Thursday, September 30, 2010

White Flight

A few months ago I wrote about critic Armond White, who so often plays the contrarian.  Enough that people get mad at him.

So I wasn't surprised when I checked the Rotten Tomatoes list regarding the eagerly-awaited Social Network film.  Of 55 critics, only one gives it a thumbs down.  Armond.

Keep swimming upstream, Armond.  Don't let them tell you what to think.

PS  I checked back and another critic doesn't like it, with presumably more the come, but Armond was first.

Treat Her Like A Guest

Today we celebrate the birthday of Grace Slick, now in her seventies.

She was a model who, in the do-it-yourself 60s, became a singer. Her first band was The Great Society. Great name. A much worse name is Jefferson Airplane, but that's the one that clicked, and before she knew it, her powerful voice was heard by millions on hits like "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love" (originally done by The Great Society).

In the 70s, the renamed Jefferson Starship became, if anything, bigger than the Airplane, but I'll always think of Slick from those radical days in the 60s. She did a lot of wild things, but the best story is something that didn't happen. Tricia Nixon invited fellow Finch College alumni, including Slick, to tea at the White House. Slick brought along Abbie Hoffman and planned to spike President Nixon's drink with LSD. Unfortunately, they were stopped at the gate when security realized just who Grace Slick was.

She's a painter now and, I'm glad to say, seems to have a sense of humor about herself and the times in which she lived.



Tea And Honey

As a political pundit, Stanley Fish is a great Milton scholar.  His latest New York Times piece keeps up his record of being different without necessarily being right.

It's on the Tea Party movement.  He believes treating them with contempt plays into their belief in an unanswerable, condescending ruling elite.  What to do?

Mayor Bloomberg may be right when he says (in explaining his endorsement of Cuomo over Paladino) that “anger is not a governing strategy,” but it sure is a campaign strategy and it is one the Tea Party and the Republicans it has tutored know how to execute. [....]

Don’t sling mud down in the dust where your opponents thrive. Instead, engage them as if you thought that the concerns they express (if not their forms of expression) are worthy of serious consideration, as indeed they are. Lift them up to the level of reasons and evidence and see how they fare in the rarified air of rational debate where they just might suffer the fate of Antaeus.

It’s at least worth a try, because the way things are going we may soon be looking at Senator O’Donnell, Governor Paladino and, down the road a bit, President Palin.

The funny thing here is in allegedly appealing to our higher selves, he's being just as condescending as the people whose tactics he's questioning.

He simply can't see that the Tea Party movement is no more angry or emotional than any other political group that wants change.  For years the left was more likely to take to the streets, and if there were any editorials, they were more likely about how refreshing it is to see the people speaking their minds.

If anything, the Tea Partiers seem less angry than most opposition movements.  Doesn't Fish remember the widespread, intense hatred of Bush?  And there was plenty to go around for Clinton, and the elder Bush, and Reagan, too.  For better or worse, this level of debate is politics as usual.

Fish honestly seems to believe his side (which sure ain't the Tea Party) is the reasonable side, with the better arguments.  Thus 1) it's their duty to raise the level of debate and 2) once the debate is on a higher plane, they will naturally win.  But both sides here believe they're the rational one, and it's the other side that will lose in a fair debate.  Truth is the differences aren't merely based on misunderstandings, but more fundamental disagreements.

So if you really want to stop sneering at the Tea Partiers, then stop pretending one side stands for reason and enlightenment, and the other simply doesn't understand what's going on but wins because it fights dirty.

Finally, note this is just strategic advice.  Fish considers a Senator O'Donnell or Governor Paladino so self-evidently horrible that he doesn't need to explain why (or, more to the point, why they'll be worse than many of the polticians we've got now).  But Fish admits his advice may not work.  And if it doesn't, guess it's time to go back to treating them with richly-deserved contempt.

AP News

Arthur Penn has died.  He hadn't done anything major in a while, but there was a period in the late 60s/early 70s when he was one of the most interesting directors out there.

He made his name as a TV director in the early days of the medium, and then became a highly successful Broadway director in the late 50s, doing Two For The Seesaw, The Miracle Worker and Toys In The Attic.  Throughout his career, he'd return to the stage, directing works such as Wait Until Dark in the mid-60s and Sly Fox in the mid-70s.  But it's as a movie director where he had his greatest impact.

He made an odd (and to me, not great) Western in the 50s, starring Paul Newman, called The Left Handed Gun.  It got a lot of attention in certain critical circles, especially in France.  Then in the early 60s he adapted The Miracle Worker
(which he'd earlier worked on as a TV broadcast and Broadway hit) to the screen.  The film won Oscars for both Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke.

His next complete film really showed he could do more than tasteful adaptations--Mickey One (1965) starring Warren Beatty, is a surrealistic journey through one comedian's life.  I wouldn't call it an artistic success, and it certainly flopped at the box office, but that Penn would even attempt something so odd showed he was worth watching.

And working with Beatty paid off.  After a long history of looking for a director, producer/star Beatty got Penn to direct Bonnie And Clyde (1967).  Old studio moguls would have rejected it as too explicit, too violent and too eccentric--in both style and tone--but the film became a huge hit and taught Hollywood some new tricks, many of which are still being used.

I suppose he had his pick of projects after that, and went in an odd direction--Alice's Restaurant (1969), starring Arlo Guthrie, who wrote the song the film is based on.  It's a small film.  There's some satire, but it's mostly got a sweet tone, and, in its own way, probably show the world of hippies better, and with more understanding, than any other film of the day did.

Then he made Little Big Man in 1970, an historical pageant, with Dustin Hoffman living through the late 1800s with both the white and red man.  I find it a bit obvious, and overpraised, but at least Penn was trying new things.

The next fifteen years had Penn making films of interest, if not the same impact--Night Movies (a Gene Hackman thriller that has a cult), Missouri Breaks (a mistake, really--maybe he jumped at the chance to work with Brando), Four Friends, Target and Dead Of Winter.  His final theatrical release, Penn  & Teller Get Killed, in 1989, was not well-received, but it was more interesting than expected. I'd like to see it again to see how well it stands up.

His subjects may have changed, but he had a distinct voice.  You can't ask for much more than that.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed

I've watched the first two episodes of The Event (while it's competition, Lone Star, has already been canceled).  It's not bad--they keep the action going--but the characters and overall plot aren't much yet.  It's doesn't pop out like, say, the first season of Heroes did.  (I won't even bother to compare it to Lost.)

