Yes, Jeff, I did see “Mad Men.” I’m gonna be doing some spoilin’ here, so take a minute and leave the room if you must and OH MY GOD THEY RAN A LAWNMOWER OVER THE ENGLISH GUY’S FOOT. I’m not sure what this show is trying to tell me this season, but for now I’ll settle for Joan’s deadpan summation: “One minute you’re on top of the world, the next some secretary is running over your foot with a lawn mower.”
At first I saw the sale of Sterling Cooper to Putnam Powell and Lowe (aka, the Brits) as the sort of thing dramatic series television has to do to stay fresh — that is, import some villains. Conflict = drama is Screenwriting 101, and when you’ve created a fairly vast cast and made them all “interesting,” the big risk is that the audience is going to start liking them, too, and then you end up with shows like “M*A*S*H,” where everyone wears a halo by the time the Very Special episodes roll around, and after that — meh. So you bring in some antagonists. “The Sopranos” paroled a new one every season: Richie Aprile, Ralph Cifaretto, Feech La Manna, Tony Blundetto et al. The crime-family story structure made it perfectly acceptable to bump each one off when their dramatic possibilities had been fully explored. Tony even said it out loud, before making his move on Feech: “Did I learn nothing from Richie Aprile?” Your writers sure did, Ton’. Other shows have to make do with more ridiculous farewells; remember when “L.A. Law” threw Rosalind Shays down the elevator shaft? That was awesome.
So the Brits, with their terrible swift sword of cost-cutting and bean-counting, are this season’s bad guys. I’m not so sure where they’re going with it, other than wacky symbolism — how amusing that the mower in question is an all-American John Deere. The show has too much respect for reality to have SC sold again at season’s end (at least I hope so). But once you’ve severed the foot of your parent company’s rising young star, you have to go somewhere with it, and I hope they have some ideas. If nothing else, it did wake up the season with a roar at close to its midpoint. I watched the scenes where Stumpy MacKendrick is being shown around the office, and was impressed by how…comtemporary he seemed, with his empty platitudes and English-accented bullshit. “You…are a very impressive young woman,” for instance. I can’t believe I used to swallow crap like that. I can’t believe people still dish it out.
(One of my old bosses was fond of writing mash notes to her favorites, little missives I came to call Wowsers, because they all started the same way: WOW. The remainder was full of empty superlatives that by their very volume and pitch were transparent crapola: WOW. I have never read a story as moving and funny as yours. I feel so grateful and proud to work with such a magnificently talented staff...and so on. She would have felt right at home at Putnam Powell and Lowe.)
And how amusing that the cost-cutting of this season — 30 percent of the staff, we’re told — somehow spared dumb Lois, promoted from the switchboard but barely capable of basic secretarial work, and certainly not able to navigate a riding lawn mower around an office full of tipsy partiers without maiming one.
My other favorite detail: The Brit-speak, shedjools and curriculum vitae and enjoy the delicatessen.
Someone — can’t remember who — mentioned that Joan’s gory dress in her final scenes foreshadows a certain blood-smeared pink Chanel suit coming by year’s end. Hadn’t thought of that. It’s even the same nubby wool.
So, Jeff, what’s your take? Where are we going with this?
Me, I got web work to do. Do I have any bloggage? Maybe.
John D. and Catherine T. finally give some dough to a working-stiff journalist, and it’s not me. But it is money well-spent. Here’s hoping his bosses don’t lay him off.
Roger Ebert came home from Toronto with bad news: Indie film is effectively comatose. There goes my second career. (Can you people tell I’m kidding when I say stuff like that? I hope so.)
Web work. Russian drills. Later.