Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

Posts Tagged ‘mad men’

Coming Late to the Party

Posted by CJ Cregg on July 27, 2010

Season Four of Mad Men just aired on AMC, and while I am significantly behind the times (which is funny considering I’m currently in China and 13 hours ahead of my fellow bloggers in the Midwest), I want to give the show my hearty stamp of approval.  I’m almost done with season one, and can hardly stop watching the show (once again, this despite being in China with massive amounts of touristing about to be done).  While at times the show seems to force its time period (‘hey look! it’s 1960! we objectify women in 1960! we also drink a lot and smoke a lot in 1960!’) down the viewers’ throats, I like the characters and the issues that Mad Men engages.  On the one hand, it evokes a nostalgia for a simpler time, but also demonstrates that our collective memory of the 1950s and early 1960s has often overlooked pressing issues of the day: domestic ideologies, consumption, the bomb, access to birth control, the blossoming of psychiatry as a field.

I also like the way the show is underhandedly funny.  That is to say, the humor is understated, which makes it hilarious.  A key example from one of the first episodes: the old boys club at Sterling Cooper sits down with their client, cigarette giant Lucky Strike to discuss pending law suits about the health claims made by cigarette companies.  Every single ad man lights up as they begin their meeting and they all burst out in fits of coughing.  Nothing is said about these outbursts, they just move on, talking about how no one cares that cigarettes may give you cancer.  A joke or comment about how they were all coughing would have rendered this moment of contrast not funny.  As my analysis probably did as well.  At any rate, my point being, humor at its best is subtle.  The Mad Men writers seem to have captured this dynamic.  One of my final favorite moments from the eighth episode of season one is, after Betty Draper’s failed attempt to restart her modeling career, she jumps back into motherhood with a vengeance by taking a shotgun to her neighbor’s pigeons because said neighbor had threatened her children.  Awesome.

I can’t even imagine what types of plotlines will evolve when I finally get to season four, but in case you were curious, the season four premiere drew 2.9 million viewers, significant for a relatively obscure cable network.  Keep in mind also that season one averaged 925,000 viewers.

So for all of you party people out there watching, enjoy season four.  I’ll keep chugging along watching the earlier seasons and enjoying this mad, mad world.

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Moltisanti’s Best TV Shows of the Decade

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 31, 2009

1. The Sopranos

The best. Ever.

David Chase’s deeply perceptive realist drama attracted audiences with the promise of mafia intrigue. In reality, however, the mob was a supporting character in this study of modern American family life. It covered immense thematic ground—everything from generational conflict to the power of parents to our inability to cope with death to, well, the elusive meaning of life. Though set in a specific time period, this is a show that makes universal commentary on human nature. Its ideas and characters can be placed in any context at any time throughout history and still be valid. That’s the mark of great art, and that’s why it’s the best show I’ve ever seen.

2. Mad Men

Heavily influenced by The Sopranos, both stylistically and thematically, Mad Men has slightly less ambitious goals. And when I say slightly, I mean it attempts to capture the changing social fabric of America in the 1960s. So, yes, it’s still an ambitious show, and so far, a near-perfect one. Novelistic in its emphasis on specific themes, stylish beyond anything on TV and, like The Sopranos, touched with dark humor, Mad Men is the finest entertainment on television today. It’s already established itself in the pantheon of great television. Depending on how the next few years turn out, it could move even higher.

3. Arrested Development

Arrested Development is the funniest show I’ve ever seen. Its smart rapid-fire comedy was too, well, smart, for a mainstream TV audience, but its style makes it one of the most re-watchable shows I’ve ever seen. Will Arnett made my best actors list, but all the major players here (and the many guest stars) are brilliant. There are too many wonderful plotlines to mention here, but, if you haven’t seen it, go get in on DVD now. You won’t be disappointed.

LD

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is a close second to Arrested for “best comedy of the decade” honors. Its dissection of every day annoyances as seen through the eyes of the perceptive (some might say tiresome) David retreads ground from Seinfeld (albeit with edgier plotlines and more vulgarity). The show’s loose, improvised style lets its talented cast shine. Let’s hope David keeps it on the air for at least a few more seasons.

5. Deadwood

David Milch’s Deadwood is about the creation of a civilization—and the compromises, the odd alliances, the brutality, and, sometimes, the human decency that accompany it. Written in a unique, almost Shakespearian style and anchored by several strong performances, Deadwood is a powerful, gritty Western with a lot to say about human motivation.

