Monday, September 7, 2009

Mad Men Blog – Season 3, Episode 4

Scarred. Pessimistic. Nervous. Tentative. Relieved. Happy.

That was my range of emotions this week as Mad Men (finally) got back on track in season 3. I’ve heard my share of ‘set the bar so low this week had to be better’ talk, but this ep started solidly and delivered in the end. Highlights:

Peggy. You all know I love Peggy. Between her moving to Manhattan, trying to act ‘hip’, and being vindicated by the Patio campaign, she was earning her big boy pants all episode. Nice to see her and Joan moving into friendly territory again. It was only natural that there would be tension as Peggy moved up professionally and Joan went domestic. The juxtaposition of those two as opposing glimpses of the feminine ‘ideal’ in 1962 is pretty cool. Peggy needs Joan; it was nice to see her acknowledge that, and for Joan to be cool about it.

Good office stuff. We finally get to see the Patio spot; Sal gets a promotion (I told you Don would take care of him); the jai alai kid, his dad and Cooper, and all that went into that was great. It was nice to be back in the office and seeing all of that play out. The setting of the show is its defining feature, so this had a nice ‘back-to-the-bread-and-butter’ feel.

Gene is dead. I was practically giddy. His screen time was the only negative of this ep, and once he was gone I was legitimately stoked about Mad Men again.

This is why I love this show. Every episode doesn't have to be epic or dramatic. Sometimes we just watch people live. Thoroughly enjoyable. It’s good to be back.

***Friday afternoon update: Just read that Tony Kornheiser's fantasy team is named Sterling Cooper Manning. These are the things that I think you should know. I love it when my worlds collide.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mad Men Blog – Season 3, Episode 3

Well my friends, this show is really testing my patience. As I said last week, I don’t like to criticize; I like to embrace a show and just follow where it goes. If I am to stick to that premise, there is only one conclusion I can make about my Mad Men friends; it’s been a boring few weeks around there.

Seriously, if last week was a filler episode, what was this week? If you saw this entire episode in the ‘deleted scenes’ portion of the DVD, how bored would you have to be to get through it all? For the first time since I have been watching, I just wanted it to be over. Just don’t ruin the show, don’t get crazy and do something stupid, just roll credits and we’ll try again next week. You know what, I defended you after the opener like my life depended on it (and I don’t take it back; I enjoyed it, but you had your critics). I defended you last week in the face overwhelming opposition (and you made me look stupid with an even worse performance). This week, I’ve got issues, and you are just going to deal with them:

1. I’m bored. What am I watching? What’s happening? What am I cheering for? Honest question: why should I tune in next week? Only reason is because I am a fan of the show. I don’t have anything to look forward to.

1.b. Plot? I’m no expert, but a plotline of some sort would be nice. If last night was your first time watching Mad Men, how much better was that episode compared to an hour of home videos from 1962?

2. What gives with all the one-off storylines? Why is everyone on the show doing something different, and consequently, no one is doing anything of consequence? This week we had the office, the big party, the dinner party, and the house all going at once with zero connection between any of them. Four completely unrelated stories squeezed into 40 minutes. How is that supposed to work? I’m just confused as to what they were trying to accomplish.

2.b. Worst off-shoot is Betty’s dad. He grabbed his daughter’s boob already, and I am supposed to be comfortable with an episode where he is alone with a 10 year old girl for 25% of the show? I don’t think I need to go on here. On top of the awkward factor, it was boring and pointless anyways.

3. Remember the good old days when the show was about Don!? Maybe we should try that again, saying as it was the formula that put the show on the map. Pretty simple: we follow Don. Don does something awesome/confusing/morally questionable, but most importantly interesting. Maybe we check back in at the office, or with Betty, or even Peggy (hey JustBeingJosh, remember when that was the boring part of the show for you?), but I tuned in for Don. I cared about the off-shoots for how they directly or indirectly effected Don.

4. You can’t have 13 episode seasons and give me filler. Give me 26 episodes, and I’ll give you a break as long as the story moves along and I get a good open and a good close. Sorry. Those are the rules.

