Tag Archives: Christina Hendricks

Mad Men – “The Summer Man”

“The Summer Man”

September 12th, 2010

“All he knows of the world is what you show him.”

There has always been a disconnect between Don Draper’s external persona and his internal struggle, but this season has largely broken down that expectation. Now, Don is incapable of hiding his sadness from the outside world, lacking the glossy exterior to trick those around him into believing that he is truly a happy man.

“The Summer Man” throws light on this reality by taking us inside Don Draper through what I believe will be a fairly divisive decision to have Don’s journal serve as narration for the episode. By all accounts, including his own, Don Draper is dedicated to changing his current path, but the real test is whether or not those around him believe this transformation – while I would share the reservations that some have regarding the narration, I would ultimately argue that it helps crystallize the episode’s key theme of the difference between self-perception and how Don and others are perceived by those around them.

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2010 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Acting in a Drama Series

Supporting Acting in a Drama Series

August 23rd, 2010

The complete lack of a frontrunner in neither Supporting Actor nor Supporting Actress in a Drama Series isn’t particularly surprising: these categories are always fairly stacked, and so predicting them is always a bit of a crapshoot.

This year, though, the lack of a frontrunner should prove particularly interesting, and potentially quite frustrating for the majority of television viewers.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  • Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
  • Martin Short (Damages)
  • Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
  • Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
  • Michael Emerson (Lost)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)

On the Actor side of things, it’s a problem of too much talent: while many are right to complain about John Lithgow getting dropped down to (and winning) Guest Actor from Supporting on a technicality, I think this category is better for his absence, as it allows people like Aaron Paul (still looking for his first Emmy win for this spectacular work on Breaking Bad) to have a legitimate shot at the trophy instead of appearing as also-rans. However, when he’s alongside someone as respected as Martin Short, and when former winners Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson are riding the momentum of Lost coming to its conclusion, Paul still seems like a small fish in a big pond (Slattery, as good as he is, is simply not going to be the Mad Men actor to break the series’ drought in performance categories).

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Mad Men – “The Good News”

“The Good News”

August 8th, 2010

I spent a good half hour stumbling over how to start confronting this episode before eventually deciding to sleep on it, and upon waking up this morning I discovered why. “The Good News” is a tremendous episode of television, but it’s an episode of television which confounds how I normally confront these reviews. It’s difficult to write about, for me, because its continuities are largely unrelated to the season thus far: while parts of Don’s story theoretically connect with his behaviour thus far this season, it connects even more with his past as Dick Whitman, and since Joan Holloway and Lane Pryce are getting their first showcase of the season we’re required to dig back into the third season as if this were their premiere.

There are connections between the two sides of this story, but the episode is so clearly divided by Don’s time in Los Angeles (or Dick’s time in Los Angeles, more accurately) and Don’s return to New York that it’s not unlike two entirely different episodes – that it still feels cohesive is a definite accomplishment, but it’s something that makes tackling every minute detail of the episode as I tend to do more challenging.

However, it also makes it entirely possible to address it more briefly while leaving some material for a “Mad Men the Morning After” later today or tomorrow, so let’s get to “The Good News.”

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Season Premiere: Mad Men – “Public Relations”

“Public Relations”

July 25th, 2010

“It was going great until it wasn’t.”

Mad Men has always been a series grounded in duality, logical since Dick Whitman’s double life represented the central conflict within the series. Very rarely did the series ever move beyond the existential, largely avoiding direct action in favour of short glances, conversations with unintended prescience, and the growing sense that the balance could no longer hold. At the end of the third season, that duality was broken: Don’s secrets were revealed, Betty ran off with Henry Francis, and even the identity crisis at Sterling Cooper – caused by PPL’s influence over the company’s holdings – was eliminated when the pending purchase led to the formation of the independent Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

The third season was Mad Men’s two worlds finally colliding, and the fourth season premiere, “Public Relations,” demonstrates how that collision has never truly stopped. The direct conflict the series has always avoided has become something these characters fetishize and desire, and unfortunately something that has become untenable within the new business world in which they operate. Before, Don Draper was a sly yet self-destructive force operating with what he considered a safety net, and now he’s a sly yet self-destructive force who refuses to change his behaviour despite the newfound risk. And so his entire life becomes a collision, sometimes to his benefit and most times to the detriment of his business, his sanity, and his personal relationships.

However, the benefit of a collision is that you ask yourself important questions, wondering what went wrong and re-evaluating just what you want from the world around you. “Public Relations” is Don Draper seizing the day, choosing to stop running into the same brick wall at every turn and steer the car in a new direction – it’s possible that a collision waits just the same down this new path, but it’s a collision he can control, manage, and perfect.