6. 24

Save for a disastrous sixth season, 24 has been one of the most consistent shows on TV this decade. Season one is arguably the most compelling season of television of all time, and it’s ending proved that the writers were willing to push the envelope of network TV conventions. Six seasons later, the show is still going strong, coming off a series-saving seventh season that proved that it is still the most compelling hour on TV. He may not be the absolute best character, but Jack Bauer will be the defining character of a troubled decade marked by terrorist threats and muddied rules of engagement.

7. Friday Night Lights

FNL is a powerful portrait of middling, average people weighed down by expectations and visions of grandeur. Its plot is the stuff of classic literature — characters with lofty ambitions and dreams operating in an imperfect world muddled by personal flaws, social divisions and tragedy. It’s a show that captures the redemptive power of sports — for both fans and players. So, next time you wonder why people get so invested in athletics, watch this show, and you’ll understand.

8. The Office

The British version is great too, but I’ve only seen a few episodes, so I’m sticking with the one I’m familiar with. Steve Carrell is the reason this show makes the list. Michael Scott does mind-blowing things, but, as Feeney noted, we’re still sympathetic to him. The supporting cast is great as well, and, the show brilliantly captures the drudgery, personal conflicts and politics of office life.

9. Lost

Great characters make Lost a top 10 show

After a scintillating first season, this show went downhill. Not quickly, but steadily. Based on what the writers have been saying about their commitment to getting back to character development in the final season, I’m optimistic about the end of the series. Still, Lost offers lessons to writers and TV execs everywhere. It’s the characters, stupid. Sure, the mysteries of the island made the show that much more addicting, but the series’ ability to craft a handful of deep, compelling and conflicted characters made it a success.

10. The West Wing

Maybe I’m just bitter that it beat The Sopranos at the Emmy’s multiple times, or maybe it’s because I don’t love Aaron Sorkin’s writing style, but I was never enamored with this show. Still, this was a strong series for a long time that gave us a unique inside look into the workings of the White House. It’s a fascinating premise, especially for political observers, and, for the most part, it was a solid show.

P.S. I know, I know. The Wire is missing. Before any of you David Simon acolytes lose your heads, rest assured that I have the DVDs and have started watching it. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it will easily make this list. Once I finish the series, I’ll amend the list and give the show it’s rightful due. So, sorry West Wing, you’ll soon be a goner.

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Moltisanti’s Best Actors of the Decade

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 28, 2009

1) James Gandolfini – The Sopranos

There’s not really much competition for the top spot here. Gandolfini captures the contradictions of Tony Soprano perfectly. From his strongest moments as a mob boss to his weakness as he wears down under the constant pressures of his job and his family as well as his deep-seated insecurity, Gandolfini is perfect. Unfortunately for him and his acting career, he’ll never be seen as anyone other than Tony Soprano. Still, there are worse ways to go down in TV history.

2) Ian McShane – Deadwood

Commanding. That’s the one word that best describes McShane’s performance as saloon owner and town shot-caller, Al Swearengen. Swearengen is a study in leadership, albeit corrupt leadership. He knows when to hold a hard line and when to compromise, and McShane is equally enthralling in Swearengen’s vicious moments and his more vulnerable ones. Overall, it’s as close to a flawless performance as you’ll find.

3) Jon Hamm – Mad Men

Hamm dominates scenes as Don Draper. Sure, he’s cool, but he also displays all of Draper’s struggles (both at work and at home), including his ongoing identity crisis, with ease. And though it’s a well-known performance, it’s by and large an understated one. Sure, there are the flashy moments (“The Wheel” monologue comes to mind) where he shines, but he does more with looks and expressions than almost any other actor on this list.

4) Will Arnett – Arrested Development

Comedic actors often get slighted when it comes to rankings. It’s odd considering their work is often just as challenging as dramatic actors. So, the best comedy of the decade, hell, maybe of all time, needed a shout out somewhere before the best shows list. Will Arnett is uproariously funny as wanna-be magician Gob Bluth. It certainly says something that he stands out among a cast of hilarious actors.

