Tag Archives: Mad Men

The Best 24 Hours of TV (Part 2)

Today I continue the list I started of the best hours of TV. Like 24-13, this list only includes hour-long series from the last twenty years or so, and only shows I’ve watched (again, sorry about the lack of The Wire). Again, spoilers for all these shows up the the episode listed. So if you’re not caught up skip down.

12. “Blink” Doctor Who, Series 3 Episode 11

It’s a bit of a shame that the only episode of Doctor Who to make my list doesn’t really feature much of the Doctor, but that’s part of the reason this episode is so compelling. Following Sally Sparrow (an early-career Carey Mulligan!) as she interacts with vestiges the Doctor has left behind after being trapped in 1969, the episode uses time travel in a truly unique way. It’s an episode longtime fans and neophytes can enjoy equally, as the audience is reintroduced to the Doctor along with Sally. Steven Moffat is at his best here, before he became showrunner, telling a story about some truly terrifying monsters who can only move when they aren’t seen. He taps into one of our fundamental fears: you must look at the thing that wants to kill you, stare at it unblinkingly, or it will get you. I’d recommend not watching this episode too close to bedtime.

11. “Q&A” Homeland, Season 2 Episode 5

It’s hard not to watch this episode from Homeland’s second season and say to yourself, “damn, this is good television.” That’s certainly what I said to myself as I watched Carrie systematically break Brody down in the interrogation room, all pretentions, secrets, and distractions gone. The sometimes absurd nature of the show is gone. The extraneous teenagers are gone. The exotic settings and characters are gone. It’s just the two of them there, in that room. Claire Danes and Damien Lewis are those characters. They own this episode. And they will take your breath away.

10. “The Wheel” Mad Men, Season 1 Episode 13

“Good luck at your other meetings,” Duck Phillips says to Kodak after Don’s intense presentation of his campaign for their new slide projector. Really, Matthew Weiner is saying to the audience, “good luck watching any other TV show after seeing this.” Mad Men started off its first season a little shaky, with a great concept but so-so execution. Quickly it morphed into the best show on television (at that moment) and culminated in this astounding season 1 finale. A lot happens and a lot is wrapped up, but the episode is really about those minutes with Kodak and Don. Don’s pitch with photos from his own Potemkin life with Betty was so convincing he even sold himself on this life a little bit. And so he rushes home to what he imagines will be a glorious welcome, but in reality, is the emptiness he has enshrouded himself in.

9. “Two Cathedrals” The West Wing, Season 2 Episode 22

After Aaron Sorkin ripped out our souls by killing Mrs. Landingham (the late-great Kathryn Joosten) in the penultimate episode of season 2, he delivered this force-of-nature episode to close out the year. If The West Wing was about bringing a microscope to the often faceless government and humanizing a figure as distant as the president, it never does it better than in this episode. It’s actually perfect, from the flashbacks to President Bartlett’s youth with his father to the scene in the National Cathedral with the cigarette to the moment a rain-soaked Bartlett decides to run for a second term by putting his hands in his pockets and smiling. Yeah he has Multiple Sclerosis and yeah, he lied about it and yeah, it’s going to be hard but he’s going to run again. And we’re going to run to season three with him.

8. “33” Battlestar Galactica, Season 1 Episode 1

Not exactly a series premiere, in that it is preceded by a miniseries that introduced the setting and characters, but “33” does start the show by establishing the tone and pace of the Battlestar Galactica to come. That tone is dark and that pace is very, very fast. In the episode the remains of humanity in the Colonial fleet must jump through space every 33 minutes lest the Cylons find them.  When they realize the Cylons are tracking one particular ship, Adama and Roslin order it destroyed, even though it may be carrying humans. Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of. But the world is basically over and you know what they say about desperate times. The always amazing Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell are particularly brilliant in this exceedingly well-written episode, which tells us the one thing Battlestar Galactica is about more than anything else: survival.

7. “College” The Sopranos Season 1 Episode 5

Tony Soprano has been described as TV’s first great anti-hero, and it’s this episode where that status is cemented. While taking Meadow on a college tour Tony spots an old wiseguy in witness protection. In a very literal show of his personality, he spends half his time tracking down and killing the snitch and half the time being a father who encourages Meadow’s denial of his real profession. This is where you learn to love and hate Tony with some consistency. He’s never going to be just a good or just a bad guy. Yeah he killed a federally-protected man with his bare hands, but he also really loves his daughter. It’s this cognitive dissonance that keeps you coming back to The Sopranos.

