Mad Men – Season 2 Review

A lot of shows can impress me right off the bat, but not that many shows can truly be as consistently poignant, well-made and sharp as Mad Men.

The best thing about the show’s sophomore season is that it addressed the only little problem I had about its debut year: Peggy. Her development in the thirteen episodes following the season one finale is glorious to watch as she goes from having a baby and giving it away to becoming the only female copywriter with an office at Sterling Cooper. She’s still trying to fit into the boys’ club, but it’s less cringe-worthy and more satisfying to watch this time, and more often than not her journey reminds me of Alicia Florrick’s rich development on The Good Wife, another excellent special show. As always, Elisabeth Moss continued to prove that she is more than capable of portraying a strong, career-driven and empowered character struggling to survive in this masculine world, and I’ve never been more invested in her journey as I am now.

More than anything, the overarching theme of the season is family. Don’s struggles with his wife are put front and center as he tries to repair his marriage, and Jon Hamm’s top-notch performance makes this storyline captivating to watch. I don’t remember the last time I watched a show whose main character we knew so little about, and the bits and pieces we established regarding Don’s previous life had me glued to the screen. His little trip to L.A. proved to be a season highlight, and his interactions as well as flashbacks with Anna Draper (the real Mrs. Donald Draper) were riveting, I truly never wanted them to end.

In addition, Mark Moses joined the cast this season as Duck Phillips, a new entity at Sterling Cooper. His exchanges with Don and Roger were a hoot to watch, but as much forward momentum this season had compared to season one, the writers never lost focus on what makes Mad Men so unique: the characters. From Joan to Peter and Ken, each member of the advertising agency is distinctive and colorful, and they all add a small-world feeling to the show.

Finally, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect final shot to bookend this stellar season: Don and Betty holding hands as she tells him she’s pregnant. It’s a depressing and bleak vignette to end the season on, but that moment of silence between them as we zoom out is stunningly beautiful and perfectly encompasses everything this season was about for Don, and I can’t wait to see how this particular development affects him next year.


Bits

– The season premiere’s biggest shocker: the casual throwaway line revealing that Salvatore (the closeted gay) has a wife. As we later find out, it’s none other than Sarah Drew (who I loved on Everwood but cannot stand on Grey’s Anatomy). Let’s see if I end up liking her here.

– Hearing everyone’s reactions and jokes regarding the American Airlines’ plane crash was appalling, and yet I couldn’t stop smiling at all these ‘60s references.

– I love that the crass comedian, Jimmy Barrett, had several guest appearances throughout this season, even though he is horrible. The small-world feeling I get from this show reminds me so much of all the judges that frequently appeared on The Good Wife, and I love that.

– On that note, I only recently discovered Utz (the chocolate-covered pretzels, not the chips) – and boy they are yummy.

– Father Gill (Colin Hanks) and Peggy’s scenes were amusing, and I’m surprised that nothing romantic happened between them. How shockingly uncontrived!

– Not enough Don/Roger scenes this season. Not cool, writers!

– How amusing were Roger’s scenes with his daughter, especially after news of his relationship with his secretary come out?

– I never understood the Peyton List obsession…until now. Every single scene of hers is beautifully filmed, and she looks stunning in every single frame, I was often distracted. I might even give her new show Frequency another chance now (if it gets renewed)!

– Even though I love Roger and Jane (because Peyton List), I’m still rooting for Roger and Joan to end up together.

– Betty’s departure from the family picnic by throwing all of their trash on the grass was horrifyingly hilarious. There’s a thin line between “it’s the ‘60s” and “this is excruciating to watch”, and Mad Men walks that fine line perfectly.

– I loved every campaign this season, but we didn’t get one in every single episode, as was the case in the first season.

– Pete refusing to adopt a baby was another fascinating subplot this season.

– Heartbreaking moment as Freddy says goodbye to Don and Roger after being fired for peeing in his pants.

– Everyone’s reaction to Marilyn Monroe’s death was truly intriguing to watch.

– I want to know more about Hollis, the black elevator operator.

– How long until Betty starts sleeping with Arthur (Revenge’s Gabriel Mann)?

– The season finale, brilliantly titled Meditations in an Emergency, won an Emmy for best writing in a drama series in 2009. Very well-deserved.

Quotes

Peggy: Sex sells.
Don: Says who? Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this. They take all this monkey crap and just stick it in a briefcase completely unaware that their success depends on something more than their shoeshine. You are the product. You feeling something, that’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do, and they hate us for it.

Peggy: I’m capable of making my own decisions.
Anita: Really? The State of New York didn’t think so. The doctors didn’t think so.

