Mad Men + Girls: Two Shows to Love

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Welcome back, Mad Men! I love you all over again.

Last night’s episode (“Far Away Places”) was my favorite of the season, in all the ways I’ve always loved the show: tight script, taut drama, and dripping with emotional juice. Very impressed by three-way plot split, too, which drilled intensely into each story, one at a time, instead of cutting back and forth. SATISFYING.

I’m also struck by how willing the show is to let its characters go to dark places. It was excruciating to watch Don chase Megan around the apartment, but it felt inevitable: indeed, how have we not seen him do that before? A little less convincing was Peggy’s giving a random hand-job in a movie theater (eeergh), but I get that we’re seeing a Don-ified version of her, from which she may very well pull back, chastened. (I hope so, for the sake of believability. And because I love her.)

And have you noticed how ruthless the producers/writers are about cutting various characters out when they’re not needed? Witness Betty’s near-absence from the show this season, save for a single episode, and Jane’s apparent dismissal last night. The story rules. That’s got to be hard on the actors; I read an interview in which Bryan Batt (who played Sal Romano) wasn’t even properly told that his character would no longer appear on the show, which totally sucks, if it’s true. But it’s fantastic for the script.

In other news, my Lena Dunham love is blossoming in the glory of her new show, Girls. I was hugely fond of her movie, and the first two episodes of the series entirely live up to its promise: intensely smart, funny, rueful. Very much about The Suck that is the mid-twenties. And has awkward sex ever been portrayed so incrementally? I feel so grateful to Dunham for being willing to be seen in all her messy, unglamorous glory.

Also, if she’s doing this at 24, what’s she going to be doing at 40? Hope to be there for it, whatever it is.

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