6. “Blackwater” Game of Thrones, Season 2 Episode 9

Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire are gifted with one episode per season written by the big man himself, George RR Martin. In season 2 he took on an episode which I consider to be the most ambitious hour of television ever. Take a battle the scale of any one battle from The Lord of the Rings or Braveheart or any other cinematic epic, add a big old green explosion, lots of exposition, and no real hero or villain, and do it all in one hour on a television budget. The result was the best any fan of the show or the book series could have hoped for, something epic and intimate all at once. The stakes were high, the writing was tight and urgent, and the usual disparate locations and characters were abandoned for an hour focused just on King’s Landing. When people talk about TV being the “new cinema,” they’re talking about episodes like this.

5 & 4. “Pilot Parts 1 and 2” Lost, Season 1 Episodes 1 and 2

Lots of fans will point to season 4’s The Constant as the best episode of Lost and one of the best episodes of all time, but although the hour devoted to Desmond and Penny is beautiful and sad, it does not compare to the brilliance of the pilot. The two-hour pilot is so well-written and executed, establishing the rules of the show without relying too much on exposition or becoming too complicated for a viewer. They’ve crashed, and there’s something weird about this island, and not in a predictable way at all (how many of you were able to guess that there would be a polar bear in the South Pacific?). The flashbacks in the entire series may have been slightly uneven, but in the pilot they are pitch-perfect, leading up to the reveal at the end of the episode that the seemingly-innocent Kate (Evangeline Lilly) was the one wearing the handcuffs all along. Whatever your feelings about the series as a whole, its hard to deny these episodes place as one of the best episodes of all time, and perhaps the greatest pilot ever.

3. “Objects in Space” Firefly, Season 1 Episode 14

This episode is one of the most poetic and philosophical things you’ll ever see on a TV series. The last episode produced before Firefly was cancelled, “Objects in Space” is wonderfully weird and trippy but also dark and pondering. Whedon really gets down to the very soul of his characters in the context of action. Using a bounty hunter named Jubal Early searching the ship for fugitive River, Whedon exposes each character’s greatest weakness, fear and insecurity by having Early systematically take each of them down. While some confrontations are physical, his interaction with Kaylee is brutally psychological. River is only able to defeat Early by mounting a similar psychological attack, momentarily convincing him that she has spiritually joined with Serenity and eventually tricking him into being pushed into space by Mal. The final words of the episode, as Early floats through space into oblivion, are especially haunting: “Well…here I am.”

2. “The Suitcase” Mad Men Season 4 Episode 7

Mad Men is great because it combines a shared history (the 60s) with a workplace that tends to reveal things about its broken characters, and a particularly compelling anti-hero. This episode is the pinnacle of all of those things. The history is the Ali vs. Liston fight, the Samsonite campaign reveals a lot about Peggy, and Don is at his most “hero” (as in, not the terrible person he normally is) when dealing with the death of Anna Draper, the only person who ever knew him. The relationship of these two characters is what Mad Men is all about in the end, and this episode highlights their lives in a profound way. It’s not just that Peggy doesn’t think Don appreciates her. It’s not just that Don doesn’t think Peggy is good enough. It’s so, so much more. Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are undeniably fantastic in the episode, the best of the series by far. When it focuses on these two essential characters, the show is creating something incredibly captivating. Basically, anytime Don and Peggy are in a room together talking, Mad Men shines.

1. “The Body” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5 episode 16

Here it is, in my opinion, the best episode of television ever. I wish it wasn’t so far in Buffy’s run so that people who have never seen the show could just watch it right now. It’s the saddest, most gut-wrenching hour you’ll spend watching TV, and the realest, even though it takes place in a supernatural world. Buffy’s mom, the immeasurable Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), an incredible mother to Buffy and surrogate to her friends, has died of a brain aneurism. Separate from the world of vampires and demons she is used to, Buffy must deal with this real and horrible loss, and so must her sister and her friends. The show, normally bouncing to the tune of an action score, lacks music for the entire hour, pounding the sound of every sob and angry word into the ears of the viewer. This episode is Joss Whedon’s true masterpiece. It’s impeccable in every way. Seven people must deal with loss, and so must everyone who watches.

