A&E attempts to prove it’s more than just the Storage Wars channel with its newest scripted thriller, Bates Motel, which is meant to serve as a sort of back story to the horror classic, Psycho. Most pilots suffer from exposition-overload to ensure the audience doesn’t feel lost. Fortunately, Bates Motel does not fall into that trap and thus makes for a swift-moving and intrigue-filled first episode. That said, it is a bit contrived and heavy-handed in its foreshadowing attempts. Those familiar with Psycho are painfully aware of the disturbed relationship Norman Bates had with his mother, which resulted in his killing and then dressing up as the dead matriarch (perhaps as a twisted token of his affection). Bates Motel could have left us wanting more by setting a trail of emotionally scarring bread crumbs leading from Norman’s adolescence to his pseudo-oedipal and homicidal adulthood throughout the season. Instead the show basically connects all those dots for us in its first 30 minutes.
The show stars everyone's favorite adorable British child actor, Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) -- now all grown up -- as Norman, and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) as Norma ‘Mother’ Bates. We’re introduced to the Bates clan when Norman awakens from a nap with a suspicious feeling that something in his house is amiss. Sure enough, Norman finds his father in the garage, crushed under the weight of a fallen shelving unit. A panicked Norman runs to alert his mother, who is locked away in the bathroom, taking a shower. Norma takes her sweet a*s time cinching up her robe. She sighs a breath of beleaguered annoyance, and finally saunters on her merry way. It doesn’t take long to see something is very wrong with Mommie Dearest.
Six months later the twosome are starting anew in White Pine Bay, Oregon; a small, tightly-knit, coastal community. Norman, still mourning the loss of his father, is reluctant for the new start that his mother so desperately desires. With a glint in her eye, Norma shows off the rundown Victorian mansion and adjoining hotel she scored as a foreclosed property. Norman’s not so sure. And he is even less sure when the previous owner, Keith Summers, comes over to express his claims on the property, which he lost as a result of financial problems.
In an effort to make the best of his situation, Norman tries to be social. He takes his teacher’s advice to try out for the track team. Norman requests his mother’s permission to join at the candlelit dinner she’s prepared for him. Again, here we are overtly treated to the suggestion that Norman is more akin to Norma’s husband than her son, because really, who prepares a candlelit dinner with flowers for their child? Less than eager to sign his track team permission slip, ‘Mother’ lays on the guilt so thick about having just opened the new motel and needing Norman’s help that Norman relents. Their slight altercation at dinner leads Norman to sneak out to a party later that night, where he meets up with Bradley Martin, the coolest girl at school.
While Norman is out at the party, Keith Summers breaks into the Bates’ home, handcuffs Norma, and rapes her against the kitchen table, grunting “Everything in this house is mine”. Norman interrupts, mid-assault, and wallops Keith over the head with an iron. Keith collapses, momentarily unconscious, to the ground. As Norman searches for the First Aid Kit, Keith rouses, lumbering again towards Norma. She retrieves a knife, and as Keith goads, “You liked it”, Norma plunges the knife, repeatedly, into Keith’s distended beer gut.
Rather than suffer the embarrassment of a sensationalized rape case, or the lost revenue from patrons too afraid to stay at the would-be rape and murder motel, Norma declares that the police will not be called. The two dump Keith’s body in the bathtub of one of their motel rooms. Some impromptu midnight motel renovations ensue in order to cover the evidence. While pulling up bloodied carpet, Norman finds a small notebook with anime type female figures drawn inside. Some chained up, some with needles in their arms, all frightened. The unexpected activity summons the town police for a 2 AM check-in, whereby they miss the dead body in the tub by the narrowest of margins. After the Bates’ close call, mother and son set sail on the lake to drop the body in the water, proverbially washing their hands of this unfortunate incident. It is here that Norma confesses that all she has ever wanted for Norman was a stable, promising life. That was her dream. Though a nice thought, with a body count of at least one -- maybe two (daddy, anyone?) -- and a brewing oedipal complex to rival Hamlet, Norman is in for anything but.
We are left with the final scene where the images found by Norman in the notebook are brought to life. The audience is transported to a basement where a faceless girl is chained up, and a needle is injected into her abused, tired arm. Just as quickly as we arrived in the basement, the show cuts to black. Mission accomplished, appetite whet for episode two.