And until it isn’t, it has every chance of being great.

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And Your Winner, by Submission…: Analyzing 2010′s Emmy Tapes

And Your Winner, by Submission…: Analyzing 2010′s Emmy Tapes

July 15th, 2010

Last week, I wrote a piece for Jive TV which described the next step in the Emmy Awards process, and the ways in which this post-nomination period is honestly more interesting for me than the pre-nomination period: as my Twitter followers have noted, I’m a bit obsessive about the submissions process, where the nominated series and performers choose episodes to represent their work over the past season.

It fascinates me because of how unnatural it is: performers can’t simply put together a reel of their strongest moments from throughout the season, they need to find a single representative episode (which, for supporting players, is cut down to only their scenes), and so what they choose is incredibly telling. For example, the cast of Glee have very clearly been instructed to submit episodes which feature big musical performances: Chris Colfer submitted “Laryngitis” because of the show-stopping “Rose’s Turn,” while Lea Michele submitted “Sectionals” based on her take on “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” These might not be their more consistent episodes in terms of overall material, but musically they are character-defining performances, and Glee has decided that this will be its Emmy focus. And yet, for Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch, their submissions don’t work as well when oriented around their most show-stopping musical performances, and so sometimes a series’ approach doesn’t match with each performer.

It’s a delicate balance, and one which I think best captures the equally maddening and addictive nature of this process, which is why I will now take a closer look at the submissions strategy from a number of series: for a look at how they look as categories, and for more submissions I don’t talk about here, check out Tom O’Neill post at Gold Derby.

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The Trick is to Actually Watch TV: The 2010 Emmy Nominations

The Trick is to Actually Watch TV: The 2010 Emmy Nominations

July 8th, 2010

The Emmy nominations (which you can find in full here) are less a sign of what’s truly great on television and a more a sign of what the Emmy voters have actually been watching.

Series and performers are nominated for Emmys for one of two reasons: either the Academy members watched episodes carefully and saw them deserving of an award, or they looked at their ballots and chose a familiar name, a much buzzed-about series, or the first name on the ballot. And, frankly, most years the latter seemed to be their modus operandi, to the point where I’ve started to disassociate voters with any notion of television viewership – I’m not even convinced most of them own televisions.

However, for once, I’d say that the 2010 Emmy nominations seem to have been made by people who actually enjoy the medium, with plenty of evidence to demonstrate that voters actually watched many of the shows they nominated and discovered not only the most hyped elements of that series but also those elements which are truly deserving of Emmys attention. There are still plenty of examples where it’s clear that Emmy voters didn’t truly bother to watch the series in question, and all sorts of evidence which indicates that the Emmy voters suffer from a dangerously selective memory and a refusal to let go of pay cable dramedies, but the fact remains that this is the most hopeful Emmy year in recent memory.

It isn’t that every nominee is perfect, but rather that there is evidence of Academy voters sitting down in front of their television and watching more than a single episode of the shows in question, making them less like soulless arbiters of quality and more like actual television viewers – it might not stick, but for a few moments it’s nice to finally see some nominees that indicate voters aren’t so much different from us after all.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

June 3rd, 2010

On the drama side of things, there’s fewer trends that we can follow through to the nominees than there are in comedy. There, we can look at Glee and Modern Family and see some logical directions the awards could take, but in Drama there’s really only one new contender (The Good Wife), and the other variables are much more up in the air in terms of what’s going to connect with viewers. Lost could see a resurgence with voters in its final season, or it could be left in the dust; Mad Men could pick up more acting nominations now that its dynasty is secure, or it could remain underrepresented; Breaking Bad could stick to Cranston/Paul, or it could branch out into the rest of the stellar cast.

That unpredictability isn’t going to make for a shocking set of nominations, but I do think it leaves a lot of room open for voters to engage with a number of series to a degree that we may not have, so it’s an interesting set of races where I’m likely going out on some limbs.

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Mad Men – “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”

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“Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”

September 20th, 2009

If I had to suggest a single challenge in writing about Mad Men each week, it’s often where precisely to begin. Mad Men is a show defined by density, of layers of new and pre-existing storylines entwined around a theme central enough to be apparent but vague enough to be open to enormous amounts of interpretation. So when I sit down to add my thoughts to the chorus, illustrious and diverse as it is, my biggest challenge is finding the right angle at which to approach the material at hand.

But this week, “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency” is so defined (perhaps justly, perhaps unjustly) by a single scene that not starting with it seems nigh impossible.