5) Kiefer Sutherland – 24

Like CJ, I was scared to leave Jack Bauer off this list, even if the actor playing him may not always be sober enough to come after me. As I noted in the best characters list, Sutherland makes sure Jack Bauer is more than a one-dimensional action star. He’s a noble hero grappling with immense personal anguish as he faces down impossible moral quandaries. Sutherland fits the role perfectly, and, like Gandolfini with Tony Soprano, will go down in history wedded to this role.

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CJ’s Best TV Actors of the Decade

Posted by CJ Cregg on December 27, 2009

We’re running out of time to bring you the best of the 2000s.  So, here for your viewing pleasure, I present my five best TV actors of the decade.  Now, this will be a brief list because most of these actors have been mentioned for their skill on my best characters of the decade list.  However, when I selected those to include on my character list, I

Intensity? Check.

selected characters that I thought would be remembered, not necessarily those that are the most skilfully portrayed (although these are often one and the same.)  But since the criteria are a bit different for the two lists, they are slightly different.  Here we go.

1) Martin Sheen (The West Wing)-Martin Sheen brought just the right stuff to an incredibly complex character.

He was remarkably consistent as president Jed Bartlet, but very believable in his reactions to trying situations.

2) Kiefer Sutherland (24)-Jack Bauer.  Come on.  What else do I need to say?  (Jack Bauer would come and kill me if I didn’t put Sutherland on this list.)

3) Hugh Laurie (House)-This was the most popular show in the world in 2008.  And House is another fascinatingly complex character to portray.  Laurie brings an air of believability to such an ‘out there’ character.  He deserves recognition for this feat.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose

4) Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)-Perhaps only upstaged by Connie Britton, Chandler does a remarkable job as Coach Eric Taylor.  Firm as a coach and undying in his love for the game, Chandler brings a notable passion to his role.

5) Jon Hamm (Mad Men)-I haven’t seen much of this show.  So I may as well admit to just putting Hamm on the list because I think he’s cute.  Also because I’m looking forward to getting into this show (FINALLY) when I get back to Madison.

Honorable Mention

Steve Carell (The Office)

Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)

Naveen Andrews (Lost)

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Moltisanti’s Best Actresses of the Decade

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 26, 2009

1) Edie Falco – The Sopranos

I’ve already detailed why Carmela Soprano is one of the best characters of this decade. One of the main reasons she made that list is because of Edie Falco, who is equally understated and show-stopping throughout the six seasons of The Sopranos. Most will point to her duel with Tony in season four’s “Whitecaps” as her best performance, but it’s the smaller, quieter moments, when you see her wrestling with the disappointment in her husband (and, at times, her children), her struggle with her own limitations, and her maternal sense of responsibility where Falco shines the most.

2) Glenn Close – Damages

As Patty Hughes, Close is chilling and brutal. However, as I noted in the best characters list, this could easily have been a one-dimensional villain. Close, however, complements Hughes’ villainous side with hints of vulnerabilities and emotion. Her ability to command a scene is unparalleled.

3) Allison Janney – The West Wing

I’m not a huge West Wing fan, but during my years of watching the show, Allison Janney always stood out.  Unfazed and in

command, she, as Mr. Feeny noted, was the perfect actress for the high-paced Aaron Sorkin-penned Bartlett White House.

4) Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer

I wasn’t a regular viewer of this show, but every time I did watch it, I was mildly entertained by the plot and wildly entertained by Kyra Sedgwick’s turn as a spunky, tough detective. It’s possible that I was just brainwashed by all the promos I saw during the NBA playoffs, but, for now, I’m confident saying Sedgwick was one of the best of the decade.

5) January Jones – Mad Men

Betty Draper may be a slightly adapted version of a character we’ve seen before: the stifled 1950s housewife struggling to cope with suburban ennui. But, credit the show’s writers and January Jones for making sure she doesn’t turn into a cardboard cutout of a character. Betty has developed over the course of the show into a slightly more assertive woman and certainly a less naive one. Still, however, she’s held back by her own delusional childlike nature, her unhealthy relationship with her now dead parents and the social confines of an age where divorce was far from commonplace. Jones never overacts and often captures Betty’s unhappiness, fear and anger with just a look. In my opinion, Jones has delivered one of the most underrated performances of the decade.

