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April 15, 2014 - Image 6

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6 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

6 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Still not as good as Breaking Bad.'
'Mad Men' returns

"Quick! Act natural."
'Scandal' off the rails

AMC series back for cult and Pete is livin' it up in
California, where the pants are
Don Draper's plaid and the bagels are ... not
as good as the ones in New York
final run (duh).
Despite the "new beginning"
By MADDIE THOMAS vibes that radiated throughout
Daily TVEditor the final moments of season six,
"Mad Men" 's seventh season
"Are you ready? Because I is off to a bleak start. Rather
want you to pay attention. This than turning a new leaf, "Time
is the begin- Zones" turns the same old
ning of some- leaves over and over again. Don
thing." is in a loveless marriage. Peggy
It's fitting Mad Men is struggling to impress her new
that the first boss. Roger is having another
episode of SeasonPremiere mid-life crisis. Sound familiar?
"Mad Men" 's AMC As is the case with many
final season season premieres, the bulk of the
begins with the episode is spent on exposition
most fundamental aspect of the - catching us up on what's
series: a pitch. In the Manhattan been going on with each of the
offices of SC&P, a catchphrase central characters (excluding,
for Accutron watches is born. notably, Betty Francis and
"It's not a timepiece. It's a the Draper children). Thanks
conversation piece." But staring to some historical clues (and
at us through the TV screen with a few Google searches) one
a bold confidence that could only can decipher that we've
accompany the words of true jumped forward to January
creative brilliance is not "Mad 1969, just around the time of
Men" 's resident genius, Don Richard Nixon's inaugural
Draper - it's Freddie Rumsen. address. (What a way to cast a
OK - technically it's not metaphorical storm cloud over
actually Freddie. As is revealed the episode!)
later in the episode, Freddie "We have found ourselves
is simply acting as a surrogate rich in goods, but ragged in
pitchman for Don, who is still spirit," Nixon announces from
on forced leave from SC&P; a a television screen near the
fact he's kept secret from Megan episode's end. "Reaching with
while they attempt to maintain magnificent precision for the
a fizzling bi-coastal marriage. moon, but falling into raucous
Meanwhile, as Joan and Peggy discord on earth."
are still struggling to break Showrunner Matthew
through Madison Avenue's Weiner uses that specific Nixon
glass ceiling, Roger Sterling quote to center a major theme
has joined some kind of orgy of the episode and probably

the season's entire first half.
Sure, everyone - even Don - is
making money and technically
succeeding in one way or
another, but spirits are still
low. For each character there's
something missing, something
to reach for. Don wants his job
back, Peggy wants her respect
back and Ken Cosgrove probably
wants the sight in his right
eye back. Maybe the lingering
cloud of disappointment is a
result of an even more abstract
desire - a grand "something"
like the ellusive American
Dream. Either way, the pursuit.
of a great unknown has begun.
In a premiere that drags plot-
wise, these subtler messages are
key to keeping hopes up for a
satisfying final season.
As a stand-alone episode,
this "Mad Men" installment
is middling at best. But that's
exactly the game Weiner likes
to play. It's all about the build-
up from here on out, and "Time
Zones" does its job of laying
the groundwork for the coming
episodes quite well.
Time is of the essence in this
final season of "Mad Men."
With only thirteen episodes
and twelve months remaining
on a finite timeline, the clock
(maybe an Accutron watch?) is
ticking away on Don Draper -
he is aging and the show is too.
"Time Zones" is the beginning
of something - the beginning
of an ending and the beginning
of a countdown. "Mad Men"
has always been a conversation
piece, but in its last lap, it's also
a time-piece.

SeniorArts Editor

I've never written about
"Scandal." I've especially never
called into question its realism or
legitimacy as a political drama. For
the past three years, I've enjoyed
the series for exactly what it is -
a guilty pleasure. Sure, at times
the Shonda Rhimes series can be
more poignant or more significant
than typical ABC fare (like
"Revenge" or "Killer Women").
But even at its best, "Scandal" is
simply a good primetime soap -
crazy, crass and shocking. Season
three, however, has pushed the
boundaries of what's acceptable.
Even in "Scandal" 's soapy, hyper-
fictionalized world, what the hell
is going on? White hat's off, crazy
hat's on.
After its blink-and-miss-
it seven-episode first season,
"Scandal" grew into a massive
hit for ABC midway through its
second season when its ratings
steadily climbed until hitting
a series high in the 2013 finale.
Recently though, it would seem
"Scandal" 's flame burned bright
but quick. Given its never-ending
twists and turns, it's no surprise
that a little "Scandal" fatigue has
begun to set in. There's a limit to
how far and how fast you can push
the boundaries, and I think Cyrus
Beene potentially allowing a bomb
to go off at a state senator's funeral,
or a teenager bargaining her
virginity for a college acceptance
might just be that limit.
The back half of season three's
18-episode order has seen the rails
come off - throwing any caution
or common sense to the wind. In


