Alan Sepinwall’s Interview of Matt Weiner

Matt Weiner, responding to Alan Sepinwall’s asking why no actor on Mad Men has ever won an Emmy for their performance:

I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s always a story every year, is all I can say. There’s always a story why someone else should get it or what it is. I don’t understand awards handicapping, but I do not vote in the actors’ categories. I’ll tell you one thing. No one treats them like they haven’t won. They are revered, and I see the way other actors respond to their work. It’s the way you want. It’s like part reverence, part jealousy. They’re competitive. They are at the top of that pyramid in whatever way you want. And being nominated means that, and having the work means that.

But I have one personal theory, which is that the acting style is different on the show. That it’s very naturalistic and that is not a showy — you know, I don’t write Emmy scenes for them, either. Maybe that’s it. Elisabeth Moss always jokes that whenever she works somewhere else people are always like, “Cry your eyes out.” And I’m almost like, “Don’t cry. Do everything you can not to cry,” because I feel like that produces more emotion in the audience. But maybe it’s too much of an ensemble? I don’t know.

That’s good art—successful art—in a nutshell. Not crying when everyone else thinks you should cry.


5 Things We Learned About the Final Season of ‘Mad Men’ Today

Todd VanDerWerff, Vox:

Though many of the characters have gone on huge journeys, evolving from one thing to another, one of the big themes of Mad Men is that this change is largely superficial. Peggy Olson may have gone from a lowly secretary to one of the most important creative minds at the ad agency she works at, but she didn't "change." She simply revealed more of who she really was, thanks to career opportunities given to her by her former boss, Don.

The actress who plays Peggy, Elisabeth Moss, mused on how this theme is woven into the final seven episodes. "People do change, but in a lot of ways they don't," she said of lessons learned from closing out the story.

To clarify the incredibly misleading headline:

1. Nothing
2. Nothing
3. Nothing
4. Nothing
5. Something, but really just more Nothing.


Consider the Log Lady: Questions (and Answers) About the Return of ‘Twin Peaks'

Andy Greenwald:

In the spring of 1990, when ABC debuted Twin Peaks, the network was still pulling in an estimated 14 million viewers a week for Full House. One of its most popular programs — and, in fact, Twin Peaks’s initial lead-in — was Father Dowling Mysteries, a genteel hour in which a priest and a nun, played by Mr. Cunningham from Happy Days and these guys’ older sister, solved crimes. (Just how long ago was it? There was a prime-time show about the Flash.) You could say TV wasn’t ready for a show as dark, as weird, as insanely idiosyncratic as Twin Peaks. But that’d be like saying prehistoric cavemen weren’t ready for Snapchat. Twin Peaks wasn’t a gradual, evolutionary step in the development of television as an artistic medium. It was the guy responsible for [the incredibly unsettling opening of 'Blue Velvet'] pressing fast-forward with his middle finger.

I was trying not to get too excited about the return of Twin Peaks, mostly because it’s 1.5 years away, but also because Season 2 really left a sour taste in my mouth. But this mailbag from Greenwald sucked me in. It’s going to be a damn fine 2016.


‘Twin Peaks’ Returns

Alan Sepinwall:

* There will be nine episodes, all of them written by Lynch & Frost, all of them directed by Lynch.

* The new episodes will be produced next season to air in 2016, which will be 25 years after the show was canceled.

* Showtime will air the previous two seasons in the lead-up to the new miniseries' debut.

* In the statement, Lynch & Frost said, “The mysterious and special world of 'Twin Peaks' is pulling us back. We’re very excited. May the forest be with you.”

I’d be more excited about this if I hadn’t had to force-feed myself almost all of Season 2. The fact that Lynch is directing all of the episodes is promising, though. And you thought ‘True Detective’ had too many red herrings and dead ends?


Your Weekly Mad Men HW: Season 7, Ep. 4

There is always—and should always be—room for personal interpretation in art. Sure, there’s usually, although not always, a “correct” answer as to what a scene or a shot or a wardrobe choice”means,” but what we make of the combination of all of those individual choices is uniquely our own.

I get nervous any time an episode of Mad Men (or any cultural object, for that matter) is universally praised or panned. A variety of reactions—some panning, some praise, some right in the middle—is what usually signifies that something went right because it means we were given the tools and left to build on our own. Be wary of anything two dimensional that you can wrap a bow around.

I say all this because, “The Monolith,” this week’s episode of Mad Men, seems to have touched everyone differently. Some didn’t care for the at-times overt symbolism. (It’s a monolith! It’s literally taking over the space the creatives used to occupy!) Some didn’t believe the character choices. (A partner! Taking orders! C’mon!) Personally, the biggest weakness for me was Elizabeth Rice’s acting during the admittedly heavy scene when she finally lets her hypocrite father have it with all of Mother Earth’s soldiers looking on. While I don’t necessarily disagree with her reaction from a character choice perspective, those in-need-of-an-exorcism Daddy’s were way, way overdone, especially in an episode that featured Jon Hamm boring two holes in the back of Elizabeth Moss’ head without a sound, using nothing but cheekbones and eyeballs.

As usual, people more practiced in the ways of critiquing have better things to say than me. I’ve included more than usual this week; remember: that’s a good thing. There’s Alan Sepinwall, of course; and Tom & Lorenzo’s “Mad Style,” as well as their day-after recap; and Ashley Fetters and Chris Heller from The Atlantic (they tend to be pretty Peggy-heavy on a week-to-week basis; this week it was actually warranted); and Molly Lambert, who weaves this week’s story lines together better than the actual show did; and in the power position for the first time (it isn’t a coincidence that this was the first time I remembered how to spell his name), Matt Zoller Seitz, whose analysis knocked it clear out of the park. Of course, I’m biased; he went heavy into the Kubrick parallels.