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Best Characters of the 2000s

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 13, 2009

It’s that time. The end of the decade, which calls for lists, lists and more lists. Over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you our take on the best TV characters, actors, actresses and shows of the 2000s. A few ground rules before we begin, however. Obviously, some TV shows started in the 90s and ended in the 2000s, so we’re only going to count the shows who’s most notable years were in this decade. For instance, shows like “Frasier,” “The X Files” and “The Practice” are 90s shows even though they ended in this decade. “West Wing,” on the other hand, which started in 1999, is a 2000s show. It’s not a science, but between the three of us you should get a pretty good sense of the best of the best for this decade.

Without further ado, here we go. First up: characters.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

1)    Tony Soprano – The Sopranos

With Tony Soprano, David Chase has done what the world’s best realist authors did time and time again: place a well-known character type into a world of complexity (aka the real world). Prince Andrei in War and Peace was a heroic warrior on a quest for personal glory who struggled to cope with the smallness of everyday responsibilities. Similarly, Tony is the classic mafioso thrust into the confusing, humorous and unpredictable world of modern American family life. The result is a powerful, albeit painfully insecure man, who struggles to live up to the expectations of his character type.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

2)    Don Draper – Mad Men

Don Draper is one of the richest, most multilayered characters I’ve ever seen on television or in film. In a vacuum, he’s compelling as a suave ad man living as anonymously as he possibly can with a wife and two kids. But, as a stand-in for an America with a fragile identity coping with wracking societal changes, he’s one of the best and most fascinating characters of the decade.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer

3)    Jack Bauer – 24

Say what you want about 24, but it’s undeniably compelling entertainment. At the center is a character who in less capable hands could have turned into a paper-thin Steven Seagal-like action hero. Instead, Jack, who most definitely is an action hero, is one grappling with not only physical pain, but also intense emotional anguish. Kiefer Sutherland is riveting in this role, and the character is a perfect adaptation of the noble hero to the messy times we live in. Instead of being a white knight, Jack is forced to get his hands dirty, skirting moral lines and making impossible choices. But he always answers the call and accepts the consequences. He’s a character everyone wants on their side, even if it’s not PC to admit it.

Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano

4)    Carmela Soprano – The Sopranos

It came down to her and Moltisonti for the last Sopranos spot, and as much as I wanted to give my namesake his due, Carmela is the more complete character. Like Tony, she has ideas about how things should be, but struggles to make things fit tidily in a world filled with arrest warrants, cheating husbands and troublesome kids. She’s a good mother with ambition, but she’s held back by social expectations and her own personal limitations. Still, she attempts to break out of her confines in various ways throughout the series. Her development over six seasons is subtle, but fascinating.

Glenn Close as Patty Hughes

5)    Patty Hughes – Damages

Give Glenn Close credit for this one. This is a character that could easily have become a caricature. But, Close, by subtly revealing Patty’s human and even vulnerable sides, gives us a well-rounded portrayal of the most chilling character of the decade.

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The Grown Ups (Mad Men S3:E12)

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on November 5, 2009

“I wake up in the morning, and I wonder why everything’s the same as it was. I can’t understand. No I can’t understand, how life goes on the way it does.” – Skeeter Davis, “The End of the World”

So, it finally happened. The moment we all thought they’d save until the finale snuck up on us an episode early. “The Grown Ups” is a classic Mad Men episode and a captivating social history lesson all in one. The JFK assassination, and the fear, confusion and sense of mass betrayal that result, provide the context, while the dashed expectations of all our favorite characters propel the plot toward a tumultuous finale (for Don and Betty at least).

The last kiss?

It was fascinating how the assassination left every character in desperate, self-preservation mode. My only point of reference is 9/11, when, generally, people felt a sense of community. Here, though, everyone uses the assassination (and resulting confusion) to strike out on their own, realize how misguided their expectations were and tend to their own needs. Roger calls Joan with his wife passed out on the bed, Betty visits Henry, Roger’s daughter laments the tragedy’s effect on her wedding and Pete and Trudy turn vindictive after Pete is passed over for the big promotion. It not only shows the selfishness of the characters, but also the mass dislocation of that moment in history. Interestingly, only Peggy and Don, characters who’ve both had to struggle to get where they are, manage to demonstrate fortitude and move forward with relative grace.

No matter what the reaction, no one has any answers. The adults are watching the newsmen, the kids are looking at the adults, questioning their reassurances, and as Roger points out at the wedding, the adults will soon be looking to the kids for answers in a changed world.