When it comes down to it, (spoilers) it seems to be that venerated sci-fi concept--beings living among us who are different but look the same.  Two recent examples are V and Battlestar Galactica.  The question now is what do these beings--perhaps aliens--want.  They're being played sympathetically, with the villains apparently being the cliched government officials who believe too much in a security state.

The main guy among these officials is played by Zeljko Ivanek.  He just started a task force to round up all these weird beings with seemingly magical powers.  Wait a second--that's the exact same role he played last year on Heroes!  Couldn't they at least cast someone else?

This I Believe

The Pew Forum just put out the results of a quiz about religion.  The top scores went to non-believers. Atheists and agnostics averaged 20.9 out of 32 questions correct.  Jews and Mormons scored almost as well, with 20.5 and 20.3, respectively.  Protestants were far behind with 16 and Catholics even lower with 14.7. (They interviewed thousands of Americans, and there weren't enough Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists to give them group rankings.)

This isn't too surprising when you think of it, since it's really a general knowledge quiz.  I'd guess atheists and agnostics would on average do better than religious people in many other sorts of quizzes. And maybe they had to think about religion before they rejected (or ignored) it, while many religious people are simply raised in a tradition and don't necessarily know that much about other faiths.  Another way to look at it is that everyone in America has a reasonable knowledge of Christianity--the majority religion--while minority religions are better understood by their adherents.  As you might expect, groups scored best when asked questions about their own religion.

Still, it's a bit of a surprise when most Protestants don't know what Martin Luther did, and a lot of Catholics don't know about transubstantiation. On the other hand, I'm not surprised at all that so many people believe the golden rule is part of the Ten Commandments.

If you want to take the quiz go here.  That's a short version, however.  The full list of questions are here.

Goodness Gracious

The Killer turns 75 today. Wow. Happy birthday, Jerry Lee.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Credit Where Credit's Due

In the past I've criticized Chase's modern automatic banking system, so let me say something nice about them.

In the past, one of the worst things about ATMs was making a deposit. You generally had to have a deposit slip, find an envelope, and remember the amount of the deposit before you sealed the envelope (since you'd have to write it on the envelope). You'd also have to remember your account number. Oh yeah, you'd also have to bring a pen along.

With the new system, you just let the machine know you want to make a deposit. It'll ask if it's check or cash. Either way, you just put your deposit in and the machine not only accepts it, but will tell you how much it's accepting if you're worried. No slips. No account numbers. No pens.

Of course, these days people route so many checks directly to the bank you hardly need to make ATM deposits anyway.

Name That Scene

The second episode of Boardwalk Empire, "The Ivory Tower," featured a scene where two well-connected, upper-class men, living in luxury, sit in chairs and discuss politics.  To make a point, one of them asks some tricky geopolitical questions to a servant, who becomes flustered.  This supposedly proves (to the one asking the questions) average voters don't really understand anything beyond their immediate experience, and the ruling class should rule.

It's a good idea for a scene.  I enjoyed it when they did it in The Remains Of The Day (1993).

The episode was written by the show's creator Terence Winter, who wrote the celebrated "Pine Barrens" for The Sopranos.  In that one, gangsters lose a victim they'd presumed dead in the wilds of New Jersey.  Everyone wondered what happened to the guy, but creator David Chase wasn't talking.

Boardwalk Empire also had a shooting in the wilds of New Jersey.  At the end of "The Ivory Tower," two people come across an unaccounted for but though-to-be dead man who is very much alive.  It's almost as if Winter wanted to show the other side of "Pine Barrens."

The Major Importance Of Being Someone Like Earnest

I knew that Oscar Wilde wrote a four-act version of The Importance Of Being Earnest, but I'd never known why he changed it to three. Now that I've read the definitive four act edition, edited and introduced by Ruth Berggren, the whole thing is clear.

It's 1894 and Oscar Wilde needs money. Sure, he's had recent hits on the West End, but he lives extravagantly (egged on by lover Lord Alfred Douglas). His previous hits have been melodramas leavened by his wit, but his latest is a farce, and he thinks his best work yet.

He writes to actor-manager George Alexander, who starred in Wilde's first big hit, Lady Windermere's Fan, and asks for some front money. Alexander seems willing but they run into a snag. Wilde--who, by the way, employs a newfangled typewriting service for clean versions of his work--has written a four-act play. Alexander needs something with three acts. (He also wants one he can play in London then tour in America, though Wilde would rather sell the American rights separately.) Alexander, running a top-notch commercial theatre, plans to have a one-act curtain raiser to allow fashionable latecomers to settle in.

So Wilde sells the rights elsewhere while Alexander puts on a piece by Henry James. Which flops. Alexander needs something new quick, so he buys the rights to Earnest, but insists on changes.

The changes aren't just to shorten the play, however. In the original version, the two male leads, Jack and Algy, are equal roles. Much of acts two and three (which in the three-act version are squished into one act) are Algy's romance with Cecily. Plenty of the trimming is done to make the play more effective, but a lot of it helps make Jack the unquestioned lead. Alexander was a star and would insist. About half of Algy and Cecily goes, not to mention a fair amount of the secondary characters Prism and Chasuble.

There's also a lengthy scene where a new character, Gribsby, comes to Jack's country home to collect a debt Jack piled up in London, and that he believes, due to farcical complications, Algy must pay. There's some nice material that must have hurt Wilde to cut.

[After Jack discusses the idea that incarceration might be good for Algy]

Gribsby: I am sorry to be forced to break in on this interesting family discussion, but time presses. We have to be at Holloway not later than four o'clock, otherwise it is difficult to obtain admission. The rules are very strict.

Algy: Holloway?

Gribsby: It is at Holloway, sir, that detention of this character takes place always!

Algy: Well, I really am not going to be imprisoned in the suburbs for having dined in the West End. It is perfectly ridiculous! What nonsensical laws there are in England!

Furthermore, Jack is made--somewhat--the more responsible and romantic of the two. While all the major roles are excellent, any major production--John Gielgud's, for example--will have the top male play Jack.

Reading the four-act version is to glimpse an alternate universe. (Not unlike reading certain folios of Shakespeare that don't comport with the standard versions.) I know the three-act version backwards and forwards, so reading the same plot but with characters who have slightly different names and say somewhat different things is freaky.

Comparing the two versions, there's no question the final version is superior. Wilde may have been rewriting to Alexander's demands, but more important, he was polishing.