Sometimes when I can’t get to the gym or am feeling too broke to hit up a yoga studio, I like to have a backup plan. After researching some of the best health & fitness apps for the iPhone and asking fit friends for suggestions, I identified five apps that I wanted to try. I went with the free versions to start, just so I could test the waters.
Here is a breakdown of each app I tried and the verdict on each.
Yikes. This app is really elementary and I would not recommend it. The sound and picture quality resemble an old home video, and the free version only offers one 20-minute workout. I also found that you can’t resume your workout if you want to go back to the home menu – it just starts it over every time and there is no way to scroll through. I honestly couldn’t even get a whole yoga session in using this app.
Verdict: Don’t bother
I liked this yoga app better, but it still wasn’t great. I do like that it provides whole sequences instead of requiring you to scroll through and keep selecting different poses. For each series (Yoga for Back, Yoga for Abs, Yoga for Butt, etc.) you can select a 10, 15 or 20 minute session to customize the length and style of your workout. The app also includes pretty background music.
The main issue with this one is that you have to download each workout individually after downloading the app itself. I have very little patience, so this bugged me.
Verdict: Try it if you have no other option for an at-home yoga workout
I really like this little fitness buddy. MapMyRun acts like a GPS and also gives you verbal cues along your route to help you reach your desired mileage. It saves routes, counts calories and tracks your pace. I am not an expert runner, so it was fun to have the guidance.
There is also a great Nutrition section of this app that logs the food you eat and the calories you consume, which is really helpful to track eating habits and setting health goals.
Verdict: I recommend this app. The upgraded version for $2.99 provides a ton of cool features, including music, training plans and ad-free access.
Fitness Buddy is a strength training app. It is nicely organized by muscle group and type of exercise, and offers extensive exercise suggestions. Unfortunately the demos are like pictures in a flip book and you have to spend a lot of time scrolling on your phone instead of just working out.
Verdict: Pay the extra $0.99 for the Pro option, which will offer a good strength training workout without the constant menu surfing and bad demo quality.
I thought it would be fun to try an app that manages healthy living habits. Lift is an app that connects you with your social media channels and allows you to follow “habits” in several categories such as fitness, productivity, health & wellness and many more. It shows other users’ activities for group support.
I decided to get myself in check by signing up for a few habits:
• Wake up by 6:30
• Eat more Fruit
• Drink more water
Truthfully, there is just no point to an app like this. If I need to drink more water, I’ll carry a full bottle around with me. If I need to wake up at 6:30, I’ll just set my alarm.
Verdict: If you really can’t remember your own wellness habits and need to see other people’s check-ins to help motivate you, this might be a useful app. Otherwise, forget it.
My fitness app experience wasn’t the greatest, but I am also a newbie at the app thing. What are some of the apps you recommend? Do you go for free versions or do you pay the small price to upgrade for a better user experience? Tell us in the comments below.
Project Ethos heated up LA Fashion Week at the Avalon Tuesday with "The Fate Of Fashion, Music and Art.” This show combined art, music and fashion exhibits with the best and brightest emerging artists, local favorites and industry powerhouses.
Debuting Fall 2013 collections, the runway was full of show stopping pieces and a glimpse of what the must-have trends will be for fall.
Modern plaid prints were big on the Project Ethos runway, as Michael Kuluva’s label, Tumbler and Tipsy, and Deanna Richmond’s label, Deandri, featured unexpected plaid prints. Tumbler and Tipsy’s combined modern punk rock with a feminine twist, featuring studded jackets, corset tops, pops of metallic and short skirts with ruffles, volume and streamlined silhouettes. Deandri’s collection was more “Lolita” inspired, with short plaid skirts with blouses and knee socks, a la Catholic schoolgirls. The Deandri collection also featured leather pieces, unique cutouts and their signature sky-high platform booties.
Prints were a prominent feature on the runway, as both tribal and textural influences were apparent in a few shows. The T. Rains, Hale Bob and FaraHourani collections showcased eye catching prints that left a definite impression on the audience. T. Rains highlighted a larger than life collection of textured prints, geometric patterns and a bold color palette.
