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Monday, Mar 19, 2012
For fans of Mad Men, the wait is nearly over. Season Five of the series premieres with a two-hour episode on Sunday, March 25. Yay! Let's take a look at where we left off:

Season 1
It is 1960, and the historical event we move towards is the Kennedy/Nixon election. Much of this season is spent figuring out exactly where Don Draper came from. He cheats on Betty throughout, most notably with Midge (the Beat artist) and Rachel Menken (the Jewish department store owner), which Betty discovers in the season finale. We learn about Don (i.e., Dick Whitman) throughout flashbacks and his brother, who reemerges into Don’s life and later hangs himself.


When Pete discovers Don’s past (he took the identity of Don Draper, a man he served with in Korea), he threatens then attempts to blackmail him; upon learning the information, Bert Cooper famously remarks “who cares?” Oh yeah, and Peggy is unknowingly impregnated by Pete and, in a scene that perhaps inspired the series I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, gives birth.


Tagged as: amc, mad men
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Monday, Jan 23, 2012
Spy is honestly a wonderful thing to watch. Basically, everything that's wrong with this show is technical, fixable stuff. What's right about it -- if nurtured properly -- has the opportunity to become one of the classic Britcoms of the new decade.

OK, I admit it… largely on account of I’ve just finished a lengthy essay on Horrible Histories, so there’s no sense denying it: My interest in new SkyOne Britcom Spy—currently also available on Hulu.com in the US—was initially about seeing more of one particular Horrible Histories star, Mathew Baynton, in an environment I didn’t have to keep justifying every time another adult walked past the TV.


On the plus side, this means the readership will be spared the usual rant re: how only in TV-land would we be expected to believe either Baynton or Spy’s star, 6’4” Darren Boyd, as random computer-shop schlubs. No offense to my local Best Buy, but one look at these two and I immediately thought of 87 questions I needed to ask about cabling alone.


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Thursday, Nov 10, 2011
Nominally a kiddie series, the TV adaptation of Horrible Histories has a sharp comic intelligence. It might just be one of the most successful original comedy shows to appear in years.

The thing is, the British attitude toward how one might go about teaching history is a bit more… relaxed than most.


Not that this has traditionally trickled down to UK classrooms anymore than it has North American ones; only that it’s not surprising that when the floodgates did finally open, it happened in the land of 1066 and All That, et endless seq.. When once you’ve decided to adopt Rowan Atkinson as a media icon, there’s not much use trying to prevent children learning about the Renaissance from the perspective of a sewer rat.


Thus was enabled the origin story of the best-beloved Horrible Histories franchise. When asked circa 1992 by Scholastic Books UK to write an historically-themed joke book with a few factoids thrown in, British children’s author Terry Deary had traumatic flashbacks to his struggles to stay awake during middle school courses on the subject. Wouldn’t it be much more fun, Deary suggested instead, if he were to write a book of historical factoids with some jokes thrown in…?


As he delved into the ‘serious’ history texts, that quite naturally evolved into lots of jokes—in fact, into the entire grand gold mine of black comedy that is human civilization throughout the ages, just naturally packed full of the kind of bodily-fluid-filled gags that invariably set children to squealing happily. All of it underpinned by the particular sort of shrewdly anarchistic cleverness that the UK media have been on high alert for, oh, just about f40 years now. Hey, “Chapter One: The Dead Pirate Parrot Sketch” has a nice ring to it…


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Friday, Sep 9, 2011
by Steve Stav
Jon Taffer speaks to PopMatters about his strategies, favorite moments from this first season of Bar Rescue, and more. He even tossed in a bartending tip for good measure.

It’s one thing to give someone’s backyard a TV makeover, it’s quite another to make over a person’s business, saving one’s livelihood in the process. Spike TV‘s new entry, Bar Rescue, offers the usual plethora of free goodies: new signs and decor, menus, bar & restaurant equipment. However, with all of this swag the recipients—owners of fast-failing bars—also get a hard-nosed bulldog named Jon Taffer for five days.


Before a revolving team of world-class chefs and mixologists go to work rehabilitating an establishment’s last legs, Taffer, a renowned bar & restaurant makeover/re-branding specialist, takes charge. With his wife Nicole acting as an advance scout, Taffer analyzes the situation and begins to solve problems with owners, management and staff within moments of walking through the door.


As one could guess, this can get quite messy. Bar Rescue’s appeal—besides the great tutorials on the ins and outs of the booze business—lies in the drama that ensues when Taffer begins cleaning house. Whether it be two sisters/co-owners controlled by a male third partner, or an oddly apathetic owner of a biker bar and strip club, there’s always more to these troubled watering holes than meets the eye.


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Friday, Jul 29, 2011
In Season Four of Gossip Girl, the series featured both one of the healthiest and one the most abusive relationships between a man and a woman on television.

High Point Number 7: Dan and Blair on Gossip Girl


My favorite moment in the entire 2010-2011 television season came in the final seconds of the Gossip Girl episode “While You Were Not Sleeping”. Blair Waldorf has been driving herself to the limits of physical endurance throughout the episode, getting virtually no sleep, skipping meals, undertaking two or three difficult tasks at the same time, all in order to move her life to a new place where she would impress and win back her demon lover Chuck Bass. But unable to keep up the pace, she implodes and gets fired from her internship.


For solace, she goes not to the Upper Eastside where she lives, but to the apartment of her old enemy but new friend Dan Humphrey in Brooklyn, where they talk, order pizza, and watch The Philadelphia Story. The Blair we see here is unlike the Blair we’ve see the previous three years. Instead of being mean, tense, driven, and more than a little bitchy, she is relaxed, smiling, content, and very much at home with herself. The magic moment comes in the very last second: Dan and Blair, both asleep, her head resting on his shoulder.


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