Along the way, the characters became more inhuman. This would normally be a bad thing, but Wilde tossing out all the small explanations and emotions found in longer lines makes the final version shine. Less explanatory, more epigrammatic. Less natural, more witty. Wilde's characters, so good with paradox, were never quite believable to begin with. Trying to humanize them will sink a production. Wilde moving the play away from nature (he'd been quarreling with nature for years in his philosophical writing) improves it immensely.

He also cuts to make the plot zoom. A lot of wasted motion is gone in the three-act version. For instance, in the final moments of the play, Jack quickly looks through the Army Lists to find his real name. In the earlier version, he hands books to every character and they all have their own lines about what they're reading before the name-confusion is resolved.

What sort of changes were made? You could write a book about it. But let's look at some examples.

In Act One we've got this line where Jack speculates about his love, Gwendolen, meeting his ward, Cecily:

Jack: ...Probably half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.

Algy: Women only do that when they have had a fearful quarrel and called each other a lot of other things first...

Which becomes:

Jack: ...after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.

Algy: Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first.

Much better. Note Wilde doesn't feel the need to explain the line, make it more "natural"--he gives Algy the wit without the strain.

In the second act, we have this from Chasuble, the church rector, regarding Cecily's governess:

Chasuble: Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism's pupil, I would hang upon her lips. (Miss Prism glares) I spoke metaphorically--metaphorically! Ahem!

Not a bad line, but Wilde adds something:

Chasuble: Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism's pupil, I would hang upon her lips. (Miss Prism glares) I spoke metaphorically--My metaphor was drawn from the bees.

Wilde also follows up with similar metaphor-based lines, sharpening Chasuble's character as well as his dialogue.

Here's an interesting change from the final act:

Brancaster [Bracknell in the three-act version]: I dislike arguments of any kind. They are usually vulgar, and always violent.

Wilde knows this isn't quite right. By the time he's done, he's fixed it:

Bracknell: I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.

Would Wilde have polished his play even if he didn't need to grind it down to three acts? Probably. We know he cut plenty of great lines even before he sent the four-act version to Alexander. But who knows how it would have turned out? We can be grateful that Alexander made demands that Wilde thought unreasonable at the time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gifted Humans

Composer Vincent Youmans was born today in 1898, one day after George Gershwin.  Perhaps he wasn't quite in a class with Jerome Kern or Richard Rodgers, but to be fair, his active career was shorter than Gershwin's.  If he'd had a couple more decades, who knows what would have happened..

I'd guess his best-known song is "Tea For Two" from the 1925 Broadway smash No, No, Nanette.  It's the seventh-most recorded song of the first half of the 20th centruy.  There have been hundreds of covers, from Lawrence Welk to Django Reinhardt to Art Tatum, not to mention Tommy Dorsey's cha cha version.  Then there was the day someone challenged Shostakovich to orchestrate it from memory in under an hour, and this was the result:



He also wrote the music for Flying Down To Rio, the 1933 RKO production that brought Astaire and Rogers together.  If he hadn't come up with "The Carioca," which allowed them their only dance in the film, the world of movie musicals might have been very different.

Revolution To Institution

I watched the 36th season premiere of SNL, and, as always, my first thought was they took all summer to come up with this?  You figure they'd have nothing by knockout sketches, but it never works that way.  It wasn't bad, exactly, just sort of blah.

It started--almost too predictably--with a bit mocking Christine O'Donnell.  I suppose they couldn't resist, but often targets that are too easy lead to lazy writing (and a lot of masturbation jokes).

Then Amy Poehler came out and shared her bizarre dream about the show with us.  The dream had a bunch of SNL walk-ons, like Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, which you sort of expected with Amy's return.  It wasn't a bad bit, but the show rarely got better.

Because the host was Poehler, we got the return of some of her famous characters--something for which I had no desire.  Certainly I never needed to see the Bronx Beat ladies again, even if it meant Maya Rudolph returned and Katy Perry made fun or her trouble with Sesame Street.  I also had no desire to ever see one-legged Amber.

Speaking of modern controversies, there was also a mock ad about the Ground Zero Mosque that didn't made much sense.

The best and most notable bit had to be Governor Paterson's appearance on Update.  He interrupted a Fred Armisen/Paterson routine that was already going well.  The Governor got big laughs, but I always feel queasy when politicians come on shows to laugh at themselves.  I'd rather have them be pissed off.  The other no table was also on Update, where new cast member Jay Pharoah did a good Will Smith impression.  He later did a few solid seconds of Chris Tucker.

The rest sort of runs together.  A bit about small hats.  A parody of The Expendables.  A digital short that didn't score but was at least bizarre.

Yep, it's another season of SNL. Looking forward to Bryan Cranston next week. 

A Tangled Web

Last week's Mad Men had me wondering, with only a handful of episodes left, when the big plot developments would start happening.  Well, this week, in "Hands And Knees," we got so many big plots we could hardly keep up.

Right off the bat Joan comes into Roger's office, locks the door and tells him she's pregnant.  From their little session on the street after they'd been mugger last episode.  It has to be him.  His husband's in basic training.

Don calls Sally.  She seems unhappy with him after he let her go last time.  But he's got the best thing a girl of her age could possible hope for--tickets to the Beatles at Shea Stadium. She screams, as she should.  She'll remember this the rest of her life.  (The Beatles were the biggest cultural phenomenon of the decade--it's hard for the show to avoid them entirely.)

Lane's father--with a rumbling voice that sounds like it comes fromt he heavens--shows up.  He demands Lane return to England and deal with his estranged wife, but Lane likes American and ain't leaving.

Pete's set up a meeting with some defense guys--he's been developing this account since season 2, and it looks like it's finally flowering.  Four millions dollars worth.  Harry's in this scene, and then he leaves for LA--what's going on there, he's done almost nothing in New York this season.  He's the one getting Don his Beatles tix, by the way.  Is that this week's plot?

Don joins Lane and his dad at the Playboy Club, where they still play jazz, and the Beatles are banished.  Lane's obviously been here before.  He's a keybolder and seems almost too interested in one particular African-American bunny named Toni.  (I know a woman who was a bunny at a New York Playboy club in the mid-60s. I wonder if she watches this show.)

At the Francis residence two G-men drop by and question Betty about Don.  If he wants to do advertising for the Defense Department, he needs clearance.  Betty gets out her cigarettes and lies about Don's past.  What will happen if they find out he's a deserter named Dick Whitman?  Will they find out?  Sometimes it's best not to know things, huh, Betty?

