“No, but he’s renting it.”

Mad Men – "The Rejected"

What a cracking episode of Mad Men. It was most satisfying and had me directing two thumbs up towards Allison in her tremendous confrontation with Don ("I don't say this easily but you are not a good person").

It had absolutely everything from the ensemble cast including fabulous dialogue, hilarious scenes, heartbreaking scenes and great character moments.

Loved Joyce ("sweetheart") and loved her even more when I found out she was Lindsay Crouse's daughter (Zosia Mamet). Her scenes were very funny and managed to make Peggy less awful than usual because her scene with Allison was spot on in showing her cluelessness with people.

The scene as Peggy and Pete's eyes meet each other as they both acknowledge they are truly happy going their separate ways was lovely. Pete is comfortable and very successful as part of the old guard while Peggy is looking for fun and excitement with the bright young people of the future.


Posted via email from F International

Who is Don Draper?

Mad Men “Public Relations”

The opening line of the show asked “who is Don Draper?” and I’m pretty close to not caring. I’m beginning to feel like one of those people who watch Buffy for anybody other than the title character. Don is the lead and I don’t like him. Almost nothing about him is pleasant, not even his face which looked older and flabbier. His lifestyle is catching up with him and it is skeevy.

Betty looked like Margaret Thatcher with her helmet hair, pearls and matronly dresses.

There was yet another Don and Peggy conversation in his office. Her manner has changed, she has more confidence and called Don “spiteful” which seems about right.

Why is Betty still living in the house she had with Don? Is this believable or is it just to create tension (and to make all the Betty haters feel even more justified)?

Overall, the episode didn’t appeal to me. I can’t really remember that much of it i.e. there was nothing outstanding.

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Top TV dramas

In the light of The Guardian’s top 50 television dramas of all time, I thought of the dramas that I remembered fondly and also remembered being, well, top. So, here’s a list which is not in any order except for the first mentioned.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer life-changing and worthy of a blog post or two

I, Claudius the best British drama, completely studio bound yet full of vigour and gripping stories; the acting is astonishing and it was clever, sexy, violent and funny

Edge of Darkness yes, it is dated in many ways but the story is what matters (as well as Bob Peck’s mesmerising performance) [oh my, while looking for clips of this I have found it has been remade (by the same director) with Mel Gibson as Craven]

Mad Men best show on TV, it may be more style than substance to some but not for me and for the moment I am in love with it

Fortunes of War oh, Ken and Em, how did I love you? a lot and this very expensive drama was worth every penny

The Jewel in the Crown it’s the characters that make this particularly Daphne Manners, Sarah Layton and Ronald Merrick although the backdrop of the Raj is always fascinating

Dead Like Me I have only seen this once but it was an instant classic to me; I adore the characters

Survivors I rewatched this recently and it was slow and frankly boring in parts but Carolyn Seymour as Abby simply owned the series and for that, thank you!

Tenko this was compulsive viewing when I was a teen, character driven and all those characters were women; I loved Louise Jamieson, Veronica Roberts and Stephanie Beacham

Firefly one series of highs and lows: “Out of Gas” is among the best episodes of anything of all time

Battlestar Galactica I do wish the Cylons really had had a plan but putting nitpicking the entire series aside, parts of this were flipping brilliant

Blake’s Seven I last saw this when I was a teen but it has stayed with me and I do think I should revisit it just to see how it stands up dramatically and to see if I can work out the reason why Avon was attractive (I don’t want to think about the special effects)

(wow, that looks, um, well…the theme music’s good)

Tutti Frutti Emma Thompson again and I remember loving this very British drama

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil this was outrageous and although I enjoyed the majority of it, I always hated the ending which probably means I missed the point

Taking Over the Asylum Ken Stott is magnificent in this and the setting is certainly unique

When the Boat Comes In we really used to make brilliant lengthy historical series like this, Poldark, The Onedin Line and The House of Eliot and make them seem effortless

Carnivàle okay, I have only seen eight episodes but I think this has potential to be very high on my list (if it was in any order)

A Very Peculiar Practice I thought this was fabulous when i was young, I was less enamoured with it when it was repeated relatively recently but Barbara Flynn was the business as Dr Rose Marie