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turn, the series' heightened drama, the same passionate argument in
sexual antics and topsy-turvy the Oval Office? "Scandal" 's love
narrative has become a parody of triangle has reached an extreme
itself. Concurrently, Olivia Pope - levelof saturation, diminishingthe
this supposedly groundbreaking likability of all those involved.
female character - has continued These issues of character
to regress from the season opener. complicate "Scandal" 's end game.
Whereas Olivia was once a How are we supposed to root for
capable and strong professional the series' central pairing when
woman - the anti-Ally McBeal it's so obviously toxic for Olivia?
or even Meredith Grey - season How are we supposed to root for
three has seen her become a Olivia and Fitz when Olivia is not
fragile, bumbling mess. Even his only mistress? Lest we forget
worse, her greatest flaw is the man that Cyrus had a pregnantAmanda
Tanner murdered to preserve
Fitz's reputation. And how are we
A rsupposed to root for Olivia and Fitz
when with each passing episode,
falters in season it's Mellie who truly deserves our
sympathy and attention. Bellamy
three. Young's nuanced, delectable
performance is soap opera done
right, though it demonizes not
only Fitz, but also the Olivia-Fitz
she is so devoted to. Olivia Pope pairing.
continues to allow herself to be With that being said, even
marginalized by Fitz, subservient Mellie's arc has become
to his every whim. And despite significantly flawed. Her storyline
announcing in the series premiere is defined by her rape, perpetrated
that "she doesn't do crying," Olivia by her husband's father, as
has shed tears in nearly every revealed through flashbacks in
episodebecause of her relationship an earlier season three episode.
with Fitz. Sexual assault is a crutch Shonda
"Scandal" 's story has also Rhimes has turned to in all three
faltered this season. In case of her series - though far more
anyone had forgotten, the first and effectively in the 2010 episode of
second seasons - forthe most part "Private Practice," "Did You Hear
-featured amixofprocedural and What Happened to Charlotte
serialized elements, acombination King?" In that series, a majority of
that grounded "Scandal" 's the fourth season was dedicated
oftentimes frantic narrative. to the episode's titular character's
Its case-of-the-week format experience - "what happened"
separated Pope and Associates to Charlotte King was a crucial
from the White House, allowing journey for every character,
for much-needed breaks between significantly elevating the
each ofthe series'definingentities. quality of Rhimes's lesser "Grey's
But Fitz's reelection campaign has Anatomy" spinoff. "Scandal"
brought the two closer than ever, can't make any of these claims.
effectively changing the series' The incident between Mellie and
DNA. Even more, its over-the- her father-in-law was as quickly
top storylines come closer and addressed as it was turned into yet
closer to eclipsing the brink of another contrived melodramatic
comprehension with each passing mystery (Is Jerry really Fitz's
week. son?), not to mention the fact that
I'm not making any claims Mellie uses her rape as leverage to
about "Scandal"'s believability. It's ensure her father-in-law's support
unfair to criticize a soap opera's in an upcoming election. In stark
realism, unlike other political contrast to "Private Practice,"
dramas. Conversely, "Homeland" "Scandal" 's rape undercuts a
's misguided third season was serious subject, neither giving
flawed precisely because its it the sufficient attention nor
believability was sacrificed in respect as it serves as a B plot for a
favor of action. The difference is secondary character.
"Homeland" operates under the "Scandal" 's frenetic third
assumption of realism - when season - at times "24," at times
its plausibility suffers, so does its "Grey's Anatomy" on steroids
worth. "Scandal" never promised - comes to an early close this
realism, which is not to discount week (its episode order was cut
any of its success. But even from 22 to 18 to accommodate
"Grey's Anatomy" - a show that Washington's pregnancy). And
has featured a male pregnancy I'll admit, I'm eager to see many
and more natural disasters than of the plots come to fruition, if for
I'd care to count - respects its no other reason than leaving this
own confines more strictly than whole mess behind us. After Fitz's
the Kerry Washington series. first election, prior to the first
"Scandal" 's universe has no rules, season of "Scandal," Olivia left the
which doesn't make it excitingt It White House to pursue her own
makes itcsloppy. life, apart from her tumultuous
Above all, it's the repetition affair and hectic lifestyle. Here's
that is killing "Scandal." How hoping season four will have her
many late-night Olivia-Jake phone make the same realization.
calls - which end with Olivia "Scandal" needs fixing, but it's
declaring with finality, "Goodbye, notcup to Olivia Pope to solve every
Jake" - is too many? How many problem. Shonda Rhimes is going
times must Olivia and Fitz have to have to handle this one.

E-mail gbuonomo@umich.edu to

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