Tag Archives: Mad Men

Over/Underrated 2015 – Honorable Mentions

22 Apr

This is it, folks! I’ve finally made it to the top of my Everest and am posting my last over/underrated entry for the year 2015. It only took me three months longer than it should have, so thanks to those of you who have loyally kept up with my sporadic thoughts on the best/worst that 2015 pop culture had to offer.

Like I mentioned at the start of this series, 2015 was a good year. For that reason, I leave you with a few On Pointe honorable mentions. 2015 wouldn’t have been such a banner year without them.

On Pointe

Jon Snow

WARNING: This entry contains major spoilers about season five of Game of Thrones.

It wouldn’t seem right to discuss all that was right (and yet so wrong!) in 2015 pop culture without talking about the “death” of Jon Snow on the HBO series Game of Thrones. I say “death” and not death because I’m still in denial about it.

What’s most surprising about Snow’s death is that viewers (like me) were still surprised. Considering the source material, George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, was published all the way back in 2011, it’s shocking that flashing neon spoilers weren’t all over the internet in the days leading up to his murder on the show. Similar to the way they guarded the Red Wedding back in 2013 (see our entry on that here), it’s clear that fans of the GoT books are not about ruining the television experience.

Even if there hadn’t been spoilers only a novel away, you’d still think I’d have seen it coming, considering GoT had already killed off such notable characters as Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon. Still, somehow in my mind, Snow was the one character that somehow would survive all the violence and be standing even after Winter had come and gone. Apparently, like him, I knew nothing.

Whether or not Snow’s character is actually dead dead remains to be seen. No amount of money I’ve set aside for therapy would be enough if he actually is. After all, the night is dark and full of terrors, and I’m not ready to face it without him.

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Better Call Saul

There was never a doubt in my mind that Better Call Saul was going to be amazing. How could it not be? After all, Breaking Bad was deemed Absolute Best Drama by my fair Bestie only a couple years ago. A spinoff show helmed by the same geniuses (Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould), and centered on one of the most beloved characters seemed almost too good to be true. Well it’s not too good, and it’s true.

The first season* of BCS brought us an intimate glimpse into Saul Goodman’s past, showing us the conflicted double life of Jimmy McGill (Saul’s birth name). McGill is striving to be a straight-laced lawyer, but unable to turn off his love of the con game. Bob Odenkirk is perfection as Jimmy McGill, bringing a much appreciated sense of humor and flair to the Breaking Bad universe. The show has not become as dark as Breaking Bad, yet, but the presence of the Mexican cartel (Tuco!) and everyone’s favorite gun-for-hire, Mike Ehrmantraut, are indicators that McGill is just one wrong client away from more than he can bargain for.

For viewers, the anticipation of waiting for McGill to truly embrace his Slippin’ Jimmy side and become the Saul we all know and love is almost a more delicious burn than watching Walter White become the one who knocks. There are some (*cough* my husband *cough*) who might argue that knowing the end result makes the journey there less intriguing. I couldn’t disagree more. Seeing where McGill begins makes him a more sympathetic character, and makes his ultimate undoing in Breaking Bad even more heartbreaking.

All plot aside, BCS would still be what the critics mean when they talk about good television. Once again the team of Gilligan and Gould have shown us that the magic is in the details, and that no single frame of a show should be without purpose. If that’s not reason enough to give BCS a try, then I don’t know what is.    

*This post was supposed to have been written way back in January, so for the purposes of this blog entry I am choosing to pretend that I haven’t already watched season two of BCS. After all, I need to save something for my 2016 lists.

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Mad Men Finale

WARNING: This entry contains spoilers about the final episode of Mad Men.

Don Draper’s personal journey on Mad Men was a long one, and he played about every role you can think of along the way. War deserter to advertising genius. Philandering husband to doting father. Cutthroat partner to encouraging mentor. Confident jackass to lost and confused drunk. Still, in all seven seasons of Mad Men, I can honestly say I never expected to see Don Draper: Hippie.

The final season of Mad Men found many of the characters, not just Don, floundering to find self realization. Could Joan really be content working under men who saw her as nothing more than a pair of walking boobs? Could Peggy have both her career and love? Could Pete find a way to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife and daughter? Could the seemingly never satisfied Betty find a way to leave this earth content with the life she’s lived?

The answers to all of these questions arrived in the show’s series finale. Sure, to some extent the finale felt a little too neat, making sure that all the loose ends were tied up nice and tidy with a pretty bow on top. But despite those ends being tied up, they weren’t always what the fans necessarily wanted (Betty’s illness and Pete’s family reunion, to name a few).