Testament of Youth seen once but I remember it made me cry a lot

Therese Raquin this was filthy, I remembered that very well but on rewatching I appreciated even more the performances of Brian Cox, Kate Nelligan and a very youthful looking Kenneth Cranham

A Very British Coup this felt like a documentary and the ending is so tragic

[I think I had a rather odd crush on Alan MacNaughtan who was also in To Serve Them All My Days]

The Crow Road great stuff, thoroughly Scottish with a standout perfomance by Bill Paterson

Fanny and Alexander, Berlin Alexanderplatz I am shamefully putting these together but both are examples of great foreign TV series directed by people better known as film directors, both were gripping and both were more mature than anything on British TV at the time

A Kind of Loving my forgotten gem in this list

A list of other things I watched when I was younger: To Serve Them All My Days, Upstairs, Downstairs, Angels, Juliet Bravo, The Gentle Touch, All Passion Spent, Driving Ambition, The Beiderbecke Affair, Jonathan Creek, Chandler & Co, Bergerac, Shoestring, Between the Lines – bloody hell, telly was good in the old days!* What I think is interesting is that I didn’t watch many American imports (notably The Rockford Files and Cagney & Lacey) when I was young because they were all rather rubbishy. How things have changed.

*Of course, it wasn’t. This is a list from approximately forty years of TV and I don’t think I have even listed one series a year. And I’m sure Spooks or Life On Mars/Ashes to Ashes are to other people as good as, say, The Gentle Touch

Did I fall asleep? For a little while.

This blog hasn’t died. It may be hibernating a little bit.

I may start “reviewing” Buffy in January when we start rewatching it with Adam. He has only seen a handful of episodes from before S4 and maybe by the time we get to S6 he’ll be able to stand Spuffy. Though…I don’t see why he should when I can’t, but at least he may be physically able to watch it rather than giving up in dismay when Spike and Buffy started snogging regularly (and anyway, there were episodes in S6 that a 12 year old shouldn’t watch).

We finished Angel and thank you, Andy, for struggling along with me as we negotiated the final season. I may have fallen out of love with Joss Whedon and coupled with the unravelling of Dollhouse, I have become increasing more estranged from the fandom which adores all that he does (and I thought I was one of them too…). I see terrible dialogue, awkward exposition, two dull leads, fine actors struggling with their lines, illogical plotting, a villain motivated by jealousy (which, admittedly, was good enough for Shakespeare but bores me in the ‘House), fake out deaths, etc, and I don’t like it very much. I do love Enver Gjokaj (and his hilarious turn as Topher did reveal it is Topher I can’t stand not Fran Kranz so apologies to him) and Olivia Williams (but even she falters over the poor dialogue at times and her costuming is unflattering and makes her look like she frequents Bhs) and I am grateful that I get to see them on my screen.

We have started watching Carnivàle and, despite the nagging doubts I have over what is unresolved at the end of S2, I do like it a lot. Nick Stahl is a little lightweight as Ben but the rest of the cast are wonderful. I particularly like Patrick Bauchau as Lodz, Michael J. Anderson as Samson and Clancy Brown as Justin, and I have liked Clea DuVall since “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” and it is refreshing to have a leading lady who looks like somebody you might meet in real life. The last episode we watched “Pick a Number” had a devastatingly horrible ending with Dora Mae being left in Babylon to be raped for eternity. The photography is stunning, the music superb and the theme is most unusual. I like the fact it is a period piece and the atmosphere of the carnival is well presented.

There you go.

ETA: Mad Men! What a show. Love it. Read and absorbed too much to write about the final episodes with any degree of originality but best show on TV by far. It wasn’t always satisfactory (Miss Farrell for a start) and a few characters were neglected but always gripping.

I had a great idea and I lost it

Mad Men - The Color Blue - Betty and Don

Mad Men – “The Color Blue” (Kater Gordon* and Matthew Weiner)

I was surprised with all the love that this episode got online. It was good but it felt very much part of the build up to the conclusion of S3. Only Mad Men could have someone make a huge discovery and then make us and them wait to do something about it.