So there it is, the best day of television you could watch. Let me know if you think I’m right or out of my mind.

The Best 24 Hours of TV (Part 1)

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While re-watching of Doctor Who recently (inspired by my own post about Matt Smith’s 11 best eps) I started thinking about my favorite hours of television, period. What would I watch if I spent one day just binging on the best possible TV I could find? That’s the beauty of having untold hours of TV at your disposal: you make it what you want it to be.

It’s really hard to pick. I can tell you. Ask me what the best episode of any particular show is, and I’d have two or three I could tell you right away. For some there’s a single clear winner. But pitting episodes of different series against each other is hard. So much relies on context and tone. A lot of your feelings toward any particular episode are colored by your feelings towards the show or season as a whole. Plus your favorites aren’t always the best. Really, really good episodes of television can be hard to watch (lets all think about last week’s Game of Thrones now. Crying? Good).

So taking that all into account, I’ve compiled a list of the best twenty-four episodes (read: one whole day or the sunlight parts of one whole weekend) of television that I have come across. Here are the first twelve, ranked because, why not. It does include multiple episodes of some shows, because this isn’t about episodes representative of the series, but rather stand alone hours. This excludes half-hour shows, for complexity’s sake. And though I love classic TV and there are some great episodes from way back (see Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles” or The Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Last”), I’m sticking to the past twenty years or so.

This also, pretty obviously, only includes shows I’ve watched, and I haven’t watched everything. For example, The Wire is conspicuously absent. (I’m going to watch it soon I promise!) I do, occasionally, have to do something else besides watch TV.

Some things I noticed when compiling this list are that series tend to show greatness when they move away from their formula, say, benching the main character or flashing forward or back. Series/season finales and premiers also tend to shine, but there are the occasional diamonds in the rough of a regular season.

Spoilers for the shows listed, so if you haven’t seen that show up to that season, skip down.

24. “Epitaph 1” Dollhouse Season 1 Episode 13

Fair warning, there’s going to be a lot of Joss Whedon on this list, but there’s a damn good reason: he makes really great TV. Although Dollhouse wasn’t always the most loved of his shows (or really, the most understood) it definitely had some standout episodes, most notably the season 1 ender that Fox didn’t air. It is an incredibly compelling hour that taps into our collective fear of dystopia and of fast-advancing technology. The complex and confusing concept of the entire show is seen as going somewhere beyond the scenario-of-the-week. Not a very good somewhere, but still. And suddenly we all have to ask ourselves what makes identity, what makes life? Consciousness? Body? In the future, none of that may matter.

23. “Into You Like a Train” Grey’s Anatomy, Season 2 Episode 6

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve watched ABC’s soapy doctor drama, mostly when the odd medical situations and irrational character decisions became a weekly occurrence  the show became too much to believe. But I was really captivated by the series at the beginning; especially by this season 2 episode where a train collision becomes a metaphor for the way the characters’ lives are spinning out of control. And because the show was able to make me care so much about these guest stars tangential to the real action, it brought tears. It was a hard-hitting emotional moment, and it was genuine. The series went downhill when these started being fake.

22. “Pilot” Glee, Season 1 Episode 1

Like Grey’s, I haven’t watched Glee in awhile (I gave up midway through season 2). It was one of the sadder times I ever gave up on a series, mostly because Glee had so much potential. The first few episodes, and namely, the pilot, were something new and different, a nuanced look at high school, marriage, and social norms. Back when “Don’t Stop Believing” wasn’t a cliché the kids of McKinley High rocked it to great dramatic effect. I didn’t want to stop believing in the show. But unfortunately, after they came back from that season 1 hiatus, I did.

21. “Company Man” Heroes, Season 1 Episode 17

Heroes may have started its slow decline in season 2 but midway through season 1 the show was at its peak, especially with this extremely personal episode. Moving away from the location hopping it was prone to, the episode focused on Claire, her father, and how they got where they are. Why do we do the things we do? Because of our pasts. Questions are answered, new ones are raised, and fans were left wanting more. Unfortunately, they never got another episode like this.

