mercy of other forces. Unlike previous years, where she was in control of her destiny, she never gets the chance to make the choices that will guide her life.  Instead, her lot is cast by the decisions of people like Abe (he decides where they live as well as being the one to end their relationship), Don & Ted (she has no say or input in the eventual merger and the resulting consequences, and even cheating doesn't occur until Ted forces the issue).

That's why she makes that remark to Ted about "at least he gets to make decisions".  But that's her moment of freedom, and like in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, sometimes you have to swim through a river of shit to reach the promised land. The final image of Peggy, dressed like the next coming of Mary Richards as she assumes the seat and classic pose of Don Draper -- she IS the new Draper (whereas Bob Benson is Don Draper-Lite) at SC&P. I wonder if she may end up being the creative director next season, and who knows, maybe she'll hire Don to be HER secretary?

Draper's fall seems to either speed up or slow down depending on the season.  The fourth season (AKA the year Jon Hamm REALLY should have won the Emmy) was the last time I thought his life had taken such a precipitous dive, but then he's figuratively saved by clutching to a life preserver in the form of Megan.  But by the end of the following season, Don's back swimming with the sharks.  Maybe he'll see Pete's mom as he floats on by.

Season Six opens with Don reading Dante's Inferno, and as time soldiers on, we see Don IS that figure in the opening credits, plummeting to lower depths episode by episode.  His drinking has graduated to full-blown alcoholism -- remember when he would remark about Roger drinking so early in the day? Now he's fixing screwdrivers for breakfast and hiding booze in his morning coffee cup of joe.  He ends up in a drunk tank, and he even gets the shakes.  One wonders if in the final season, the man who has no friends will become a Friend of Bill W.

The visual metaphor of descending to the lower rings of hell is especially accentuated following his virtual dismissal from SC&P. We follow him as he take a slow walk DOWN THE STAIRS.  And when he runs into Duck Phillips and Lou Avery at the elevator bank, what does obnoxious Lou say?  "Going down?" I almost expected another empty elevator shaft to open in front of Don, as he tumbles to the lowest depths of hell.

Perhaps his final look at Sally, after revealing a secret about himself to the daughter who doesn't know him, is the slim strand of hope that Weiner has allowed us to have for Don. He's a man who's no longer able to charm his way into or out of any situation, and his history of lies, stolen identities and pilfered ideas has finally caught up with him. They say the truth will set you free, but is it too little too late for Don Draper?

My Final Oft-Expressed Thought:  I have NEVER been a member of the Piss-On-Pete Peeps.  Yes, over six seasons, he's had some of the most unlikable moments on the series. But in my estimation, he has not only acquitted himself,  he is one of the brightest highlights of a stellar season. Much like Betty, Pete has grown, evolved, and appears to be in a much better place in his life by season's end than ever before, even if he doesn't yet realize it himself. As Trudy points out -- he's finally FREE.

I recently wrote a brief explanation of my frequent defense of Pete Campbell. Since that e-mail only made it as far as one or two other pairs of eyes, it felt fitting to rewrite it and share that here as my closing comment:

WHY do I stick up for Pete so much? 

Because I find him more human and relatable than most other characters on this show, though I like or even love them all. It would be great to be eternally witty like Roger or effortlessly suave like Don.  

But while we all may be witty at times, no one's ALWAYS on their game like Roger.
And though we all have moments of pure persuasive charm, no one's EVER as slick as Don.

And even when I do have moments of wit or charm, it's often a facade to cover up the "inner Pete". So that's why I cringe just a little bit more when he does or says something that's damnable, and why I stick up for him more than any other member of the Mad Men family.  Sure, he's petty, vindictive, spiteful and prone to the occasional mood swing.  Guess what -- that could be my next profile. I may sometimes joke about hating myself, but I still refuse to hate Pete Campbell.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What I Watch: On the Subject of Spoilers

This goes out to both smart and silly people alike -- you truly need to get over the whole SPOILERS thing when it comes to a television show that's ALREADY AIRED. The whole concept of SPOILERS were meant to be when people find out stuff BEFOREHAND, as in BEFORE the show has been broadcast on TV. 