Roger: If you put a penny in a jar every time you make love in the first year of marriage, and then you take a penny out of the jar every time you make love in the second year, you know what you have? A jar full of pennies.

Peggy: One day you’re there, and then all of a sudden, there’s less of you. And you wonder where that…part went, if it’s living somewhere outside of you. And you keep thinking maybe you’ll get it back. And then you realize, it’s just gone.

Rating
A

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Mad Men – Season 1 Review

It didn’t take very long for Mad Men to win me over. It practically has everything I look for in a TV show: great production values, beautiful cinematography, top-notch performances and sharp writing. However, the true winning factor for me is the universe the show exists in. After 10 near-perfect episodes, I find myself completely immersed in the show’s world and its quiet, atmospheric world.

I’m not usually very fond of TV shows that take place in the ‘60s, but Mad Men forces you to love this era despite all the heavy drinking and oh-god the smoking (yes, there’s a lot of that). Jon Hamm is the alpha male at the advertising agency where he works, and his character Donald Draper takes us on a gripping journey into life in Manhattan before smartphones, laptops or high-res television sets ever existed. You can go ahead and add “fidelity” to that list because almost everyone on this show has an affair at one point or another, and it’s brilliantly plausible and realistic. In fact, a part of me wasn’t sure whether to root for Don and his housewife Betty (the gorgeous January Jones) or him and any of his other mistresses.

The writing is impressively crammed with intricacies and rich subtext that are bound to make any TV buff thrilled, and the overarching theme of the first season delves into who Donald is. Sometimes, the writers are literally asking us “do you really know who this man is?”, and other times they’re dangling this question over our heads with some fascinating layered subplots. He’s a loving family man, competitive coworker, encouraging boss, and cheating husband all at once. I wasn’t sure where the show was going when they revealed he’d also been hiding a big secret—changing his identity from Dick Whitman—but showrunner and writer Mathew Weiner brilliantly used this opportunity to add another layer to this fascinating character instead of going for cheap Hollywood twists.

While Don may be the protagonist of this story, it’s the supporting characters that bring this show to life. The vibrant Joan Holloway certainly stands out from the crowd, and Christina Hendricks does wonders in the role of the snarky office manager everyone loves to hate (and fuck). I was initially a bit turned off by Peggy (Elisabeth Moss)’s naivety in the first few episodes, but if the finale is any indication, then the show is gradually developing her to become much stronger and self-assured. The rest of the cast is just as impressive, and while I still find Vincent Kartheiser (Peter Campbell) more suited for a creepier role (think Connor from Angel), there’s no denying he is a very capable actor and he does bring this rather one-note character to life.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and his refreshing dynamic with Don. The two men aren’t your typical competitive male colleagues, nor are they the typical “bros”; there’s an intriguing backstory to their relationship, and I can’t wait to see more of this developing friendship and partnership in future seasons.

 


Bits

– I adore the show’s creative title credits, from the various characters appearing as posters on buildings to Don’s silhouette jumping off to that final shot of him lying on a couch with a cigarette between his fingers. It also encompasses everything Don’s character went through this season right up until his “downfall” at the end. Brilliant.

– Visually, the show excels at giving us 1960 vibes, and I particularly loved the opening scene with Don speaking to the black waiter, followed by a white manager immediately showing up to ask Don if he’s being “bothered”.

– I’m very careful about using the word ‘twist’ to describe any plotline on this show, but the final scene of the pilot episode revealing Don at a suburban house with a wife and kids was quite the shocker.

– Talia Balsam (who plays Roger’s wife) is married to John Slattery in real life. How cool is that?

– I hated Midge (and the actress looks a whole lot like Helen Hunt, doesn’t she?). Hope we never see her again.

– Betty’s scenes with her therapist were always fascinating, although I do think the show was desperate to make her seem more sympathetic.

– I loved Helen, the Drapers’ neighbor who is sinned for raising a child of divorce. On the other hand, her son Glenn (played by Weiner’s real-life son) is creepy and annoying.

– Harrowing moment as one of the Drapers party guests slaps a child for spilling a drink. Good God, the ’60s weren’t all that great, folks.

– Hilarious moment as Don and Roger make sure to take their shoes off before entering Bert’s office.

– I love the scene where we find out Don has a brother and a whole other life in 5G. Sadly, this was a bit of a rushed storyline as his feud with Pete gets resolved rather quickly and his brother ends up hanging himself within just a couple of episodes.

– Is there a ‘ship name for Roger and Joan because I love them.

