Preview

This is another of the ongoing episode previews for the final batch of Mad Men episodes, as always, focusing on the Top 5 developments coming out of the previous episode.

This is another of the ongoing episode previews for the final batch of Mad Men episodes, as always, focusing on the Top 5 developments coming out of the previous episode.

This is another of the ongoing episode previews for the final batch of Mad Men episodes, as always, focusing on the Top 5 developments coming out of the previous episode.

This is another of the ongoing episode previews for the final batch of Mad Men episodes, as always, focusing on the Top 5 developments coming out of the previous episode.

 

This is another of the ongoing episode previews for the final batch of Mad Men episodes, as always, focusing on the Top 5 developments coming out of the previous episode.

This is another of the ongoing episode previews for the final batch of Mad Men episodes, focusing as always on the Top 5 developments coming out of the previous episode.

Mad Men End of an Era poster

Photo Courtesy of AMC

Warning: Mild Spoiler Alert

Throughout its 6 ½ seasons, Mad Men has been about many things.  It has been about the ongoing existential crisis of its lead character, Don Draper.  It has been an examination of the changes in the workplace in the 1960s through the eyes of its “secondary lead,” Peggy Olson.  It has been about the advertising world at the end of its vaunted “boys will be boys” era of debauchery in the workplace.  And it has been about the Sixties on a large scale, the most transformative decade – in at least a sociological sense – in American history.

Borrowing from the successful Breaking Bad formula, AMC decided to have the other great Founding Father of its scripted division broken into two halves for the final “season.”  As such, it’s Season 7, Part 2 that begins on Sunday, April 5.  But unlike Breaking Bad – the super-focused story of one man’s journey to the dark side – Mad Men doesn’t have nearly the amount of loose ends to tie up after their midseason finale.  Now, that’s not to say that more closure can’t be provided to the ensemble and that new questions won’t be asked and answered before the series finale.  But Breaking Bad left off on a huge cliffhanger going into the end and it had a very clear direction to the finish line.  Characteristic of a show that sometimes seems to mirror the decade’s psychedelic music in structure, answers are in very short supply about the developments that will wrap up this epic series.  And that’s just how showrunner Matthew Weiner wants it.

While the Sterling, Cooper and Partners agency is being captained by Roger Sterling (played by the outstanding John Slattery) in the wake of the sale to McCann Erickson in the midseason finale, the real creative – and polarizing force in the agency is Don (played by Jon Hamm).  His run to the end of the series will involve working with others in creative, including his protégé Peggy (played by Elizabeth Moss), fellow partner Ted Chaough (played by Kevin Rahm) and stick-in-the-mud Lou Avery (played by Allan Havey).  The top salesmen interacting with creative include the maturing-but-still-occasionally-immature Pete Campbell (played by Vincent Kartheiser) and pirate-patch-wearing Ken Cosgrove (played by Aaron Staton).  Others adding flair to the office include pompous TV division head Harry Crane (played by Rich Sommer), office minx Joan Harris (played by Christina Hendricks), far-out art guy Stan Rizzo (played by Jay R. Ferguson), and big fat jerk Jim Cutler (played by Harry Hamlin).  Don’s family ties play into the show as well, with ex-wives Betty Francis (played by January Jones) and Megan Draper (played by Jessica Pare) on the fringes of the main action, along with Don’s children Sally (played by Kiernan Shipka), Bobby (played by Mason Vale Cotton) and Gene (played by Evan Londo).  Betty’s husband Henry (played by Christopher Stanley) is a rising star in the Nelson Rockefeller machine.

Most of the characters have become happy and satisfied on a professional level by this point, but almost all of them are yearning for unfulfilled personal happiness as well and the best bet is that the remaining seven episodes will address these journeys in great detail.  Characteristically, Weiner has played coy about all details of the show, so the longtime theory that the show will wrap up at the end of 1969 remains theoretically in play – even though the last episode touched on the immediate aftermath of the July 1969 moon landing.  This would leave no space for Weiner to insert the “time jumps” that he loves to insert between seasons, so it seems likely that the show will touch on the early days of the Seventies as well.

