Reunions. Betrayals. Usurpations. (Is that a word?) Just another day at Sterling Cooper and also the second season finale of Mad Men, “Meditations in an Emergency.” AJ, Kenn, and Joe discuss where Don and Betty’s relationship is headed in light of how badly it’s been damaged this season; the Cuban Missile Crisis hanging over every decision these characters make; and the conclusion of Duck’s foolish gambit. There’s also talk of Are You Here, Matthew Weiner’s new film and feature directorial debut. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
Continuing their discussion of Mad Men season 2, AJ, Kenn, and Joe take a look at “The Gold Violin,” wherein the Drapers litter; “A Night to Remember,” in which Father Gill makes his singer/songwriter debut; and “Six Month Leave,” wherein Freddy Rumsen pisses himself. No Hamm Watch this month…but just you wait until next week!
After a short break, AJ, Kenn, and Joe have returned to talk more Mad Men. To help them discuss the first three episodes of season 2, the gang is joined by noted Billy Joel enthusiast/Radio Bastard co-host Jason Tabrys. Kenn and Joe aren’t thrilled by these opening episodes, so AJ and Jason attempt to set them straight; much horse-related humor, discussion of Don’s unglamorous aging, and alpha hipsters follows. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
AJ, Kenn, and Joe have reached the end of Mad Men season 1, and in a way, the end of the first “season” of Smoke Gets in Your Ears. To round things out, the gang discusses the season finale “The Wheel,” including Don’s vulnerabilities and epiphanies, Peggy’s ascension in the office (not to mention the shocking thing that happens to her after the fact), and how Betty is oh so very sad. Plus, don’t miss a super-sized installment of Hamm Watch!
Don’t you just love Pete Campbell, that petulant scamp? No but sort of also yes? Well, that’s exactly the reaction AJ, Kenn, and Joe have on the new episode of Smoke Gets in Your Ears. In addition to admiring/despising Pete’s many admirable/despicable actions (and giving him the best nickname he could ever be given), they discuss “Red in the Face,” in which a slap is heard round the supermarket; “The Hobo Code,” wherein little Dick Whitman learns an important lesson from a hobo; and “Shoot,” in which it is decided that no pigeons are safe from Betty Draper’s wrath. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
Don Draper is a serial philanderer. Walter White is a meth kingpin. Nicholas Brody is a (possibly) reformed terrorist. Nucky Thompson is a gangster. These are not men who do good things. Why, then, do audiences hate their wives so much?
Don, Walt, et al. are enormously popular with viewers, and rightfully so. They’re not necessarily good people, but they’re not strictly bad people either; they’re contradictory, complex, nuanced, comprised of all the elements that make for great drama. If, like myself, you enjoy reading reviews or seeking out online reaction to each episode, though, you’ve probably noticed a worrying trend. Though many applaud the behavior of these characters, all murderers (save Don) and adulterers (save Walt), they’re a lot less willing to afford their wives the benefit of the doubt. Look, I’m not here to be the Moral Police; I’m not interested in discussing the pros and cons of infidelity, especially considering most of these characters’ wives are guilty of same. (Sidenote: I, uh, hope we can all agree murder is bad.)
And it’s not like I don’t get the appeal. I don’t watch Breaking Bad just because it’s a devastating portrait of a man sacrificing everything he holds dear at the altar of power. I also watch it because it is freaking awesome when Walt pulls off the perfect heist. How giddy did the classic “RUN” moment make me? Answer: very. And at the end of the Mad Men season finale, when Don gave the honey at the bar the patented Draper Stare…goddamn. As a viewer, I know full well how thrilling and visceral it can be to watch these men do their dirt. The problem is when you view them as the heroes of their respective stories and any attempts–especially by their wives–to curb or question their behavior as hindering their quest, whatever you think that is. The numbers show that not a whole lot of people actually watch Breaking Bad, and I know that its small but loyal following contains some of the sharpest TV viewers around. But the Internet would also lead me to believe that a bunch of folks would be okay with a show where all Walt does is make meth, kill people, and become the most awesome greatest badass superhero on the planet.
Mad Men fans, rejoice! In recent weeks, the show’s future seemed up in the air as talks between network American Movie Classics and creator Matthew Weiner seemed on the brink of collapsing due to the kind of ordinary Hollywood bullshit negotiating that derails many a project. AMC wanted two cast members cut and more product placement; Weiner wanted neither, plus more money. Weiner even decided to take a ski vacation during negotiations, and just as he hit the slopes, AMC announced that Mad Men would officially return for a fifth season in 2012. Though they didn’t say as much, the implication was clear: “We can get all mad about men with or without you, Weiner.”
Though popular shows changing showrunners isn’t abnormal, Weiner occupies a rarified position among showrunners. He doesn’t just run the show, he is its creative voice. It would be like Buffy the Vampire Slayer without Joss Whedon, or The Sopranos without David Chase. In fact, for the last two seasons of Buffy, Marti Noxon was the showrunner–which some cite as the reason for those seasons’ relative weaknesses–but Whedon was still involved, and his voice and guidance was evident in every major plot twist or character development. What almost happened with Mad Men is that Weiner wouldn’t have been involved at all; not to be hyperbolic, but it would have been like removing Orson Welles from Citizen Kane three-quarters of the way through and replacing him with, say, Frank Capra. That’s not to say the movie still wouldn’t have been decent, but the ending would have been markedly different and it certainly wouldn’t be revered as possibly the greatest film ever made. In essence, we would have seen an ending to a story about the people of Mad Men, but not the ending to the story we’ve been watching for the last few years.