by John Walters

Starting Five

1. Ommmm, I God

Quick thoughts on the Mad Men finale….

— Six phone calls, two of them person-to-person. I counted Don-Sally, Don-Betty, Peggy-Joan, Joan-client, Don-Peggy, Peggy-Stan. I understand that sometimes this can’t be avoided within the plot, but a surfeit of calls made me want to hang up on the finale. When you’ve got actors as talented as Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss, you put ’em in a room together and watch them make sparks.

— Brief Mad Men series finale review: “Joan snorts coke, Don saves Coke.”

The dude on the left was actually once married to Elisabeth Moss (Peggy)

— When Stephanie greets Don in California, she says, “What are you doing here?” Was this another episode of SNL’s “The Californians?”

I sure hope Don breaks the land-speed record inside the Colosseum….

— The hunky red-headed dude who wanted to chase the land-speed record? That’s Spencer Treat Clark, whom you may remember as Lucius from The Gladiator (was also the boy who got kidnapped in Mystic River).

–I loved Meredith’s final scene: “I translated your speech into pig Latin.” Roger: “That was a joke.” I think this will be the beginning of Alan Sepinwall’s review…(Update: Yup, it was).

–Yes, that was Helen Slater, a.k.a. Supergirl, to those of us over 40. Still hot. Don, stay at the ashram and try out a few yoga poses with Helen. May I suggest, “Downward Don?” That’s your best gambit.

–Speaking of that retreat center, am I the only one whose mind immediately went to Paul Rudd and Steve Carell dancing to Age of Aquarius?

— Roger and Marie Calvert are perfect for one another. I just wanted him to pull out an Addams Family reference and say, “Morticia, you spoke French.” Gomez Addams was a thing at the time.

— The total unknown who was given that monologue in the series’ final five minutes? Well, he was intentionally forgettable. And yet, that monologue was as moving as any pitch Don Draper ever gave to a prospective client. The difference was that, as Don had always said, the key to advertising is “happiness” whereas this pitch was emptiness. And that the man described himself as an item on a shelf in a refrigerator… he was simply an unwanted consumer item.

Also, I love how Matthew Weiner wrote in the first guy to speak and then gave us the pause. We all expected Don to get up and confess next — so did Supergirl — but then Weiner threw us that curve.

Betty: Forever smoking, hot.

— That final scene with Sally and Betty in the kitchen is haunting, especially to anyone who has ever lost a parent.

— The Don-Peggy phone call. My favorite moment. It reminded me of the time when Radar O’Reilly gave Hawkeye the what-for. Favorite moment-within-the-moment? When Peggy lowers her voice and says, “Don. Listen to me. What did you ever do that was so bad?”

— The “When Stan Met Peggy” phone call. Who let Nora Ephron into the writers’ room?

— The final scene. First, genius to end with a close-up of Don’s face. It was always THAT FACE that made life both so easy and difficult for Don. That face closed more sales, both in the boardroom and the bedroom, than Don’s words ever did. An iconic final moment.

Second, I guess there’s no ambiguity to it, is there? Don’s catharsis at the seminar leads to an inner harmony, which leads to the epiphany on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which leads to him dreaming up the campaign for Coca-Cola, one of the greatest ad campaigns of all time. There were moments of foreshadowing earlier in the episode — Joan snorting coke and Peggy asking, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?” — as well as all season long.

Aw, sugar sugar….

The final irony? Mad Men began with Don saving his firm by saving the Lucky Strike account, by advertising for cigarettes. But, 55 years later, we know that while BIG SODA is not AS bad as BIG TOBACCO, it’s almost as bad. Soda is the cigarettes of our generation. Some day your kids will tell their friends, “Yeah, my dad (or mom) drank pop” with the same pitying look we display when we tell our friends that our parents smoked.

As for the song choice, well, we kind of nailed it….

 2. Confetti-cini Alfredo

This was the scene after the Houston Rockets won Game 7 of the NBA Finals Western Conerence finals a second round playoff series at the Toyota Center. Go nuts, kids.

Our republic is doomed.

3. Day of Yore

On this date 69 years ago Reggie Jackson was born, 45 years ago Tina Fey was born, and 35 years ago Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis hanged himself. Also on this date, 50 years ago, the fathomably talented Bill Hubbell, MH’s DoY scribe, was born. Happy birthday, Bill.

4. Rule No. 1

Potter: Until he died, he really lived….

What’s Rule No. 1, kids? That’s right “Gravity always wins.”

Legendary climber and BASE jumper Dean Potter, 43, died while attempting an aerial descent from Taft Point in Yosemite National Park… which prohibits such acts of derring do. Also dead, 29 year-old Graham Hunt.

5. Louie, Louie

Comedian Louis C.K. hosted the season finale for the 40th season of Saturday Night Live. For his opening monologue C.K. did a set that touched upon “mild racism,” the Israel-Palestine conflict, and child molestation. It’s hilarious to watch and listen to how he loses the audience on the third topic. I kinda feel that it was almost done on a dare, like that time on Seinfeld when Jerry had to open for Kenny Bania and just decided to bomb as badly as possible.

