Mad Men's Far Away Places
What a masterful episode.
This is sort of "a day in the life," tracing the notable events of the day for the show's real stars: Peggy, Roger, and Don. And this was a very full day for these three.
Peggy has a fight with her boyfriend over working too hard in the office, and then has a disastrous meeting with the Heinz company and is fired from the account. So neither private nor professional life is making Ms. Peggy happy. So what does she do? She heads to the movies (I loved it when Cooper highly approved of this outing, as he saluted her on her way out) where she shares a joint with a stranger and gives him a hand job. Then it's nap time on her office couch. She's starting to resemble early Don Draper more and more….
Roger drops acid at a party with his wife's "intellectual" friends. While high, they confess to each other that their relationship is over. But, also, Mad Men gives us insight into Roger's hallucinations, all of which were amusing and nicely restrained (this is not Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). John Slattery did a great job of expressing his sad but alleviated acceptance that this marriage is over.
Don takes Ms. Draper on a road trip to Howard Johnson where he hopes to introduce her into a calmer, more family-style way of life. Instead, she is rightfully angered by his selfish control over her - pulling her from the meeting with Heinz (for the trip's sake) and then choosing her dessert for her (how dare he feed her ice cream!) He drives off and, when he returns to find her, discovers she has disappeared. He returns home to find her there, with door locked. After breaking it down, he chases her around and they end up on the floor - her crying and him trying to have some perspective ("It was just a fight"). This girl is too immature for him, it's clear. Too inexperienced, too demanding, too capricious. But what does he really want from her? To control her like his own daughter, to have her fit a perfect image of a domesticated yet "free and young" wife?
In the end, though, she sees how much he actually cares for her; and Roger and his wife come to some sort of understanding that they'll have to divorce; and Peggy calls up her man and he agrees to go see her at her apartment, because she "needs him." So things turn out okay, for now. But while personal problems are being dealt with, the office is left neglected. The voice of wisdom of Cooper comes down on Don the day after - he needs to be in the office, taking care of accounts. It dawns on him he's been failing at his job (as it has dawned on Roger, as it is dawning on Peggy). But it's only uphill from here, right? Roger comes in to offer, "It's going to be a beautiful day," to a soundtrack strangely resembling The Godfather's dramatic theme. But knowing Mad Men, it's only beautiful for so long.
Veep is HBO's latest comedy sitcom, this time from the pen of Scottish political satirist Armando Iannucci (creator of Britain's In the Thick of It). Julia Louis-Dreyfus is excellent as the Vice President Selina. She gives herself completely over to the absurd, comically successful situations. I especially liked her "dome" plead as they walk out of a disastrous event.
Tony Hale, previously of Arrested Development, as the assistant Gary is my favorite. Everything he does and says is hilarious. Really. Even the way he delivered such lines as when her PR guy Mike (Matt Walsh) proposes that Tom Hanks "may die," he answers, "What a dark thought. Why would you say that," but in such an amusing way. His little bits of information to the veep as she greets politicians were also a treat, as was his mission to retrieve a condolence card the VP's aide signed in her stead. He pulls the role off perfectly.
These are funny people, stomping around in a limited office space (or driving around in the back of a limo). It feels a bit like a darker, more cutting version of Parks and Recreation. All actors are strong, with Reid Scott as the arrogant but talented new staff member Dan and My Girl's Anna Chlumsky as Selina's Chief of Staff Amy. It's a show worth watching again, and I'll certainly be there next week.