20. “Hush” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4 Episode 10

Joss Whedon likes to circumvent expectations. When most of the praise Buffy the Vampire Slayer was getting revolved around his fast-paced and witty dialogue, he turned the tables by writing an episode that was three-quarters a silent film. Only on Buffy can you do a special episode like this, where it’s already supernatural so anything goes. Here the terrifying Gentlemen (easily Buffy’s scariest monsters) come to Sunnydale and steal all the voices so no one can scream. But the episode is really about communication, be it Xander’s inability to tell to Anya how much he cares about her, Buffy and Riley’s inability to tell each other how they feel, or newcomer Tara’s inability to speak in front of people at all. Of course, when the characters stop speaking they start communicating. And also do some very funny hand gestures.

19. “What Kind of Day has it Been?” The West Wing, Season 1 Episode 22

Aaron Sorkin really likes to structure his episodes back-to-front, showing a series of scenes we don’t understand at the beginning and then filling in the blanks with the rest of the hour. This is perhaps best executed in the season 1 finale, which seems like an ordinary day at the office, and escalates to one heck of a cliffhanger (gunshots, sirens, a call over the radio: “who’s been hit?”). Who said there can’t be action in a workplace drama? Certainly not Sorkin, who saw the success of the assassination storyline and structured the three other seasons he stayed on the show with cliffhanger endings.

18. “Pilot” Twin Peaks, Season 1 Episode 1

David Lynch’s crime thriller ventured from the melodramatic to the downright absurd, chronicling an eccentric FBI agent in his investigation into the murder of a popular high school girl. TV owes a lot to the drama, the anti-procedural that drew out a single mystery over a season and a half. There was a creative decline in season 2, but when it premiered, the pilot of Twin Peaks was unlike anything else. Nothing in this small Pacific Northwest town was what it seemed, and nothing about the show was what it seemed either.

17. “Baelor” Game of Thrones, Season 1 Episode 9

This was the moment that Game of Thrones changed something about TV. Granted, George RR Martin killed Ned Stark off back in the 90s in the first installment of his A Song of Ice and Fire book series. But even though fans can go check Wikipedia summaries of the books, they were still shocked beyond belief that a show would kill off its main character, and supposed hero, during its first season. The episode is impeccably shot, most notably the way we see Ned’s death through his daughter Arya’s eyes. It was shocking, it was sad, and mostly, it changed the rules of the game. Of course that was nothing compared to this year’s Red Wedding, but you could not have one without the other.

16. “Out of Gas” Firefly, Season 1 Episode 8

This flashback-heavy episode is made all the more important by the fact that Fox never aired the original pilot for the series, which did a much better job establishing life on Serenity than “The Train Job” did. Here, while the life support on the trusty ship is failing, we get moments from each character, an introduction we’ve never seen before, doorway into this unlikely family. This episode is everything that made Firefly great, the characters and Serenity. It was never about outer space, just the people flying through it together.

15. “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” Mad Men, Season 3 Episode 13

The season 3 finale of Mad Men has the rare quality of being an undeniable bit of fan-service (SCDP is born! Joan comes back! Don respects Peggy for a hot second!) but also a damn good hour of television. Everything changes for Don at once here, as he divorces both his wife and the old company. It also serves to showcase what really matters to this man, namely, his own notoriety and power. He refuses to be swallowed up by the McCann and Erickson machine and so he starts a new company where he gets to be in control. And without that pesky suburban life of his, he has more time to focus on maintaining his power at the new firm.

14. “Once More With Feeling” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 6 Episode 7

TV musicals are hard. There have been some really great one-off musical episodes over the years, but none of them can compare to “Once More With Feeling.” Joss Whedon took time off from running the show to write and compose all of the songs, with great results. It’s another instance show’s supernatural setting allows for a “special” episode (read: a demon comes to town who uses magic to turn life into a musical). But it’s not a fluffy episode, there’s a lot going on. Tara discovers Willow has been playing with her mind, Giles decides to go back to the UK, Anya and Xander realize how they might not really want to get married, and Buffy reveals that the gang didn’t bring her back from some hell dimension, but rather violently pulled her out of heaven. Oh and Buffy and Spike kiss for the first time. All while singing and dancing.

