It all really hit the fan on Sunday’s “Mad Men.”
With its series finale looming, the much-awarded and ballyhooed AMC series that was “meh” last season did the following:
1. Let Joan walk out the door of McCann-Erickson with a negotiated $250,000 (50 percent of what she was owed) rather than put up with indignities being heaped upon her. Her combination of voluptuousness and tough-minded feminist ambition ran into a buzz saw of sexist denigration that indicated her leaning-in days were over. With advertising giant McCann-Erickson having swallowed her old firm Sterling Cooper, her new male colleagues either wanted to hustle her away for a libidinous weekend somewhere – anywhere – or they wanted to minimize every one of her former accounts at Sterling Cooper.
2. And while all that was going on, Don Draper stared at an airplane circling the Empire State Building during a long boring Miller beer meeting, walked out of it with a box lunch, got into a Cadillac the size of a Chris Craft, and drove to Racine, Wis., to get a lead on where to find his despairing waitress. No dice. Instead, her ex-husband invited him to be born again to solve his problems. When Don picked up a hitchhiker, the kid asked him if he was going near St. Paul, Minn. – the opposite direction from Draper driving back to New York. Sure, said Don.
Whatever – you know?
Major existential crises are looming here inside Don’s gigantic case of “whatever.” I wouldn’t expect them to be even close to solved next Sunday but I must say after this lackluster final half of the final season, the actual finale on May 17 is shaping up climactically.
We are in a Sweeps Weeks period jampacked with big finales – series finales, season finales and major stars performing a final victory lap with old friends after more than three decades transforming the medium.
I’m interested in how some of this will be will turn out when it’s finished on the potters’ wheels of some of the more creative writers and producers on TV.
On ABC’s “Scandal,” for instance – whose season ends May 14 – we’ll need to know how much Olivia Pope’s ultra-malevolent Daddy can accomplish. Which is to say we’ll need to know who in the cast struck Shonda Rhimes as dispensable as Patrick Dempsey obviously did on Rhimes’ first smash hit series, “Grey’s Anatomy” (she killed him off a couple of weeks ago when a reported Rocky Road for His McDreaminess seemed more trouble than it was worth). On “Scandal,” that won’t include Scott Foley as Jake because they pretended to pull the plug on him on one episode a couple of weeks ago and then saved his bacon in an insanely unbelievable Lazarus scene that began the following week’s episode.
So what if he had enough holes in his torso at the time to fell five or six lesser men? Obviously, Rhimes is still fond of Foley.
Me? I’m happy as can be as long as she gives Joe Morton all kinds of malevolently acidic dialogue in the season’s final episodes. No one on TV does sarcasm and vituperation and sneering denunciation better than Joe Morton does on television these days – broadcast, cable or whatever.
In the current finale fiesta, we’ve already seen “Blue Bloods” go out for the season with Linda Carlson – who plays Donny Wahlberg’s nurse wife on the series – taking a bullet to the back and surviving handily, just to give the show some sort of Sweeps Weeks peril to someone of supposed significance on the show.
On Sunday’s “Madame Secretary,” the false drama finale required the secretary of state played by Tea Leoni to be threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act for telling her husband too much about life on the job.
Now that’s interesting. We know that way back in the show’s DNA, someone freely fantasized its main character from Hillary Clinton (or Madeleine Albright), just as “The Good Wife,” way back in its DNA, was synthesized from the case of lawyer Silda Spitzer, left dangling in obscene marital intimacy when her husband, former New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer, turned out to be “Client Nine” for a high-end prostitute.
Now that Clinton is well on her way to snagging the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, no matter how much affection Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren inspire for ideological reasons, I’d love to know just what exactly happens when husbands and wives with the highest possible security clearance wind up imparting state secrets to their spouses.
Are they, in fact, subject to Espionage Act prosecution as “Madame Secretary” seemed to have it until Leoni’s heroine did a “Letterman” and told a Senate committee in open hearing everything she’d done that wasn’t kosher?
“Madame Secretary” isn’t nearly as lunatic and unlikely a portrait of Washington as “Scandal” or “Veep,” but I find it hard to dislike any series that a) stars Leoni, b) features a heroine’s husband who is constantly quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas at her and c) features the dandy “what if” of a presidential son who is in frequent need of being secretly sent to recovery programs in fancy, shmancy drug rehab joints.
Have we ever had presidential offspring who secretly needed to do what Betty Ford did so publicly and gutsily?
Meanwhile, on her CBS up-from-reality Sunday night sister show “The Good Wife,” Alicia is going into business for herself, yet again, but has been set up for another phony fall next Sunday when, and if, her pal Kalinda shows up to contradict a tale Alicia swore in court was true. Kalinda, as regular watchers know, had to high-tail it out of Chicago to avoid the angry retribution of a major drug dealer. That made it convenient for Alicia to tell fibs, of course, but all that sin of convenience goes out the window the minute Kalinda sets foot in Chicago again. At that point, she’ll have to commit perjury, too, to save Alicia’s bacon.
A nice potential mess, that one, but we’ll have to see what happens Sunday – and next season.
For those in the market for a few more season finales, you should know “Hawaii Five-O” says farewell to spring 2015 with a two-hour episode on Friday; “Castle” waves goodbye for the season on Monday; both “NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans” next Tuesday; and “American Crime” on May 14, after the season finale of “Scandal.”
It has yet to be announced whether John Ridley’s “American Crime” will be renewed but if it isn’t I’ll have no difficulty attributing it to the show’s excellence. Just as it was just way too good to get major ratings or big, sloshing attention, it may even be too good to be renewed for a second season.
But then, if it is, what are they doing to do? Kill off another couple of people in Modesto, Calif., to get the plot going?