6 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. I didn’t know about Dean Potter’s death until I clicked onto this morning. Two things – less than 2 months ago I watched some TV thing about the Yosemite base jumpers, specifically on Dean & his history. There was some amazing footage. I’d read about him & seen some of his mt-climbing exploits on TV many times before. I’ve always marveled what these people do but have also always thought they were, well, not just risk-junkies but a bit nuts. And then (the 2nd thing) Austin Murphy wrote something about these guys a few years back that has always stuck with me – they must stay “undefeated”. There are no do-overs or “get it next time”. How can ANYone stay UNDEFEATED forever? Anyhoo, during my viewing of this recent TV doc, I got the most powerful feeling that Potter would not live much longer. I do NOT get “premonitions” but this feeling was so overwhelming I could barely keep looking at the screen. Other extreme-sport participants always trot out the “he died doing what he loved most in the world” trope at times like this. The difference between me & these folks is that *I’d* rather keep doing what I loved “most in the world” for as long as possible, as in till I’d get back at LEAST all I’d put into Social Security. 😉

    Dean Potter was an amazing mountain climber & it was thrilling to have watched him. But his “streak” ended Saturday.

    Mad Men finale – there were things I disliked : the seemingly never-ending westward odyssey (spiral?) of unsmiling/drunk Don & the looming death of Betty & things I loved : Stan & Peggy finally acknowledging they were PERFECT for each other, Joan on her way to moguldom, & that at the end of Don’s ‘trip’, he FINALLY smiles & comes up with that HUGE Coke commercial (well, that’s how I interpreted it, apparently there are some who don’t agree with us). So, if he went back into advertising & achieved even higher, what was the MORAL?

    And yes, when a long-running TV series or movie is ending, I’m one of those dweebs who likes to know what happens to the characters 10-30 years down the road. Alas, no such denouement here. As Roger might say (slowly) – “c’est la vie”.

  2. Confetti after ANY win is all the rage now – at least at The Q during the past season. I don’t get it – don’t the maintenance staff have ENOUGH to do – cleaning beer, soda, mustard, etc. off the seats/aisles/steps?

    And speaking of “denouement”, how do you explain the Clippers? Unlike yourself, I thought they would lose Game 7 after shockingly throwing away the win/series in Game 6. Did they get too high from beating the Spurs? Or after being up 3-1 over the Rockets? THREE to ONE? That his readers/listeners can’t hear/read Simmons’ critique moves Skipper to the top of the ‘Most Hated Sports Figure in 2015’ list.

    And yes, the Rockets won & are in the Western Conference Finals. But they still suck. (Terminology used just for you, jdubs). 🙂

  3. Well!

    Dear readers of the Medium Happy comments section,

    I would like to take this moment to brag that I got to watch the Mad Men finale with none other than the Imperial Poobah himself. And thank God, because I needed him and my husband to basically explain the entire show to me, full as I was with chocolate lava cake and stupidity. It’s not my fault, on Friday night I watched that movie Still Alice and now I have early-onset Alzheimer’s.

    So I thankfully had those two, patiently waiting out my rants about being bored and too full and explaining to me who various characters were again (I honestly didn’t remember that blonde chick at all) and keeping me from flipping over to the Spring Baking Championships on the Food Network. Fer cryin’ out loud, John even predicted the final song! I made him walk me through that process too. I tip my hat to you, IP. You’re like the Sherlock of pop-culture.

    I watched the episode again this morning while I was working on some official work-type stuff for my husband (It’s important to point that out so you don’t think I was just happily watching TV on a Monday morning while the rest of the world toiled over TPS reports) and I enjoyed it so much more, having had the dots already connected for me.

    I guess my point is, I wouldn’t recommend watching Don’t Ask Alice or whatever that movie’s called, at least not two days before the Mad Men finale.

  4. There are few pleasures on this orb greater than watching a quality television show at the Mike & Katie McCollow Compound, stuffing your gob with lava cake baked by their oldest daughter, Meg, while you think about how you might successfully catnap Toonces, the family kitty.

    In retrospect, I’m happy with my decision not to watch the Mad Men finale at the Waco Twin Peaks.

  5. Confession: I tried my best to watch the Mad Men finale, but I had two unanticipated friends taking over the sofa bed in my Las Vegas hotel room, lamenting the fact that they couldn’t take showers, or their fake tans would streak. Being that this is completely foreign territory for me, I couldn’t really concentrate on the compound, commune or wherever it was that Don found himself and the catchphrase of the decade.

    I also have NO idea how JW pre-emptively predicted the closing song. Carnac the Magnificent tips his turban to you!

  6. Thank you John! My birthday is actually the 17th, so I left the demographic anyone cares about the same night Mad Men rode off into the sunset.

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