Ok, I’m done. Hopefully they are setting up something awesome, and I just can’t see it. As far as I can tell, this episode could be removed from the archives and 5 years from now, no one would notice when they watched the entire series. I hope I am wrong. OK, let’s end on a good note. Here were my highlights. A few nice moments, but they were just so small in comparison to how much boredom I had to sit through. But here you go, the only four moments of the show I enjoyed, in reverse order:

4. Joan rocking out as the domestic wife. That accordion scene was sweet. I could not tell if she actually ‘enjoyed’ the role, but she has certainly proven that she had it in her.

3. I love Peggy, and I like seeing her break out of her prudish mold, and succeed at work. She did both this week. It took way too long and way too much screen time to happen, but I always enjoy episodes where she progresses.

2. Don telling Roger that everyone thinks he was foolish. Don never crosses Roger, but you could tell that he was pent up. He needed to get that out. As awkward as it was, I think it helped.

1. When it happened, this actually made the whole episode worth it for me. It wasn’t until I thought about how frustrating and boring the whole hour had been that I got bitter. But when Don made out with Betty at the end, it momentarily redeemed the whole episode for me. It won’t last, but in that moment, Don realized what he had. He wasn’t foolish, and Betty was the reason why. Maybe he can never be tamed, but he won’t find anyone better as long as he wants to play the domestic game. I love those moments when he truly appreciates her.

Well, that's all folks. I kinda have a 'well it can only get better from here' sense of anticipation for next week. I really am excited about it. I think things are about to turn around. Hope springs eternal in my little corner of cyberspace. See ya next week!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mad Men Blog – Season 3, Episode 2

I usually leave my personal life out my TV blogs, but this new blog has always been a bit more self-serving than before. Point being: I was so tired last night that I am not sure if that was a filler episode or I just missed a brilliant piece of art because my brain was working at 35%. It’s worth noting that I watched all of season 1 on DVD, and season 2 was mix of Internet, DVR, and live as I scrambled to catch up after finishing S1. S2 had started before I finished S1, so I always had more supply than I could handle. Filler episodes are tough to spot when you are doing all you can to catch up to real time.

Also, as most of you know, I am much less ‘critic’ and much more ‘connoisseur’. I have no understanding of the technical aspects of making television and movies. I don’t even really get the creative process of film. I am a creative person (as far as my interests, not talent) and relatively intellectual, so I can generally distinguish between what is good and what is bad. I think people care about what I say because I can be unpretentious (The OC, and Gossip Girl being the best examples of great television with very little identifiable ‘art’), while at the same time be snobby when it come to what is ‘cool’. I get away with Gossip Girl because it is so ‘uncool’ (and maybe even juvenile and/or feminine) that you have to respect me for admitting my love for such drivel. At the same time I have little to no interest in LCD (least common denominator) crap such as most of reality TV, any ABC sitcom since I stopped watching TGIF, or ‘Two and a Half Men’. In music terms: I can’t get enough Lady Gaga, and I will never understand the appeal of Nickleback. I never want to be a man of the people, just a man of the cool people. Some of you are just too snobby or too technical. I try and find my space in the balance.

What’ the point of that diatribe? I don’t criticize much when it comes to the shows I like. Friends seasons 7-10 just happened. Smart people hate those seasons, I loved every second. There is nothing to criticize, that was just what my buddies did for those 4 years. Maybe it wasn’t as interesting as what they did for the first 6, but hey, we all get a little boring as we get older. Exception: occasionally my brain just can’t take it, so certain things just never happened. OC season 3 being the best example. That was a 3 season show as far as I am concerned. When I watch it, I go season 1, 2, 4 and have a great time. I don’t even own season 3. How could I? It never happened.

