Tag Archives: Vacation

Season Finale: Mad Men – “Tomorrowland”

“Tomorrowland”

October 17th, 2010

“Are you kidding me?!”

I’m extremely glad that Faye Miller actually said this during the episode, so I could pull quote it instead of saying itself myself. But, seriously: is Mad Men kidding me?

“Tomorrowland,” like its namesake, was supposed to be about potential: it was supposed to show us a way for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to survive, and a way for Don Draper to reconcile his identity crisis and move forward. It was about charting a new path after tobacco, working with the Cancer society and making plans for whatever the future might hold.

Instead, “Tomorrowland” drops us off with ten weeks of no business, a vacation conundrum, and a series of circumstances which is precisely the opposite of last season’s closer: instead of building excitement, “Tomorrowland” builds nothing but dread, creating scenarios that test our patience with these characters, and even the show itself.

Unless you’re a huge fan of total uncertainty and absolute chaos, chances are “Tomorrowland” was more disturbing than enlightening – the question, of course, is whether it is still good television.

And I think that answer, despite my frustration, is yes.

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Modern Family – “Hawaii”

“Hawaii”

May 12th, 2010

I don’t think this was, in particular, one of the show’s funniest episodes. There were certainly some clever lines in “Hawaii,” as the show tried out some familiar but not yet tapped out character combinations within the central family, but the show wasn’t going for what you’d call broad humour here.

However, there was a nice sense of realism in the way these stories unfolded; everything reaches a heartwarming conclusion, but rather than undercutting some sort of broad comic satire it seems like a logical extension of a trip which got “real” in a hurry. Everyone was caught dealing with certain realities they hadn’t faced in their daily lives which people are technically supposed to leave behind on vacations, and that led to a focus on these characters as real people in a way the show sometimes elides in its search for comedy.

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Cultural Holidays: Season’s Readings and Greetings

While I think any regular readers of the blog will acknowledge that my capacity to separate myself from writing about television is limited to the point that any attempt to suggest a long-term vacation from Cultural Learnings is futile, the lack of new television and the increase in time spent celebrating Christmas with the family will mean that I (like just about every critic) will be taking some time off over the next few weeks.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a most happy of holidays, and hope that the season brings you everything you wish it to. I’ll likely be back with some “Year in Cultural Learnings” thoughts before the New Year (like I said, vacation fail), but it’s been a great year here at the blog and I want to thank all of you for reading, commenting, and contributing to an ongoing dialogue on the fantastic medium of television.

So, I’m off for the holidays, but I do want to be able to offer one last bit of reading. As such, here’s some links to my big features over the past few weeks, along with some added context on the lists involved. It’s a chance to catch up if you didn’t see the lists the first time through, or a chance to revisit them when annoying relatives have you locked in a back room afraid to venture forward.

[I’ll mention at this point that I certainly wasn’t the only person making lists this year, and media scholar Chris Becker has been doing an amazing job keeping up with the various lists at News for TV Majors.]

Articles

However, first I want to point out the relatively new “Articles” tab in the header above. This leads to (surprise!) Cultural Learnings’ collection of articles, where some of my more substantial or theoretical posts on television can be found. These range from the early months of the blog (where I coined the phrase sci-futility to describe the inevitable ratings decline of then-hit Heroes) to just a few days ago (when I made my yearly attempt to connect a major motion picture to television), so there’s plenty of reading material if you’re new to the blog and wondering if I ever do anything but review individual episodes.

This six-part series should really be titled “Television, the Aughts and Us” considering the great number of comments the pieces received. It was great to be able to get some other opinions on the various subjects, especially when it came to something like Part Five (which focused on the role of torrents in the consumption of television in the decade). While I framed the pieces as an individual experience in order to account for my critical blind spots (The Sopranos, The Shield, etc.), it’s important to get a diverse range of perspectives in order to really understand the decade. As a result, the comments have in many ways become part of the pieces, so I want to thank my various co-authors in pulling everything together.

Introduction

Part One (featuring 24, Alias and Gilmore Girls)

Part Two (featuring The O.C., Veronica Mars and Friday Night Lights)

Part Three (featuring Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Mad Men)

Part Four (featuring Survivor, The Amazing Race)

Part Five (featuring The Office, Arrested Development, and How I Met Your Mother)

Part Six (featuring The Wire)

Posting this series over three days created some backlash, especially when my Episodes list was posted independently to Fark.com and led to a large number of comments about various unrepresented shows. And the nature of making three lists simultaneously meant that I was making some concessions. I didn’t put Zack Gilford onto my performers list, or “The Son” into my episodes list, because Friday Night Lights was making the shows list despite only airing about 9 episodes in the calendar year on the strength of that episode. I knew Battlestar Galactica wasn’t making my shows list, so I chose to represent the show through its finale (which I am aware I liked more than most) because it felt the most representative of its polarizing season.

And there were other decisions that were influenced by my current frustrations with certain series. It’s hard to laud How I Met Your Mother when I’m just getting past the show’s treatment of Barney and Robin’s relationship, and as much as House’s season finale was a great movie-esque two hours of television the fact that the rest of the season has entirely ignored its implications sort of dampens its effectiveness. And attempting to create an objective bubble around these shows or these episodes would defeat the whole point of this list: they’re my opinions, and if I didn’t use my subjectivity in making these lists why would I even bother?

Which is why I loved seeing the feedback on Fark, and the feedback in the comments section, because mine is but one opinion. It was a great year in television, and the more perspectives we get on that the better.

The 10 Performers of the Year

The 10 Episodes of the Year

The 10 Shows of the Year

Thanks everyone for reading, and all the best over the holidays! I’ll likely be back for a few comments on Doctor Who: The End of Time over the break, and as always you can find me on Twitter if you somehow after reading all of this want to read more of what I have to say. All the best to you and yours this holiday season.

Myles

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