I’ve seen this episode be tweeted about on numerous occasion as being fantastic (which it was), but more interestingly as proof that things actually do happen on this slow-paced show. However, the episode on numerous occasions indicates that the world (if anything) is moving too quickly, and that the central drama facing its characters is that when the show’s pace is disrupted by something tragic or sudden the common response is like a turtle hiding in its shell rather than a bird spreading its wings.

Of course, how this is read entirely depends on where you sit on the Mad Men spectrum; and, as someone who firmly believes the show’s slow pace is ideal for the stories being told regarding that constant tension between these characters and the world revolving around them, I’d say that the handling of a shocking moment in the midst of this contemplative show demonstrates yet again just how good this two-time Emmy-winning show really is.

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Predictions

There is no tougher category to predict than this one, where it is actually possible that all six nominees could come from only two shows, and chances are that no one could really argue about their quality.

Those two shows are Grey’s Anatomy and In Treatment. The former has Katherine Heigl back in the mix with some material (Terminal Illness! Ghost Sex!) that is definitely “good enough,” Chandra Wilson dealing with professional and personal struggles (always a winner), and Sandra Oh getting strangled by her PTSD boyfriend. The latter has last year’s winner Dianne Wiest, plus two new patients who made a big impact: cancer patient Alison Pill, and former patient turned lawyer turned patient Hope Davis. Any of these women could garner a nomination, although my money is on Heigl, Wilson, Wiest and Pill at the end of the day.

This only leaves a few spots available. In terms of old contenders, Rachel Griffiths is always a threat for her work on Brothers & Sisters (she’s another one getting nominated for never winning for another show, Six Feet Under), while Rose Byrne looks to make up for last year’s snub with another highly illogical supporting performance that’s clearly a lead. Plus, while she didn’t make the cut last year, Connie Britton continues to do amazing work on Friday Night Lights, and the voters actually picking up on this would make me extremely happy. However, with veteran Candice Bergen submitting for Boston Legal, that could all go up in flames.

There’s also an opportunity for Mad Men to break through here, as Christina Hendricks was a surprising top 10 choice last year and the show has only increased in buzz. Combine with a hugely impressive story arc, including a scene I simply can’t erase from my mind, and she should be a shoe-in – however, it’s hard to know whether she can compete with a huge number of big names, especially with Mad Men’s second season ending earlier than most back in the fall.

Elizabeth Mitchell, who has never managed to break the Top 10 for her work on Lost, put together some strong work, but ultimately is too far off Emmy’s radar to break through on popular vote, as Lost has never connected with voters outside of Supporting Actor and Drama Series. Her chance was in Season 3, I think, although I’d be mighty pleased to see her sneak in as a surprise.

The two big “newcomers” are enormously different. Marcia Gay Harden is an Oscar-winning actress who joined the cast of Damages as a head-strong lawyer who went head-to-head with Glenn Close. Anika Noni Rose, meanwhile, was not nominated for anything for her role in Dreamgirls but gets a showy role on No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency that’s very funny but also highly emotional. While I may be convinced that Hurt isn’t going to grab a nomination, I think Harden was more closely connected with Close and stands a better shot here.

Predictions for Supporting Actress in a Drama

  • Marcia Gay Harden (“Damages”)
  • Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”)
  • Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”)
  • Allison Pill (“In Treatment”)
  • Dianne Wiest (“In Treatment”)
  • Chandra Wilson (“Grey’s Anatomy”)

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Mad Men – “A Night to Remember”

“A Night to Remember”

September 14th, 2008

Describing Betty Draper to the representatives from Heineken, Duck Phillips identifies her as “well off and educated.” Now, in the context of the scene, we breeze right by it: they’re selling this pitch, so it’s not like anyone’s going to put on the brakes. However, let’s be frank: to this point, and even after the events of the episode, would anyone really consider Betty Draper to be educated?

This isn’t to say that she is not intelligent, or that she is not capable of achieving great things, but rather that her tragic flaw is her ignorance to the outside world, to the world that she is constantly being surrounded by. When she becomes the punchline of Don’s pitch to Heineken, she isn’t necessarily just reacting to Don’s use of her as a tool: rather, it’s that he knows better than she does what her role is, what demographic she’s in, and what she’s likely to buy when she goes to the grocery store.

But that’s Don’s job, as it is Peggy’s: it’s their job to tell people what they want. It’s just that, as both found out in this episode, you need to know your audience: whether your wife or the Catholic Church, there are certain rules that need to be followed if you’re going to let your role in the ad game dictate the rest of your life decisions. And, as seen with Don, Peggy and Joan, the balance between these two sides of one’s life, in whatever form they take, will eventually get the better of you.

And when that happens, as it did to Betty Draper who doesn’t even have a single role she could really latch onto in her lowest moments, it will serve as…well, you can read the title of the episode, you know where this is going.

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