After, she calls Don.  Unflappable Don.  He didn't know about this, but finding out his wife, one of the few people alive who knows his secret, shakes him to the core.  He's even worried the phone is bugged, and they start putting on an act.  Don finds out from Megan that he simply signed the clearance form that she filled out.  She thought it was standard information, but of course it's all lies.  Megan feels horrible, but probably not as bad as Don.  He figures he needs to talk to Pete, one of the few in on the secret.

Don't been faced with the problem before.  His usually instinct is to run.  What will he do now?

Lane meets Toni by himself at the club.  They're in love.  He calls her his chocolate bunny, but I'd say it's a fine kettle of fish.

Roger, with Joan, gets lectured by his doctor, but they get the name of an abortionist who works outside the city.  The practice was still illegal in New York in 1965, but if you had money that wasn't a problem.

Pete meets Don.  Don mentions security, and Pete realizes what that means. Pete knows guys at the Defense Department, Don wants him to look into it.  The Don even suggests he'll leave the agency, which shocks Pete.

Roger and Joan discuss their situation at an old haunt.  He's clearly got a thing for her, and she, probably, for him.  If she wants to keep it, that's fine.  He'll help.  He even muses on her husband dying in Vietnam.  She says Craig dying is not a solution, while the audience is thinking it's the perfect solution.  She decides to go forward with the abortion.  She'll go alone.  Even in a crisis she can keep her head.

Betty tells Henry about the FBI officials she talked to.  She says she doesn't want any secrets between them, but of course she doesn't tell him the biggest secret of all about Don.

Don and Pete meet in the elevator.  Pete is a bit too glib about it, as far as Don is concerned. He's also a bit angry, especially that Don's life has led to, at the very least, him losing a major account.  Meanwhile, Don takes his situation very seriously, and in an emergency meeting talks to a professional about setting up a trust for his kids.

In the waiting room, Joan sees a mom and her teenage daughter.  The daughter goes in and the mom talk to Joan about her problem. She asks Joan how old is her daughter, and Joan says 15.

Dr. Faye comes in to see Don. He's obviously a wreck.  He hasn't been attending to business, of course.  He's sick and she decides to walk him home.

All this seems pretty big, but out of nowhere we get a scene with Roger doing his job--drinking with the jerky Lee Garner, Jr., Mr. Lucky Strikes.  Who drops a bombshell--they're conslidating, and won't be needing the services of SCDP.  After decades.  Since Lucky Strikes supplies over half their business, this is a death sentence.  But it's done.  It's all Roger can do to get 30 days before the bombshell drops.  After which, he takes his heart pills.  That four million defense deal is looking more important, but they'll need a bunch more like that just to be square.

Don's outside his apartment with Faye when a man comes up to him.  He justs wants some directions, but Don starts shaking.  Every time he turns a corner it might be someone who's there to pick him up.  Don can't breath--he's panicking.  He rushes to the bathroom to vomit.

Lane brings his father to his place and introduces him to his new woman, Toni.  His dad declines.  There's a problem, of course.  Lane has Toni go on ahead and asks pater what's wrong.  He's met with a cane to the head, knocking him down.  This is the Old Testament talking to him.  He tells 
him to get his house in order, one way or another.  "Yes, sir."

At home, Pete's watching Hazel.  It's 1965, the last year everything was in black and white.  Pregant Trudy wants to know what's wrong and he can't tell her, except to generally (and somewhat self-righteously, but that's Pete) condemn all those liars who ruin things for all the honest people.

Joan rides the train back home.  Does she have any doubts?  Too late, in any case.  Meanwhile, Roger is calling his rolodex numbers late into the night, trying to scare up business.  Seems like a losing effort.

Don lies in bed and Faye talks to him.  Shockingly, Don admits to what he did.  I guess he needs to tell someone who looks like Anna Draper.  This is definitely not the Don of 1965. He's tired of running.  I have to wonder if extending the circle of trust to someone you barely know is a good idea.  It seems to make them closer, but will he pay later?

Pete comes over in the morning and runs into Faye leaving.  Another secret blown.  Anyway, Pete's friend says they haven't flagged done yet.  If they drop the account, the investigation will stop.  Pete is not pleased, but Don says do it.  He'll also have to make an excuse to the partners.

Roger comes into the office and Joan's there.  He checks to she how she's holding up.  She says she's fine. Time to go to the partner's meeting.

At the meeting there's Joan, Roger, Pete, Don, Lane and Bert.  They all have secrets except Bert, unless you count his wild affair with Blankenship.

Pete falls on his sword and explains he lost the account with North American Aviation due to a misunderstanding.  Roger explodes.  He even says Pete "fucked up."  They're all shocked and he apologizes.  Next, Lane will be taking a leave of absence, going back to London to deal with his family. He leaves knowing the company is financially stable and in good hands with Joan.  Roger can only laugh, but when it comes to Lucky Strikes, he's mum.  How long can he keep this bombshell to himself.

At Don't office, Faye comes in to see how Don's been.  He seems to be feeling better--why not, he dodged a bullet.  He also seems closer to Faye, perhaps ready to have a serious relationship?  Then Megan comes in with Harry's Beatle tickets--at least that worked out.  Don looks out the door at pretty Megan doing her makeup while we hear (almost too on the nose) an instrumental of the Beatles' "Do You Want To Know A Secret."

So it looks like the big plot is not Don's identity--though I'm not sure if those repercussions are over yet (and who knows if he would have made clearance if they kept the account?), but the possible dissolution of the agency.  They've got three more episodes to deal with it.  This episode skipped ahead several weeks, but with a 30-day countdown, will the next few have a shorter span?

By the way, no Peggy, and she was missed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Which One Is Felix?

Word is J.J. Abrams is pitching a show starring Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson.  It'd be a comedy-drama where they're former black-ops.

There have been rumors for a while of the two teaming up, but this is the first I've heard that makes it sound like a serious possibility.  The odds of them capturing the magic of Lost is pretty low, but just seeing these guys together again will be worth it.

I have a pitch.  Each week they play different characters, but somehow by the end, Emerson chokes O'Quinn to death.

PS  Wait, there's more.  There was a lot of interest in the pitch and it looks like NBC has ordered a pilot.  Maybe they can have a bunch of other Lost people in as guest stars and create a new flash-sideways world.

Must Have Seen

So the NBC Thursday comedy lineup is back.  It's been there over a quarter century.  This season it's Community at 8 followed by 30 Rock, The Office and the newcomer OutsourcedParks And Recreation is taking a break--I've always considered it the weak sister, so fine with me.

