Category: Series

Mad Men Season 4

Time Line: November 1964-October 1965

mad men season 4 posterPlot:   Almost a year has gone since the dismantlement of Sterling Cooper and formation of the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency.   Times are rapidly changing in the US and this is clearly reflected in the story line and behaviour by the main protagonists as well as their surroundings with the new more modern office in the Time Life Building.

 

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP) now a start-up has to compete with major and mid size agencies whilst beginning almost from scratch. This leads to constant frictions between the over prudent and frequently misunderstood Lane Pryce and some of the old timer executives more accustomed to a lavish lifestyle, namely Roger Sterling. SCDP still relies heavily on Lucky Strike as their main source of income to survive and to attract new business. This creates even further friction since Rogmad men christman partyer who without paying too much attention to his duties remains indispensable due to his tight personal relation with the tobacco giant’s president. The agency aims at internationalising its business and pitches to Honda to advertise their motorbikes much to Roger’s disapproval who doesn’t want to do business with Japanese companies after Pearl Harbour.   Don continues to be the main power horse at the firm and its main attraction for potential customers. On a personal side he is paying his previous excesses dearly and despite still excelling creatively, his personal life is a mess and is incredibly unhappy outside of work.

After almost two years of having agreed to join them in the newly found SCDP Roger has to bear the unbearable news that Lucky Strike are definitely breaking their business relationship with them, which puts the entire company on the brink of foreclosure. The founding partners have to undergo considerable financialmad men the beautiful girls sacrifices where they have to put thousands of dollars each to save the company whilst massive layoffs occur. This leads to Don taking one his defining moments with a bold move publishing an ad in the New York Times called “The Letter” where he openly criticises the tobacco industry thus closing the doors to any possibility of any other tobacco company doing business with them in the future. Despite risking the company’s future this bold move puts their name further on the map and may be the one thing that saves them on the long run.

Don Draper Season 4Don Draper (John Hamm) – Don, now one of the founding partners at SCDP continues to be one the most respected figures in the advertising industry. He continues to be a leading figure at his firm, revered by his clients for his creative genius and envied by his competitors. Yet his divorce gets the better off him personally. He doesn’t know how to cope with his new life outside of work, living in a small, dull apartment in the Village and decides to either stay late at work or go through alcohol binges. He also begins to sleep with prostitutes and dating shallow younger women. During his Christmas vacation he decides to visit his dear friend Anna in Los Don and Anna DraperAngeles on his way to Acapulco but when he learns she has cancer (unbeknownst to her) decides to stay with her and help her out at home.  After some months, when she passes away, he is visibly affected breaking down in tears in front of Peggy.

His relationship with Peggy continues to be a contradictory balance between a mentor and an abusive superior. It is only after she openly confronts him about his overbearing nature that he decides to back off a bit with her.

Neither he nor Betty know how to properly cope with their divorce and are openly hostile with each other, which obviously has a negative effect on their children. Sally, who suffers more than the rest escapes her home and ends up in Manhattan at Don’s office and pleads to stay with him, something which he has to turn down. After realising his binge drinking has gone omad men season 4 sceneut of control, he decides to take a grip on his life and takes up swimming, drinking less and begins to date Dr. Faye Miller, a psychologist who works for a market research consultancy which collaborates with the firm. Faye, despite being physically very similar to Betty (blonde, attractive) represents the embodiment of the emancipated professional woman. She is intelligent, independent and emotionally mature. For a while it seems she and Don make the perfect couple. Yet, on a late night at work, he sleeps with his newly appointed secretary Megan Calvé and a on personal trip to Los Angeles with his children he realises he has fallen in love with her and proposes her to marry him.

 

Peggy Season 4Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) – Despite her initial aversion to join Don at the newly found SCDP, Peggy finally acquiesces, aware of the pulling power his creative genius has. She is now one of the senior members of the creative department and is given more freedom and independence to do her work. Yet she still does not get the recognition she craves for, even when her ideas lead to award winning adverts. This lack of open appraisal from Don continues to gnaw at her. She has to endure working with the newly appointed Art Director, an unbearable and arrogant “jug head”, Stan Rizzo.

Like Don, she struggles to find happiness outside of work despite dating a new man, Mark, a well-meaning yet old fashioned and overbearing boyfriend. Being at the centre of a cultural change with more women gaining personal independence and professional influence she is seen admiring Faye Miller. She befriends Joyce, a photo editor and Abe, a liberal journalist working at the same building. She attends a clandestine beatnik party where she kisses Abe and slowly after begins to date him. Abe openly questions her profession in perpetuating mass consumerism which leads to an uncomfortable argument and the two stop dating for a while. Yet Peggy respects that he challenges her and admires his independent thinking.  One Summer day at a group outing at the beach, both of them rekindle their relationship.

Don and Peggy Season 4Her relationship with Don continues to have the antagonistic nature it had previously. Despite Don’s promise to treat her more fairly when trying to convince her to join them at their new project, he still mixes displays of approval with hostile rudeness. One evening, (unbeknownst to Don) on her birthday she is forced to work late with him and after a tense series of arguments between both of them, she ends up breaking up with Mark and lashing out at Don for treating her poorly. This changes Don who begins to treat her more as an equal.

 

Pete Campbell Season 4Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) – Pete with an admirable work ethic continues to be the sole source of new business. He is also one of the founding partners (albeit a junior one) of the new firm. With Roger Sterling’s careless management of their only account Lucky Strike, Pete fights on to bring new accounts like Honda or Sugarberry Ham. Yet despite all of his efforts, he is still not regarded on equal terms by the other partners. He is the only partner without his name on the wall. Some major decisions like bringing Ken Cosgrove (Pete’s nemesis) to work for the agency were made behind his back. His lack of personal charm obviously accounts for this, since despite all of his achievements like Don had predicted years back, no one really likes him.

Outside of the office, his wife, Trudy is finally pregnant and besides his initial disenchantment he seems content with the idea of having a child. His relationship with his in-laws is still awkward at times. He openly uses them to gain more business at the company and Tom who has sussed him out openly resents him when the two are alone.