– Also in 5G: I love the subtext when Don works on a campaign for an “executive account” in which a man keeps his private life private, paralleled with what he goes through with his brother in that same episode later on. Sidenote: I love the campaigns on this show.

– I actually like Ken. He doesn’t laugh as much as all the other men.

– Peggy getting the Belle Jolie lipstick idea feels like a significant, satisfying moment for her character. Way to go, P.

– Sal turning out to be gay was a complete shock to me. How refreshing that he actually turned down that client’s invitation to his hotel room?

– I love that Don and Roger mention that Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East.

– Betty grabbing a shotgun and shooting at her neighbor’s birds at the end of the ninth episode is such a shocking ‘60s moment, if you forget the fact that a similar thing just happened recently in Lebanon. So much for Paris of the Middle Est, eh?

– I loved Peggy standing up to Pete and asking him if he’s going to be nice or cruel to her today.

– Shocking moment as Roger falls and has a heart attack in the middle of sex.

– Kudos to the costume design for putting Elisabeth Moss in a fat suit in the season’s last few episodes. I certainly noticed, but it didn’t even occur to me that she might be pregnant. Amazing.

– Awfully depressing moment as Betty ‘gets off’ by the washing machine’s vibrations as she imagines bringing the salesman up to her bedroom and having sex with him.

– Hildy probably had 2 or or 3 scenes throughout this season, but I absolutely LOVED her. The way she turns down Pete and questions the way he treats her were two of my favorite moments.

– So, Pete and Trudy can’t have children or does Pete just not want any?

– Don’s speech about memories intercut with photos of his family throughout the years is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen all year.

– Tear-jerking moment as Peggy refuses to hold her baby.

– Don going back home in the last scene of the finale and telling his wife and kids that he’ll be joining them on their Thanksgiving trip was delightful…and then it turned out to be a dream. What a sudden, depressing twist, and boy did I just love it.


Quotes

Don: Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.

Don: The reason you haven’t felt [love] is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.

Bertram: How much do you know about Pete’s family?
Don: Nothing, except that they put out a mediocre product.

Rachel: They taught us at Barnard about that word, “utopia”. The Greeks had two meanings for it: ‘eu-topos’, meaning the good place, and ‘u-topos’, meaning the place that cannot be.

Don: I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system. The universe is indifferent.

Don: Listen, I’m not here to tell you about Jesus. You already know about Jesus. He either lives in your heart or He doesn’t. Every woman wants choices, but in the end, none wants to be one of a hundred in a box. She’s unique. She makes the choices and she’s chosen him. She wants to tell the world he’s MINE. He belongs to ME, not you. She marks her man with her lips. He’s her possession. You’ve given the gift of total ownership.

Peggy: I know what men think of you. That you’re looking for a husband, and you’re fun. And not in that order.
Joan: Peggy, this isn’t China. There’s no money in virginity.

Betty: I know people say life goes on, and it does. But no one tells you that’s not a good thing.

Peggy: Those people, in Manhattan? They are better than us. Because they want things they haven’t seen.

Roger: (to Joan) Look, I want to tell you something because you’re very dear to me. And I hope you understand that it comes from the bottom of my damaged, damaged heart. You are the finest piece of ass I ever had and I don’t care who knows it. I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides.

Joan: I said congratulations, didn’t I? Although, sometimes when people get what they want they realize how limited their goals were.

Don: Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.

Rating
A-

Rectify 1×01/1×02 – Always There / Sexual Peeling

I’ve never been a fan of slow-burning shows, but in the past month I’ve immersed myself in 3 of the slowest yet well-produced and thought-provoking pieces of television. It all started with Breaking Bad (which I finished in less than two weeks), and when that was over I felt the need to replace it with another slow-moving series. Mad Men seems like the perfect show to bingewatch now due to its terrific production values and stellar cast, but I never thought I’d love Rectify, despite all the critical acclaim it’s gotten over the years.

Always There is a brilliant opening, one of the best I’ve seen in recent years, as it perfectly introduces us to the show’s characters and its quiet world. Daniel Holden (an outstanding Aden Young) spent 20 years in prison after confessing to the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. Now, new DNA evidence has proven that he was not responsible for the crime, so Daniel is released and has returned to his family in a small rural town in Georgia where he must adapt to a new world.

The most impressive thing about this hour is that it lacks exposition, a usual trademark for pilot episodes, and it moves along a brisk albeit fresh pace. It’s also interesting to note just how bleak and depressing the show can be when it takes place during the present time (I’ve seen 2 episodes already), yet every time we flash back to Daniel’s time in prison, it’s unexpectedly positive and uplifting. It’s tonally jarring because you’d expect that the prison scenes would be haunting and hard to watch, but the show luckily deviated from any cliched tropes. At least for now.