So how's this year looking?  Pretty good.  Community went a little overboard with last year's finale--Britta publicly told Jeff she loved him, he walked out and then kissed Annie.  A bit of a surprise, since so much of the season dealt with Jeff and Britta as the central couple.  Maybe the producers didn't like where this way going and dialged things back a bit. 
It's somewhat cowardly, but better than flying off in weird directions. On the other hand, can you shove this toothpaste back in tube?

For the premiere, Britta was humiliated until she realized she was everyone's heroine for putting it on the line.  Jeff, to get back at Britta (and totally ignoring lovestruck Annie), told Britta he loved her and they started a sham relationship, waiting to see who'd crack first.  It was pretty tiresome actually (I was afraid they might go all the way and get married--happened in Taxi), but by the end they'd all become chums again and were status quo ante bellum.

So not actually a great plot, and I guess they were afraid of Jeff and Annie with Britta looking on as a season dynamic.  But still good gags, and that's the main thing.  Many self-conscious bits as always.  They started a twitter of stuff Pierce says--clearly a parody of $#*! My Dad Says--they even discussed the idea of turning it into a  TV series and said no one would watch that.  Jeff also warned Abed not to try so many TV references because that's such a first-season thing to do.

They also had Betty White, hotter than ever, in a guest shot as an anthro prof.  Just like last season the main teacher was played by Ken Jeong, hot from The Hangover.  He's a regular now, but I can do without his character.

Both 30 Rock and The Office have been around a while.  They used to win the best comedy Emmys until Modern Family (a good show, but not as good as Community) came along.  I was actually getting tired of them.  It seemed they'd done all the twists and turns, and were in the diminishing returns mode.  So I was surprised at how happy I was to see them both back.

30 Rock had Jack returning from a summer of bliss with Avery (I hope she returns soon--always good to see Elizabeth Banks). Jack also had a self-referential gag that they didn't play right--was this intentional?  Now that the show-within-the-show has made it to five seasons (already an inside bit), co-star Jenna has a contractual deal where she becomes a producer.  Jack launches into a tirade about worthless actors who become titular producers on TV shows.  That's when the producing credit for Alec Baldwin should have flashed onscreen, but for some reason it only came after they were into another scene.  Credit to Tina Fey (who wrote the script) for going in a different direction with the Jenna subplot--she turns out to be too good at her job and fires her producer self as deadweight.

Meanwhile, Liz's pilot friend, played by Matt Damon, falls to pieces.  Another big name actor who turns out to be flawed.  Will Liz ever find love?  Not if they're smart.  The harshest gag of the night was where Pete happily admits to Liz that he's been having sex with his wife before she wakes up.  We even do two cutaways in case you weren't sure.

Then there's The Office, which holds the tentpole.  It started with a decent video of them lip synching to the Human Beanz' "Nobody But Me."  The plot was Michael hiring a long-lost nephew as the office gopher.  He's horrible and everyone says he must go.  (Didn't Larry Sanders do this plot?) Some pretty funny material as Michael tries to convince everyone that nepotism is a good thing.

I didn't see Outsourced.  Maybe I'll check it out if I have the time, but the concept isn't that compelling.

How'd the evening do?  Well, we're long past the days of Friends, Seinfeld and ER (and doesn't Jeff Zucker know it), but it did well enough.  Truth is, they had to face the hottest sitcom on TV, The Big Bang Theory, and as expected, it took a toll.  Big Bang easily won and its followup, $#*! My Dad Says, held very well.  Community and 30 Rock, which did about as well as could be expected.  But The Office roared back, with a better demo than CSIOutsourced held reasonably well.  (The Apprentice seems to be dead. Once again, fine with me.)

By the way, the most obnoxious new show of the year--based on the ads--ABC's My Generation was DOA.  Grey's Anatomy, however, is still a hit, winning the 9 pm demo. So it's a lively night, but I've decided to stay with NBC.

To Be Continued

So I've seen Boardwalk Empire, the most touted HBO debut ever.  Created by Terence Winter of The Sopranos, with a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese, it certainly is a big deal.

Set in Atlantic City, 1920, it's about the rise of gangsters (not that they didn't exist already) during Prohibition.  The characters are based
on real-life figures, though I have no idea how much liberty is being taken.  The lead is Steve Buscemi as "Nucky" Johnson, the guy who apparently runs the town.  Other figures include Al Capone (just starting out in the biz), Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein.

My first reaction is haven't we seen this before?  Scorsese and Winter have done the gangster deal quite a bit--what attracted them to this project?  Well, I guess the setting is new.  In fact, one of the stars of the show is all the period detail, which much make it pretty costly for cable.  It's also a transitional time, where mass culture is just starting--recordings and movies as we understand them are taking over, and we'll soon get widespread radio.  This is gangsterism just before all those gangster movies codified it.  (We get our picture of what gangster should be like from the movies, but so did the gangsters.)

It's also a time of reform.  The Mann Act, the (first) Red Scare, women voting, and, of course, Prohibition.  No matter what else it did, Probition gave organized crime a real boost, and we get to watch people in on the ground floor.

So does the show work? Sort of.  It's hard to review a pilot.  Not until we learn about the characters a little more do we get an idea of what the show is about.  Just as how Atlantic City will run after Prohibition was uncertain, so is the show's premise still unclear.  And Steve Buscemi, so far, doesn't seem right for the lead.  The rest of the cast, however, seems pretty solid.

So I'd put this in the category of being worth further study.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How Did They Do It?

Yesterday I noted The Beatles didn't want to release "How Do You Do It?" so Gerry And The Pacemakers, another band in Brian Epstein's stable, recorded it. It went to #1 in Britain and was a hit in America as well.

The Beatles found it too wimpy and in any case wanted to record their own stuff. There's a rumor they gave a lackluster performance to make sure it wasn't put out. True or not, if they hadn't come up with "Please Please Me" producer George Martin might have have it released anyway.

Still, it's not a bad tune. By the way, both "How Do You Do It" and yesterday's song, "I Like It," were written by newcomer Mitch Murray.

So let's compare the two versions. America, judge for yourself:



Testify

Like many, I'm confused as to why Congress allowed Stephen Colbert to testify in front of a committee.  He delivered a decent comedy routine, but it added nothing to the discussion of illegal immigration.  In a surprise move, Representative John Conyers was the voice of reason, asking Colbert to leave the testifying to experts.