 

Betty Draper Season 4Betty Draper (January Jones) – Betty, like Don is not aware of how to properly manage their divorce. This generation of parents seem to be the first one were divorces started to happen regularly and do not have an older reference to look upto. Much to Don and their children’s discomfort she continues to live in the same house she had with Don, this time with Henry. She is openly hostile with Don and pays her frustrations mostly with Sally whom she clearly sees as resembling Don in character. She is excessively domineering and asphyxiating towards her daughter, which leads her to escape her home and try and live in Manhattan with Don.


Roger Sterling (John Slattery) –
Roger who grudgingly joins Don and Bert to form their new start-up a year back hasn’t given up on his careless lifestyle at the new firm. He shows a somewhat petty side to his personality with his jealousy of other prestigious names in the industry like Roger sterling Season 4Ogilvy and attempts to write his memoirs much to Don’s humour when he finds out.

In one of the season’s most revealing episodes “The Waldorf Stories”, the viewer learns of how Don starts working at Sterling Cooper. In a series of flashbacks, we see a younger Don attending Roger whilst working as a sales attendant at a fur shop. Don is impressed with Roger’s status as “an important man in an important company” and relentlessly tries to get an interview with him. One morning he tracks him down whilst going into work and convinces him to go for a drink, Roger ends up drunk and Don arrives the next morning to work for Sterling Cooper claiming that whilst inebriated Roger offers him a job as a copywriter. It is unclear whether this is true or whether Don made the offer up.

Being an old timer in the industry, Roger openly feels threatened by the young and relentless Pete and sabotages his meeting with Honda, which could have brought international business and prestige to the firm. His professional duties are sometimes left as simply getting drunk with clients during working hours. This careless attitude eventually lead to Lucky Strike to breaking off their professional relationship with SCDP leaving Roger in a very vulnerable position.

 

Joan Holloway/Harris (Christina Hendricks) – Joan is trying to form a family with her Joan Holloway season 4husband Greg. Being an instrumental part of the firm she acts as one Lane’s main supports managing the company’s finances. Like Pryce ,she is also pragmatic and helps to keep a tight control of the company’s numbers even in dire situations with the departure of Lucky Strike.

Unfortunately she has to endure the impertinence of one of the junior copywriters and the sexist workplace that looks the other way with his crude and vulgar jokes about her making it openly clear how some things have not changed.

She still harbours feelings for Roger and on a drunken night out, they have sex, which leads to an unplanned pregnancy. Despite him offering to pay for an abortion she ends up having the baby and vows not to reveal this secret to her husband who has left for Vietnam.

Lane Pryce Season 4Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) – Now one of the founding partners at the firm, Lane continues to manage the finances with rigour and attention. He frowns upon any frivolous expenditure and is openly uncomfortable when they are forced to raise the budget for the office Christmas party. Outside of work he is having serious problems. His wife, who never found it easy to settle in New York has temporarily left him and gone back to London. He begins to date a black waitress much to his father shock, who savagely attacks him and coerces him to break it off and get back with his wife.

Sally Draper (Kieran Shipka) – Sally who is growing up as an independent young girl is going through a rough time dealing with her parents divorce. She misses her dear father and hates the idea of living in the same home with a different paternal figure. About to enter teenage she begins to feel curious about the female body and physical pleasure. Her mother instead of treating this as a natural change in her daughter chastises her and Sally Season 4absurdly takes her to therapy.

When it comes to her visits to her father, she continues to champion for him, her admiration for her “daddy” has not waned one bit and is overly critical of the women he dates, like Faye Miller. For some reason she instantly trusts Megan more which moves Don to visualise Megan more than Faye as a possible life partner.

 

Mad Men Season 3

Mad men season 3

Time Line: April 1963-December 1963

Plot:   It has been six months since the Cuban Missile Crisis, which coincided with the purchase of Sterling Cooper by the British Agency PPL. Lane Pryce has been sent in from London to act as CFO. In a plan to cut costs, the agency is letting go of various members of the senior staff with tensions running high. Don is back with Betty but has not taken long in resuming his old habits and is once again cheating on her, firstly with an airhostess and later with Suzanne, his daughter’s teacher. At work, he is conscious of his growing importance. He came out better from the ultimatum he laid to PPL some months back and they ended up firing Duck Philips giving him more power within the organisation. He is mad men season 3 scenetrusted to visit clients without having to go with an account manager. He knows that clients sign with the agency and PPL’ s decision to buy them was directly linked to his creative genius. Meanwhile the agency continue to grow financially and successfully with the signing of major accounts like Jai Lai, John Deere and pitch to Hilton Hotels.

Yet the success of Sterling Cooper is not enough to bring the partners personal satisfaction.   Their new parent company treat them as their property “subtly” planning a business trip on the 4th of July making them work on their National Holiday. They also learn disappointed that the main promotions will be Hilton Mad Menreserved for their own top British executives. Towards the end of 1963 they learn that PPL is planning to sell them to McCann Erikson much to their shock and disapproval. Don who adamantly refuses to work for a huge corporation of their size comes up with a plan for him and the main employees of getting fired on purpose and so leave the agency freely to start over forming a new company.

 

Don Draper Season 3Don Draper (Jon Hamm) – After considering quitting the agency, Don is now an even more quintessential part of Sterling Cooper. Professionally he continues to grow and at a party hosted by Roger Sterling and Jane Siegel, meets a mysterious stranger with whom he connects over a brief but friendly conversation at an unattended bar. Unbeknownst to Don, the stranger happens to be Conrad Hilton who will play a very important part in his life. Impressed by Don’s personal charm and self-confidence, he offers Don the chance to pitch to advertise some of his international hotels. Don puts his creative genius to work but more so over they connect on a personal level. Like Don, Conrad is a self made man from an impoverished past and instantly takes a liking to him filling in the role of a mentor and a father figure.