Many people find the domestic scenes dull and want more Sterling Cooper machinations. Since Betty is the most intriguing character for me then I am happy for the show to spend time with her. I am less happy to spend time with Don and Suzanne. I think her brother is more important. Don saw Adam in that boy and tried to help him which he failed to do for Adam. I think the money and card are going to prove important but I don’t know how. Many people think Suzanne is nuts which I find eye-rollingly irritating (just as people were so utterly determined that Don was Jewish in S1). I thought her following Don onto the train was unbelievable (she should be doing her job, for heaven’s sake) rather than sinister. Her morals are lacking, that’s true. And she make that phone call.

I liked the short scenes leading up to Betty’s finding of the keys but I do wish they had shown Betty going through the box more thoroughly. I think the focus on the divorce papers was distracting but I do wonder if she is going to California soon. My favourite moment in the show was when Betty sat down in the chair and her face was caught by a patch of sunlight: she was illuminated. The gut wrenching moment in the show was Don telling Betty that he wanted to show her off at the dinner: ouch, that sums up what he thinks of you, Betty.

Man Men - The Color Blue - Paul and Peggy

Peggy was awesome throughout. She was funny, kind, thoughtful and brilliant. Paul’s face was full of astonished admiration rather than anything sinister when she pulled that idea out of the bag.

It is a bit of a cheek to want a writer to tell a different story from the one that he or she is determined to tell. However, I can’t disagree with the point of view of Donny Brook over at Basket of Kisses:

There are so many intriguing ideas and characters they’ve just left lying around while we obsess on Don’s same old boring behavior. I mean what was the point of PPL – how can the Brits just leave before the Beatles arrive in the states? How can MW have wasted such a delicious character as Moneypenny? How come Ken still doesn’t have a backstory? Was Peggy’s dalliance with Duck just a one night stand? Is the Ken/Pete war just a red herring? Are they ever going to flesh out Carla and Hollis, or at least introduce one AA character that is like a real human being? I know, let’s make Pete rape someone and then don’t have him on for 3 episodes! Let’s write out Sal and push Joan out to the side, nobody cares about them!

*now off the show: I thought this and “The Fog” were fine work

I want a Hilton on the moon

Mad Men S03E09 - Sal

Mad Men – “Wee Small Hours” (Dahvi Waller and Matthew Weiner)

In a series full of great scenes, the scene when Don fires Sal is up there with Betty shooting pigeons and Peggy telling Pete that she had his baby. Don may be damaged and a wee bit stressed about living a whopping great big lie but he isn’t actually very nice (which damaged people can be). I understand why he fired Sal (sort of) but how he did it was cruel and appalling. “Don’t shake his hand!” I shouted several times at Sal. I am devastated for Sal but I think the scene in the phone box in the park with a leather boy in the background was a wee bit too much.

As was Pete’s coughing fit. However, most people would have left the room.

Harry is sweet but useless. I reckon Sal would been sacked anyway but by doing nothing, Harry ensured that was the case.

“Reject him!” I shouted at Suzanne. Not that I care about her at all. I can honestly say the only thing I can remember her saying in all her appearances is that she was going to talk about Martin Luther King to her pupils. She doesn’t engage me at all. Is it the actor? Poor characterisation? (And what is it with the jogging in the middle of the night and the staying up late drinking? She must get about two hours sleep.) All I care is that with her so close to home, Don is bound to get caught.

Don’s Midas touch as an ad man is deserting him. Awful people like Connie Hilton (nobody likes your hotels, well, okay, my mum wasn’t impressed anyway) and his lunatic demands aren’t helping Don (not much sleep going on in the Draper house) but I loved Don’s humiliation when Connie told him how disappointed he was in him.

I could not stand being in a job that demanded my attention outside normal hours, which, of course, explains why I have been in the same department for nearly 21 years.

I thought the writing for Betty during the fund raising scene was dreadful. I can see Betty being put out that Henry didn’t turn up but she would not have been so rude to the woman and certainly wouldn’t have stomped across the room like a twelve year old. No well bred person who cared as much for appearances would behave like that not even fan favourite (/sarcasm) Betty Draper.

I did like her coming to her senses in Henry’s office. I think the turn of the key in the lock was the trigger for her; the moment she realised that an affair may only be a fling for him (maybe not) but whatever she definitely wants more than that.

Betty was seen being nice to her children and to Carla. It really did happen folks; there is no need to be so blind about her character.