Some on the right claim the Dems did this to distract from that day's testimony from Christopher Coates regarding the Justice Department's mishandling of the New Black Panther's voter intimidation case, but I find that a bit paranoid.  Hearings take planning, and something big is always happening.

But all this is nothing next to the insanity of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks to the General Assembly of the U.N.  He suggested that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to help fight a recession (?) and, of course, to help Israel.  Remind me again why we should support the U.N.?

President Obama called the speech hateful, offensive and inexcusable.  Sounds accurate to me.  Does he still believe in "no preconditions?" That could mean you have to excuse an awful lot.

Premise Without Promise

It's nice to have new House, but the season doesn't look too promising.  House and Cuddy are now together.  She was fine as a foil to bounce insults off, but they never set off sparks.  House in a bad relationship would be annoying, and in a happy relationship would be unbearable.

Still, considering what a wrong turn this is, the writing and acting is sharp, and the season's premiere was pretty entertaining.

Oh yeah, it looked like 13 left.  Will she be gone for good (and into a movie career?).  The show can survive without her, but it will be about 90% less hot.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Probably Needs A Pacemaker By Now

Happy birthday, Gerry Marsden of Gerry & the Pacemakers. Okay, you're not The Beatles, but who is?

They band was bigger in Britain than America, but did pretty well on this side of the pond, with three top ten numbers, "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying," "How Do You Do It?" (which The Beatles didn't want) and "Ferry Cross The Mersey." But my favorite of theirs is a song that got its title from a line Jerry Lewis liked to say.



Actually, Jerry had already recorded a rather forgettable song based on the catch phrase.

Book It?

I watched the new Hawaii Five-0.  I never saw the original so I had no expectations.  It's mostly another shoot 'em up, with regular stops for overheated, even reckless, action.  The two leads both got shot in the pilot.  Too much more of that and I don't think they'll make it to the end of the season.

The basic plot is a former Navy SEAL (Alex O'Loughlin) forms a task force to fight the toughest criminals in Hawaii at the behest of the Governor (Jean Smart). His investigation has him mix it up with a detective (Scott Caan) on the same case.  They take an immediate dislike to each other.  I find this kind of thing grating. Assuming I keep watching, I hope they move beyond it.

If you couldn't guess, they don't go by the book.  They prefer to trample peoples' rights, which is okay since they're the good guys.

The SEAL, unfortunately, is searching for his father's killer (assuming his father is dead--since he's played by a name actor, we'll have to see about that).  That kind of mission is a drag on any show.

Two locals, played by Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, add a lot of appeal to the cast.  Kim, formerly of Lost, is a cop accused of being on the take.  No one trusts him, except O'Loughlin, who has ties.  Park, formerly of Battlestar Galactica, is Kim's cousin (so no romance there, I guess), and an ass-kicking cop/surfer.  I also hear Masi Oka, formerly of Heroes, will play the coroner in future episodes.

The best thing is they didn't mess too much with one of the great theme songs ever.  They shortened it, but all themes are shorter theses day.  They also screwed up the harmony a bit, but it still works.

It's My Fault

On Monday, between House and Hawaii Five-0, I watched The Event.  It was filled with cliches, and no performance stood out, but it was lively and might be okay. (Or it might just be another FlashForward.)

But what this means is I didn't watch the network debut that probably gotten the best notices this season, Lone Star.  In fact, a lot of people were like me.  So many that the trades are already talking about its imminent cancelation.

The show was given a great slot, behind House, a true hit, but it lost a stunning 68% of its lead-in.  It also dropped viewers by the quarter hour.  The Monday slot at 9 is highly competitive, with ABC, CBS and NBC all putting up solid competition, but many feel the concept wasn't appealing and the ad campaign confused people.

I planned to catch up with the show (though I don't think Fox is On Demand), but I guess all those people who didn't feel the need to check out the premiere doomed it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Too Many Notes

And let's not forget the great John Coltrane's birthday.

Beat The Meat

I've often felt that those who are greatly concerned with certain types of suffering would one day light upon the problem of nature, which can be ugly and unquestionably deadly.  I'm sure others have discussed this issue elsewhere, but we finally have a straightforward solution in The (online) New York Times.

It's in an essay by Jeff McMahan, a professor of philosophy at Rutgers.  His answer:

...it would be instrumentally good if predatory animal species were to become extinct and be replaced by new herbivorous species, provided that this could occur without ecological upheaval involving more harm than would be prevented by the end of predation.

The argument is startling, of course. Perhaps that's the point.  It's also irrelevant since (if he's to be taken seriously) we won't have the knowledge any time soon (if ever) to get rid of carnivores in an acceptably harmless fashion.

The professor predicts his views will not be treated well, and the comments back up this perception.  He tries to paint himself as bravely facing the inexorable logic of his position, but this sounds like preemptive whining to me. I find his argument woefully inadequate.  I don't have time to go into every disagreement, but let me quickly discuss some of my problems.

First, he's sloppy with his language. In describing attempts to make life better for humans, he uses loaded words like "relentless" and "rapacity." He has to prove these things, not assume them.  (Here's a claim he blithely makes:  "We [...] employ professionals to breed our prey in captivity and prepare their bodies for us behind a veil of propriety, so that our sensibilities are spared the recognition that we too are predators, red in tooth if not in claw."  Really?  For most of human history people lived with the animals they slaughtered and ate.  Only recently has this changed, and it was more about sanitation and division of labor.  We also don't see how cars are made, or computers.)

Second, the counter-arguments he discusses strike me as mostly straw men.  He takes on religious and other fairly vague objections some people might have, but doesn't seem as willing to go into other pertinent areas.

Third, a lot of pain comes from sources other than carnivores, including (but hardly limited to) bacteria, and I'm not sure if the professor knows how to deal with these issues.

Fourth, it's not clear how far down on the pain/consciousness scale (which should be central to the argument) he goes.  Do we deal with spiders and flies, for instance?

Finally, he concentrates on predation, but there aren't that many pretty ways to die in nature.  Beyond predation, you've mostly got disease, starvation and wasting away.  I'm not sure if animals (if capable of having a preference) would prefer these.  If the real problem is all that pain out there, what you want to do is get rid of animals that can feel a lot of pain, or perhaps breed ones that don't mind it so much (assuming you can figure that out).  But that sounds ridiculous.

Bob-Low

Yesterday there was a little profanity in the sketches I put up. Today I figured I'd demonstrate what Mr. Show can do when it's really trying.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Today, the Northeast Conference Title, Tomorrow...