His personal life however continues to slide downhill, despite having promised Betty they would start over again with the pregnancy of their third child, he continues to cheat on her. He develops a strong attraction for Suzanne Farrell, Sally’s teacher at school and both begin a secret affair.   Much to his shock, Betty finds out about his secret identity as Dick Whitman and to avoid things from getting worse he breaks off the affair with Suzanne. His apologies and explanations towards Betty aren’t enough for his wife who finally divorces him.

peggy olson season 3Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) – Peggy continues to grow at Sterling Cooper as now one of the key creative writers at the firm. She has surpassed other male colleagues who have been at the company longer than she has like Paul who openly resent her. It is now quite clear that she has become Don’s favourite, yet his way of displaying his respect for her work is to ride her harder than the rest sometimes bordering on openly hostile. Outside of work she begins to have an affair with the ex- accounts director Duck Philips who besides his personal interest in her also attempts to woo her from Sterling Cooper and to work with him at Grey as a revenge from his ex-employers. The fact that she feels more appreciated by an outsider like Duck than her own boss leaves her frustrated and toys with the idea of leaving the agency.

pete campbell season 3Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) – Pete continues to excel at work at Sterling Cooper. His energy and enthusiasm bring in new accounts to the firm. Being a younger and more forward thinking man compared to most of his peers, including Don, he pushes to market a certain client’s TV brand within the black market, much to their shock and the telling off by his bosses. His rivalry with Ken Cosgrove continues to develop and PPL who become aware of this, promote both of them to Head of Accounts Services to see how they compete against each other. Whilst Ken sees it as an opportunity, Pete is dismayed and feels betrayed by the company. This was a position he has been coveting for years now and when he finally gets it, he is shocked to learn that he has to share it with his rival within the agency. Like Peggy he also begins to flirt with the idea of leaving the agency and begins to set interviews with other agencies.

Betty Draper Season 3Betty Draper (January Jones) – Betty pregnant with her third child has decided to start over again with Don. Yet it is clear that her devotion for him is gradually slipping away. She spends more time connecting with her father, a retired widower with Alzheimer who moves in with them. After some months living with the Drapers and shortly before her baby is born, her father passes away. Much to Don’s disgust she names their third child Eugene in her dad’s memory. On a business trip to Rome where she accompanies Don, the passion between the couple seems to rekindle only to fade back away upon their return to their dull daily life.

Feeling unappreciated by Don she develops an attraction towards a politician Henry Francis. After befriending each other and following the birth of Eugene, they begin a love affair, after finding out about Don’s secret identity she realises she doesn’t love him anymore and ends their marriage and beginning a new life with the more mature and attentive Henry.

 

Roger Sterling season 3Roger Sterling (John Slattery) – Roger who has begun a new life with Jane Siegel is increasingly seen as a frivolous man with little interest in his company and more drawn towards enjoying life. Don with whom he has always had a friendly relationship now sees him as foolish and slowly begins to distance himself from him. They soon begin to clash over Don seeing clients without consulting or involving the accounts team and his reticence to sign a contract upon Conrad Hilton’s request. Roger further angers Don by going behind his back to ask Betty to convince him to sign. PPL themselves have a (deliberate?) oversight by not including Roger in the company’s new organisational chart despite knowing full well he is one of the senior partners at the firm. In the end, in the wake of the decision whether to accept being absorbed by McCann or breaking free and starting afresh, Don realises Roger’s connection with Lucky Strike makes him indispensable and so both of them make peace to start afresh.

 

Joan Harris Season 3Joan Holloway/Harris (Christina Hendricks) – Joan now a married woman is spending her final weeks at Sterling Cooper. Her dream to start a family are getting closer yet shortly before leaving the agency she and her husband Greg are dismayed to learn that he has been denied the coveted surgeon position he has been training for. This leaves the couple in a difficult situation with her unemployed and he having to apply for a different field in medicine. She reaches out to Roger who helps her get a job at a department store. Unsurprisingly when Roger, Bert and Don make plans to start their own agency she is offered to re-join them.

 

Lane Pryce Season 3Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) – Lane is a brilliant financial manager sent in by PPL to manage the finances and accounts of Sterling Cooper. He soon begins to cut costs wherever possible much to the disapproval of Don and other executives. The agency also fires old-timer employees like the senior Head of Accounts, Bert Peterson. Personally he finds it very hard to be accepted by the other employees. Even though he develops a strong interest in American culture and literature he is always perceived as a hostile outsider by the rest. His wife finds it very difficult to settle in New York missing her life in London, which makes his initial days tougher. Yet despite his efforts and achievements he finds himself unappreciated by his seniors at the London Headquarters who openly regard him as a pawn and decide to move him to Bombay once he is finally beginning to settle in.  This transfer is put on hold to his relief, following the freak accident of a top executive from PPL (Guy Mackendrick) on a business trip to their New York office. Upon knowing of PPL’s intentions to sell them to McCann Erickson and fully aware that his role is also on the line he accepts Don’s scheme to fire them, getting himself fired as well from head office and joins Don, Roger and Bert as one of the founding partners of their new agency (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce).

 

Sally Draper Season 3Sally Draper (Kieran Shipka) – Sally begins to mature as an intelligent and inquisitive child. She shows her admiration for her teacher at school, Suzanne and woes to win her approval. She soon begins to bond with other grownups developing a very close relationship with her grandfather. She is shocked upon his death and finds it hard to accept the relative ease with which she perceives Don and Betty dealing with his death. Like her father she disapproves of her baby brother being named Gene and rejects him, imagining him to be the spirit of her grandfather. She also suffers greatly upon learning of her parents’ decision to get divorced.

 

Mad Men Season 1

Time Line: April 1960-October 1960

mad men season 1Plot: The plot revolves around a fictional advertising agency in Manhattan in the 60’s, Sterling Cooper During this time, the viewer is taken back to a somewhat simpler time and yet sometimes cruder time with family birthdays with the neighbours, mother days outings, houses with white picket fences.  Politically the race to the US Presidency between the conservative Nixon and the young Kennedy plays an important role in the story with the agency competing to promote Nixon.  On a darker side we also see a conservative and narrow minded society frowning and shunning off a recently divorced woman who moves into their neighbourhood, wondering how “that would affect the property value” with heavy drinking and smoking and an extremely sexist and racist work environment with white wealthy men being the salt of the earth.