We will be featuring weekly audio commentaries on the show, analyzing the biggest developments from the previous episode, as well as our weekly recap columns.  As a taste of that, here is our audio preview for the final seven episodes.

Better Call Saul business card

Courtesy of AMC

Warning: Mild Spoiler Alert

In this new “golden age of TV” that necessitated a site like NJATVS to cover it completely, there is one program that stands out, one that might be more likely than any of the rest to be named as the best of them all.  Because of the utterly unique journey that the show mapped out, as well as the overwhelming consensus that it “stuck the landing” as well as any show possibly could, that show is Breaking Bad.  When it departed in September 2013, fans were joyous about having been on that wild ride, but despondent about the prospect of departing the special world having been created in an alternate Albuquerque by showrunner Vince Gilligan.  However, plans were already in the works to extend the Breaking Bad universe to another project and its debut, Better Call Saul, is now upon us.

The incredibly gifted Bob Odenkirk (Saturday Night Life, The Ben Stiller Show, Mr. Show) leverages his sketch comedy writing and acting background to deliver a more fleshed-out story for Saul Goodman, Walter White’s outrageous lawyer and partner-in-crime.  One of the more memorable Jesse Pinkman quotes in the history of Breaking Bad came when Saul began representing Jesse’s drug-peddling flunky Badger and then began trying to insinuate himself into the heart of the blue meth operation.  When Jesse told Walt, “You don’t want a criminal lawyer.  You want a CRIMINAL lawyer!” he summed up the Saul Goodman character better than anyone else in the history of the program.

But Saul wasn’t always the brazen TV-advertising lawyer seeking shady ways to make money.  Back in 2002, when the backstory begins, he was trudging through a much less glamorous path as small-time attorney Jimmy McGill, with a better moral compass than his later alter ego, but much less money to show for it.  Just as Breaking Bad chronicled Walter White’s transformation to Heisenberg, this show follows Jimmy’s journey to fully becoming Saul.  Once potentially envisioned as a half-hour “dramatic sitcom,” the decision was subsequently made to retain the hour-long dramatic format, albeit with even more dark comedy than Breaking Bad.  And just as Bryan Cranston was breaking new ground for himself as the anchor of a dramatic series, so too is Odenkirk wading into new waters as the face of a franchise.

While other Breaking Bad characters may pop up from time to time – in a series guaranteed to go at least two seasons by AMC, which remains anxious in the aftermath of Breaking Bad and in the twilight of Mad Men to remain a network containing must-see programming – fans will be delighted to be treated to another of Breaking Bad’s beloved recurring characters, Mike “The Cleaner” Ehrmantraut, played again with menacing aplomb by Jonathan Banks.  Versatile comedic actor Michael McKean (Laverne & Shirley, This is Spinal Tap, Saturday Night Live) became the first on-screen talent retained with no connection to Breaking Bad.  He will portray Saul’s brother Chuck, who is also a lawyer and who becomes disabled by mental illness.  Patrick Fabian (Atlas Shrugged: Part 2), Rhea Seehorn (Whitney) and Michael Mando (Orphan Black) round out a talented cast.

Although primarily a prequel to Breaking Bad – at least in the narrow scope of following Saul and Mike through their earlier adventures – the timeline will not remain static, as reports have indicated that the pilot will flash forward to Saul, post-Breaking Bad.  Managing these jumps without disrupting the canon of the beloved mothership series cannot be easy, but Gilligan and Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould are certainly up to the task.  Early reviews of the initial episodes are nothing short of glowing, indicating even that fans holding the program up to the vaunted Breaking Bad standard will not be disappointed.  Achieving the closest to perfection that mere mortals can attain is supposed to be impossible to perform once and Gilligan, Gould, Odenkirk and Company are potentially poised to repeat the feat.  In some ways, the meta story of watching their attempt will be as compelling as the amazing story that they are going to be unveiling for us.