Of course, Rectify is also gorgeous to look at it with its beautiful scenery and exquisite cinematography. More often than not, it reminded me of the first season of The Affair; both shows are atmospheric and beautiful to look at and there’s a central mystery surrounding both seasons. Also, the cast, which includes the always stunning Abigail Spencer as Daniel’s sister Amantha, the heartbroken mother (J. Smith Cameron) or the sleazy senator (Michael O’Neill), is just as impressive. By the time the first episode comes to an end, you’ll definitely want to spend more time with these characters.

Quotes

Daniel: I can’t quite get a handle on the concept of time yet. There have been moments here today where I feel like I’ve only been gone a few weeks, and I’m still in high school. But mostly it seems like I was always there.

Daniel: I had convinced myself that kind of optimism served no useful purpose in the world where I existed. Obviously, this radical belief system was flawed and was, ironically, a kind of fantasy itself.

Kerwin: I can’t do time the way you do it.
Daniel: I don’t do time.
Kerwin: That’s what I’m talking about. I can’t do time by not doing time the way you do time.

Rating
A

Just Shoot Me! – Season 1

While the first season of Just Shoot Me! is sadly short and mediocre, there’s no denying the show built a wacky, colorful universe in the span of six 20-minute episodes.

There’s something deeply comforting about watching this show, but unlike Newsradio and Less Than Perfect, it’s not just the workplace setting that makes Just Shoot Me! so entertaining and wonderful. The characters are impressively fully realized right off the bat, and the writing is incredibly sharp and witty. Plus, the show never loses sight of its delightful characters no matter how crazy the hijinks it might put them through.

Despite the slightly disappointing finale, there are enough laughs to warrant this season a very deserving B rating. I didn’t care for Maya, Elliot, and Nina being drugged on the special Chinese candy that Jack brought with him to the office, but the heartwarming ending with Maya getting the recognition she’s been so desperately seeking from her father makes up for this wacky subplot, and brilliantly brings this season together to a full circle.

It’s interesting to watch the season close on Maya happily jumping into an elevator with Jack, one that could be infested with poisonous deadly snakes, but she doesn’t care because she finished editing an entire magazine by herself (twice) whereas she was recklessly getting fired in the pilot. It’s a welcome and heartwarming development, and I can’t wait to see where she goes next.

Bits

– I still love the cryptic headlines on the mockup Blush covers in between scenes. So clever!

– I loved Nina’s Birthday because it brought together two seemingly unrelated storylines (Nina being alone on her birthday and Maya wanting to leave the party so badly) in brilliant fashion. These two have a wonderful dynamic, and I can’t wait to see how the show develops this unlikely friendship in the upcoming seasons.

– Elliot taking Maya’s photo for her ID was gripping. The lack of music, the dim lighting, and the brilliantly layered writing…absolutely perfect.

Quotes

Maya: Finch, the copier’s broken again.
Finch: Maybe that black cloud over your head shorted it out.

Jack: You can start by throwing [Nina] a birthday party.
Maya: Oh, big step. Can’t I just start by throwing her from a train, out of a building, something of that sort?

Nina: Wait, now that we’re friends, just let me go in and erase your name from the men’s room wall.

Maya: Why do we even need photo IDs?
Finch: Because otherwise, any lunatic could walk in off the street and do Nina’s job.

Maya: So this is your studio, huh? Shouldn’t there be a sign on the door for the models that says, “You must be this dumb to enter”?

Finch: So, a sex dream? How was I?
Maya: Absent.

Nina: (entering) I’ve still got it!
Finch: (picks up phone) I’ll have the pharmacy send over some more cream.

Jack: Maya!
Maya: What?
Jack: Presents! Here, I saw this and thought of you. (hands her a scarf) The pictures tell the story of a young girl so beautiful, she stole envy from the moon.
Maya: Wow. It’s beautiful. Thanks, dad.
Jack: Here, Nina, I got you one too.

Nina: An article on aging next to an ad for vodka. Problem, solution.

Finch: I don’t want to scare anyone back to their natural hair color, but I just saw a snake on the elevator.

Elliot: About that crazy thing I mentioned about me wanting to be a ballerina, that was between you and me, right?
Maya: You want to be a what?
Elliot: Oh, God. Who did I tell?