I will not criticize Mad Men. It just so happened that this week’s episode involved 2 story lines that I never like but understand, and 1 of my favorite characters acting a little annoying. Those 3 things happen all of the time, and I am fine with it, but they have never all happened in one episode before:

1: Betty’s dad/family. It needs to happen, I just don’t particularly enjoy it. Maybe that’s the point. It makes me uncomfortable and annoyed, so it helps me further understand Don. He spends his life being brilliant and then he has to just sit there and deal with this shit. I loved the mafia-style scene with William (Betty’s brother) near the end though. Don had enough, and that was just the way it was gonna be. That was cool.

2. Rodger dealing with his wife/daughter. I love it when Rodger is on screen, but I care very little about what makes him tick. All I care about is how he relates to Don. I really could care less about whether his mistress is invited to his daughter’s wedding. Again, not being critical of the writers. Just saying I don’t care. If I was in the office I would pretend like I had a meeting to avoid being involved in any discussion about those events.

3. What was Peggy doing? She seemed a little too catty. I get the whole ‘we are selling to women not men thing’ but hasn’t Don already established the ‘women want to be the woman men want’ counter argument? I like when Peggy stands up for herself and plays devil’s advocate, but she is usually either right, or she learns a lesson. (Remember when she said ‘sex sells’ and Don swatted that away? She learned from that experience). But today reminded me too much of Pete last week; just a bit whiney.

Other than that we had more British-American tension which was fine and dandy. Pete was quiet this week other than some Ken-Pete showdown foreshadowing at the top of the show. Peggy got some strange. Don was cool twice (as mentioned above and in getting MSG folks back). I’m sure there was something deep in the maypole scene at the end that I was just too tired to catch.

I loved final scene when Peggy walks into Don’s office and it’s business as usual. That summed up the episode for me: we dealt with a whole lot of bullshit this week, it wasn’t all pleasant or enjoyable, but let’s get back to business. And I love the Don-Peggy dynamic and it was nice to that is clicking along smoothly despite her off week.

See ya next week.

P.s. there has been some concern that I was going all Mad Men with my blog. I will post some juicy personal stuff sometime this week. It’s just been a hella-busy month. I’m back.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mad Men Blog – Season 3, Episode 1

And we’re off. I don’t think I’ve been so excited about a season premier since The O.C. season 2. (Entourage Season 5 is up there too, if for no other reason, the full year wait was brutal. But Entourage has such weird seasons they shouldn’t count anyways). There are 3 reason for my otherworldly anticipation :

1. It’s a kick ass show, and season premiers of kick ass shows are always ‘events’.

2. I don’t know of another show where I LOVED season 1, but it had an even better second season. Not only was it better, but season 2 was significantly better, and completely re-watchable (I re-watched all of season 2 a couple weekends ago, just because I was so geeked out for the season 3 premier).

3. General Mad Men buzz. Maybe it’s just my circle, but I went from, “I don’t even know anyone else who has even heard of the show”, to “everyone I know and even moderately respect as a TV watcher is watching this show” in six months. The DVD era has officially hit its stride. Mad Men season 3, absolutely shatters the old record of number of people “watching the show live for the first time”.

As for the episode itself, I loved it. If you’re not hard core, the beginning may have thrown you, but the (not so subtle) point of the flashback was to further establish where Don/Dick literally came from. Don is not normal. He doesn’t know how he fits fit into his own life, no matter how idealistic it is. The fact is, he doesn’t fit into his own life because it is idealistically normal. That’s the rub my friends. You have to get that if you want to really enjoy the show (especially if you consider yourself to be a moral person).

I told everyone that they could (and should) just jump in because the complexities of the show are episodically contained. Admittedly, I may have overstated that fact. This premier was for the fans, not the newbies. It was vastly more enjoyable if you knew that Don was going to ask Salvatore a creative question when they were on the plane. I never for a second thought that Don would take issue with what he saw in the hotel room. There are two reasons for this. The obvious one is that Don does not judge. The casual fan picked up this. The less obvious, and more important reason was this: ability and achievement trump all in Don’s world. His entire existence is tied to the this idea. It is the core of his being. At the end of the day, all that matters is getting the job done and coming out on top. This is the reason Don promoted Peggy, and why in his own life, he lives to validate his decision to take on a new identity (a fact punctuated when Cooper doesn’t care about Pete’s exposure of Don’s past at the end of season 2). If he can win enough, then the ends justify the means.