Mad Men is the best thing on TV. I look forward to it each week but each week I feel a little bit deflated; a little bit as if it isn’t quite as good as it could have been. For example, I do think we don’t know enough about the internal business of Betty, and this makes her seem, to many people, to be fickle and shallow. I’m not sure that she is but in the first season, I used to get irritated when people thought her childish because I never thought she was. However, in TV series time, it is three and a half years later and she now does behave childishly at times. She hasn’t changed enough and it is, dare I say, a little tedious.

As an aside last night, I said to Andy that Don was the Spike of Mad Men. By that I meant, I don’t, in my heart, give a toss about his past or about his interactions with anybody (notable exceptions are Betty and Peggy) but unlike Spike in Buffy, Don is the lead character. There was no way I could ever enjoy “The Jet Set” because it was all about him. And I desperately don’t care about his affairs, which is sort of a huge chunk of what Mad Men is about.

…of the republic of dresses

Mad Men S03 E08 - I adore Anne Dudek as Francine - she's a sly one

Mad Men – “Souvenir” (Lisa Albert and Matthew Weiner)

It vaguely amuses me that some people call Mad Men misogynistic when it is probably misandrist, if it is anything. Imagine if this series was written by a woman. Yikes!

Better to think of it as a study of power, privilege and entitlement, which, in this case, is exclusively wielded by men.

The men (in general) are inwardly unpleasant: if they are married, they are, to a man, cheats and liars. The women are not perfect but they are definitely more sympathetic (in general). Betty is the most problematic. For a lot of people, she is not sympathetic because they don’t understand what her beef is. This is a reason why I appreciate this show because the obvious way would have been to portray Betty’s unhappiness in simpler ways: the usual shorthand would be abuse of some nature and Don is not like that to Betty.

I am finding it exhausting reading people’s responses to anything that Betty does (that is one advantage of waiting months to watch it on British TV). There are people who take anything she does as ill intentioned. I am still waiting for the howls of outrage at Don’s scarpering at the first mention of Sally’s misbehaviour. Betty is literally met at the door by real-life and she can’t escape the way that he can and does.

Betty in Rome starkly emphasised that she is an adroit, amusing and intelligent person. I’m not sure about that hair though. She had a whale of time and Francine brought her right down to earth. Her outburst in the bedroom seemed childish to me at first but she knows her life is dull and restricted. She went to Rome after Henry kissed her and although I thought at first she had dismissed an affair with him, the ending of the episode makes that a little more likely.

Betty’s words to Sally that “You don’t kiss boys, boys kiss you.” is tragic advice. Girls are probably still taught that now that boys are active and girls are passive. And certainly it was what Pete thinks. He has no idea that he raped Gudrun. No idea at all – because he’s a boy and boys kiss girls. It doesn’t actually matter if the girls don’t want to be kissed.

Remember Pete’s outburst from “Out of Town”? “Why does it have to be like this? Why can’t I get anything good all at once?” His actions in this are a natural progression from that entitled egoistical attitude.

What bugs me most about Pete’s behaviour is how it negated the amusing scenes of him shrugging his way out of his shirt and of him watching children’s tv and laughing. Actually, what really bugs me is that I had a brief fantasy that Pete was actually just going to be nice. I suppose that is probably how he thought about it at first. He is pathetic and childish and can’t be trusted. If Trudy hadn’t been away he would never have strayed (I can’t remember if Trudy was away when he slept with the model in “Maidenform” but I bet she was).

I was as surprised as Pete to see Joan in the department store. I assume it is a drop in status from her reaction after he left. It was a well-written scene with Pete asking her twice how she was doing.

Courtesy of GIF Party

I want to take your clothes off with my teeth and give you a go-around like you’ve never had.

Mad Men S03E07 - Betty

Mad Men – “Seven Twenty Three” ( Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton and Matthew Weiner)

Another excellent episode. I am pleased that this show is picking up mid-season and I am doubly pleased to see some Betty scenes in S3 that I actually enjoyed.

I was oddly elated during her scenes involving Henry Francis. I know what she is doing and if she was married to a faithful husband then I would be mortified but she’s married to Don who was at his most hateful throughout this episode.

Betty highlights include being bashful about the effect of her looks (I love Francine: “It’s not adorable to pretend like you’re not adorable”), her interactions with the children (“freeze!”), trying the drawer in Don’s study, the chat with Henry in the cafe, her dismissal of Roger, and her confrontation with Don (“It’s three years, Don! What’s the matter, you don’t know where you’re going to be in three years?” and “You’re right. Why would I think that has anything to do with me?”).