Courtesy of FX

Courtesy of FX

Warning: Mild Spoiler Alert

We are very happy to announce that NJATVS will be covering and recapping the sixth and final season of Justified. Often described as “the best show on television that no one talks about”. Well, we at NJATVS, will absolutely be talking about it. For the unfamiliar, Justified follows a premise that tragically will lose most people on sight. Then it takes that premise and creates without question, one of the best dramas television has to offer.

Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Live Free or Die Hard) leads this gritty and compelling cast. A cast that has seen such familiar faces as Walton Goggins (The Shield, Sons of Anarchy), Jim Beaver (Supernatural, Deadwood), Mykelti Williamson (Bubba from Forest Gump), Margo Martindale (The Millers, Dexter), Mike O’Malley (Yes Dear, Glee), Patton Oswalt (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ratatouille) just to name a few. Plus a stable of recurring characters all with their own depth and layers. New this season, Graham Yost and the show runners of Justified decided to drop a bombshell on the fandom. The introduction of American Treasure and all around man’s man Sam Elliot (Tombstone, We Were Soldiers).

Justified has already experienced 5 acclaimed seasons on FX. Justified sees one of its native sons, Raylan Givens return home to Harlan, Kentucky a U.S. Marshall that plays by his own rules despite his outlaw family. Raylan returns to Harlan to discover that a man he grew up with and dug coal with, has nestled himself into Harlan’s criminal element and may be more responsible for the ‘goings on’ than the US Marshall’s office is aware of. To complicate matters, Raylan’s ex-wife works in the county courthouse. And if that were not bad enough, his reputation precedes him wherever he goes.
Over the course of five seasons, Raylan has made serious strides to clean up Harlan and over stayed his welcome. Almost in equal measure. Harlan is a hot bed for drugs, murder, prostitution, and any other unlawful enterprise that pays well. The U.S. Marshall’s office does what it can, Raylan lives in the morally ‘grey area’ as long as he believes he is “Justified”, and Boyd Crowder and a multitude of organized crime cohorts do what they can to fill their pockets. Legality be damned.

Without question, Justified belongs in the discussion with Breaking Bad, Blacklist, Newsroom, type shows that dominate the ‘best shows on television’ discussions. To help us bring this wonderful show to our readers, we have brought in a colleague, friend and longtime Justified enthusiast Rick Morris. Rick is no stranger to analysis or television. Rick is the patriarch of a network of websites that cover everything from sports to news to all things media. We are excited to bring you coverage of Justified and excited that it will come from Rick Morris.

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Tuesday nights are jam-packed at “NJATVS,” as we recap five shows, however today we’re highlighting just one, that should get Fanboys hearts racing. Tonight’s episode of the new CW series “The Flash,” features familiar faces from the TV universe, as well as the first appearance in the series, of one of the Flash’s oldest enemies from the world of comics.

Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW --

Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW —

The first face’s a welcome one indeed, as Arrow cast member Felicity Smoak, heads to Central City, to check out Barry Allen’s new powers. Allen got introduced in a two-part Arrow episode, which led to Grant Gustin getting his own series as the Scarlet Speedster. There was chemistry between the pair the last time they met, will it still exist when she arrives in Central City?

Photo Courtesy Of DC Comics

Image Courtesy Of DC Comics

The other new character in Central City’s a very familiar face to readers of the comic series back in the Silver Age Of Comics, as former Fox star Wentworth Miller portrays “Captain Cold,”  a foe that the Flash’s battled many times over the years.

Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW

Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW

Once again his origin story differs from the comic’s as this Captain Cold gets his Freeze Ray, by stealing it from Star Labs member Cisco, who built the weapon without authorization or permission. Needless to say chaos ensues and Barry’s once again called upon to save the day.

Join Jason Jones tonight after the episode for the breakdown, analysis and insight.