Don DraperDonald Draper (John Hamm) is the Creative Director of Sterling Cooper, a fictional mid size advertising agency in Manhattan New York. Revered by most of his peers and envied by a few, he leads the perfect life. He is highly successful and is the powerhouse of the agency. Clients are mostly in awe of his creative genius and are thrilled with his ideas. Outside of the office he is married to a beautiful wife: Betty Draper and has two children and a picturesque home in the suburbs in Ossining. Yet despite all of this relative success and accomplishments Don displays a quite often gruff and secretive attitude choosing to avoid talking about his past.   mad men season 1 sceneHe over drinks and cheats on his wife. He has an affair with a freelance artist Midge and begins seeing Rachel Menken, one of the clients of the agency.

One day he receives an unexpected visit from his half brother, whom he has not seen in years and nobody in his circle knows about and the secrets from his past are finally laid mad men season 1 5Gbare. His real name is Dick Whitman and he stole the identity of Lt. Donald Draper a higher-ranking official who dies in front of him in a freak accident in the Korean War where he was posted. Panicking that his secret may be disclosed he shuns his brother and offers him money never to contact him again and to start his own life, a decision he later deeply regrets. Professionally we see Don being coveted by Advertising giants, McCann Erickson but eventually chooses to remain at the firm and is offered a partnership.

peggy season 1Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) – Peggy, a naïve girl from Brooklyn is appointed as Don’s secretary who turns out to have an unexpected skill for analysis and copywriting. She has to endure the petty jealousies of other secretaries and the sometimes abusive nature of her superior, Joan.   What’s worse, she unwisely sleeps with Pete on her first day and harbours secret feelings from him and has to endure him getting married to his fiancée. She also has to endure an extremely sexist work environment where different executives constantly and brusquely hit on her simply to sleep with her. After completing a successful project for cosmetics and later for a healthcare client she is promoted by Don as a junior copywriter.

pete season 1Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) – Peter is young and ambitious account executive at Sterling Cooper. He is of aristocratic upbringing, something that weighs down on him personally but ironically this is what helps him secure his job at the agency. He is engaged to a lively young woman: Trudi Vogel and after his stag night cheats on her with Peggy. Shortly after marrying Trudi he displays an impetuous and over ambitious behaviour at the agency wanting to always been noticed and promoted. His zeal drives him to step over Don on a presentation which has him almost fired (his family name saved him) and to later blackmail him when he finds out his secret identity.

betty season 1Betty Draper (January Jones) – Betty has what some would say, the perfect life, during this time; married to a successful advertising executive and with a lovely home in the suburbs and two children she seems to lead a fairy tale life. She is young and attractive and is popular amongst her friends’ circle in her neighbourhood. Yet she harbours deep insecurities and frustrations. She does not feel accomplished and is sometimes treated by others like a child. She attends psychotherapy where she tries to explore deeper into her feelings but these amount to little. A big part of her frustrations lie deep in the fact that she does know about her husband’s infidelities and suppresses this. Her sense of loneliness lead her to connect more with the neighbours son, Glenn a young child who seems to understand her more than a any adult.

roger season 1Roger Sterling (John Slattery) – Roger is one of the senior partners of the agency, a title he inherited from his father (one of the founding partners of the firm). He is of an extremely privileged and wealthy background and often displays a callous and arrogant attitude at work. Yet he is very skilled at key account management due to his excellent interpersonal skills. He is in charge of the agency’s main client, Lucky Strike. Despite being sometimes short and rude with some of his employees he respects Don deeply and is fond of him to the point of going out together with their families or going the extra mile with him to convince him to stay at the agency when he fears he might be lured by more tempting offers. Like many executives during this time, he is a heavy drinker and chain smoker and cheats on his wife. One evening messing around with a young model he suffers a heart attack followed by another one in front of their most important client and is allowed to take some time to recover.

joan season 1Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) – Joan is the supervisor of the secretaries at Sterling Cooper. She is extremely professional and dedicated but can sometimes be overbearing to her fellow female co-workers. Her dedication to the establishment is such that she never questions the lack of professionalism or personal decor by the executives (men) but rather confronts the secretaries who are not able to deal with their shortcomings. She has an on and off affair with Roger for whom she harbours feelings of attraction and almost maternal affection despite being younger than him and is visibly distraught upon knowing of his heart attack.

Tyrant – (2014)

tyrant-posterCreated by Gideon Raff

Starring: Adam Rayner, Ashraf Barhom, Jennifer Finnigan, Moran Atias, Raad Rawi, Alexander Kerim, Noah Silver

Plot: Set in fictional Abu-Din, a fictional country in the Middle East, ruled by a cruel and ruthless dictator, Khaled Al Fayed who took possession of the country through a coup supported (albeit in a discreet way by the US government with whom his family has friendly ties) some decades back. The regime imposed upon the people is pro-western and Islam is somewhat suppressed, though obviously not forbidden. Khaled’s younger son, Bassar (Adam Rayner) who lives in exile in the US as a doctor is preparing his first trip to Abu-Din in twenty years to attend to his nephew’s wedding.

Shortly upon coming back he instantly regrets witnessing how his family, now with his brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) as a leader rules with endless violence and brutality. The regime is threatened by constant insurgency, mostly led by the charismatic rebel Ihab Rashib (Alexander Karim). Khaled’s brother, General Tariq Al Fayed (Raad Rawi), a despicable and heartless army senior who is the Minister of Defence and Khaled’s trusted advisor, is the key person in charge of the Al Fayeds’ protection constnaltly vouches for violent control over the population.

During the wedding, Barry’s father dies and upon trying to get out of the country is restrained by the regime. Knowing that his older brother who has taken charge is not fit mentally or morally to run the country, Barry decides to stay in Abu-Din to protect his family and country from the wrong doings of his brother’s lack of foresight and strategic thinking along with General Tariq’s brutality. This puts a huge strain on his family, especially in his wife Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), a qualified surgeon who supports him no matter what but further with his older son, Samuel (Noah Silver).tyrant-poster2

Whilst witnessing how his brother with his lack of intelligence and morals will definitely lead the country to finally revolt Barry also starts to align secretly with the insurgents to and begins to flirt with the idea to betray his own brother if that’s what it takes to keep his family safe.

