Monthly Archives: January 2012


I've got some bad news

Well, it took five episodes but Mad Men finally stumbled.  Not that this was a bad episode by any stretch, it just lacked the technical excellence that’s characterized the series up to this point.  This show has done a remarkable job balancing disparate tones thus far, but making Don this disturbed by his past while still being cryptic about it doesn’t really work.  We’re too busy wondering why he’s upset to really care about his pain and his farewell to Adam just didn’t have the emotional weight it should have.  That said, a weak episode of Mad Men is still better than 90% of what else in on television, so I’m not too disappointed. Continue reading

The Powers that be what?

Grrr... argh

I’m a big fan of Angel.  It’s the rare spinoff that can stand next to its progenitor and, at times, even surpass it.  “A darker X” is a grossly overused description these days, but Angel earned this comparison to Buffy; delivering more mature stories in which both good and evil were harder to recognize and their cost significantly more real.  Sadly, this description can’t really be applied to the show’s first season; which, with is spotty-characterization, rambling season-arc, and utterly bizarre tonal shifts, had all the hallmark’s of an ill-conceived spinoff.  Angel struggled to figure out exactly what sort of series it should be for much of its first season (procedural? super hero?  horror? Buffy 2.0?) and, far from BtVS’ skillful blending of genres, the tension yielded some truly difficult to watch TV.  Did I mention that I’m a big fan? Continue reading

I didn’t mean to… suck

Waaay scarier than the Mayor. No, seriously

Ah “The Freshman,” latest entry in Buffy‘s unfortunate tradition of lackluster season premieres.  The departure of Angel, Cordy, the library, Snyder, and a that one hallway they always redressed forced the series into an awkward transition, but this problem would grow much more evident as the season progressed.  This premiere’s issues are all its own.  There’s a certain meta-delight to be found in watching Buffy’s own awkward transition from high school to college, but the story increasingly strains credulity as it goes on.  I can buy that the Slayer would be intimidated by the academic and social changes she’s faced with; I can’t buy that after defeating the Master, Angel, the Mayor, and a host of other world-threatening baddies that’s she’d be remotely intimidated by the big vamp on campus. Continue reading

New Amsterdam

A face even a mother can't love

How is it that I can like a Pete episode while still thoroughly disliking Pete’s character?  I certainly can’t credit the elements of this episode that don’t involve him; they’re up to the usual Mad Men standards but they’re so sparse that this story rests squarely on the shoulders of young Mr. Campbell.  No, I must give credit where it’s due and say that this episode made me appreciate what a unique thing Weiner & co. are trying to accomplish with this character.  Pete’s a loathsome, ineffectual tool who lacks even the capacity to be an interesting antagonist.  His great tragedy is that he knows this fact.  Much as it might suck to be in a room with Pete Campbell, it sucks even more to be him. Continue reading

Final Thoughts: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3

I’ve long maintained that season five of Buffy is my favourite but, after these posts, I think I need to reconsider.  The jury will remain out until I’ve finished with “The Gift,” but it’s hard to imagine another season of Buffy (or any show for that matter) so consistently bringing the goods over 22 episodes.  This was truly the season that Mutant Enemy had the firmest grip on the characters, the world, and the story they wanted to tell and it all came shining through.  Yes, there were some bumps along the way, but this was really Buffy at its best and, as a season of television, I’d stack it against anything else out there. Continue reading

Marriage of Figaro

Let's buy some happiness

Episodes like this one leave me baffled as to why I don’t love Mad Men.  The writing and acting here are as sharp as anything on television and, what’s more, stories about identity issues and suburban angst are generally right up my alley.  I’m truly at a loss for why the last hour left me cold.  I find myself appreciating this show on a technical level without becoming invested in what’s on screen and I can’t blame my detachment on needing to write about it.  I felt the same way the first time I watched this show.  Oh well, this fact should at least make for an interesting write up even if it doesn’t make for very entertaining viewing. Continue reading

This is a time of celebration, so sit still and be quiet

I’m at a loss for where to begin my assessment of “Graduation Day,” there’s just so much to love about it.  Season three’s finale is one of those episodes that works on nearly every level; we got the epically awesome Slayer vs. Slayer death match we’ve wanted all season, the seemingly invulnerable big bad was satisfyingly outmaneuvered and, as usual, the gang all came together to save the day as a team.  They even managed to squeeze some juice out of Buffy/Angel.  All these things combine to make this one gripping two-parter, but it’s elevated to one of Buffy’s best by how definitive this all feels.  Buffy’s relationship with Angel comes to its promised conclusion; the Watcher’s Council, never particularly useful, gets cut out of the loop; and, in case you still didn’t think this episode was about endings, the gang doesn’t just leave high school, they blow it up. Continue reading

Ladies Room

You can trust me, seriously

“Ladies Room” opens just as the series premiere closed, with the enigma of Donald Draper.  Roger and Betty ask some of the questions we were left thinking about last week, though they’re unable to bring us any closer to answers.  The fascination with “who is Don Draper” is, at this early stage, rooted in how well he seems to navigate the fascinating world of Mad Men without quite fitting into it.  Where last week saw him worried that people would discover he’s not as brilliant as they all think, this one sees his genius setting him apart from the rest of Sterling Cooper. Continue reading

Buffy gets one perfect high school moment

While “Graduation Day” makes for an excellent season finale, “The Prom” is a superior sendoff to Buffy’s first three years.  That’s not a criticism of the pacing, unlike season two’s ill-conceived aside of “Go Fish,” season three’s penultimate episode fits naturally into the arc despite having almost nothing to do with the Mayor’s Ascension.  While it doesn’t advance things, “The Prom” takes time for a meta-celebration of Buffy’s high school years and so feels like part of the larger whole. Continue reading

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

I may or may not enjoy this

First off, a confession; I’m behind the curve on watching Mad Men because I didn’t particularly like it the first time around.  It’s not that I actually disliked the first season; the series is well shot, written, acted, etc, but there was nothing there that compelled me to keep watching.  I make no apologies for not sticking with “the best show on television.”  There’s just too much quality TV to choose from these days for anyone to waste their time on a series they don’t love.  But it’s been four years and friends and critics I respect are still raving about this show.  It’s enough to make me think it’s time to give Mad Men another shot.  Perhaps I’ll see what I’ve been missing this time around, or perhaps I’ll finally be able to pinpoint what doesn’t work for me about this series.  Either way, it should be an interesting few months. Continue reading