The more basic storyline of British and American culture clash will be a great one. I wanted to wrap it up here but I must make one point regarding Pete and Ken. Pete is one of my favorite television characters ever. I hate him for who is, but I have sympathy for the fact that his crazy family made him that way. In one episode I can be happy for him that he got the promotion, and hate him for being such a whiney baby. He is a fascinating character. It will be interesting to watch that play out.

I am sure my future blogs will be longer, but I have been so swamped this week, I just wanted to get something up. I’ll be back on Monday for Episode 2.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You May Never See Another Dog Blog From Me

How is it Wednesday? I have been busy. I promised myself a Monday blog just to keep things rolling in my tiny corner of cyberspace....ooops. No good writing today, just some thoughts.

My dog had to get put to sleep yesterday. I am not going to pretend to be any kind of a dog lover because you all know I am not, but Torrie was the best. I got her for Christmas when I was 15. I named her Torrie because when I was 15, I had all of my kids names picked out and my girl name (I was going to have 2 boys, a girl, and then another boy), was going to be Victoria but I was going to call her 'Torrie'. This explains something about my childhood. Yes, I was socially awkward. This does not explain something else. How was I not gay?

Well, with Torrie's passing I can't help but focus on 2 things: 1) Why get a dog when you know you will have to watch it die? 2) Something that tied me to being a 15 year old kid is gone. You know me. I can't NOT re-examine the past 15 years of my life.

Black labs live to be 10-12. Mine lived to be 15. I guess that makes me lucky. I don't feel better knowing that. I had forgotten how much I used to play with her back then. I bought my own dog food, paid for dog classes. I was a legit owner. Not bad for a kid. When I moved out a couple years later, I left her with my mom. She loved my mom the most, and will always be remembered as my mom's dog. But for me, she was my dog. We had 3 other dogs growing up. She was the only one I claimed.

15 years. Is that a long time? A short time? What did I do in her lifetime?

Firsts: real job, real girlfriend, real car, love & pain
Life: graduated HS, moved out, moved back, bought a house, graduated college, moved to Reno, got my masters, moved back, moved around, moved to Atlanta
Jobs: babysitter, computers, office furniture, cable, media buyer, advertising, IT start-up, sportswriter, radio/TV talent, non-profit development
Women: just kidding, but believe me, I know the list and I went through it.

If this was a real-time post, you would be wondering where I have been for the past hour. I have literally started putting actual dates to the significant events of the past 15 years of my life. How old was I when I bought my house? What actual year did start working there? I was going there, and doing that, when I was dating who? I got up to my college graduation before I decided I should finish this blog.

Obsession + lack of memory = a fun time digging away at the past. My resume' was a great guide. Throw in my school dates which I know, and it starts to take shape. For some reason I am good at remembering when I started and stopped dating girlfriends too.

I had actually planned on talking about a bunch of other stuff in here, but now I am out of time. Spent my whole lunch break on a stupid timeline (which I secretly love).

Oh well, I'll see what I can get to later in the week. Guess its fitting that Torrie get her own blog. When she was a puppy, I was a boy. Now she is gone, and I am a man. R.I.P. girl. You were a great dog.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Goodbye 757

It's official. For the first time since the 804 split and the 757 was born, I cannot be reached with a 757 area code. Try it, and this is all you get:

"The person you have called is unavailable right now..."

Then some Spanish, then some technical jargon. It's erie. I have called my own number a half dozen times this week. I know it's lame, but it's just so bizarre to me. Not sad, or happy, or emotional at all. Just bizarre.

It took 6 months to accept that I should move, 6 months to accept that I would move, and another 6 to accept that I had moved. And then I canceled the last thing that connected me to VA.

January, 2008: I knew my time in VA was over.
July, 2009: I knew I wasn't going back.

