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My Love Letter to AMC’s Mad Men

To promote Season 4 of its critically acclaimed television series, Mad Men, AMC will be airing “marathons” featuring the five “best” (as determined by viewer votes) episodes of the show’s first three seasons.  The marathons are scheduled to air each Monday night (starting at 8 p.m.) until the season premiere (Sunday, July 25th at 10 p.m.). 

Tonight’s marathon installment featured five episodes from my favorite season of the show, namely, it’s first season.  Watching the marathon (and yes, I actually sat through all five hours) reminded me of how spectacular this program is, and how much I have missed having it in my life during its interminably long hiatus. 

The phrase “relationship television” refers to the phenomenon where a viewer will compulsively watch a particular television show each week, to the point of sometimes altering their personal and professional lives around the viewing of that show.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am in a “relationship” with Mad Men.  And you know what’s great about relationships?  The cheesy love letters that come with them, of course!

Dear Mad Men,

The first time I heard about you, I wasn’t sure we would get along.  You see, typically, I’m not a big fan of “period pieces.” 

And, although you are certainly more contemporary than other shows of that genre, you ARE technically a period piece, Honey.  Granted, you received rave reviews from highly intellectual critics and pundits, even before you arrived.  But that just made me think you were stuck up and elitist.

Plus, you were on a television channel that I had never watched before — one that I had heard catered almost exclusively to really, really old people.

But a friend of mine aggressively sang your praises.  She told me how hot, sexy, smart, and witty you were.  She had me at “hot and sexy” . . .

So, I watched the pilot episode.  And even before the first commercial break, I was hooked.  I mean, it was REALLY love at first sight.

Your pilot episode opened with this brilliant scene!   In it (just in case you don’t remember), the lead protagonist, Don Draper, is in a bar, struggling over an advertising campaign he must pitch to the makers of Lucky Strike cigarettes, the following morning.  You see, it had recently been revealed that smoking could cause lung cancer. 

Furthermore, federal legislation prevented advertisers from saying that cigarettes were “healthy.”  The meeting was just a few hours away, and Don still had nothing to present to his clients.  So, understandably, your protagonist was a tad stressed out.  So while Don is busy getting plastered at the bar, he is also hard at work, brainstorming ideas for his campaign (Talk about multi-tasking!).  To organize his ideas, Don uses the advanced technology available to him during the 1960’s.   No lame lined notepad is good enough for the likes of Don Draper! NO WAY!

Don has something a bit more “high-tech” in mind . . .

I mean, seriously, he wrote ALL OVER that napkin!  By the time he was finished, there was so much writing on that piece of cloth, you could barely tell what color it was! 

When the waiter approaches Don, the latter tries to wrangle him into a conversation about what type of cigarettes he smokes (Hint: NOT Lucky Strikes).  “I just love to smoke,” explains the waiter, matter-of-factly.  Don deems the statement important enough to jot down on the sacred napkin.  (Way to go, Waiter Dude!)

This conversation is interrupted by the manager of the restaurant, who immediately presumes that the waiter is bothering Don, simply because said waiter is black.  As a child of the late 20th century, I found the blatant racism to be pretty shocking and offensive.  But back then, it must have been fairly common place.  Then, as Don scans the bar, the entire room seems to explode in a giant puff of smoke! 

Because, of course, EVERYONE smoked in the early 1960’s!  The scene I just described was less than five minutes long.  Yet, despite its deceptive simplicity, it spoke volumes.

That’s one of the things I love most about you, Mad Men.  You never talk down to me, or feel the need to spell things out for me.  You don’t take my intelligence for granted.  This makes me feel smarter, when I watch you.  And, in case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy feeling smart. 

(It happens so rarely, after all.)

Aside from your witty writing and snappy dialogue, you know what else is so great about you?  Your cast of characters . . .

When writing a show that takes place in a corporate environment, it’s sometimes tempting to simply rehash the same stale corporate stereotypes we generally see on show’s of the “office” variety.  But you didn’t take the easy way out, Mad Men.  Each of YOUR characters are multi-faceted and complex, from the lead role down to mere walk-on parts, like, for example, that waiter in the aforementioned pilot episode. 

In fact, it wouldn’t be at all out of the ordinary for a character who initially seemed pigeon-holed in the uptight “goody two shoes” role to rock out at a party . . .

. . . or get high on some killer weed, while spending a late night at the office . . .

. . . or get knocked up by a coworker, and not tell him about the baby until a full season year has passed, since it was given up for adoption.