Well LA Guy likes to blog about his alma mater's football team so I thought I would do a quick shout out to mine. The Gators of Allegheny College are getting some TV exposure as they take on their hated rivals from....somewhere in Ohio I think. (Actually they can be pretty good- they won the Division III Title about 20 years ago- I watched the title game (or some of it) on ESPN on Christmas morning (which means I saw more Allegheny football that holiday than in my 4 years on campus). Anyway, this little nugget popped up in my inbox earlier this morning:

On Saturday, September 25, at 12 p.m., Gator fans can tune in to FSN Pittsburgh to watch Allegheny take on the Wittenberg Tigers at Frank B. Fuhrer Field

Apparently thats the name of the home field these days. I must have missed that announcement. Mr. Fuhrer has no doubt generously supported the institution in innumerable and meaningful ways and he is even somewhat of a celebrity having owned the World Team Tennis Pittsburgh Triangles and later served as the league commissioner (I think he shows up as an answer- I mean question- on Jeopardy due the fact that his predecessor in that job was named Kaiser), but really its not a name which trips lollingly off the tongue. And officially, I think you have to use the full name- Just "Fuhrer Field" is probably not appropriate for obvious reasons but even saying "Frank Fuhrer Field" makes it sound like you're giving Anne and Adolf co-billing. So guys, good luck at the old Frank B. Fuhrer

Anyway I thank the school for letting me know that if I wanted to, I could fly to Pittsburgh to watch the Gators play on TV this week-end.

The Leader Of The Club

I saw Mickey Kaus a little while ago and he mentioned he was working out a deal for his blog, and now I see he's landed at Newsweek. Good for him, and good for them. During Mickey's campaign for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat, he was essentially hors de combat in the blog wars.  Good to have him back.

Serving The Community

New Big Bang Theory starts tomorrow.  Why oh why have they decided to challenge NBC's comedy night?  Community and Big Bang are two of the few shows I try not to miss.  Yeah, I know, with today's miracle technology, I can catch both, but sometimes you get behind and just don't want to.

Big Bang is CBS's hottest sitcom, one of the hottest shows on TV.  It can probably take the move.  But it's happened that hot shows change their slot and are never the same.  Still, I can understand CBS programmers trying to establish a new beachhead.  But did it have to be against another sitcom?

So, if cornered, which will I watch?  I guess Community.  If I get too far behind on Big Bang, I can wait for rerun season.  However, considering past ratings, it's hard to imagine Big Bang won't win this showdown.

Love That Bob

Bob Odenkirk, whose birthday is today, may be best known for his work as sleazy Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad, but he's mostly worked in comedy. (Not that Saul isn't funny. Breaking Bad can be pretty funny, too.)

Of all the work he's done, I think he'll be best remembered for Mr. Show, the HBO sketch comedy show he created with David Cross. (Profanity warning. Especially the last one.)





Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Econ Recon

So the recession was officially over in June 2009. Good news, I suppose.  The question for politicians is the lag time--how long will it be before voters feel it's over?

Usually we start feeling better faster.  I get the feeling there won't be much movement until unemployment goes down significantly.  When the recession ended, unemployment was actually slightly lower than it is now.

Luck Had Nothing To Do With It

At first I was on the edge about Louis C.K.'s show on FX, but after watching the first season, I'd call it a success.

Louis has always had a quirky style of comedy, and in the show's best segments, it's been allowed to flow more freely than ever before.  Some of the comedy seems direct slice-of-life, some is complete fantasy, but it's all based on his outlook.

It's good to hear the show has been picked up for a second season.

Clinton Cares

The headline threw me: "Clinton says he was wrong on healthcare bill's popularity." I mean, obviously he was wrong--trying to stiffen the spines of fearful Democrats, he said public approval would start increasing "the minute" the bill was passed.  I was just surprised to hear he was admitting it.

Turns out he's not really admitting he was flat-out wrong so much as trying to explain away what he said:

First of all, the benefits of the bill are spread out of [sic] three or four years. It takes a long time to implement. And secondly, there has been an enormous and highly effective attack on it.

The first excuse is hard to buy, since everyone understood the goodies in the bill don't come till later (an accounting trick to make the whole thing seem cheaper). The second excuse begs the question.  Before the bill passed, there had been an enormous and highly effective attack on it--that was why Dems were afraid to vote for it.  To say it'll be popular after it passes is to say that the enormous and highly effective attack on it will no longer be effective once it's a done deal.

Not satisfied, Clinton continues:

I think [Obama] was shocked at the intensity of the Republican opposition. But they learned from my first two years that, if you just say no, even though people hate it, you get rewarded for it because it discourages the Democrats and it inflames your base. So they're doing just what they did in '93 and '94. And so far it appears that they're being rewarded for it.

So people hate it when you try to stop an unpopular bill.  They hate it so much they reward you.

There's a belief on the left--some would say a fantasy--that it was the failure to pass HillaryCare that hurt the Dems in 1994.  Doesn't it seem more likely that trying to shove a massive and massively unpopular bill down the people's throats is more likely to do damage?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sticker Shock

I recently noticed two bumper stickers on a car. One was the famous "COEXIST" which is made up of a bunch of religious symbols. The other was "Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History."

So what is it, you want us to get along or not?

In The Zone

Mad Men has hit a point where it's established the situation so well that just seeing the interaction of the characters is enough for a thoroughly entertaining episode, such as "The Beautiful Girls."

Don and Dr. Faye are having an affair.  Looks like she's the great romance this season.  Don used to go for brunettes, but since he lost Betty, he needs a blonde. (Their pillow talk includes a mention of "Chinese walls"--always a fun phrase.)

Roger's book concept doesn't seem to be selling.  Meanwhile, he and Joan have words.  He finds out Joan's husband is being shipped to Vietnam aftter basic.  (You can hear everyone's fingers being crossed, hoping he'll die.  Will Weiner defy audience expectations?)  He's still making plays for her, even though that ship seems to have sailed.

Joyce, Peggy's Lesbian friend, drops by.  The boys in the office love to talk about Lesbians--some things never change. Peggy's partner sings "Downtown."  Big hit in 1965.  Then the gals go to a bar and we hear Pet Clark's "I Know A Place," her fairly successful follow-up.  Do they have a deal with Tony Hatch?  Turns out Joyce is setting Peggy up to meet Abe, whom we last saw at a Village happening.

