In the pre-penultimate (?) episode of Mad Men, “Lost Horizon,” Don takes a ride, Peggy rollerskates to Roger’s organ accompaniment, and Joan attempts to burn it all down. AJ, Kenn, and Joe discuss the SC&P gang’s anonymity at McCann, whether or not we’ve seen certain of our characters take their curtain calls, and just where the hell Don thinks he’s going. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
Like “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” and “For Immediate Release” before it, “Time & Life” signals a time of great change in the lives of the Sterling Cooper gang. Can Don and the others pull off yet another gambit to save the agency? Why does this feel so familiar and yet so different? AJ, Kenn, and Joe explore these questions and what they mean at this point in the show’s life. Meanwhile, Peggy and Stan have a heart-to-heart, and Pete deals with a weird old money blood feud. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
With “The Phantom,” Mad Men season 5 draws to a close in surprisingly bleak fashion for what at first seemed like an optimistic, enlightened year for the gang at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. AJ, Kenn, and Joe discuss the bitterly ironic endings for each character, what doesn’t exactly work about the finale, whether or not subtlety is overrated, and what the future may hold for our favorite ad men and women. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
AJ, Kenn, and Joe ring in the new year by chronicling the most devastating string of episodes season 5, and perhaps the entirety of Mad Men, has to offer. Those under discussion are “Christmas Waltz,” in which the Negrons pick cotton for the Caucasons; “The Other Woman,” wherein Joan rides a Jaguar; and “Commissions and Fees,” in which the agency is forced to raise (then lower) its Pryces.
Who is Don Draper? That’s the question asked at the beginning of Mad Men season 4, one that will prove to be very important to the season that follows. AJ, Kenn, and Joe get in a celebratory mood circa 1964, starting with Sally’s Thanksgiving regurgitation in “Public Relations”; before moving onto Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s Roman orgy festivities in “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”; and ending with some bad news in “The Good News,” just in time to ring in the new year. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
It’s Christmastime in the city, which means 1963 is almost over. Other things at an end: the Draper marriage, Sterling Cooper, and Mad Men season 3. AJ, Kenn, and Joe discuss the finale, “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.,” in which our cast of characters, who have so often been at odds with one another this year, are forced to band together to start a new chapter of their lives. It’s a heist, Mad Men style; Don’s Eleven, if you will. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
A new season has begun, in more ways than one. As Don gets his Maypole on, AJ, Kenn, and Joe begin the third season of Mad Men. This week, they take a look at “Out of Town,” which features a devious little bellhop; “Love Among the Ruins,” wherein Ann-Margret is a sexy baby; and “My Old Kentucky Home,” which is an extravaganza of blackface, pot-smoking, and accordion-playing. And don’t forget those Brits. Plus, don’t miss another exciting installment of Hamm Watch!
On this, the eve of 2013, Paul and I begin to look back at some of our favorite things of 2012. First up, our ten favorite TV series.
Also, let’s give a slow clap to Paul, who struggled through severe illness just to get these words to you, dear reader. A speedy recovery to you, sir!
PAUL: 10. PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC)
Season 5 gets out of the office a little bit, with Ben and April in Washington D.C. (with an evil robot congressman). Ron gets a new love interest (the always lovely Lucy Lawless). Tom starts a new business. And Andy finds a new career.
AJ: 10. GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
What Game of Thrones did in its first season was nothing short of exceptional, a 10-episode narrative that goes down as one of the finest accomplishments the medium has seen thus far. And while the second season struggled at times to recapture that majesty, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The scope and breadth of George R.R. Martin’s world remains impressive; the cast, especially Peter Dinklage as the kind of noble imp Tyrion Lannister, continues to knock out high fantasy material that would crush lesser actors; and thrilling hours like “Blackwater” remind us that this is the closest thing we have to a Lord of the Rings on TV. And it’s a whole lot nastier and sexier, too.
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.
Last week, Paul and I reached the halfway mark of our countdown of the Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture. Here are excerpts of our thoughts on our picks for #s 60-51, but be sure to listen to the show for our full rundowns.
PAUL: Vincent (Beauty and the Beast)
Speaking with a gruff but gentle whisper and all but hidden beneath an impressive leonine Rick Baker prosthesis (which didn’t, but absolutely should have, won awards), Perlman was the very definition of Romantic-with-a-capital-R misunderstood emo monster heroes for a generation.
AJ: John Locke (Lost)
His regained ability to walk gave him a new lease on life, and he looked at the island as a beautiful, supernatural force. He refused to leave, and tried to get the rest of the group to stay as well, believing them to be there for a greater purpose. The constant push-and-pull between Jack, the man of science, and Locke, the man of faith, became the series’ core thematic conflict.