TV: Mad Men & Californication

April 23, 2014
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Now that How I Met Your Mother and Community have gone the way of the dinosaur (no longer around but kinda missed), new shows have to fill those voids. It’s a good thing that Hank Moody has returned to elegantly sleaze up the boob tube, along with Don Draper and all his problems. They’ll be joining my TV Blast roster from now on, and my god do they ever outdo Ted Mosby’s winy odyssey for love (Community is still perfect).

The boozy saga that is Californication does trek on, and this time with newfound quality and a different sense of purpose. Unlike the seasons between the fourth and this one, the story has been stripped down and we’re back to the most important facet of Hank’s life. Fatherhood is the theme of this season, and because of this the past three episodes remind of the glory of the first season, when Becca was growing up and a constant presence in Moody’s life. Levon, played by Oliver Cooper, is nowhere near as wise or interesting as Becca ever was (I don’t see his character ever having her level of depth), but he does represent a huge challenge in Hank’s life, a son that shares some of his worst tendencies. Hank’s plate runneth over with a new baby mama, a son, a television-writing gig; all this is so much that Karen may fall by the wayside. The stakes are higher now.

Californication Review

The last episode focused on Levon’s first days working at the Santa Monica Cop studio. He messed up a lunch order, got yelled at, said “fuck this” a lot, and sexually harassed (via Internet videos you may have seen) the boss’s assistant. So, the spitting image of Hank, who, at the same time, fingered a potential actress during a casting. As usual, a mess. The best part of the whole thing was seeing Heather Graham as Levon’s mother schooling both her son and baby daddy right there in the studio for everyone’s enjoyment. That was a well acted, well written moment, and has Graham fitting snugly right there in the midst of the longtime cast. Oh, and also, Runkle’s’ wang is still out of order (an unnecessary but still enjoyable, if tragic, subplot). Twas a good episode, and promises a very solid, sobering experience for fans of Hank and his dysfunctional world.

Meanwhile, in the world of Mad Men, Don Draper is one unhappy camper. The episode’s opening explains it all, with Don sleeping till past noon, eating Ritz crackers in his robe, and marking a booze bottle to make sure he doesn’t drink too much (all while a roach rolls down his white carpet). Draper without a purpose makes for some promising story. And does the promise of a good episode ever come to fruition!

Mad Men review

The last episode of Mad Men was one of my favorites for quite some time. It was tragically comical, there was a lot of narrative development, and featured a particularly stellar performance by Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper. In the episode, Don, as said before, struggled with his professional leave, Pete had his ego stomped on a bit more by the partners and his realtor girlfriend (Bonnie Whiteside’s a sly badass), and Peggy went head to head with Valentine’s Day. The office was tense with racial prejudice as well, after a secretarial snafu left Dawn as front receptionist (Cooper was not happy, revealing a darker side to the character). In a twist move, this was resolved when Joan moved upstairs to be an account manager, making Dawn the new Joan (awesome). As for Peggy, she thought a large vase of roses on her secretary’s desk were hers and not her secretary’s, leading to an amazingly awkward mess perfectly fitting for the equally awkward copywriter. It was rad, and made Peggy look silly (which she deserved this time).

As for Don, he had the surprise of finding Sally in his apartment; after a shopping trip in the city, she lost her purse, went to find her father, only to find Lou Avery (what’s up with this dude) instead. This led to a really well executed drive back to campus between Don and Sally, in which both characters confessed to the other (did I mention Don still hasn’t told his wife about not wanting to move to California?). Best performances of the episode, possibly of this season and the last; Sally deserves a lot more screen time. I especially enjoyed Don tricking Sally into believing they weren’t going to pay at a diner, and then when Sally told her father she loved him? That’s significant.

See you all next time, folks, and until then, enjoy watching Game of Thrones while I scramble to binge through season three (curse the Internet!).

TV: Mad Men & Californication 1 vote

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