Roger Sterling

Dear TV: 'Mad Men' Season Six Episode 9, Post 2

Peggy no longer leans in

Lean in, Peggy. 

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Is "Mad Men" stuck on its own carousel?

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Much of the thrill of watching Mad Men is the unabashed way it displays the retrograde views of its leading characters. The same is true, of course, of the ongoing Republican presidential primary. In fact, while it’s hard for us to picture the GOP candidates joining the hedonistic adventures of 1960s Madison Avenue (one pictures Mitt Romney gleefully pouring himself a second glass of chocolate milk), we did think some aspects of their personalities (and their political platforms) would fit right in.

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It's been said that science fiction is never just about the future and historical fiction is never just about the past. They're also about the society that produced them—right here, right now. I remembered this maxim while watching the twelfth episode of "Mad Men," "Blowing Smoke." The current season is set in the mid-'60s, and the characters often seem far removed from twenty-first-century American norms. But the panic engulfing them is of the moment. There are no abstract principles at stake. It's all about paying the bills, keeping the lights on.

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Don Draper suffered a panic attack near the end of last week's episode, "Hands and Knees." This week it was the entire firm's turn. And Roger Sterling's to blame. No, it wasn't his fault that Lucky Strike took its business elsewhere (although Don wasn't wrong when he said his old friend could have worked harder babysitting his only account—or worked, period). But it was Roger's fault that the company was caught unprepared. Roger had wrested a 30-day stay of execution from Lee Garner Jr. to break the bad news and come up with a plan of attack.

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This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of "Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. Except for the lamentable absence of Roger Sterling, "The Summer Man" was one of just two true ensemble episodes this season (the debut was the other). Characters that are usually locked into their own narrative boxes broke free and roamed through one another's territory; the show even managed to integrate Don and Betty's worlds, previously as rigidly demarcated as North and South Korea.

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This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of "Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. Like all good TV dramas, “Mad Men” has the memory of an elephant, quoting a remembered line or gesture from a previous episode in a way that subtly reminds you of what has changed.

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This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of"Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. Great films and TV series tend to distill in the memory to a particular type of camera shot.

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This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of"Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. Ah. That’s more like it. After the stumbling mish-mash of last week’s “The Good News,” Matthew Weiner’s series rallied with one of its finest episodes yet, “The Rejected.” Directed by cast member John Slattery (a.k.a. Roger Sterling) and co-written by Bret Johnson (a former writer’s assistant on the series), the hour showcased many of the program’s greatest virtues while banishing its more self-defeating tendencies.

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