Meanwhile, Don and Bets, like Tony and Carmela in Season Four of The Sopranos, are headed toward a calamitous demise. I know we have one January Jones hater on this blog, but you have to hand it to her for her consistently understated, yet powerful performances. She’s truly one of the finest actresses on TV today. Just watch her face at the wedding, and you’ll see everything you need to know about her and Don’s marriage. The empty, indifferent expression on her face as he looks at her imploringly is heartbreaking, yet so real.

But, we have to be honest. They’re not a good couple. They entered into a marriage searching for things the other couldn’t provide. Don wanted the stability and security he never knew. Betty wanted a white picket fence, the ideal family that she never had and constant affirmation of her own beauty and self-worth. Neither one married the other for what they were, and, in turn, set themselves up for disaster. Of course, this delusion extends beyond their marriage. From Don and Rachel to Betty and Henry, these characters are projecting what they want on another and searching desperately for an escape, an escape they mistake for a panacea.

For now, though, we’re left with heartbreak as reality rushes in. The ending, with Don walking into his office, beautifully shot a dark palor, with Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” playing, is as poignant as you can get. For Don, who, despite his strong exterior, is painfully lonely and longing for acceptance, the family life he’s finally come to cherish is about to be ripped from him.

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The Gypsy and the Hobo (Mad Men S3:E11)

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on October 28, 2009

What is love? It’s a simple, yet virtually unanswerable question. Is it signaled by romantic euphoria, the kind felt on, say, a trip to Rome or a dalliance in Paris? Is it the willingness to go to any lengths to prove devotion? Is it the ability to withstand societal criticism? Or is it rooted in honesty and complete understanding of another? These are the questions posed by one of the most tension-filled and powerful Mad Men episodes yet, though, in classic Mad Men fashion, none of those questions are as simple as they seem.

don-betty-IMG_1977500x338

Betty, meet Dick Whitman

Roger and Annabelle’s fling wasn’t as Casablanca-esque as she wants to remember it. Greg joins the Army ostensibly to make Joan happy, but he’s beaming more because of his satisfaction with himself than anything else. And though Don and Betty are closer than ever before after his massive revelations, lies remain. The Army didn’t “make a mistake.” Dick stole the real Don’s identity in an act of cowardice that he can’t bear to face. And his daughter’s teacher is waiting in the car for him. So, in many ways, this episode about the many faces of love is about the immense difficulty of actually realizing it.

And that’s where the title comes in. Don, the hobo, and Suzanne, the gypsy, represent the fleeting nature of love, and, in a way, serve as a larger statement about how we all live — in search of moments of satisfaction, happiness, contentment and even euphoria. The sustainability of those emotions is what eludes us.

Dramatically, the episode was pitch perfect. The extended Don and Betty confrontation echoes the infamous Tony and Carmela “White Caps” battle in season four of The Sopranos. Though less visceral than the latter, this is the most raw and open Don and Betty have been with each other — and, for that matter, as they’ll probably ever be with each other. Jon Hamm may have finally won his Emmy with this performance. He shows the doe-eyed fear of Dick Whitman (which contrasts sharply with the cool, calm and collected self-assuredness he projects each day as Don Draper) the moment Betty pulls out the box. And when he talks about Adam, it’s heartbreaking.

But, it’s interesting to note that Don/Dick’s revelations turned into more of a therapy session for him than vindication for Betty. Similarly, Roger didn’t turn Annabelle down just because he’s in love with Jane. He also wanted the satisfaction of refusing the woman who broke his heart. And we’ve already mentioned Greg. Still, that’s not to say that none of these characters were driven by love and affection. They were. Motives are complex and confused things–for Mad Men characters and for real people.

In short, this was one of the landmark episodes of the series.

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The Color Blue (Mad Men S3:E10)

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on October 25, 2009

“The truth is, people may see things differently, but they don’t really want to.”

I tend toward hyperbole, but “The Color Blue” may be the best episode in the history of the series. Right up there with “The Gold Violin” from season two.

Betty is not pleased.

Betty is not pleased.