Your Weekly Mad Men HW: Season 7, Ep. 3

The writing about ‘Field Trip,” the third episode of the final season of Mad Men, is a fairly breezy read this week, as this was a plot furthering episode and so no crystal balls or tea leaves need to be consulted in order to understand what happened. Instead, we get some answers to some of the larger questions that have been looming: Is Don really experiencing a genuine humbling? Will Don go back to SC&P? Will Don and Megan stay together? Is Betty still a shitty mother?

For my money, I’m not quite convinced that all of the answers we’re given are carved in stone. Humblings, even genuine ones, can be sidetracked. SC&P, much like Don and Roger and Jim Cutter, is old and stodgy and treading cultural water (hence the juxtaposition of white guys ((and gals)) in suits in a quiet conference room making financial decisions against the messy, bright, copy writer bullpen that eerily resembles the open offices that will be “invented” in 40 years. And our hero, Mr. Draper, floating nervously in between both). Don and Megan? Well, they’ve already reopened the lines of communication by the end of the episode. And Betty—well, Betty will always be a shitty mother, actually, That you can take to the bank.

So what to read? There’s Alan Sepinwall for the clinical breakdown, Matt Zoller Seitz for the more thoughtful clinical breakdown, Molly Lambert for the razor-sharp artistic discussion, and, of course, Tom & Lorenzo for what all of the costume design means.


Your Weekly Mad Men HW: Season 7, Ep. 2

Episode 2 of Season 7 of Mad Men was all about knowledge and the gap between how much people know about a certain situation and about how much other people know (or don’t know), about the same situation. Don doesn’t know that Sally knows that he wasn’t at the office (and Sally doesn’t know that he’s in job purgatory). The New York team doesn’t know that the Los Angeles team can still hear them when the conference call equipment shits the bed. Peggy doesn’t know that Shirley knows who the flowers are from. Joan doesn’t know that her promotion by Jim was a move against Roger. Nobody in the advertising world knows why Don is or isn’t out of a job and Don doesn’t know how he’s going to fix this, although his daughter, (who, philosophically is a carbon copy of him) doesn’t hesitate to point out that she knows exactly what the one thing is that he doesn’t want to do: “Why don’t you just tell her you don’t want to move to California?”

Mad Men is a great show because we care about what happens next not because we want that itch scratched, but because we dread the impact it will have on a universe of characters that we care about. I told my wife that I wished the show had ended with Don and Sally’s trip back to school simply because I felt like my brain had been reset when she got out of his car and I wasn’t able to finish processing the monumental crack in their relationship stalemate.

As always, there is much reading to do: Molly Lambert’s ‘Mad Men’ Week 2: You Don’t Bring Me Flowers; Matt Zoller Seitz’s Mad Men Recap: I’m So Many People; Alan Sepinwall’s Review: ‘Mad Men’ - ‘A Day’s Work’: Horrible Bosses; Tom & Lorenzo’s Mad Men: A Day’s Work. (And of course, do not forget to check for T&L’s Mad Style piece, which comes out on Wednesdays.)


Your Weekly Mad Men HW: Season 7, Ep. 1

Ah, the Monday after a new episode of Mad Men. I decided that giving just my wife 8-10K words of reading to do a week wasn’t fair. I’m linking to my three favorite below with the caveat that Tom & Lorenzo’s Mad Style isn’t out yet. Anyway, here’s three decidedly different takes on the same hour of television:

The Classic

Season Premiere Review: 'Mad Men' - 'Time Zones': Sliding Doors

by Alan Sepinwall:

And Scott Hornbacher shoots him in such a way that Freddy doesn't seem to be delivering this pitch to another character (who will be revealed in a moment to be Peggy), but straight to us. And he's not telling us about Accutron watches, not really. Instead, the subtext of his pitch seems to be something like this:

Hi there. Tonight, the role of Don Draper will be played by... me. Good ol' recovering drunk and reformed pants-wetter Freddy Rumsen. Only in a few minutes you'll see that the role of Don is now being played by cuddly old man Lou Avery, and that Pete will now be played by one-eyed Ken, and Joan will somehow filling Ken's shoes, and Roger will be hosting a non-stop orgy in his apartment, and Pete will have gone completely native in LA while the actual Don Draper won't fit in on either coast. And the only constant will be Peggy Olson catching grief from decisions made by all the men in her life, past and present. 

"Mad Men." Trust no one, and expect the unexpected.

The Internet

Mad Men Season 7 Premiere Recap: The Men and the Girls

By Matt Zoller Seitz:

The shot is reminiscent of the opening shot of The Godfather, and the opening shot of Miller’s Crossing, which paid it homage. In both films, the character doing the speaking is in a socially inferior position, begging a more powerful person for a favor. Freddy, once a pants pissing drunk, now a freelance ad writer committed to A.A., sounds brash and centered here, but he too is in a supplicant’s position. The camera starts to zoom out, Godfather and Miller’s Crossing style, as Freddy says “The watch appears, bottom third, the second hand movies with a fluid sweep, and above it: ‘Accutron Time.’”

The Writer

‘Mad Men,’ Week 1: Welcome to Disneyland

by Molly Lambert:

In less ambitious televisual narratives, events act as obvious signposts, leading us around the trail bend to the waterfall of a finale that resolves most of the season’s big questions, leaving some open if it’s especially smart. But Mad Men’s events rarely cause any permanent resolutions, just promises that crumble into silt like New Year’s resolutions in an ashtray.