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Thursday, September 11, 2008

We watched "Maidenform," the last Mad Men but one, tonight. I have to say the show is disappointing me. I feel like they are going for the big ugly moments, but the stories aren't adding up the way they did, and the characters aren't convincing me.

In the episode (SPOILER), Duck abruptly shoves his loyal dog out the front door of the office building. In the rain.

I guess that is supposed to make him out to be about the worst imaginable shit there is. Because abandoning your dog onscreen is one of the lowest things you can do. (In real life it's repulsive, too. But for some reason on TV, serial murder is more forgivable than abandoning a dog, while in real life people take it more seriously.) Apparently he's angry because his wife is remarrying, and can't keep the dog because her fiancé; is allergic. So he takes it out on the dog. Rather than, say, trying to give it away.

The dog, mysteriously, once outside, runs off into the night. I can't imagine any dog that would do that.

Don, for his part, discovers that he has a "reputation" as an adulterer. He seems pretty upset about it. Considering the gusto with which he sleeps with other women, you'd think it wouldn't come as a shock to him. He seems almost ... ashamed.

All big moments. But they didn't add up, for me. They didn't enlighten me about the characters. They seemed forced -- big moments for the actors to act.

(The dog running off just felt like an animal wrangler mistake, or maybe no one was on set who has ever had a dog.)

Last year the big moments were there, but they felt earned. And I'm having trouble caring about any of these people; they're all so awful to everyone around them.

What do you guys think?



Well, I can't speak to the larger issue, but the proximate cause of the dog-in-the-rain bit was that Duck was staring longingly at a bottle of whiskey and his dog was looking at him reproachfully. He's a dry drunk, if his ex-wife is to be believed.

By Blogger Matthew Dessem, at 11:55 PM  

The dog was the most heartbreaking moment I've ever seen in television. We don't see him fall off the wagon, we see him reach for a bottle, but stop, the dog's look making him guilty. So he marches the dog downstairs, across the lobby and locks him outside.

It doesn't make him dispicable, it creates pity. It's heartbreaking weakness.

By Blogger Dan Abrams, at 1:20 AM  

As far as Don's behavior goes, a recurring motif of the season is Don's willful blindness to himself.

For example, when the country club emcee had the veterans in the audience stand up for applause, and Don saw the loving look of respect in his daughter's eyes, it pained him -- because he knew his "veteran" status is largely a fraud. There have been a few such incidents this season.

It's increasing the pressure on Don's intrinsic conflict: the man he really is and the man he pretends to be. For his illusion to work, he has to buy it too.

It's not unusual for a dirtbag of a human being to think of himself as a "good guy," and when confronted with evidence of his dirtbaggery, freaks out and grows angry. His self-image crashed against reality, and he hates that.

The series is building to a point where Don will crack under the pressure of his conflicting identities. But it won't happen for a long time.

By Blogger Harvey Jerkwater, at 11:40 AM  

Wasn't there a constant device on The Sopranos where they showed Tony as a loving, misunderstood pussycat then immediately showed him to be a heartless monster? The idea being, presumably, to say, "don't get too attached to this scumbag, viewers". I think Mad Men does the same - their utter commitment to the reality of the characters is such that we have to take the warts with the warm fuzziness. Because we're all like that.

By Blogger blogward, at 5:02 AM  

"It's not unusual for a dirtbag of a human being to think of himself as a "good guy," and when confronted with evidence of his dirtbaggery, freaks out and grows angry. His self-image crashed against reality, and he hates that."

This is so true. I've seen it again and again in real life.

By Blogger Marly K, at 9:46 AM  

I agree about the dog moment. I was actually thinking about asking Matthew Weiner about it at the WGA panel on Weds. It does seem big for a show that's usually so subtle.

But, I would also say, wait for the next two eps. I believe they are redemptive.

By Blogger Jen D, at 4:24 PM  

Weiner said, "You can't sustain a six-page scene if people don't sip their drinks where I tell them to. I have a lot of non-verbal moments in my scripts that are very meaningful."

This explains why I think the pacing is soo sloow. I have many problems with "Mad Men", one being I don't think there's much meat to it.

Another problem is- things happen and then... nothing.

And another- Weiner beats the "this is a man's world and woman are here to serve because that's what the era was" beats to death. We get it. it begins to feel like filler doing nothing for plot or story.

I feel better now.

By Blogger Big Tex, at 9:19 PM  

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