Hale Bob’s collection was full of ready-to-wear resort dresses, and tunics in feminine prints and colors. FaraHourani’s prints could be described as boho meets tribal, with crop tops and flowy maxi skirts in geometric patterns, and unique one-shoulder or cut-out silhouettes.
Keeping things more traditional, former Project Runway star and celebrity designer favorite, Michael Costello, launched a gorgeous collection of figure-flattering looks, mostly in black with a few pops of neon green and cranberry. Michael’s collection was full of red-carpet worthy gowns, with special details like a peplum or leather pieces. Also going the more classic route was Israeli designer Dorit Bar Or of Pas Por Toi, whose 2013 collection was full of ready-to-wear black and gold looks with luxe gold embellishments, like sequins, beading and leather with gold embroidery.
There was some great art off the runway too as artists showcased their skills with live paintings and exhibitions. Featured art included classic mediums like oil, acrylic and photography, along with new mixed media pieces, including bullets, newspaper and graffiti art. Any emerging artists lucky enough to score an exhibit at Project Ethos could very well have received their big break.
Featured artist and photographer, Ivan Djurovic, held his first ever exhibit at Project Ethos. His portraits, shot in black and white, showcase emotional moments, in natural lighting in his living room. “I just wanted to show that you can capture the moment without fancy equipment or lighting,” he said. “It’s my way of keeping it old school.”
All in all, the Project Ethos show sated our appetite for the latest trends and featured artists who are sure to be future powerhouses in the fashion, art and music worlds.
There was a moment in this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire, “Bone for Tuna,” where the increasingly sensitive and quick to anger Gyp Rosetti grunts at Nucky Thompson like a monkey. It’s a fleeting and hysterical pause in an otherwise serious drama, but it was all I needed to question how this show ever survived without him. He’s so much fun to watch. I’m also sure he’s certifiably crazy.
In last week’s episode Gyp rerouted Nucky’s liquor, which is an offense that you’d probably expect Nucky to punish severely. Surprisingly enough, Nucky extends an olive branch to Gyp instead. Gyp’s reaction? To lose his mind because Nucky wishes him good luck. You see, Gyp Rosetti doesn’t need, or want, anyone's luck or “bouna fortuna;” which Owen later mispronounces as “Bone for Tuna” when Nucky has him pass this message on to Gyp.
Though Nucky has repeatedly told Gyp that his decision to sell solely to Arnold Rosthein isn’t personal, Gyp’s not buying it. He is a man who takes everything personally, so Nucky’s harmless message of “bouna fortuna” enrages him: “I need his blessing to make my way in the world? I need him, the likes of me? Nothing’s personal. What the fuck is life if it’s not personal?” Being wished “Bouna fortuna” by Nucky, or anyone else for that matter, questions Gyp’s abilities, his intelligence, and his power, so you’re better off not saying it lest you want to be set on fire. Yes, that’s right, set on fire. Which is exactly what he did to the Tabor Height’s Sheriff. Gyp burned him alive because he also foolishly wished him “good luck.” This seemingly minor offense cost the Sheriff his life, and will likely force Nucky to try to handle (as in get rid of) Gyp once and for all. This would really depress me, though; the guy is brilliant!
I’ve wanted an all-out bloody war between these two characters since the premiere, but I’m not sure Nucky’s even up for a fight. He’s now hallucinating about a bloody teenage Jimmy. The weight of murdering the boy he helped raise and the separation from his wife and Billie, who has suddenly disappeared, are taking its toll. So much so, he briefly attempts to run back to Margaret’s bed, but she’s not having it. One of my favorite moments of this episode is when Margaret suggests, “some warm milk, perhaps,” might help Nucky with his sleeping problems instead of, well, her warm body.
Margaret knows Nucky well enough. He’s not sleeping with her, which means he’s definitely sleeping with someone else. But she’s not going to bother him over this. Like it or not, she needs Nucky’s money and name, not only to provide for her children, but also to build the women’s clinic she wants so badly. With a clever move that suggests she’s no longer to be trifled with, she finally gets her way by forcing Dr. Landau (Nick Wyman) into opening the clinic when she lies and tells a Catholic bishop the clinic is the doctor’s idea. (Ironically, in the 1920s, women’s clinics are more likely be to approved by the church if it’s a man’s idea).