13. “Cat’s in the Bag” Breaking Bad, Season 1 Episode 2

Only in its second episode, Breaking Bad lays all its cards on the tables, and the audience realizes what it’s getting into. On Walter White’s journey there is very little time to think about morality and to decide what side you’re on. He kills someone right away. It’s pretty clear where he’s going. There’s a lot of gruesomeness to the episode, whether in the images of dissolving flesh or in the way Walter and Krazy 8 try to manipulate each other. It’s just a shade of things to come.

So what do you think? Am I horribly wrong? Am I awesomely right? What do you think are the best hours of TV? Let me know! And look out for the top 12, coming soon.

Mad Men Recap: To Lose and to Want

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 3: “To Have and to Hold”

Source: https://i0.wp.com/www.seat42f.com/wp-content/gallery/madmens6e4/mad-men-season-6-episode-4-to-have-and-to-hold-1.jpgFirst, apologies for the lack of recap last week. Monday was a rough day for everyone, and I couldn’t get a recap up in time. But it’s not a big loss. Suffice to say I was not a fan of the episode. But this week the show returned to form and it did it beautifully. Cue sigh of relief. And now on to the recap.

It took four hours but we finally got a real Joan storyline and the biggest single fallout from season 6: Joan’s big secret and her big promotion. In an office like SCDP there was no way that Joan’s prostitution was going to be kept quiet. It’s unfortunate for everyone (the characters, the audience, humanity) that Harry Crane is the first one to say it out loud. There are few things on this show (and indeed, life) worse than a Harry Crane temper tantrum. And  his brand new glasses and sideburns only make him easier to hate. There was some truth in what he was saying about being under-appreciated, but the people who ask for appreciation never get it. He’s never fit in, neither at Sterling Cooper nor at SCDP. He’s talented and they need him, but nobody likes him. He has a great facade and no substance. I predict he won’t be at SCDP much longer. It’s interesting to think that of the founding members of SCDP, (Don, Bert, Roger, Pete, Peggy, Joan, Harry and Lane), five are partners, one quit, one died, and one is Harry.

Joan is feeling the fallout of her situation on a personal level too. Her friend Kate is in town, another career woman, in this instance, from Mary Kay, and is pressuring Joan to act like the woman she was in season 1 or 2, when she still lived with a roommate and had one night stands just because she felt like it. The scene at the soda shop with phones at the tables (was this really a thing? why? I will investigate) looked and felt wrong. Joan didn’t belong there. She belonged even less in the cab and at the club. She really just seemed so old. So mature. An executive, like Kate said. The way she convinced herself to kiss the man was a little hard to watch. Christina Hendricks did some of her best work in this episode. The firing the secretary storyline is one we’ve encountered with Joan a few times before, and I was pleased that this time it led to forward motion for Harry and for Dawn.

Speaking of Dawn, she exists! At last Mad Men has an African American character with her own storylines completely devoid of other regulars. I’m so intrigued to know more about Dawn. The scenes she was in tonight were all strategic and revealing. Letting herself be taken advantage of at work and the fallout alongside the two scenes in the diner showed us that she’s a pushover and that she’s honest. And that she, like Peggy, is getting something different out of that office than the search for a man.

Poor Megan Calvet Draper found her man and her dream career but can’t have both. I’d think she’d have a lot to say in this whole “can women have it all” debate. As her soap opera role gets bigger and bigger (without any evidence as to why she got it, we have to assume it’s because Don gave her that commercial) they’re giving her a sex scene. Her biggest worry is about Don, who she still believes to be monogamous and in love with her. As the season unravels it seems that neither is true anymore.

Megan’s costar suggests a dinner with her husband, the writer, and Megan and Don, to make the news go down better. The result was one of the funniest scenes ever on Mad Men. At first I thought he was coming on to just Don and then I realized the, ah, implication of the dinner. Did you ever think Don would seem like a prude? Of course he’s not, but he wants his wife to be. I almost felt that the licentious couple only existed so that Don could tell Megan to go home with them after he freaks out that she kissed another man. Does he think Sylvia Rosen is a bad person for cheating on her husband? Maybe, maybe not. But he definitely thinks Megan is.