Critique

Tyrant is a daring and entertaining series. For diplomatic reasons they have decided to create a fictional country (Abu-Din) for their story setting and several key elements are touched such as politics, international affairs, the hypocrisy of US influencers (namely their embassies) outside of their borders, religious differences, war, terrorism but also closer and more human subjects such as family, unrequited love, abusive patriarchal figures, fraternal rivalry and complexes. Though interesting and with a well elaborate plot the viewer is sometimes hinted of the deep realities governing international politics, insurgencies and terrorism, one feels like the story could dwell a bit deeper into these areas without necessarly becoming “political”. The performances by Adam Rayner as the conflicted Barry, constantly wrestling mixed emotions, Jennifer Finnigan as the balanced and supportive wife are noteworthy, not to mention the armchair gripping performance by Ashraf Barhom displaying the violent ruler Jamal with his mixture of stupidity, violence, cruelty, and vulnerability at the same time.

Main Characters:

adam-raynerBassar /Barry Al Fayed (Adam Rayner) – Barry is a doctor or Arab descent living a tranquil and blissful life in America with his beautiful wife and two children. Twenty years before, he escaped from his native land of Abu-Din, fleeing from the violence and cruelty his family ruled the country. Shortly upon arriving to America and ashamed of his origins he changes his name to the Western “Barry” from Bassar. Jumping to present day, he is invited to attend his nephew’s wedding in Abu-Din and despite initial doubts agrees to attend and see his family and native land for the first time in twenty years. He travels with his family and upon returning wrestles with the conflicting nature of the man he has re-invented himself as and the person he was when he lived there. He soon realizes that his brother is unfit to run the country and his incompetence will ultimately generate sectarian violence from the country’s insurgents and decides to stay in Abu-Din to become his advisor succeeding several times to guide him to pragmatic and balanced decisions. However in time his frustration at his brother and his own ambitions start to take over and he begins to plan to take over and grab more power for himself.

ashraf-barhomJamal Al Fayed (Ashraf Barhom ) – Jamal is the oldest son of dictator Khaled Al Fayed and his successor. Upon his fathers death he takes over the country as self-appointed president. Quite often Jamal displays the worst type of behavior a human being can offer; he is a sadist, a rapist, a murderer, liar bordering on the behavioral patterns of a true psychopath. He believes in ruling by any means necessary and has little remorse for human life. Yet through time, the viewer witnesses episodes of Jamal displaying his weaknesses and vulnerability. He has an earnest affection for his brother Barry despite the jealousy he has about being less intelligent and charismatic than him, he is also more innocent when confiding of his true dreams of living a simple and carefree life to a lover he secretly visits.

jennifer-finniganMolly Al Fayed (Jennifer Finnigan) – Molly is a qualified surgeon who accompanies her husband and family to Abu-Din to a wedding where she is aware of the conflict and unease this causes on her husband. She is a balanced and intelligent woman who acts a solid rock for her husband supporting him on his worst days whilst he decides to stay in Abu-Din and at the same time becomes a nurturing and positive influence on her children who go through rough experiences whilst being forced to stay in this strange land.

Leyla Al Fayed (Moran Atias) Leyla is the first lady of Abu-Din and acts every bit of it. She had a past relationship with Barry before he fled and still secretly harbors feelings for him despite now being married to his brother. She hides this sadness behind a façade of a cold hearted and manipulative matriarch, pointing her husband in the right direction whenever she feels he is off track and secretly scheming with General Tariq when she realizes that drastic actions are to be taken.

General Tariq Al Fayed (Raad Rawi) – General Tariq is the personification of the very own devil if he were really to come to life. Tariq is a violent, bloodthirsty coward who has no remorse to plan false flags attacks and carries them out by bombing or gassing his own people to persevere his family’s rule over the country. From the beginning he clashes with the pragmatic and reasonable Barry who convinces his brother to deal with the country’s conflicts with diplomacy and negotiation rather than violence and oppression. He is later found out to be the main culprit of the country’s most atrocious crimes and yet still remains as a key part of the country’s government.

Ihab Rashid (Alexander Kerim) – Ihab Rashid is the Al Fayed’s most dangerous enemy. He is the son of the deposed monarch who is exiled and has sworn to fight back to recover his country. He leads a group of rebellious insurgents who organizes acts of peaceful protestations in the town square moving on later to acts of violence. He is a charismatic leader followed and admired by many, a quality Barry recognizes immediately. His thirst for vengeance and self righteous indignity at the Al –Fayed’s abusive dictatorship moves him to further violent acts and later to join a terrorist group.

Samuel Al Fayed (Noah Silver) – Samuel is Barry’s oldest son and from the beginning it is made clear of a certain distance between father and son. Being a closeted homosexual he never feels truly accepted or even liked by his father. Their natures are also quite different which lead to some inevitable conflicts. His obsession for money and luxury contrast with the austere mentality of his father who consistently declines his family’s fortune knowing that it comes from his own people’s blood.  Yet Sammy unaware of the depth of the hideous crimes that have provided fortune to his family has no remorse to year and enjoy the lavish lifestyle it can provide.

Californication

Californication (2007 – presente)

Californication - Tom Kapinos
CreadorTom Kapinos

Genero – Drama, Comedia,

Interpretes – David Duchovny, Natascha McElhorne, Evan Handler, Madeleine Martin,  Madeline Zima,  Pamela Adlon.

Cadena de TV – Showtime (EE UU).

Sinopsis – Californication gira en torno a la vida de Hank Moody (David Duchovny), un escritor neoyorquino quien se muda a Los Angeles con su novia Karen (Natasha McElhorne) y su joven hija Becca (Madeilene Martin) cuando una productora de cine compra los derechos de su última novela (Dios nos odia a todos) muy aclamada por la critica.  Durante su estancia vive una tremenda crisis con Karen y ésta termina separándose de él aunque se queda en Los Angeles puesto que ha conocido a Bill, un hombre más maduro que Hank quien le da la seguridad que necesita en un hombre.  Hank no supera la separación y sufre un bloqueo creativo por lo cual es absolutamente incapaz de escribir nada decente y entra en una espiral sin freno de sexo casual con numerosas mujeres lo cual le traerá numerosos problemas en el futuro, excesos de alcohol y flirteos con varios tipos de drogas.  Temporalmente recupera el amor de Karen pero éste les dura poco y vuelven a tener que separarse debido a los problemas que el pasado promiscuo de Hank les trae en su vida. Eventualmente recupera la creatividad y escribe un libro brillante pero se lo terminan plagiando antes de que llegue a ser visto por su agente.  Hank incluso prueba no muy convencido con diversos empleos como blogger para una revista, profesor universitario y guionista aunque sin mucha continuidad en ninguna experiencia.