Meanwhile, Agent Van Alden is bullied by a few prankster coworkers. They convince him to visit a speakeasy, but the joint’s raided by the feds and Van Alden has to pay his way out of being arrested. This might be the push he needs to join the dark side – the payout leaves him with no money and he desperately wants to buy a house for his new family – but Dean O’Banion hasn’t appeared since the first episode. I’m not sure this storyline will unfold in the direction I want it to go any time soon.
The storyline I’m most excited about, though, is the possibility of Richard Harrow working for Nucky. Gillian’s gone mad – she tells Lucky Luciano that Jimmy is coming home (unless Boardwalk turns into The Walking Dead, that ain’t happening) -- and, I refuse to believe Harrow will waste away serving liquor at her brothel. Harrow is a killer and who else needs another enforcer by his side more than Nucky? And although Harrow claims he has no intentions of avenging Jimmy’s death, wouldn’t it benefit Nucky to keep Jimmy’s best friend close enough to watch him?
I can only hope Nucky is that smart, but his growing affection for Billie might be his Achilles heel. I adored the final scene when Nucky eventually catches up to Billie. He embraces her as she fries some bacon and it’s oddly sensual and sweet. But there’s no room for sensitivity on the Boardwalk. It’s going to eventually bring down Gyp, and if Nucky’s not careful, it will cost him too.
Hands down, Albert “Chalky” White is my favorite character on Boardwalk Empire. Partly because he's portrayed by the brilliant Michael K. Williams, but mostly because he’s a hardened and illiterate black man living in the 1920’s, yet he’s still able to command the respect of bootleggers and politicians looking to smuggle booze in Atlantic City. After Chalky was absent in the premiere episode I all but had a tantrum, but thankfully the television gods answer prayers. For once he had plenty of screen time on the latest episode, “Spaghetti and Coffee.“
There are lots of rich characters on Boardwalk, so it’s hard to be too mad at the writers for occasionally keeping a few out of each episode -- but Chalky should never be one of them. Last season when we learned he couldn’t read, I became obsessed with finding out how this man managed to become the leader of Atlantic City’s black community. It’s not much of a leap to assume that a violent streak helped Chalky gain his name but it also doesn’t hurt that he’s married to the wealthy, educated, and fair-skinned Lenore (Natalie Wachen). Themes of class and skin color are bound to be explored even more this season with the addition of Samuel, the soon-to-be doctor and suitor of Chalky’s oldest daughter, Maybelle (Christina Jackson). Played by the easy-on-the-eye Ty Michael Robinson, Samuel musters the courage to ask Chalky for Maybelle’s hand in marriage (even after this compelling season two scene). Following an awkward, quasi-medical exam, Chalky welcomes Samuel to the family, but we find out later Maybelle wants no part of the marriage.
Apparently, young women loved bad-boys in the 1920s too. Not wanting to marry a dude because he’s a bore is one thing but not wanting to marry a dude because he’s not an exciting, murderous criminal like your pops is a whole other scenario I wasn’t expecting. It seems a bit far-fetched considering Maybelle’s background, but I’ll believe anything to see more of Chalky White. Maybelle quickly gets to find out if the gangster lifestyle is for her, though, when Samuel’s face is sliced up (now he’ll have a scar just like Chalky!) by a drunk man at her daddy’s juke joint. I’m hoping the scare will get Maybelle to smarten up, but anyone who’s brave enough to stand up to Chalky White (she has no problem telling her father she doesn’t want to marry Samuel) might not be that easy to shake.
“Spaghetti and Coffee” also saw the return of Nucky’s younger brother, Eli (Shea Whigham). It’s hard to feel sorry for him ever since he conspired to have his only brother killed, but this episode exposes us to a different side of Elias Thompson. It was tough watching him attempt to convince his oldest boy to quit work and return to school now that he’s back home. To make matters worse, Eli’s been relegated to work for the idiotic Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks).
Elsewhere in Atlantic City, Margaret is moving forward with her plan to provide women at St.Theresa's Hospital with proper preventive care. While she’s crusading for women, standing up to a very handsome Dr. Mason (Patrick Kennedy), and pretending not to want to jump Owen Slater’s (Charlie Cox) bones (am I the only one rooting for these two to hook up again?), her husband is in New York City trying to pay his way out of jail.