And of course, there’s the Heinz debacle. This one is Don’s fault. After proclaiming his loyalty last week to baked beans when Ken had the opportunity for ketchup, he goes ahead and meets them anyway, with Pete (Ken is so much better at his job, Don!) and then blows the presentation. Hey, maybe smoking marijuana while you work isn’t the best idea? I thought it was pretty funny that Don’s ad focused on food, like he and Stan had the munchies while working on it. But it was an example that Don’s losing his touch. His go-to pitch (nostalgia, mystery) isn’t what’s going to cut it for some of these bigger brands. Peggy’s on the other hand, was clear cut, bold, and what the client wanted. She and Ted won the bake off while Don and Stan just got baked.

There’s all sorts of symbolism surrounding Don’s turning around of Sylvia’s cross necklace at the end, tied into this week’s episode title “To Have and To Hold.” Marriage isn’t very sacred on Mad Men, although everyone pretends it is. I tend to think the title was less about matrimony (although it was all over the ep, from the open marriage to Dawn’s friend’s pending nuptials) and more about what everyone is losing. Don lost Heinz. Megan lost Don. Joan lost her old self. We’ll see what they gain instead.

Mad Men Season Premiere Recap: Death Becomes Them

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 1 “The Doorway”

Source: https://i0.wp.com/images.hitfix.com/photos/3016315/mad-men-the-doorway-review_article_story_main.jpgIf you were thinking that Mad Men‘s obsession with death would end with Lane’s pitiful suicide, well you were wrong. Last night’s season premiere was positively rank with death and morbidity, from the opening shot from the point of view of a man having a heart attack, to the passages of Dante’s Inferno that Don decided would be a good beach read, to Roger’s tango with his mother’s and then his shoe-shiner’s deaths to Doctor Rosen’s not so subtle comments that death doesn’t affect him. Take away what you will, but it’s clear that SCDP and friends were pretty unaffected by the summer of love (the episode, it seems, takes place at the end of ’67 and the first few hours of ’68). A lot went down in this two-hour premiere, and the weaving between characters and locations was a little more reminiscent of Game of Thrones, as Mad Men‘s world has grown over the past five years. The focus on some seemed to be at the expense of others’ screen time, including Joan, something that Stan and Peggy actually noticed on their phone call (Stan notes that Rogers mother has died and Joan has ignored him and the audience suddenly remembers that she wasn’t at the funeral and we haven’t seen her since her portrait on the spanking new stairs). So let’s take this character by character.

Peggy Olson, settled in at her new post at Cutler, Gleason, and Chaugh, gets the happiest and most typically Mad Men subplot this episode. Although her conflict is caused by death, by murders in Vietnam where US soldiers wore ears around their necks causing trouble for a headphones campaign tag “Lend me your ears,” it’s slightly disconnected from Don, Roger, and Betty’s thematic story lines. It does reassure the viewer both that Peggy is still resolutely a part of the show, and that she is not going to turn into Don. She seems to be getting close, when she scolds her staff for not being as smart as her and then holds them in on New Year’s Eve. But when Ted shows up and tells her, gently and respectfully that she has maybe gone too far, Peggy realizes her wrong and corrects it. So maybe she’ll be able to lead a team without thoroughly degrading them at every turn. It’s also nice to know that she is still friendly with a very hairy Stan (besides death, the big theme of this episode was hair. Lots of hair! Late sixties hair! Stan, Ginsberg, Harry, Abe, they all look like they’ve been carpeted).

The spotlight of the premiere was on Don, yes, but also very bright on Roger Sterling, who continues his (post) midlife crisis that started last season when he is confronted with an actual death, that of his 91-year-old mother. There have never been so many great Roger lines in a single episode, whether it was either of his monologues to his psychiatrist (look how far he’s come, back in season 1, when his daughter Margaret was seeing one, he was ashamed), his freudian slip “this is my funeral!” or his exchanges with all the women in his life(ex-wife, ex-wife, daughter) except the one he actually wants (a conspicuously absent Joan). His story is simple, his mother dies and he can’t come to terms with it emotionally until learns of another death, of the building shoe shiner who only Roger bothered calling about. But it says so much about Roger, and how he’s slowly sinking into a depression caused by his realization of his own mortality. The title comes from his first therapy session, where he speaks ad naseum about doorways, bridges, and what’s the difference on either side. He’s reached a new doorway in his life, on one side was his life with his mother and the other is his life without her. Without the women who was so devoted to him, who doted on him extensively and probably contributed to his over-inflated sense of self. Now he’s alone, unmarried, and feeling the encroachment of not just Pete but Pete 2.0, the new account man who sends the spread to the funeral. He’s got to figure out what he’s doing, what he’s going to do, or he’ll be depressed for the rest of  his life. There was nothing to encouraging in this episode to make it seem like he will do that.

