MAD MEN / “Person to Person”


This is the end of Mad Men, folks, and thus the end of three seasons of Dear TV Mad Men coverage. We went out with a bang! First, Lili:

“It’s hard to critique a serial drama, because any critical assessment of a work of art is definitively shaped by its ending. The interpretations of Mad Men I’ve loved most are those that argued that the show’s point of view was drifting elsewhere: to Sally, or to Peggy, or to Dawn. But my appreciation for Mad Men was contingent on it outgrowing Don’s centrality, and it never lived up to those generous readings. I didn’t really expect it to. Perhaps my issue is that it was never anything more than a Coke — and if I’d been invited to see it as just that, frivolity and entertainment, without the pretensions to greatness, I would have judged it a lot more gently. I’m a sucker for a fizzy drink.”

And then Phil:

“Lili points out how disappointing it is that we finish this series with Don in the center of the frame, the structuring important consciousness. For all of the things Lili and I disagree about regarding this show, I am really with her on this. But I think we can also read Don’s centrality in this frame as a kind of bullseye. (If there’s ever a film made about the model for the target practice silhouette, Jon Hamm is a shoe-in for the lead.) Don’s in the center because he’s about to get that smug grin smacked off his face. That’s what we deserve. That’s what Don deserves. It’s the real thing.”

So long, Don.

“Irritating Conversation with Self after Watching the Mad Men Finale” / “The Waste Land”

GAME OF THRONES / “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”


Sarah wrote on this week’s controversial episode of Game of Thrones, and on the double meanings of fantasy and the multiple layers of consent from screen to spectator:

“Why was it this episode, rather than some of the even more graphic episodes, that ended up a sort of fantasy shark jumping?

The quick answer is Sansa’s rape: it was awful, and what’s more, it was disappointing: disappointing that the show would, yet again, see rape as it’s most effective plot device. (My brother put it to me this way: ‘Game of Thrones’s attitude seems to be, why jump the shark when you can rape it instead?’) For several reasons — because of the victim, the perpetrator, the witness, but also because of its overall plot — this time the show was not able to align fantasy and brutality. This wasn’t what we wanted; it wasn’t even what we wanted to reassure ourselves we didn’t want.”

“Fantasizing Consent”

MAD MEN / “Lost Horizon”

peggy.cigThis week, Phil wrote about the illusion that Don Draper is the protagonist of Mad Men:

“I mentioned this last week, but, when we talk about this era of television production, we talk about an era dominated by shows that are themselves dominated by male anti-heroes. But anyone who’s actually viewed and loved these shows knows that they don’t actually work that way. Mad Men isn’t dominated by Don Draper any more than Jaws is dominated by the shark. What makes these shows great is what grows up to surround the anti-hero. These guys are anti-heroic in that they’re bad and quasi-villainous, but they’re also anti-heroic inasmuch as they’re surrounded by heroes far more compelling than they are. We all want to know what happens with the shark, but the real action is on the boat…So let me tell you about my show. It’s called Mad Men, and it’s the story of Peggy Olson.”

“Age of Olson”

GAME OF THRONES / “Sons of the Harpy”


This week, Sarah unleashed her theory of Bad Things on Game of Thrones:

Game of Thrones is irritatingly interested in bad things happening to whores. (In fact, one of the bad things in which it’s interested is the very word ‘whores,’ which its characters seemingly use as often and as hurtfully as possible.) If I were ever going to quitGame of Thrones it would probably be because something bad happened to Arya’s direwolf, but the next most likely reason would be because one too many Bad Things had Happened to Whores. BTHtW is absolutely my least favorite part of the show; nothing makes me feel more excluded as a viewer. It’s sort of likeGame of Thrones is this kind of runaway narrative train going full throttle along the ‘investigating power, especially patriarchy’ line, and then sometimes there’s an error at the switching station and all of a sudden you find yourself instead barreling through ‘voyeurism and objectification,’ where (particularly male) viewers are invited to revel in their own vision of boobs and power and it’s just BTHtW all over the place.”