Once the program has aired -- if you chose to "DVR" it to watch the next day or whenever, then THE RESPONSIBILITY FALLS ON YOU to avoid news sources and especially social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  

When the majority of viewers watch something the night it's on TV, especially a program that was highly anticipated (such as the most recent GAME OF THRONES episode, which had been talked about online for weeks ahead of time -- and amazingly SPOILER-FREE at that), expecting those folks to all adhere to an unwritten and unspoken pact to be silent because a few others were busy that night -- well, no offense, but that's really tough turkey titties for you.  

Take it from someone who's been spoiled on things far more times than he cares to recall: by and large, it's almost always your own damn fault.

Times have changed, and if old fucks like me who were able to watch TV cliffhangers unfold or be resolved before Al Gore ever invented the Internet (spoiler time -- he didn't) -- if I'M able to acclimate to the way technology has changed things, then there's really no excuse whatsoever for people that are 2/3rds or even closer to only half my age to complain. This is the world you've been brought up in. You don't even have to "get with the times" -- you're part of them.

Note: this doesn't apply to movies, as there should be a longer "grace period" than the opening weekend. Now just how long that should be, I'm not sure. I didn't see that mentioned in the invisible pact either.


All that said, it IS a kind of a dick move to post something that's clearly a SPOILER in your Facebook Status Update.  Save it for the comments that follow.  One should avoid plot detail in the "Headline", but then say whatever heck you please in the "story".  I don't mean to undercut my own blog, but taking the devil's advocate point of view -- doing otherwise (from what I just described) seems a bit deliberately willful and petty.

So your update can simply read: "I can't get over what happened on Sport of Kings tonight".

And your subsequent posts under it can then say: "It was bad enough Lord Dinglebottom was banging that horse, but I never expected him to get a hoof straight to the gunnysack and end the episode as Lady Dickbegone." 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Arrested Development, Maybe?

Season Four of Arrested Development made its Netflix debut on Sunday, May 26th.  While I couldn't do a full binge that Sunday, by the next evening I had digested all fifteen Bluth-iful episodes.

I was seriously concerned that my already tempered expectations weren't going to be met as I waded through the first three episodes.  I was forewarned that the format was going to be unlike the first three seasons due to a number of factors, not the least of which was working within the scheduling restraints of nine main cast members as well as assorted guest stars.  Still, by the end of the 3rd episode, my faith was as fleeting as George Senior's own religious views.  

But I soldiered on, thinking at the very worst, it would still be better than Season Four of Community.

And let me tell you, I am thrilled I stuck with it.  The layer upon layer of jokes, both nods to the first three seasons as well as all-new running gags -- reminded me how satisfying it is to be able to truly laugh out loud as opposed to typing "lol".  The intricate threading of plot and surprises worked more often than not, and when I was done. my main disappointment was that there wasn't a 16th episode.

I decided not to write an overall review.  But I had to do something.  Something special.  Something different.  Something that could be embarrassing, but in the way getting up in front of a crowded room to do karaoke can be embarrassing, as opposed to having your pants fall down at the same time.

So I came up with the idea of a little "musical tribute" and try my hand once again at a song parody (I've done silly stuff like that before over the years, albeit not recently).  The only difference: this time commit it to video as opposed to an audio tape or phone call.  This from the guy who doesn't even like his picture being taken.

My original idea was more ambitious, but I eventually whittled the concept down to something more manageable, if still mildly mortifying.

The result is a video that I've finally managed to attach below. I would advise anyone who has the guts to give up 3 minutes and 13 seconds of their lives to watch it -- please be sure to click the CC (Closed Captions) button when you play the video.  That way you can follow the lyrics and learn all new words to one of the biggest ear-worming tunes of the last few years. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing...I'll let you and posterity be the judge.

PS: However, there was one BIG FAT FAIL for Season Four: NO FRANKLIN!  COME ON!