And then there’s Betty, television’s shallowest and most hateful character, who spent the episode trying to save a teenaged friend of Sally’s from a path that will lead to destitution and death, and also herself from her fat suburban housewife life. A lot of time was spent on Mrs. Hofstdat Francis, who seems to still be carrying some of her tumor weight despite the fact that all of the promotion photos showed January Jones at her usual fit self. That’s concerning, if only because the Mad Men folks should know about false advertising. Despite her slow weight loss, this is the first time since the divorce that Betty’s storyline moved forward. Fat Betty was something that happened to her that didn’t change her except for physically, and was generally my least favorite plot on Mad Men ever.

Death is in the air in the Francis Manor, a house that could easily stand in for a Frankenstein castle. Sally has a friend over, a violin prodigy named Sandy who Bobby has a crush on. He demands a performance and brings out the violin, and with his first real line of the entire series, notes that the case looks like a coffin. Something that will be important to Betty later. That night, creepy Betty suggests Henry should rape Sally’s friend because she’s jealous and scares the shit out of you. It’s like when she was jealous of Sally and Glen, except she uses her words (Good job Betty!) instead of insane and irrational actions. It may be the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard (and I think Henry agreed) but it did show something new. Then Betty’s interaction with the liberated, smoking fifteen-year-old Sandy, who says things to Betty you know Sally thinks, was perhaps the first time Betty started to think about herself and her life and flaws beyond her physical appearance. You could see her changing.

And when she learns that Sandy has run away, even though it doesn’t affect Betty at all, she goes looking for her in the slums of New York. Something season 4 narcissistic newlywed Betty never would have done. And when she finds the violin, she stays, helping the poor kids without running water cook dinner, fighting with their ringleader about power and social class, and then leaving the violin, in its coffin case, whether because she’s given up on Sandy or she feels bad for the kids in the house, it’s hard to tell. Her time with the squatters seems to be an expression of self-pity, she wants to run away from her life and become a one of them, even at the same time she is afraid of them. But still, Betty spent a whole day on someone besides herself.

And then there’s Don. Oh Donny Dickie Whitman Draper. Your life is so hard. Seven minutes into the episode and you haven’t said a word, despite the happiness of your soap-star wife or the relative paradise of your winter work vacation. More than anyone, even poor Roger, Don is feeling his mortality this episode. He flashes back to the heart attack of his doorman, in a shot that lent initial confusion as to whether or not it was Don wheezing on the floor. But Don’t not dying, he’s just seeing other people die, over and over again, and he may not be seeing Adam everywhere he looks anymore, but he’s still being haunted.

Don is so unengaged in this episode, whether its with Megan or his copywriters or his clients or his neighbor or his lover. He is the ghost now, haunting himself. The blatant symbolism of his footprints on the beach pitch to Sheraton Hawaii clients is completely lost on him and his team, so used to every pitch being utter genius. The pitch meeting was one of the more genius bits of Matthew Weiner’s. The reactions of the clients progress from concern about their campaign to concern about Don. Their faces say it all, “How can he not see it?!” And suddenly, Don has to realize his own obsession. He’s not just unhappy; he’s obsessed with death.

Like Roger, he doesn’t know what do with his life now that he’s walked through a doorway. On one side was his happy life with Megan, however brief that was, and also his happiness in the office, with Peggy at his disposal and Lane alive and Joan not prostituting herself. On the other side is uncertainty. He doesn’t know what to do to numb his unhappiness. With Betty he threw himself into a variety of affairs, moving from one to the other as he got bored. Then he tried a year of monogamy with Megan. Now his affair with the nice doctor’s wife seems too easy, too simple. At the office the disconnect between him and his staff has never been greater. They’re young (and hairy!) and smoking a lot of weed. Even the new addition of a middle-aged female doesn’t seem to be helping Don at all. It was hard enough for him to connect to Peggy, who he basically raised in his own image. On this side of the doorway, to answer the question from the end of season 5, Don Draper is all alone. Season six will tell us if he stays that way.