It deals with issues of permanence, the burdens of the past as well as the power of delusion. For Burt Cooper and Don Draper, the past is uncomfortable for different reasons. Burt struggles with the fact that all his friends are dead and his business isn’t the way it used to be. Don, on the other hand, has spent his whole life trying to escape his past. Still, he keeps a shoebox of memories and carries nostalgia…for something, which is partly motivating his affair with Miss Farrell (“long curly hair, no one has that anymore…”).Unfortunately for him, while the permanent nature of the written word makes for good ad copy for Western Union, it comes back to haunt him when Betty finds the remnants of his past.

While the episode is about the inescapable nature of the past, it’s also about how readily society accepts facades. It’s a theme that harkens back to the season opener. “London Fog,” like Don Draper, is a misrepresentation that people willingly choose to accept. Generally, society wants the simple answer, the more appealing answer, which is why it’s easy to build facades (like the Drapers going to church on Christmas to appear devout). For Don, this exists in constant conflict with the past. While his image at the Sterling Cooper 40th anniversary dinner is one of perfection–a man on top of his craft in a “wedding cake” marriage–it’s a lie (which is why the last scene, with Betty seeing the falsity for the first time, was perfect).

Beyond Don, though, this is how society operates. From Kinsey dating a black woman last season to appear progressive to the Brits’ motivation for the 40th anniversary celebration, this episode makes the case that most of what we experience is not what it seems. There are unseen motivations behind every action, and, most of the time, we cope by seeing things the way we want to see them. The only question remaining is, what happens when people (Betty, Miss Farrell) start to figure out that things are not what they seem? It’s going to be an interesting last three weeks.

A few more thoughts:

-Don is in big trouble with Miss Farrell. From her desperate “I want you to stay all night” to wanting to introduce him to her brother to getting on the train to calling the house (you know it was her), she’s not going to let him go away quietly. But maybe that’s what he wants. Maybe knowing that this affair could wreck his marriage gives him the escape route he’s been missing ever since he signed the contract. It’s probably subconscious

-Betty won’t bring up what she found. But she’ll use it as justification for her own actions–either to leave Don eventually or to have the affair with Henry Francis.

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Souvenir (Mad Men S3:E8)

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on October 7, 2009

“Every kiss with them after that is a shadow of that [first] kiss.”

We (and by we I mean I) missed last week, which was huge in terms of Don’s character development. In short, the man who always left himself an out is tied down. Pressed by a wily Cooper, Don signed a contract with Sterling Cooper. It was another action-packed episode. This week, however, “Mad Men” moved back to the slower-paced, thematically driven episodes that predominated in the first half of the season. I know I’m in the minority, but I actually prefer these to the fast-paced, entertaining, yet somewhat scattered last two episodes. Episodes like these (see: “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Love Among the Ruins”) have coherent agendas and meaningful statements to make about life.

“Souvenir” was about the difficulty of reconciling expectations and moments of euphoria with the mundane nature of everyday life. In Rome, Don and Betty were about as perfect as they can get (though, fittingly, their best moment was a role-playing game), but back at home, when the fleeting nature of the trip becomes apparent, Betty descends back into the disillusionment that has plagued her from the beginning. Don, for his part, just seems pleased to have had a fun time on a business trip without having to deal with the hassle of adultery.

But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Betty is disappointed to be home not only because she misses the romance, but also because she’s lost power. Throughout the episode, the tables are turned in the Draper’s marriage. Don is enjoying the weekend while Betty is working, helping lead the fight for the reservoir. And when Henry Francis makes his move, she has a chance to indulge again in the infidelity Don has enjoyed many, many, many times. And she comes close (“You’ll leave straight from work?”), but, in the end, chooses Rome and a chance to indulge in escapades with her husband. A noble choice from Betty, and one that she had total control over.

The second plot of the episode, starring Pete Campbell, reinforces the fact that the men who rule the “Mad Men” world desperately need the women in their lives to steer them clear of disaster. Alone for the weekend, he watches cartoons, falls asleep on the couch and has a near-disastrous dalliance with the German nanny across the hall. Though his tacit admission reinforces the wall between him and Trudy, they end with an understanding—an understanding that preserves the status quo of the uneventful, but, in reality, very normal marriages that these characters (and most people) live, but can never be satisfied with. Which is why they’re always searching, always staring out the window in Rome, hoping for something better instead of looking at what’s right in front of them.

P.S. If you’re looking for a “Mad Men” laugh, check out this site. One of the more entertaining things you’ll read every week.

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