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

MAD MEN / “Time & Life”


Lili and Phil wrote about Mad Men‘s “Time and Life” for The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Lili said, on getting some PLOT at long last:

“But this flavor palette is so much richer! Confusion is always more interesting than anomie. The show is finally putting its repetitiveness to use, and it’s magical, terrific, gratifying.”

Phil said, on the history of Mad Men‘s cursing:

“It’s about anger, it’s about expressing a kind of institutional claustrophobia, it’s about, to some extent or another, being an individual. Moreover, it’s about feeling in control. Why are you cursing? Because you can, because it’s a choice, a defining excess.”

“The Fourth Wall Rises” / “Not Safe for Work: Mad Men‘s Art of Cursing”

MAD MEN / “The Forecast”


Jane and Phil wrote about the third episode of Mad Men‘s final season for Dear TV at The Los Angeles Review of Books. Phil said:

“Don’s having so much trouble figuring out what’s next for the agency because he’s asking the question the wrong way. ‘We know where we’ve been, we know where we are,’ he says, and that’s true, but it shouldn’t be in first-person. He can’t tell where he’s going because he isn’t going anywhere. He’s achieved what he will achieve at SC&P — he’s no longer a metonym for the agency. The future is other people. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that beautiful? Take off your shoes.”

Jane said:

“‘Melodrama offers the hope that it may not be too late,’ writes Linda Williams, ‘that there may still be an archaic sort of virtue, and that virtue and truth can be achieved in private individuals and individual heroic acts rather than […] in revolution and change.’ I sort of like the idea of seeing Glen and Sally’s goodbye as something that doesn’t necessarily have to happen, as something that can happen when either Glen or Sally return home, as something that may not be too late.”

And nobody could get over the rise of #HotGlen…

“Space Station Getzinger” / “Never Too Late”

GAME OF THRONES / “The House of Black and White”


As usual, Sarah Mesle is covering Game of Thrones for Dear TV. Here she is on the return of Arya Stark:

“Cersei and Ellaria are really two irrational peas in a pod here, aren’t they? I understand that these characters are under a lot of duress, and I’m not saying that their acting itself was shrill or unpleasant (Cersei, in particular, gets almost as much done with her eyebrows as Arya does, and I loved her pissed-off pronunciation of “cit-ties” when she threatened to burn all of Dorne’s down). But these are smart, strategic women, and the script’s decision to write them as shrill, guided by fear and anger in a way that precludes intelligence or ethics, chafed at me. These are women who should draw our respect; instead, the show puts its viewers consistently on the side of beleaguered, ethical, men. Do better, Game of Thrones.”

“50 Shades of Black and White”

MAD MEN / “New Business”


Jane and Evan wrote about Mad Men‘s “New Business” for LARB:

“Sometimes the show moves so slowly, so conservatively, that those of us indelibly invested in its purported long game have little choice but to see this passivity as stuffed with significance. When it’s hard to see the point,anything might be meaningful. Mad Men has turned me into the most paranoid of viewers.”

A Clean Break” / “Round and Round”

MAD MEN / “Severance”

mad men joan peggy 7x08

We’re covering the final season of Mad Men over at The Los Angeles Review of Books. To start us off, Phil wrote about the return of Rachel Menken:

“We wanted Rachel to come back, but she is not who she is. Something else, something deeper is troubling Don Draper. Time travel isn’t easy even when it’s possible. You can’t see Rachel Menken again; she doesn’t exist anymore.”

…and Lili wrote about what it’s like to keep getting disappointed by this show:

“I want Roger and Joan scenes, and (I’m sorry to say this) but, for dramatic reasons, I want Roger to die. I want the illusion Mad Men offers that erasures are clean to rip the paper it’s written on a little. I want something to matter. Just one little chicken coming home to roost would make it all feel a little less unmoored, a little less pointless as a viewing experience.”

Let us tell you the story of love and hate!

Deep Cuts: Rachel in Furs / Mad Men Fantasies