2012 Emmy Nominations and Thoughts

Does it feel like the end of network television to you? It kind of does to me. Mad Men and American Horror Story tied for the mostSource: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2011/jan/06/masterpiece-classic-downton-abbey-part-one/ nominations and Downtown Abbey came in second. As an avid Downton fan I love the love it’s getting from Emmy, especially now that it’s been moved out of the mini-series category. It’s just slightly disappointing they did that this year, for a season that had so many ups and downs. I’m also incredibly excited for Game Change, which, despite being a TV movie, was one of the best films I’ve seen all year.

As far as snubs and surprises, you can read about them elsewhere. My problem with the Emmys has always been that the shows I watch never get nominated. Or at least are under-nominated. Where’s the love for the rest of the Game of Thrones cast? Didn’t Cobie Smulders have a superb year on How I Met Your Mother? The Emmys have six spots per category, you think they could spread the love a little bit.

Best comedy
The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Girls
Modern Family
30 Rock
Veep

Best drama
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Homeland
Mad Men

Lead actress in drama
Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law
Glenn Close, Damages
Claire Danes, Homeland
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Lead actor in a drama
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Michael C. Hall, Dexter

Best competition reality show
The Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars
Project Runway
So You Think You Can Dance
The Voice
Top Chef

Lead actress in a comedy
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Lead actor in a comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Best supporting actress, comedy
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live

Best supporting actor, comedy

Ed O’Neill, Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Max Greenfield, New Girl
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live

Best supporting actress, drama
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Best supporting actor, drama
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
Brendan Coyle, Downton Abbey
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jared Harris, Mad Men 

Best miniseries or movie
Game Change
American Horror Story
Hatfield & McCoys
Hemingway & Gellhorn
Luther
Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia

Best variety series
The Colbert Report 
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
Real Time With Bill Maher 
Saturday Night Live 

Best animated program
American Dad
Bob’s Burgers
Futurama
The Penguins Of Madagascar: The Return Of The Revenge Of Dr. Blowhole
The Simpsons

Best non-competition reality program
Antiques Roadshow
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
MythBusters
Shark Tank
Undercover Boss
Who Do You Think You Are?

Best reality show host
Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
Betty White, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars
Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance

Best guest actress in a comedy
Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Elizabeth Banks, 30 Rock
Margaret Cho, 30 Rock
Kathy Bates, Two and a Half Men

Best guest actor in a comedy
Michael J. Fox, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Greg Kinnear, Modern Family
Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie
Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live
Will Arnett, 30 Rock
Jon Hamm, 30 Rock

Best guest actress in a drama
Martha Plimpton, The Good Wife
Loretta Devine, Grey’s Anatomy
Jean Smart, Harry’s Law
Julia Ormond, Mad Men
Joan Cusack, Shameless
Uma Thurman, Smash

Best guest actor in a drama series
Mark Margolis, Breaking Bad
Dylan Baker, The Good Wife
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Dickie Bennett, Justified
Ben Feldman, Mad Men
Jason Ritter, Parenthood

Best lead actress in a miniseries or movie
Connie Britton, American Horror Story
Julianne Moore, Game Change
Nicole Kidman, Hemingway & Gellhorn
Ashley Judd, Missing
Emma Thompson, The Song Of Lunch (Masterpiece)

Best lead actor in a miniseries or movie
Woody Harrelson, Game Change
Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys
Bill Paxton, Hatfields & McCoys
Clive Owen, Hemingway & Gellhorn
Idris Elba, Luther
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia

Best supporting actress in a miniseries or movie
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Sarah Paulson, Game Change
Mare Winningham, Hatfields & McCoys
Judy Davis, Page Eight (Masterpiece)

Best supporting actor in a miniseries or movie
Denis O’Hare, American Horror Story
Ed Harris, Game Change
Tom Berenger, Hatfields & McCoys
David Strathairn, Hemingway & Gellhorn
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia (Masterpiece)

Best writing for a comedy
Chris McKenna, Community
Lena Dunham, Girls
Louis C.K., Louie
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Michael Schur, Parks and Recreation

Best writing for a drama
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey
Alex Gansa, Gideon Raff, Howard Gordon, Homeland
Semi Chellas, Matthew Weiner, Mad Men
Andre and Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men
Erin Levy, Matthew Weiner, Mad Men