What made the finale truly classic was the result of Don’s quest for self-actualization. Up until the final seconds of the finale, I was starting to doubt that we’d see that same kind of closure for our antihero as we’d been seeing for the rest of the characters. What on earth could his retreat to California have at all to do with the rest of the series? What did it all mean?! But, all it took was a Mona Lisa smile to appear on Don’s face and the singing of Coca-Cola’s most famous advertisement for me to get it. And just like that, the ending of Mad Men made its way into series finale history.  

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Over/Underrated 2014 – Part Three

3 Jan

Overrated

Pharrell Williams/”Happy”

–Brook

Look at any list of overrated songs in 2014, and you’re guaranteed to find “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

Which is hard to believe, because I mean, c’mon it’s freaking Pharrell Williams.

Every time I turned on the radio this year, “Happy” was undoubtedly playing.

Now, to be fair, there’s nothing really wrong with the song. On its face, it’s fine. But 1) it’s a song about being “happy” in a minor key, which is counterintuitive because things in minor keys are typically sad. But maybe they meant it ironically, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt there. And 2) the song plays on roughly a 15-second loop, making it even more repetitive than “Blurred Lines,” if that’s even possible.

But the real problem that I have with the song isn’t the song itself, it’s the fact that it’s Pharrell’s song.

In my very sheltered, suburban, utterly undiversified upbringing, Pharrell was the closest thing to a musical genius my friends and I had ever stumbled upon, especially considering he was a hip-hop artist.

In the early 2000s, we listened to N.E.R.D with the same fervor that kids in South Central LA listened to Cypress Hill or N.W.A in the early 90s. We thought we had found something special, and for once music critics agreed with us, considering they often slammed the boybands to whom we pledged our undying love.

We thought we were cool, and listening to Pharrell (and other music produced by The Neptunes) made us cool.

However, as with most things that have an “underground” following, the moment they reach mainstream popularity, the coolness once associated them instantly disappears.

2014 was the year of “Happy” and Pharrell’s stupid Arby’s hat, and everyone apparently loved it. I, on the other hand, was left remembering the days my friends and I thought we were hood, rolling down the streets of Maple Grove, blaring “Rockstar” on repeat.

Pharrell-Williams-Happy

Underrated

Mad Men Season Seven, Part One

–Andrea

True Confession of a Self-Proclaimed Television Junkie: When I first started watching Mad Men, I didn’t like it.

You have no idea how good it feels to finally get that off my chest.

I was introduced to Mad Men relatively late in the game, watching the first few seasons on DVD in an attempt to understand all the critical acclaim the show was getting, as well as to understand what was so special about that Jon Hamm fella.

I watched at least the first two seasons thinking, Why does everyone love this show so much? When on earth is something actually going to happen? What I finally realized, and what made me a fan for life, was the realization that things had been happening all along; events were just unfolding so delicately that I didn’t see them approaching.

Up until this past season, I had been under the impression that the world understood this fundamental truth about Mad Men. You can imagine my surprise, then, when the overall fan reaction to part one of season seven, the last season, was a scant “meh.” Critics’ reviews were generally positive, but Mad Men fans seemed to be shrugging their shoulders in disinterest. Even Banana Republic seemed blasé, forgoing their Mad Men inspired line for 2014. Bizarre behavior on all counts, considering that more actually happened in these seven episodes than in many previous seasons combined.

To use a particularly appropriate metaphor, I’d like to remind Mad Men fans everywhere that watching Mad Men is not like taking shots of whiskey. You’re not going to get that immediate burn, à la Game of Thrones. No, watching Mad Men is like drinking well-made cocktails. At first the effects are so subtle that you hardly notice they’re happening. By the time you realize what’s going on, you’re five drinks in and it’s far too late to turn back.

If part two of season seven is anything at all like its first half, then I am going to be left with a hangover even Don Draper himself wouldn’t see coming.

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Over/Underrated 2013: Part Ten

11 Jan

Overrated

Splitting TV Seasons

— Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

In September AMC announced that the final season of Mad Men would be split in two. The first set of seven episodes will air this spring, and the final seven will air in 2015.

AMC president Charlie Collier said the following in defense of the network’s decision: “In an era where high-end content is savored and analyzed, and catch-up time is used well to drive back to live events, this decision makes sense.”

AMC made the announcement shortly after the premier of the final season of Breaking Bad (which was also split in two), which became a bonafide pop culture phenomenon, raking in over 10 million viewers (a network high) for the series finale.

Sorry, lots of parentheticals in that last sentence.

Those of us who don’t make money from the shows or networks were left rolling our eyes in disgust.

I’ve heard some people talk about this as if it’s some new fangled idea devised in the wake of the popularity of binge watching.

It’s not.