Nucky’s also catching feelings for his mistress, Billie, who is everything Margaret is not – free, bold, and charming. He’s so preoccupied with Billie that he’s MIA when Gyp Rosetti manages to intercept the liquor his men are transporting to Arnold Rothstein – a power play that will likely push Nucky to want him dead. Surprisingly, there was no bloodshed in this episode, but that’s probably because Richard Harrow, hot-headed Al Capone, and Lucky Luciano were missing. There was no Gillian or Agent Nelson Van Alden either.
Boardwalk Empire isn’t terrible when a supporting cast member is absent, but there has got to be a way to knit all of these storylines together in a single episode. These characters are too good to completely leave out. Now that Gyp’s proven to be a worthy adversary to Nucky, my wish to see all of the best characters in one sitting might come sooner than later. The impending war likely means the Boardwalk body count will rise, leaving even fewer characters to keep track of. As long as Chalky isn’t one of them, I’ll still be watching.
My plan was to attend the special screening of Chernobyl Diaries and write a generic horror movie review of it for you all. I expected the obligatory gore and women falling down as they ran away from pursuing predators. You know, the typical devices found in scary movies. As it turned out, this movie was more suspenseful than I expected… and I watched most of it from behind my hands. Directed by Brad Parker and produced by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), the film relies on a shaky camera and much of the time, light from only a flashlight to scare the bejesus out of you. Yes, this movie uses tired plot points – dark hallways, the Blair Witch like footage—but it was a fun ride. Don’t expect too much logic, meaning or purpose from this film, but do expect to jump in your seat at least once.
The idea of going to area contaminated by radiation and deserted by all humankind may not seem like the best vacation destination to people like you and I, but for four Americans, Chris (Jesse McCartney), his brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and friend Amanda (Devin Kelley), this sounds like a brilliant idea. The group is led by ex-military operative turned tour-guide Uri to Pripyat, a ghost town near Chernobyl and the site of a 1986 nuclear disaster. They are joined by two backpackers who don’t speak English very well (bets were on for them dying first).
As the movie gets going, the group finds out that they are actually not alone and are being hunted by someone (or something). As is the case in any good horror movie, this crew gets deeper and deeper into the hot mess they created when the old, rickety van they used to make the trip won’t start and they’re stuck in no man’s land. Surprise, surprise. Their plan to get back home: Sleep in the car overnight and then walk back. In the radiation and wild animal infested woods. Good plan.
Looking like the Mickey Mouse club lost in the woods, they stumble and scream their way around this abandoned city. I actually got a kick out of watching the group make one dumb decision after the other, i.e. “Oh, look! There is a dark scary hallway…let’s go that way!” The wins for this film are the way the director plays on your senses; the only lighting is from a flashlight, so you are left with this claustrophobic feeling, unsure of what is lurking in the dark. There is also a sense of urgency created by the location. If they don’t get out of dodge soon, the radiation will seep into them. I liked watching the characters slowly realize that there was a good chance they may not make it out of there. It was especially gratifying to watch Paul -- the fearless idiot who suggested this “extreme tourism” trip in the first place—as his adventurous attitude slowly dissolved into terror.
Yes, this movie uses tired plot points – dark hallways, the Blair Witch like footage—but it was a fun ride. Don’t expect too much logic, meaning or purpose from this film, but do expect to jump in your seat at least once.
America has a deep, dark secret. But HBO’s startling--and heavily researched--documentary, The Weight of the Nation, is asking viewers to face reality: we are a nation of the obese.
Yes, you read that right. And that’s just a glimpse of the alarming facts presented in the four-hour documentary. The Weight of the Nation is a film that sheds light on the obesity epidemic plaguing our country, and worst of all, our children. You can’t watch this doc and not be struck by the images and statistics the filmmakers share.
The film demonstrates great collaboration among dozens of doctors and health organizations working toward eradicating this problem. It also highlights many factors that have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic. In a car-dependent, TV-obsessed, overstressed, advertising-driven society that can be “toxic,” health has fallen to last priority for many. When give the option to choose between a quick and easy drive through at McDonald’s or cooking a healthy meal, too many pick the easy route.
The Weight of the Nation urges Americans to realize that health has to come first: No excuses. Obesity is not only debilitating, it’s fatal.