I also wouldn’t put it past you to have a heretofore pristine and well-coifed housewife come completely unglued . . .

 . . . or to have a beloved gay character nearly raped by a man, and then subsequently fired for REFUSING to submit to the rapist’s advances . . .

Oh, and the female characters on this show?  They totally kick ass!

Early 1960’s America wasn’t a kind place for working women.  In the workplace, they were often mistreated, and undervalued, if not openly sexually harassed.

They also lacked the same opportunities as men, and were expected to conform to the demeaningly narrow stereotypes of the era.

And yet, many of the female characters on this show, bucked societal trends, and found success in the “take-no-prisoners” world of corporate New York City.

Did I mention that the men on the show are hot?

And their sexual conquests are even hotter?

Seriously, what more could I ask for in a “Television Show Relationship?”

Well . . . maybe there is one more thing, I could ask for.  It’s a minor thing, really.  It’s just that . . .  DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP GOING AWAY FOR SO DAMN LONG?

I know they say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but a YEAR???  Come on, Mad Men!  That type of “absence” just makes the heart depressed.

And yet, now, I hear you are returning to my home in just a few short weeks!

So, I hope you’ve been working out . . .

 . . . because I plan to have some SERIOUS makeup sex with you, upon your return!

See you on July 25th!  I love you!

XOXO,

KJewls

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Back to School – A Recap of Grey’s Anatomy’s “Time Warp”

When I heard that this  Thursday’s installment of Grey’s Anatomy was going to be a “flashback episode,” one that intermingled the characters’ present day experiences with events of the past,  in order to shed some light on the characters’ current behavior, I found myself struck with an overwhelming sense of deja vu.  I couldn’t kick this feeling that I had been here before.  That I had seen this before . . .

Oh, yeah . . . now I remember . . .

In an effort to differentiate himself from former Chief Webber McBoozy (although after 45 days of sobriety, I guess it is no longer appropriate, nor fair, to call him that), and to make a name for himself as the “touchy feely” Nu-Chief, Dr. McDreamy Shepherd reinstitutes Lecture Day at Seattle Grace.

“See?  I’m the sensitive one.  Look into my puppy dog eyes,  and tell me I’m not sensitive.  Just don’t make me cry, because I’ll punch your lights out, if you do.”

As guest lecturers, Shepherd commandeers Bailey, Callie, and Chief McBoozy Webber (sorry, force of habbit).  Webber takes a bit of extra persuading on Shepherd’s part.  After all, learning that you have just been demoted from “Chief of Surgery” to just plain “surgeon” does not exactly make one feel all “happy-go-teachy.”  Nonetheless, Webber ultimately agrees to guest lecture, and what appears to be the entire staff of Seattle Grace packs a rather large auditorium to see him do so. 

(Seriously, Seattle Grace?  Your entire staff?  This is why you aren’t ranked in the top ten!  This is why your patients die all the time!  Doesn’t anyone practice medicine here any more?)

But I digress . . . Here’s what we learned from our three lecturers:

Webber’s Lesson: “When I was your age . . .”

Our first flashback took us all the way back to 1982 – a time when the medical profession was very much an all-boys club, an all white boys club;  a time when doctors were largely ignorant about and frightened of immune system-related diseases and homosexuality.  It was also a time when people dressed like this . . .

Back then Webber was a just teetotaling, ambitious young resident trying to make a name for himself at Seattle Grace, while, at the same time, boinking Meredith’s Mommy, Ellis Grey, in the on-call room.  Yes, apparently, they did that in the 80s too.  Talk about sexually transmitted diseases . . .  How often do you think they sterilize that place?

“28 more years of this and we will ALL be under quarantine . . .”

When Ellis and Webber encounter a patient with a rare bacterial infection, they begin to suspect that he may have GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency Disorder, or AIDS, as it is now commonly called.  This was a highly sensitive subject for any doctor to broach during that time, let alone a young resident with minimal job security.  After all, few cases of the disorder had been discovered at this point, and very little was known about the disease. 

Apparently, homosexuality was just not something you talked about back then, it being a time before

 Will and Grace and . . .  well . . .

Grey’s Anatomy!

Initially, the patient takes Webber’s inquiry into his sexual orientation very badly.  He leaves the hospital in a huff, refusing treatment.  Unfortunately, a few weeks later, he returns, now extremely ill and desperate for help.  The problem is that, now that his secret is out, most of the doctors and nurses at Seattle Grace are afraid of infection and unwilling to help him.  THIS MUST BE A JOB FOR  . . .