I hate to break it to you, but networks have been doing this for at least 10 years, if not longer. For example, the final season of Sex and the City was split in half, and the final season aired in 2004. The Sopranos did the same thing two years later. (HBO, you trailblazer you…)

TV has always been split into seasons, but seasons historically haven’t functioned as a conceptual tool of the audience’s experience of long running programs the way they do today (think: cliffhanger like Dexter finding Rita’s dead body in the tub). They functioned as a way to give the cast and crew a break.

The point here is that, sure, the final season of Mad Men will technically be longer by four episodes, but fans will have to wait an additional year for the curtains to close on our favorite ’60s era drunkards.

It’s not that I want that show to end, per se. It’s just that in the current climate of binge-watching (which, according to the Collier’s statement, is exactly what the networks want) the whole point is that a viewer DOES NOT HAVE TO WAIT for the next episode, or even the next season.

I understand that in order to survive the networks have to make money. So please, call a spade a spade. Stop spinning this BS about wanting to give the public a chance to effectively savor, dissect, and appreciate the “art” before making the next installment available. It’s nothing more than a ploy designed to drive sales.

Or better yet, take a page from Netflix’s playbook and just make entire seasons available all at once. I promise, we, the adoring fans from whom you’re squeezing every last dime, won’t mind a bit.

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Underrated

Neil Gaiman

— Andrea (@prettyandink)

Neil Gaiman has written over thirty comic books, graphic novels, picture books, books for young people and books for adults. He penned one of the most well-received episodes of Doctor Who in the franchise’s history. His work has been adapted to film, radio, the stage and television. He has won countless awards, including four Hugos, the Newbery and the Carnegie Medals. With his hands in so many proverbial pots, how is it, then, that the most common response when I mention his name is, “Who?”

While his name may not be a familiar one, his work most certainly is. Works like Coraline, Sandman, The Graveyard Book and American Gods have garnered him a devout cult following that seems willing to follow their eccentric leader anywhere.

Neil Gaiman is to the literary world what Tim Burton is to movies. Gaiman is known for creating art that is equal parts kooky, frightening, intelligent and bewitching. His work is saturated with mythology and fantasy, and then steeped in a sinister darkness that is intoxicating to consume. He manages to take our wildest fantasies, mix it with our most hideous nightmares and turn it into something dangerous in its beauty. To say he is a creative genius doesn’t quite cover it.

2013 was another year of accolades and acclaim for Gaiman. His picture book Chu’s Day has delighted toddlers and parents alike, while his Roald Dahl-esque tale Fortunately, the Milk is quickly becoming a favorite amongst those familiar with his children’s books. A dramatization of his book Neverwhere featuring James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch aired on BBC radio. He also released An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, a compilation of live performances from the tour he did with his singer/songwriter/wife. Then, of course, there was The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

A book with a deeply personal background, The Ocean at the End of the Lane weaves together everything fans love about Gaiman and manifests them in a concise 178 pages. With themes of overcoming evil, adventure, friendship and the loss of childhood innocence, Ocean is the story of a boy growing up, and it’s haunting in its tragic beauty. Written with poetic elegance, Gaiman’s words dance across the pages in the effortless and mesmerizing style his readers have come to expect. Ocean premiered at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list, and it was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. It also was the 2013 Goodreads Choice for Fantasy book.

Neil Gaiman is not just an author; he’s an artist. His imagination and ingenuity know no bounds, and to read his books is to experience the otherworldly. If you are not yet familiar with his work, right that wrong immediately. Your soul will thank you for it.

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On Pointe

Benedict Cumberbatch

— Andrea

It’s hard to believe there was a significant portion of my life when I only knew Benedict Cumberbatch as “that guy who played the rapist in Atonement.” It’s also hard to believe there was a significant portion of time in my life when I only knew Benedict Cumberbatch as “that guy who was in The Other Boleyn Girl and played the rapist in Atonement.” It’s a shame because not only does he possess possibly the most delightfully British name of all time, but also because he’s one of the most talented actors of the 2000s.

If 2013 was the year that Jennifer Lawrence was Master of the Universe, it’s only because Cumberbatch was such a gentleman that he let her walk away with the title. Cumberbatch starred in five movies this year (Star Trek: Into Darkness, 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate, August: Osage County, and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug). If that wasn’t enough, he also basically broke the internet when a webisode prequel to the next season of his BBC show Sherlock aired.

I think it’s fair to say that Cumberbatch was the face of EVERYTHING in 2013, and it’s easy to see why. He’s highly blessed with both talent and charisma, and he’s got a voice that seems to command devotion. Plus, Buzzfeed called him King of the Internet, for good reason.

It may have taken me awile to learn the name Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s one I won’t soon forget.

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