Costs to Our Children
The obesity rate among children is frightening. According to Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH of the University of Pennsylvania, obese children “will be on dialysis in their 30s” if drastic measures are not taken. I was surprised to learn that obesity contributed to poor liver health, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease and even cancer. It affects way more than just heart health and weight.
Do you remember what you used to eat during your lunch period at school? Well, things haven’t gotten any better. A school lunch period filmed in Madison, Wisconsin, vividly illustrates that schools aren’t helping this issue. From hot dogs to greasy pizza to cheese-smothered broccoli (and brand name chips sold in lunch lines), it’s clear that many school lunches lack nutrition. Even worse, only 1 of 6 schools in the entire U.S. requires P.E. at least three times per week.
Costs to Business
I had never thought of how obesity could affect business. It seemed like more of a personal health issue that only hurts individuals. But in fact, obesity not only drives up health care costs for employers, it also lowers productivity among the workforce and leads to frequent sick days.
Fortunately, some workplaces highlighted in the documentary have created programs to encourage employee health and fitness. Having this built-in infrastructure to promote health makes things easier for employees and creates a culture of health within the company. Hopefully more companies follow suit so that we are able to combat this issue in the workplace.
Costs to Happiness
One of the saddest lines in the film came from a teenage girl. She spoke of things she dreams of doing but said, “Being fat can hold you back.”
Some of the other people highlighted in the documentary have succeeded in losing weight, while others still struggle with health issues. Most share feelings of sadness or frustration that they are not living their lives to the fullest. Obesity has become a sort of trap for these people and many don’t know how to get themselves out. This is why educating people about health is such an important part of turning the problem around.
Dr. Elsie Taveras, a pediatrician in the film, points out that weight isn’t just about appearance; it’s about quality and length of life. A healthy weight will lead to a healthy – and hopefully happy – existence.
Summing it Up
This documentary drove home the urgency of obesity in the US. Beyond fat jokes and celebrities’ battles with weight, the issue of American obesity is the elephant in the room that more people need to talk about. The information, stories and studies were somewhat overwhelming but they made me realize, “Wow. This is scary. We have to act now.”
This is just a small snapshot of all that “The Weight of the Nation” presents. I encourage you to learn what you can and watch it out for yourself – free viewing is available at HBO.com and the film’s website and Twitter feed are excellent resources.
Take a look. The cost of doing nothing is too great.
Made Woman Mag is excited to participate in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women again this year on May 12. This event is especially dear to the hearts of Made Woman's co-founders, as both of their mothers are women's cancer survivors. The Made Woman team had a lot of fun last year honoring amazing women from all backgrounds and walking toward finding a cure. Being there for this event left a deep impression on us and we left truly inspired.
The Revlon Run/Walk is a 5K race and participants run or walk at their own pace. If you can't make it out to the event, you can still fight this disease by donating. Your donation will help fund important research into the cause and cure of women's cancers, prevention, education and support service programs. In a way, however large or small, we can all work towards curing this disease that affects so many.
Don Draper is back in the office after over a year-long hiatus and, Lord, how we missed him. His confident stride, his condescending sneer, his bottomless cocktail glass... Don—played perfectly by Jon Hamm—and his colleagues at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price are characters so fascinating they’ve garnered fifteen Emmys, two Golden Globes and inspired a clothing brand and a cosmetic brand to create lines in their homage. If you are a fan like me you have watched the first four seasons transfixed as these characters have evolved and encountered so much delicious drama. You’ve seen those in the ad agency do unspeakable things in order to get ahead and keep afloat, holding your breath each time Don pulls a great pitch out of his ass, saving the company once again—in classic Draper style of course.
But in fifth-season opener, Little Kiss, something is off. Don is… happy? Some time has passed since the cliffhanger we never expected, Don announcing his engagement to his secretary and one-time baby sitter Megan, and the two have gotten a swanky new apartment together. Megan is working as a copy writer (you know Peggy just loves that) and Betty is… nowhere to be found. That’s right—the stilted stepford wife we hate/love doesn’t make an appearance in the premiere. But you can’t help but think of her as you see Megan happily try out her wings as the new Mrs. Donald Draper by planning a surprise birthday party for his 40th birthday. We watch as she doesn’t listen to Peggy’s hint not to throw the party (Surprise party for Don Draper? Does she know this guy at all?), takes the whole trophy wife thing way too far with her little French burlesque performance and then can’t handle her first encounter with Don’s dark moodiness and dismissive attitude. We can tell right off the bat this chick might not be able to keep up with all the disappointments Don can dish out. She is so not Betty Draper.