Critica – una comedia cínica, muy original y atrevida para la conservadora televisión americana.  Charlie Runkle y Hank MoodyTom Kapinos nos muestra un mundo: el de Hollywood, tan falso como sus implantes de silicona, sus mentiras, sus chantajes, su promiscuidad sin conciencia y su hipocresía que habrá agitado a más de un productor y estrella de la meca del cine.  Obviando las escenas eróticas que decoran la serie en el fondo, Californication es mucho más que eso.  La serie nos ofrece carcajadas y reflexiones éticas con los magníficos diálogos sobre todo en boca de Hank Moody, la candidez y en ocasiones poca inteligencia bienintencionada de su agente, Charlie, la personalidad arrolladora de la mujer de éste, Marcy y sus constantes desaveníos.  También nos regalan momentos de ternura y cercanía como la relación entre Hank y su hija Becca.  Obviamente la serie no sería la misma sin la tormentosa y preciosa relación de amor maldito entre Hank y Karen quien a pesar de todo se quieren y siempre viven bajo el manto de la esperanza de que un buen día todo les saldrá bien y podrán ser felices.

  Personajes Principales

Hank Moody (David Duchovny) – El protagonista de la serie quien está inspirado en el personaje de ficción Hank Chumsky, el alter ego de Bukowsky.  Es un escritor brillante, cínico y arrogante, típicamente neoyorquino quien se ve obligado a vivir en Los Angeles donde sabe que no encaja debido a la falsedad y la ausencia total de valores de la industria de Hollywood,  Vive una vida plena de promiscuidad, alcohol y juergas para superar la depresión de haber perdido a su novia y con ella a su hija, y el consiguiente bloqueo creativo que sufre después.  Debajo de la fachada elaborada de juerguista sin conciencia se encuentra un hombre herido que echa de menos a su novia Karen y a su hija Becca y quien se maldice constantemente por no estar con ellas.  También se nos va mostrando poco a poco un hombre con un sorprendentemente alto sentido de la ética, convencionalmente fiel cuando está en una relación, protector de su hija y muy buen amigo de su único y verdadero amigo en Los Angeles, su agente Charlie.  El protagonista a menudo hace reflexiones muy interesantes sobre los valores de la sociedad actual, A lo largo de la serie vemos como Hank una y otra vez intenta salir hacia adelante y ser un buen compañero para Karen y un buen padre para Becca pero una y otra vez sus errores en el pasado le terminan arrastrando abajo hacia el fango de su propia decadencia.

Karen van der Beek (Natascha McElhone) – Karen es el alma gemela del protagonista de la serie (Hank) y su verdadero amor.  Natascha McElhorneSu amor por él es tan intenso como lo está maldito y ambos terminan sufriendo por ello sin perder la esperanza de que algún día estarán juntos y les ira bien.  Es una arquitecta bastante bien considerada en su entorno y una madre dulce, cariñosa y moderna con su hija, y obviamente más responsable que Hank.  Empieza la serie viviendo con su novio nuevo Bill una vez que se ha separado de Hank ya que Bill le da la seguridad y estabilidad que le faltaba antes.  Incluso planean casarse juntos pero termina abandonándolo en el altar para volver a intentarlo con Hank.  La vida parece que les sonríe a ambos sin embargo a pesar de que Hank siempre le es fiel, un pequeño malentendido y las consecuencias de su pasado promiscuo vuelven a cortar su relación.  Durante un periodo se muda a Nueva York por trabajo dejando a Hank al cuidado de una Becca ya adolescente.  La relación a distancia no es fácil para ninguno y tampoco se esfuerzan en definir exactamente como llevarla.  Finalmente Karen acepta que Hank tenía razón y empiezan a planear volver a vivir juntos con su hija en Nueva York.

Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) – Charlie es el único amigo en quien confía Hank en Los Angeles.  Se conocen gracias a que es su agente.  El actor Evan HandlerA pesar de la naturaleza interesada de su trabajo y la falsedad con la que se ha de mover en su entorno Charlie se nos muestra como un hombre sensible, leal hacia Hank, dulce y afectuoso con su mujer aunque meta la pata constantemente e incluso la engañe en un par de ocasiones.  Su buen corazón a menudo se mete en el camino de su capacidad de razonamiento.  En otras ocasiones sencillamente se nos muestra un hombre que se mete en serios problemas por no saber controlar sus hormonas (en ocasiones parece un adolescente adulto).

Becca Moody (Madeleine Martin) – Becca es el elemento clave que aglutina a Hank con la serenidad.  Madeleine Martin Es una joven chica inteligente y sensible, con afición por tocar la guitarra eléctrica y con inquietudes habituales que tienen las chicas a su edad.  Sin embargo debido a los constantes bandazos que van dando sus padres sin rumbo fijo se ve obligada a madurar antes de tiempo.  En algunas ocasiones es la única voz de la razón que saca a Hank de su desenfreno de promiscuidad y lujuria.  A lo largo de la serie pasa de vivir con su madre y el novio de ésta, a vivir sola con Hank, para luego vivir temporalmente con sus dos padres en relativa felicidad, luego volver a estar solamente con su madre y más tarde a solas con su padre cuando Karen ha de irse temporalmente a Nueva York por trabajo.  Todos estos cambios unidos a que entra en la adolescencia hacen que durante un tiempo se muestre como una adolescente rebelde y su relación con ambos progenitores se vuelva tremendamente tensa en ciertos momentos.