 . . . no, not them, just Young Webber and Young Ellis Grey.

The dynamic duo risk their careers and, as far as they know, their lives, to save this patient.  Fortunately, the surgery goes well.  (Yay!) But . . . then the patient dies anyway (Boo!)  But, not before Webber learns of his own fallibility and the importance of maintaining your humanity as a surgeon.  (Yay!)  Then, afterwards, Ellis bullies the future Chief McBoozy into taking his first alcoholic drink. (Boo!)   But, before, that, we got to see how adorable Meredith looked at age 5.  (Yay!)

Needless to say, it was a very emotional rollercoaster-esque lecture.  Yet, at its conclusion, Webber gives a rousing speech about the importance of doctors adhering to the Hippocratic Oath.  He then raises his right hand and recites the Oath himself.  Admittedly, it was some pretty powerful stuff, and really served to highlight Webber’s true love of medicine.  Clearly affected by his own speech, the Old Chief ultimately decides to accept McDreamy’s offer and return to work.  (Yay!)

Bailey’s Lesson: Shark tales, a.k.a. The Birth of the Nazi

Before Miranda Bailey became the Nazi; before she turned into a strong, smart, powerful, but often angry, woman who looks like this . . .

Bailey was an overachieving but painfully shy and polite-to-a-fault intern, who looked like this . . .

The year was 2003.  While medicine had come a long way since 1982, there were still many obstacles for women who wanted to succeed in the healthcare industry.  And for many women, their biggest obstacle was one another.  That’s right.   Mean girls, unfortunately, stuck around long past the 80s . .

This movie came out in 2004 . . .

Despite the fact that Mean Girls wasn’t due out in theaters for another year, one of them had managed to sneak into Seattle Grace.  Bailey’s resident “advisor” is  a bitch with a Capital B.  And, like any two-dimensional villian, this 30-something year old woman tortured Young Bailey with the zeal, intensity (and maturity) of a 16-year old cheerleader who just found out that her boyfriend has decided to go to prom with the class nerd.

Be careful Bailey!  This never ends well for people like you . . .

Fortunately, for Bailey, she is due for a major personality transplant and stat!  And who performs said transplant, you ask?  None other than Superman Webber of course!  “Surgery is a shark tank, and sharks have teeth.  Be a shark, not a minnow,” the then-Chief instructs Bailey. 

And I bet you know what happens next . . .

That’s right!  Our Neo Nazi Bailey solves a difficult medical mystery.  Then,  in what we now know was the first of her eloquently angry, yet rousing, monologues, Bailey hands her bitchy resident advisor her ass on a platter for ordering countless unnecessary surgeries for a patient, who merely required medication.  “You are going to be a brilliant surgeon one day,” commends Webber (and we know that he is right!)

In addition to being an awesome surgeon, Bailey is also terrific public speaker.  She owns both the stage and her audience, awarding them for class participation with chocolates.  And as a nearly perpetual student, I can tell you that candy bribes WORK and work well!

Callie’s Lesson: “Everybody f&*ks Alex.”

You know who’s not so hot in the public speaking department?  The typically loud and brash Callie.  After vomiting up her breakfast in anticipation of the big event, Callie stumbles around stage, head tucked inside her notes, mumbling almost incoherently about the club footed patient her and Alex cared for back in 2006, when she was a new resident.

With Alex’s help, however, Callie ultimately recovers nicely.  She recounts for the group the immensely gratifying experience of repairing the leg of a 28-year old student who was told he could never walk.  When all of the other doctors discounted the patient, and berated Callie for mismanaging his expectations, Callie refused to give up.  As a result, this formerly bed-ridden man can now roam freely (with the help of some crutches, of course). 

And this wouldn’t be Grey’s Anatomy if the story didn’t end with an on-call room boink fest between Alex and Callie . . .

“I am so much better at doing this than public speaking  . . .”

Apparently, Alex has screwed the entire staff at Seattle Grace, and most of its patients.  That is one dirty boy!

Not only is Alex a slut, he is also, apparently a liar.  And Callie catches him in a real whopper.  As punishment, she forces him to perform the surgery he claimed to have already done by himself in an elevator shaft, even though that surgery was actually completed by Callie’s ex-hubby, the now deceased, George.

R.I.P. Dude!  The show hasn’t been the same since you left . . . really.

So, there you have it, folks.  A love letter to medicine, with three flashbacks, two sex scenes, lots of chocolate, and a shout out to an old friend.  Not bad for a single episode.

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