At Joan's lonely home, Roger (anonymously) has sent a present--massage, manicure, pedicure.  Very nice.

Back at the bar, a very interesting conversation.  Peggy and Abe talk about civil rights, which was certainly an issue back then, but is a minefield for writers today.  It's just too easy to have the characters be too knowing, or too foolish.  Abe, of course, is for civil rights, and he sees revolution in the air.  Sure, why not?  Peggy tries to steer the conversation toward safer shores.  Abe has no patience with evil corporations, such as Peggy's client, Fillmore Auto Parts, which won't hire blacks down South (though such discrimination had recently been banned).  He lectures Peggy about civil rights, and Peggy states that women have it just as hard.  Abe treats her complaint almost as if it's a joke. It's true that many Eastern white male liberals of the time just didn't want to deal with this problem, and could be quite condescending about it (even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination by sex as well as race), though Peggy might be sounding just a bit too modern.  Abe uses the word "racism."  Was that in common parlance then?  (Didn't Captain Kirk used the phrase "race hatred.")

Peggy goes on to say that blacks can make it just like women--by forcing themselves in, not by the law helping.  This was another common point of view then--JFK had it, for one.  (It's also around today, I suppose, though we're so steeped in the language of civil rights that the argument is mostly about what's the right way for the government to get involved.) Anyway, the conversation doesn't go well.  Peggy leaves, not wishing to be criticized any more.  Abe, stay away from politics and religion.

Back at the office, some gags with Blankenship and Bert.  Funny, but maybe a little too easy.  Joan goes into Roger's office to thank him.  Things are good again.  Or are they?  He wants to go out to dinner, and Joan is disappointed.  I liked them better when they were hot and heavy.

Abe comes into the office and has written something for Peggy.  It's a denunciation of Fillmore, maybe he'll publish it. Speaking of which, Fillmore's now meeting with Don, Ken and Faye.  (No Pete this episode).  Fillmore's small, family-owned.  They're not happy about the boycott over their policies either, but
the three guys in charge can't agree on how to deal with it.  It's interesting how they seem to be auditioning for Don, not the other way around.  (Ken is pretty feisty too, and seems willing to take on Don.)  I guess he's the wizard of Madison Avenue.

Don's called out of the meeting.  Sally ran away and made it to Cooper Sterling.  He's not thrilled, but Sally obviously adores her dad and hates her mom.  He calls Betty who's surprised, but says she's your problem till tomorrow, good luck.

Peggy reads the piece.  Abe thought he was doing her a favor, but it'll be the end of her job.  She's tears it in half, saying she's not a political person.  He insists she is anyway.  Okay, but when feminists start saying the personal is political, he may not be too pleased.  (Good thing Paul's no longer around--he'd be driving Peggy crazy.)

Peggy returns to her office and sees Blankenship sleeping.  Nope, she's dead.  That's a surprise, and yet this was the episode where I'd felt they'd gone as far as they could with her character, so good timing.

So Don has to leave the meeting yet again.  Lucky they have Joan, who knows how to deal with a crisis.  (This is nothing next to "Guy Waks Into An Advertising Agency.")  They've got to get her out of there without letting Sally or the Fillmore trio know.  (Some visual humor ensues--almost farce--which they seem to be emphasizing this season.)

Don has Faye bring Sally to his apartment.  Faye, usually calm, isn't quite prepared, but does her best.  Soon they're wheeling Blankenship out.  Hot damn, Don's got a beautiful secretary again. Joan goes to see Roger.  She passes by Harry laughing at a classic old Irish joke.  Joan and Roger have a drink.  Okay, now they can go out to calm down.

Faye's watching Sally, who's quite comfortable at Daddy's place.  Faye has watched over her, but is ready to leave now.  Too much for her?

Joan and Roger go to a deli--an old haunt where no one will know them.  They have a nice talk, the kind they haven't had in a while.

At Don's place, Sally wants to know about Faye.  Don won't say everything, but admits she's a friend from the office.  They get the pizza Sally was asking for.

Joan and Roger walk home.  Now it's a bad neighborhood.  They're mugged.  The show deals with civil rights, but a huge issue in the 60s was the rising crime rate.  The two give up everything, because that's what smart New Yorkers do.  After it's over, they start making out (and then some). Who wouldn't?

Don puts Sally to bed.  She'd like to stay with him all the time.  Next morning, homemaker Sally (looking more like her mother every day) makes French toast.  He decides to clear his morning schedule so they can go to the zoo.

At the office, Bert and Roger and trying to write Ida's obit.  We discover Bert has no office(?).  So that's why he hangs around everywhere.  Roger calls Joan in.  After Bert leaves, they talk for the first time since last night.  They had a moment, even if there doesn't seem to be anything to do about it.

Sally comes in to the office with her dad.  Don drops in on a meeting about Fillmore and tells them what to do. Heck of a job he's got now.  Didn't he used to actually work?  (Back then perhaps business was more genteel, and if you'd made it, you could take it easy.)  They discuss who'll sing the jingle, and Peg suggests Harry Belafonte, bringing up the race issue.  Don answers her like she answered Abe--their job is to serve the client, not make political statements.

Betty will be there soon and Sally doesn't want to go.  Don bring Faye in to help, but she can't do anything (I'm a doctor, not a child psychologist!). Sally runs away and falls down before accepting her fate.  When she meets Betty at reception, half the office comes by to see the notorious Mrs. Francis.

Just then Joyce drops in to see Peggy.  At Don's office, Faye is unhappy--at Don, but mostly at her failure to deal with Sally.  Don does a good job of calming her down, saying it's not her fault. (Is this Good Will Hunting?)  They hug and kiss.  (He also has a little drink, but seems overall to have dealt well with his drinking problem.)  At Peggy's office, Joyce offers her theory about men and women--women are the pot, men are the soup, and who wants that?  Peggy doesn't quite agree.

Peggy leaves the office, gets on the elevator, and we end on a beautiful tableau of the "beautiful girls" Peggy, Joan and Faye.  They're what the episode's about.  Each having trouble dealing with their man, each at a different level in their relationship, each not sure what the next step should be.

There was a lot of activity, but even with Blankenship's death, not a lot of forward movement in the episode  But then, if you want forward movement, you're watching the wrong show.  Of course, we're getting near the end of the season and I expect the basic plot to heat up a bit--presumably something big will happen--most likely something about the agency, and maybe something about someone's marriage.

PS  I've been informed Pete helped haul away Blankenship.

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