I have suddenly acknowledged that January Jones sometimes gives weakish performances and I wonder if Betty’s iciness is not just her character but JJ’s rather frozen acting style.

Peggy makes terrible decisions at times. I’m not at all prepared to guess how her decision to sleep with Duck will pan out but I do hope she doesn’t end up working for him.

In another odd turn of events, I thought the scene in the morning when they began having sex again was erotic (sorry). Even so, Duck’s seduction technique made me laugh quite hard.

Peggy is young, she’s had a Catholic upbringing, she has no friends, she has nowhere to turn for advice, New Cosmopolitan hasn’t been launched yet, no wonder she makes mistakes.

A mistake she shouldn’t have made was to go into Don’s office after Roger had just left. Boy, was Don hard on her! Not all unjustified but harsh. Elisabeth Moss was awesome here.

Across the usual blogs there were many complains about Peggy being a Norwegian Catholic (as if it was impossible not just improbable) and yet Conrad Hilton was a Catholic Norwegian. I loved Don’s response to him when he was critical of his office décor: “Maybe I’m not on time because I was with my family reading the Bible.” Hilton was in Don’s chair as were Betty and Cooper.

How much do I enjoy Pete and Peggy together? They bicker beautifully.

Don is quite spectacularly nasty and it was hard to feel sorry for him when he was felled by the male hitch-hiker. I thought those scenes were the weakest part of the episode. Though I thought the grammatical error in the hitch-hikers’ note was a delicious touch (I sincerely hope it was deliberate).

Don is not the reason why I watch Mad Men. He’s very important but he’s not why I watch it with relish.

What the hell just happened?

Mad Men – “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” (Robin Veith & Matthew Weiner)

Mad Men - Joan closes the light

What an episode.

Random observations:

  • Jared Harris made me think of of his dad, Richard, as Dumbledore when he addressed the whole office.
  • The title of this episode is cheeky.
  • I write a blog post about how humourless the show is and then this comes along. It was extremely funny.
  • Joan is a great character. And Christina Hendricks makes her even more compelling. This episode showed that the entire series could be about her. Her scene with her husband where she tries very hard to make him feel better was riveting. The actor who plays Greg (Sam Page) was pretty good in scene too.
  • Don and Joan have such extraordinary chemistry. And Christina said the following lines perfectly:

But that’s life. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower.

  • Peggy desperately trying to talk to Joan was frustrating because she didn’t say what she wanted to say before…
  • The riding mower incident was very close to being a jump the shark moment but I think they pulled it off. I think the guy playing Guy was brilliant in his agony and seeing Joan in full efficiency mode was wonderful.
  • Betty gets a lot of flak for being a poor mother. What I think many people fail to see is that she is quite an ordinary mother because, guess what, mothering isn’t something we can do perfectly just because we have a vagina. She tries and she sometimes fails. What we rarely see (never?) on the show is her parenting triumphs.
  • I see a bit of my parenting in Betty. I lose my temper and get frustrated and it takes Andy to step in and defuse the situation. And that happens the other way around too.
  • Betty accepts Sally’s apology rather sweetly, however, that is rather overshadowed by Don’s parenting triumph in the conclusion to this episode.
  • Pete catches Peggy when she faints.
  • I love the exchange between Guy and Pete. It is hard to tell which part of Guy’s statement that Pete is referring to.

Guy: I know everything about you. You’re a very impressive fellow.
Pete: I wish I could return the compliment.

  • Don looked like California Don in the first scene he has with Sally.
  • Don and Betty have a normal conversation when she offers him leftovers for his tea and he asks her if he would like to go to London. They actually seemed like a normal couple for a while eating Ritz crackers and drinking Budweiser.
  • Roger had the best line:

Paul: He might lose his foot.
Roger: Right when he got it in the door.

  • I didn’t really understand why Guy’s career in advertising was over. Douglas Bader lost more than a foot and he managed to fight in the Battle of Britain. However, in light of the fact that Lane was asked to remove his glasses when he met the other English executives seems to indicate an intolerance of imperfection which is an odd characterisation of the English.
  • I may have got over my fear of Ken. I think he may just be an uncomplicated fellow.