Goodbye 757. You have been good to me. I left for Reno in 2002, but we both knew I'd be back. When I moved to the 'burg for grad school and promised I'd never return, we both knew I was lying. When I was staying out in LA for large chunks of '03 and '04; even going so far as to almost take a job out there, we both knew it was just a fling. Even when NYC and Philly had me so many times, you always knew I would find my way home.

This time it's for real. Know that I will always think of you fondly as the place of my youth and my first love.

p.s. Why do I love being melodramatic when I write? Am I like this in real life?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Baby Crazy

This is not a blog about golf, but Ross Fisher is a golfer. If you are a golf fan, you know who he is. If you are not, you have never heard of him. Every golf fan knows who Fisher is because he was all over the British Open coverage that wrapped up yesterday. You see, Fisher's wife is pregnant and due any day. Fisher had promised to leave the golf tournament as soon as his wife went into labor to be there for the birth. No matter what. As fate would have it, Fisher was right in the thick of things after Saturday's round which led to the debate: What if he is about to win the Open on Sunday when his wife goes into labor?

Would he really leave and lose maybe his only chance to win the greatest golf tournament he could ever win? To spend your whole life, with one dream, and walk away right at the end? The argument of course, is career over family. But they missed a key point. I get being there for your wife. But I ask you, what about the kid?

You see, when I was young, I found out that the only reason that my parents stayed together was because of me. My dad thinks this a great compliment to me. It's not. You see, I have lived every day of my life, from the moment I learned that, trying to make it worth it. Two people's lives, forever changed, because of me. That is a lot of pressure. And to be quite honest, I have never felt good enough. I probably never will. Throw in the fact that my dad was a pastor and all that goes into being a pk, and my sanity never had a chance.

The good news of course, is that my parents made it. They fought a lot when I was little (they were the same age that I am now, but with 3 kids and no money; I can't even imagine what that was like), but they grew up. Now, they are totally in love and happy, and could not imagine their lives without each other. Great for them, too late for me. I have spent my whole life trying to validate my existence as a human being; to prove that I deserve to be here.

On top of that, when I started dating I was reminded all to often to 'not marry my mother'. Needless to say, all women are crazy, so all women remind me of my mother.

Here's the sad part: I readily acknowledge that I have the greatest parents ever. I have the 'I wish I had your parents' parents. Kids with super-strict parents thought my parents were super-chill. Kids with no structure would talk to my parents for hours because the needed someone to care. On top of that, my parents never did anything to intentionally hurt me. My dad thought he was giving me a boost when he told me that I was so great he could never leave. He thought he was helping when he warned me about women. My parents love me more than anything. I don't know how some of you made it. I know I am the guy who won the lottery and is complaining because next week it would have been even bigger. Believe me, I get it. Somehow realizing how messed up that is only makes me more messed up. I have only gotten better by accepting my flaws and working to improve. So what's my deal?

I was talking to my brother when I was home and I think I discovered something: I don't appreciate being born. I think my parents have a genuine appreciation for the fact that their parents gave them life. I don't. I love my parents, but I didn't ask to be born. They got it on, and 9 months later they had to deal with me. I had nothing to do with that. Why do I owe them? Not only that, they were legally required to take care of me. I was a baby. Those were the rules. I know it's shitty to say, but I feel like they did what they were supposed to do. As soon as I could take care of myself I did.

Don't get me wrong, I am so very grateful for everything that they have done. They sacrificed a great deal for me. I have never wanted a day in my life. Even after I left, they always welcomed me back anytime I hit a rough patch. My life would be far worse without that support.

Maybe that's why I have grown so much lately. Our relationship is a choice now, and they have proven to always be there for me. I don't need them like a baby needs them, and I couldn't imagine life without them. One of these days I will have my own kids, and when I do, I will probably understand just how immature and silly I am at this moment in my life. That still doesn't change one simple fact:

If that Fisher kid had cost his dad the Open, just by being born, he could kiss any chance of being normal out the window. Then again, maybe normal is overrated. I'm as crazy as they come and I've had a damn good life.