But Don is enamored with her and his relaxed attitude is echoed in the show’s slow pacing (reminiscent of the first season) and the lack of tension around the office. But at least they still have an office. And they have clients! Most of whom Peter Campbell has secured, while his counterpart Roger Sterling begins to look more and more like an old relic, hanging around the office. *Cough* Bertram Cooper. Peter has gained
even more confidence in himself as a partner and feels his value to company should be reflected in the size of his office. He then begins to vie for Roger’s office and the two trade insults, play pranks, lie, and cheat, reminding you again that Mad Men is synonymous with Bad Boys.
And what about the ladies of the office? Peggy seemed to be the only unchanged figure, as headstrong and mouthy as ever. She takes issue with clients from Heinz when they don’t go for her pitch and then badgers Don about it when he doesn’t back her up. She seems to be coming into her own as a copy writer and blossoming in her new relationship. As for Joan blossoming into motherhood… not so much. Our first view of what motherhood is for Joan is a super-close shot of her baby’s butt. Lovely. She seems unhappy and trapped by her new life as a mother; the bright walls in her apartment seem to swallow her up. Feeling that her position at the agency is threatened, she goes for a visit and although she feels out of place at first, she is reassured by Lane Price that the ship would go down without her. Seeing Joan back in the office reminds you of the efficient, self-assured Joan we love in her red dress, all curves and restrained sex appeal against the backdrop of the white walls of the agency.
I had expected a huge shocking opener for the 5th season (Maybe a Maury-like reveal of who Joan’s baby's daddy really is) but the show got off to a slow start Sunday night. For those in the agency it seems the past and future are at war and this premiere episode is the calm in the storm. I still thoroughly enjoyed this first episode and it reminds me that the show’s sometimes jarring pace is another reason I’m hooked. Will the agency be caught up in the brewing Civil Rights movement? Will the naÏve Megan be able to keep Don interested…and faithful? Can the happily-married Don keep his edge as the creative maverick of Madison Avenue when so much of his creativity was inspired by his picturesque-but-stifling family life with Betty and their kids? What’s up with all those shifty looks Sally Draper was giving Don’s new wife? Will Roger Sterling be made obsolete by a newer, younger model, Pete Campbell? And when will everyone realize that Peggy Olsen is going to run that place one day? Oh, how I missed the madness!
Tune in to AMC Sunday nights at 9 PST to watch more of Don and the gang. The next episode will be directed by Jon Hamm!
I was really looking forward to the debut of ABC’s Pan Am. Female-dominated cast, storyline about the 1960’s era, unique subject matter....seems like they couldn’t miss. But sadly, ten minutes into Pan Am’s premiere, I was bored. Directed by Thomas Schlamme, Pan Am uses fairy tale-like visuals and vivid 60’s styling to lure the eye and perhaps distract the ear. The acting felt stale and off-beat. The writing was cheesy at times, which is evident in this humdinger, "They don't know that they're a new breed of women. They had an impulse to take flight”… wow. Despite the fact that the script threw everything in the book at you in the first episode—cheating husbands, Bay of Pigs, CIA espionage, runaway brides—the characters didn’t intrigue me. You want to care…but you don’t.
The pilot follows four stewardesses on their maiden voyage aboard Pan Am’s jet liner. It relies on flashbacks to provide some background info on the characters. They all have their own elaborate storylines, which somehow still manage to be shallow. Possibly because the writers try to cram so much into the first episode. While the dramatics did keep me guessing, at the end of it all I wished they had left something for episode two.
The show felt like a soap opera masquerading as a sitcom. It bogged itself down with its melodrama instead of focusing on natural dialogue and developing its characters. Pan Am all but screams out from the television “We wish we were Mad Men”. But unlike that award winning period series, Pan Am does not allow for a slow build to greatness. I’m hoping that the show will slow down its pacing and take the time to bring some depth to the characters. If not, they run the risk of burning out too soon.