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"Mad Men," Wallenda hit high notes

By Alan Pergament

It was decent of Nik Wallenda to finish his 22-minute wire act and salute to Jesus Sunday night in time for viewers to switch to Don Draper’s questioning of Jesus' priorities during the violent and volatile 1960s.

Wallenda and Draper’s show "Mad Men" soared Sunday, making it a heavenly TV night.

It was an interesting package. First things first.

I skipped most of the Wallenda pre-game show on the Discovery Channel but did get to see the interviews with his wife and three children prior to the 1,400 feet walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge. They were about as interesting as the first several episodes of "Mad Men" this season.

Twitter was all atwitter during the actual walk, with his wife’s comment that "Nicolas would never do anything dangerous" getting plenty of attention.

Yeah, and Don Draper would never take a drink or sleep with anybody but his wife for the rest of his life.



Don Draper (Jon Hamm): Looking at life from both sides now


My Twitter followers seemed equally divided between believers and non-believers. Many tweeted  about the intensity of watching Wallenda and others cracked jokes about his constant religious thank yous that I can’t repeat here.

It was intense, but after about 10 minutes I got the same feeling I did during the Niagara Falls walk a year ago -- that Wallenda was making it look too easy.

After “reporters” Willie Geist and Natalie Morales hugged Wallenda on land, I headed to a different high wire act on "Mad Men."

I was on record Sunday morning calling this the worst season of the AMC award-winning series. I'll stick with that assessment. However, starting with Draper's (Jon Hamm) bar beef with a minister and subsequent jail stay, Sunday's episode redeemed the season quite nicely. It was the third straight must-see episode.

Before he headed to jail, Draper gave a more cynical view of religion than the "Book of Mormon" writers did in that repulsively entertaining musical. Like many of my less reverential Twitter followers, Draper probably would have told Wallenda that God and his son had more important things to worry about than a guy doing something loony across a river gorge.    

Since I hate reading reviews that are play-by-plays of what happens in episodes, I won't reveal too much more about the finale in case my readers haven't seen it yet.

I can say the heavily-plotted episode wrapped up many story lines, seemed devoted to family values and beautifully sets up the final season. I will take back one of the things that I wrote Sunday. The flashbacks this season that help explain why Don is the way he is were used much more effectively Sunday night and led to the season's most compelling, self-destructive advertising presentation.

The final scene in which Don reveals a part of himself to his children was an incredibly poignant one, with the Joni Mitchell tune "Both Sides Now" perfectly capturing the moment. The glance between Don and daughter Sally, who has grown apart from her father after discovering his imperfections, said
more than a thousand words.

I’ve looked at "Mad Men" this season from both sides now -- from up and down – and was overjoyed that Don decided to give pieces of himself away to his co-workers, clients and his children.

The finale was as beautiful as most of the season was maddening and is sure to spark debates about the future of Don and his families at home and at work.

Tonight’s opener of the Stephen King miniseries, "Under the Dome," on CBS, will certainly face a tough climb in Western New York at 9 tonight.

It will compete with NBC's coverage of a potentially- Stanley Cup Finals-clinching game between the Chicago Blackhawks with local hero Patrick Kane and the Boston Bruins owned by local resident Jeremy Jacobs.

I recommend you DVR the "Dome" opener, which gets off to a promising start introducing a variety of characters in a small New England town, Chester’s Mill, that can’t imagine who is cutting them off from the outside world by an invisible dome. At least it keeps them safe from zombies. (Sorry about that, but I attended "World War Z" over the weekend and can’t get it out of my mind).

I’m not sure where "Dome" is headed because CBS only made the first hour of the 13-part miniseries available. In the old days of miniseries -- before they became too expensive to produce -- the networks usually made all the episodes available to critics so we could fully determine whether all those hours were worth the effort.

The old miniseries also used to feature some big names to attract viewers. There are no big names in "Dome" except for King’s. However, there are some recognizable faces.

Buffalo’s Jeff Fahey, most recently seen on TV in "Lost," plays the town sheriff. Dean Norris of 'Breaking Bad" plays a car salesman in town with suspicious motivations. Rachelle Lefevre of "The Twilight Saga" plays a journalist who isn’t as suspicious as she should be. She is one character that is easy to root for and there aren’t many.

I have my suspicions about where “Dome” goes from here. If it was really good, I would have thought that CBS would have put it on Sundays rather than Mondays.

But the opener is good enough to DVR and to give the second episode a chance. After that, you are on your own, like the residents of Chester’s Mill.


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