Mia Cross (Madeline Zima) – Posiblemente el único lunar en esta genial serie sea el personaje de Mia, la hija de Bill, el novio de Karen, una joven adolescente enfatuada de la literatura de Hank.  Madeline Zima Aprovechándose que parece mayor de edad seduce a Hank y termina acostándose con él.  Cuando éste se entera de quien es y de su edad, corta de raíz todos los avances que ella le propone.  Sin embargo la infatuación de Mia con Hank se termina convirtiendo en obsesión y le termina chantajeando para acercarse a él hasta el punto de plagiarle el manuscrito de una novela que acaba de terminar haciéndole saber que si dice algo, ella le contará todo a Karen.  El personaje de Mia no solo es detestable ya que representa al triunfo de la mediocridad sin talento y a través del chantaje tan presente en Hollywood pero también porque la actriz que la encarna (Madeleine Zima)  es un actriz sin talento alguno capaz de arruinar la más sencilla de las escenas y cuya voz de pito sería irritante hasta para el más sordo del mundo canino.

Marcy Runkle (Pamela Adlon) – Marcy es la mujer de Charlie e igual  que su marido termina siendo una gran amiga de la pareja Hank y Karen cuando éstos se mudan a Los Ángeles.Pamela Adlon Es la amiga más cercana de Karen y con ella muestra su lado más sensible y cariñoso.  Además siente un profundo aprecio por Hank y se le ve deseando que sus amigos arreglen sus diferencias de manera definitiva.  Su relación con Charlie tiene sus momentos de ternura aunque sufre demasiados altibajos debido en parte a la inmadurez de ambos.

Mad Men

Mad Men (2007 – Presente)

Mad Men por Matthew WeinerCreadorMatthew Weiner

Genero – Drama, Histórica
Interpretes – John Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery.
Cadena de TV – AMC (EE UU).
Sinopsis – La trama principal de Mad Men gira en torno a la vida de Don Draper, el Director Creativo de la Agencia de Publicidad ficticia Sterling Cooper basada en Madison Avenue en Nueva York. A ojos de la sociedad que le rodea, Don es un hombre de mucho éxito y prestigio; lleva una vida familiar a ojos de la sociedad impecable con una mujer atractiva, dos niños y una casa en los suburbios en un buen barrio. Sin embargo el protagonista se nos muestra como un hombre seco, habitualmente malhumorado y reacio a compartir los detalles de su vida pasada incluso con sus seres más cercanos. Tras el velo de éxito profesional y supuesta felicidad personal se halla un hombre infeliz huyendo de su pasado y que se evade de su drama personal habitualmente en el alcohol y en otras mujeres. La serie además nos muestra la evolución de la Agencia Sterling Cooper y de sus demás protagonistas de cómo compiten en el mundo feroz de la publicidad, así como sobreviviendo a fusiones y adquisiciones con otras agencias, a los comienzos de la Despacho de Donald Draper, Don Draper's Office globalización cuando es adquirida por una agencia británica o de cómo para lamento de uno de sus socios, intentan ganarse a un cliente japonés (Honda). Gradualmente podemos observar como la agencia va evolucionando social y profesionalmente a medida que poco a poco iba evolucionando la sociedad americana de los años 60.

Critica – Mad Men es una serie brillante creada por Matthew Weiner, el creador quien años antes había sido el responsable del éxito de “Los Soprano”. La serie cuenta con un guión inteligente, una trama sutil que poco a poco se nos va desvelando. La serie nos muestra como era la sociedad de clase media-alta de la América blanca de los años 60. Una sociedad más inocente e ingenua que la nuestra en tantos aspectos. Agencia Sterling Cooper/ Sterling Cooper AgencyUn mundo donde no se cuestionaba que una mujer embarazada fumara o donde si era conveniente servir whisky en una reunión de trabajo nada más comenzar la mañana. Una sociedad que es testigo del choque cultural entre el conservadurismo de la generación anterior y la incipiente liberalización de los jóvenes de la época. A ratos nos refleja un mundo más simple y puro, con excursiones familiares al campo, salidas en familia en el Día de la Madre, fiestas de cumpleaños infantiles con los vecinos y sus niños jugando juntos. Sin embargo no todo era así de idílico. También era una época en la que si una mujer divorciada se mudaba a un buen barrio, en seguida las demás mujeres cotilleaban sobre ella y hasta se preguntaban si ello fuera a bajar el valor de la propiedad. Una sociedad machista donde las mujeres tenían su lugar designado y era en casa, o si iban a trabajar era para ser una buena secretaria o buscar un marido rico. También nos encontramos a un entorno racista donde a un cliente judío se le mira de manera condescendiente y donde todavía no existían derechos civiles para la gente de raza negra. A lo largo de la evolución de la serie Matthew Weiner nos lleva de la mano en un viaje en el tiempo donde nos muestra algunos de los episodios más importantes de la historia reciente de EEUU; la llegada al poder y posterior asesinato de Kennedy, la muerte de Marylin Monroe, el asesinato de Malcolm X (y la relativa indiferencia con la que vivió la América blanca de la época), el estrellato de Mohamed Ali o la llegada del fenómeno de los Beatles,

 Personajes Principales

Don Draper (John Hamm). Don Draper es el protagonista de la serie, un hombre de enorme éxito profesional, muy respetado y casi venerado por compañeros, empleados, socios y clientes. Don Draper, el protagonista de Mad MenUn hombre trabajador, creativo, muy buen comunicador y tremendamente exigente con sus empleados. Su carisma despierta admiración y en ciertos casos envidia entre los que lo conocen. En el entorno familiar vemos a un hombre casado con Betty, una hermosa mujer quien siempre está perfecta para él y dos niños en una preciosa casa en un buen barrio. Sin embargo Don es un hombre infeliz quien huye de su pasado y en bastantes ocasiones, de sus propias responsabilidades. Su nombre verdadero es Dick Whitman y se crió en un entorno miserable en una zona rural de Pennsylvania. Suplanta la identidad de Don Draper en un momento de confusión en la guerra de Corea. El protagonista intenta siempre esconderse tras un velo de misterio, es tremendamente reacio a compartir sus secretos incluso con sus seres más cercanos, habitualmente está malhumorado y pensativo y tiende a esconderse en lo brazos de varias mujeres y el alcohol a lo largo de la serie que le sirven como evasión de la infelicidad que le proporciona su propia vida familiar.

