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I’m skipping next week, so this is my last weekly review of Mad Men before the series finale. As such, I endeavored to make one last big stand in my years-long effort to show that Don Draper is not the protagonist of Mad Men:

“I mentioned this last week, but, when we talk about this era of television production, we talk about an era dominated by shows that are themselves dominated by male anti-heroes. But anyone who’s actually viewed and loved these shows knows that they don’t actually work that way. Mad Men isn’t dominated by Don Draper any more than Jaws is dominated by the shark. What makes these shows great is what grows up to surround the anti-hero. These guys are anti-heroic in that they’re bad and quasi-villainous, but they’re also anti-heroic inasmuch as they’re surrounded by heroes far more compelling than they are. We all want to know what happens with the shark, but the real action is on the boat.”

“Age of Olson”

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For Dear Television at The Los Angeles Review of Books, I wrote about repetition, novelty, Peggy, Stan, and the strange artful history of cursing on Mad Men:

“Don turns to him and says, ‘Why are you cursing?’ It’s a peak moment of Weird Ginsberg, but it’s also one of the show’s great sly acknowledgments of cultural and generational drift. Don Draper’s workplace suddenly becomes a place where people curse freely. Don can’t even tell what’s not authentic about the music he’s hearing, but that inauthenticity is literally painful to Ginsberg. The f-word is the harbinger of a particular doom for Don Draper.”

“Not Safe for Work: Mad Men‘s Art of Cursing”

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I wrote about “The Forecast,” the first great episode of the back end of Mad Men‘s final season, for Dear Television at the LARB. Specifically, I wrote about the amazing director Jennifer Getzinger and why maybe repetition isn’t a bad thing:

“Bert Cooper was on this show for so long as a reminder, not of death but of irrelevance. Don’s having so much trouble figuring out what’s next for the agency because he’s asking the question the wrong way. “We know where we’ve been, we know where we are,” he says, and that’s true, but it shouldn’t be in first-person. He can’t tell where he’s going because he isn’t going anywhere. He’s achieved what he will achieve at SC&P — he’s no longer a metonym for the agency. The future is other people. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that beautiful? Take off your shoes.”

“Space Station Getzinger”

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Dear Television is back on the Mad Men beat at The Los Angeles Review of Books for the final episodes of the series. I enjoy writing about this show more than any other, and I’m particularly pleased that we’ll be documenting Don Draper’s Decline and Fall at LARB. I wrote about the premiere episode and the ghostly return of one of Mad Mens greatest characters: Rachel Menken:

“We wanted Rachel to come back, but she is not who she is. Something else, something deeper is troubling Don Draper. Time travel isn’t easy even when it’s possible. You can’t see Rachel Menken again; she doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Deep Cuts: Rachel in Furs”

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NBC’s Parenthood finally ended last week, thus taking off the air a great ensemble of child actors. In the wake of this, I wrote, for “Dear Television” at The Los Angeles Review of Books, about the state of kid acting on TV right now:

“Imagine if every year, for eight years, we shot 13 episodes of television about the same kid! It’s not to denigrate the massive and moving achievement of Richard Linklater’s film — or the gut-wrenching experience of seeing such a long period of time condensed in one sitting — to say that serial television has been watching kids grow up since before Ellar Coltrane was a glimmer in his Earth-parents’ eyes.”

Parenthood‘s End: On Television’s Children”

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I wrote about week four of Broad City for “Dear Television” at Talking Points Memo. This episode was one of the most joyful television experiences I’ve had in a while, and here’s why:

“The broads aren’t idealists or utopians. There is no actually existing ideal of New York life for them to either occupy or come up against. They’re pragmatists, riding that nitrous wave with Billy James. They find the possibility of joy in every nook and cranny of this preposterous world they’ve created whether it’s a prix fixe shellfish dinner or a sewer sale on Birkin bags. Broad City is a cartoon, but sometimes in its ecstatically dumb pastiche of high and low it finds something that feels joyfully, thoughtlessly real.”

“Girls, Hit Your Hallelujah!”

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