Margareth “Peggy” Olson – (Elizabeth Moss). Peggy es uno de los personajes principales y más interesantes de Mad Men. Su personalidad evoluciona a la par que su estatus avanza hacia arriba dentro de la agencia. Peggy Olson, Redactora de Copia de Sterling CooperPeggy representa la victoria del movimiento feminista en un entorno de trabajo altamente machista. Cuando entra a formar parte de la agencia se le contrata como la secretaria de Don. En su primer día le muestran una máquina de escribir “tan sencilla que hasta una mujer pueda utilizarla” y es testigo de comportamientos sexistas y poco apropiados en el entorno laboral. Sin embargo poco a poco se va mostrando como una mujer dedicada, organizada, creativa y con ideas interesantes que puedan ser aprovechadas para una campaña publicitaria de productos femeninos. A pesar de la desconfianza y el recelo que muestran los demás ejecutivos hombres hacia ella se gana el respeto de Don quien la asciende. Poco a poco va derrumbando obstáculos derrotando los prejuicios machistas de la agencia y termina convirtiéndose en la favorita de Don. En el aspecto personal la evolución de Peggy también es vertiginosa, de ser una chica sencilla e ingenua pasamos a ver a una mujer moderna, confiada e independiente con inquietudes sociales quien poco a poco se va introduciendo en movimiento progresista juvenil de los 60.

Pete Campbell – (Vincent Kartheiser). Pete es un joven ejecutivo procedente de un familia tremendamente aristocrática e influyente en la clase alta neoyorquina. Su apellido a menudo le pesa como una losa y esto le lleva a compensarlo con dosis extra de agresividad y ambición sin freno en su trabajo. Vincent KartheiserSu actitud a menudo le ayuda a traer clientes nuevos a la agencia, a veces incluso aprovechándose la familia de su mujer, ganándose el respeto de los socios de la empresa. Pete en ocasiones se nos muestra como un hombre sin escrúpulos ni decencia pero por quien ocasionalmente se puede llegar a sentir un poco de empatía, sobre todo cuando se le ve esforzándose por encajar a regañadientes en un mundo que otros (su familia, su mujer, sus suegros) van diseñando para él. También se nos va mostrando un hombre más abierto al cambio que los de su generación anterior (incluyendo Don) y rompe tabúes sociales al proponer promocionar una marca de televisores entre el segmento de población de raza negra (para consternación del cliente) o traer a un cliente japonés: Honda a la agencia como cliente potencial.

Betty Draper – (January Jones). Betty es la mujer de Don y al principio se nos muestra tal y como la ha de percibir la sociedad de la época, una mujer, hermosa en el exterior, devota a su marido quien siempre le espera pacientemente para la cena y madre de dos preciosos hijos. January JonesCumple a la perfección el papel de mujer “florero” de Don cuando salen juntos. Sin embargo detrás se halla una mujer frustrada ya que no encuentra una salida que le ayude a expresar con normalidad el dolor y el desencanto que sufre. Poco a poco va aceptando la realidad que su marido, a quien tanto quiere, la suele engañar con otras mujeres. Su frustración le lleva a no ser feliz en su propio hogar a menudo pagándolo con sus hijos, sobre todo con Sally la hija mayor a quien a menudo trata con frialdad y más severidad de la necesaria. Su relación con Don sufre varios altibajos y pasan una temporada separados debido a sus constantes aventuras. Conoce a Henry Francis, un hombre más mayor y maduro quien la trata con cariño y le presta más atención. No es hasta que descubre el verdadero pasado de Don que decide divorciarse definitivamente de él para empezar una nueva vida con Henry.

Joan Holloway – (Christina Hendricks). Igual que Peggy, Joan es una mujer quien se gana el respeto de los demás hombres de la agencia en un entorno altamente sexista. Los hombres la admiran por su elegancia, sus curvas vertiginosas y confianza en si misma. Christina HendricksEs la única mujer a quien no ven como fácil o accesible para “cualquiera” de la agencia. Por encima de todo se trata de una mujer increíblemente profesional y dedicada a su trabajo a quienes los socios de la agencia no dudan en acudir, sobre todo en tiempos de crisis. Se nos muestra como una mujer capaz, discreta con las indiscreciones de otros y severa con la complacencia o falta de profesionalidad de los demás. Dentro del entorno profesional solo tiene una debilidad y son sus sentimientos de cariño y atracción que siente por Roger Sterling, uno de los socios de la agencia con quien llegó a tener un romance en el pasado y a quien todavía quiere siendo el sentimiento reciproco. Se casa con un joven y apuesto médico a quien apoya sin condiciones en su carrera profesional a pesar de que las cosas no pintan demasiado bien y quien termina alistándose en el ejército y yéndose a Vietnam.

Roger Sterling jr. – (John Slattery). Roger es uno de los personajes más interesantes y duales de la serie. Se le quiere porque aporta grandes dosis de humor y frases para enmarcar dentro de cada episodio pero también se le puede llegar a detestar (sobre todo teniéndolo como un hipotético jefe o socio en una empresa). John SlatteryEn cierto modo el personaje de Roger Sterling podría hasta ser una metáfora de una de las razones de la actual crisis mundial. Roger es un hombre quien nunca ha tenido que esforzarse demasiado para conseguir lo quiere en su vida, hereda su condición de socio de la agencia a través de su padre (uno de los socios fundadores). También hereda la cuenta de Lucky Strike, un solo cliente pero que representa más de la mitad de los ingresos de la agencia haciendo a Roger como indispensable por tanto. Se pasa el día entero yéndose de copas con otros clientes y ligando con mujeres mucho más jóvenes que él. Se termina enamorando tontamente de Jane, una joven secretaria, hermosa pero incompetente quien solo vino a trabajar para encontrar un marido rico y consecuentemente termina divorciándose de su mujer pese a la desaprobación de Don o de Cooper, el otro socio de la empresa. Su negligencia en el trabajo es tal que eventualmente su único cliente, Lucky Strike termina yéndose a otra agencia con consecuencias casi desastrosas para la empresa (ahora llamada Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) en donde se ven obligados a despedir a varios empleados