Season 1 Rating
B

Just Shoot Me! 1×03 – Secretary’s Day

Episodes like Secretary’s Day make me extremely nostalgic. It’s filled with work hijinks such as Finch refusing to accept he’s just a secretary and Nina testing out breast implants, and it guest stars Jay Leno in a cross-promotional marketing attempt from NBC. Ah, the good old days.

Still, this was much better than the second episode. The fact that the teaser alone gives you everything you need to know about the show’s main plots is a brilliant writing move. Wally answering Maya’s phone for her makes him seem like her secretary, and him yelling out from the balcony “large breasts” is a clue to Nina’s subplot. The writing is truly impressive here.

Another thing that’s immediately lovable about this show is the character dynamics. Nina and Elliot have outstanding moments in this one alone, but it’s Jack and Finch’s final heartwarming sequence where Maya’s dad recognizes his partner of 8 years as more than just a secretary. Sure, he gives him a fake title (Vice President of Section 4), but it’s a nice and hilarious gesture to bookend this episode on.

Bits

– I could have lived without seeing Finch stuck in a cage with a gorilla, but it was a funny gag.

– I cracked up when Finch threw away the glass during his ‘moment’ with Jack at the end. David Spade absolutely kills it with his facial expression here.

– I like that Nina and Maya bond for a brief second as Maya convinces her that she doesn’t need a boob job.

Quotes

Maya: I once did a news report on the dangers of plastic surgery, and do you know what the statistics say?
Nina: Yes, that nine out of 10 men prefer women with big breasts.
Elliot: And the 10th guy preferred the nine other men.

Elliot: You know, for whatever it’s worth, when I was in the fourth grade, I played the king in my school play, and I got so nervous that I started to cry right in the middle of my fight scene.
Finch: So?
Elliot: So…thank God it wasn’t televised. (laughs)

Jack: Man, I love scotch, and not just the taste. I mean the ritual. Pouring it into the perfect glass. Letting the ice melt just enough. (shakes the glass so the ice rattles) Listen to that sound. I love scotch almost as much as I love cigars. Man, I love cigars. The way they smell–you know what I love?
Finch: When the rambling ends.

Rating
B+

Just Shoot Me! 1×02 – The Devil and Maya Gallo

There’s a bit of a tonal difference in the show’s second episode, particularly in the way Maya behaves when she sees the perks of working at her father’s extravagant fashion magazine. Luckily, the writing salvages this bit of uncharacteristic flaw by turning the episode around in the final act. I just love the gang’s meeting at the end where Jack says he wants more articles covering serious matters in the future; as sappy as it might sound, it really works.

Once again, Nina absolutely steals the show. After realizing just how much attention Maya is getting for being the boss’s daughter, she feels threatened and worried about losing her job. Little details like breathing heavily into an expensive purse instead of a plastic bag, hiding alcohol in Raisin Bran boxes, and teasing Finch about how short he is make this subplot a true delight.

Bits

– Hilarious moment as Elliot claps when Jack mentions Maya’s name in the first meeting, then pretends he’s squatting a mosquito.

– I don’t remember Wally, Maya’s roommate, at all, so it’s kind of a surprise he’s making a lot of appearances here. Chris Hogan is quirky and funny, but he does seem like he’s trying too hard sometimes.

– Hysterical moment as Nina is praising Maya after thinking she won’t be working at Blush anymore, only to furiously get up and scream “YOU!” when she sees her walking into the meeting.

Quotes

Jack: Okay, let’s begin the meeting. Photo department?
Elliot: No problem.
Jack: Beauty and fashion?
Nina: Under control.
Jack: Bagels and juice?
Finch: In your office.
Jack: Gosh, this was the best meeting ever.
Maya: Wait, what about my story ideas?
Finch: Shhh, if you say them out loud, they won’t come true.

Nina: She’s new, she’s fresh, she’s got ideas. Yeah, well, the writing’s on the wall and it says “Adios, Nina”. Damn, this was the year I was gonna open a savings account.
Finch: Hey, I’m as upset as you are. I just don’t have the worry lines to prove it.
Nina: One more crack like that, and I’ll put the M&Ms on the high shelf.

Model: Excuse me, do you have the time?
Finch: Why, yes, it’s approximately 2-pretty.

Jack: It’s funny. You hardly ever cried [as a baby].
Maya: Oh, sure I did. It was just hard to hear from the golf course.

Jack: Allie’s at the gym. Apparently, cellulite is more vulnerable at night. I don’t know where she gets the energy.
Maya: Well, she’s on that special program where she’s half your age.

Jack: I know you all probably have questions about Maya’s role here at the magazine.
Elliot: Well, my question is how long till Nina drinks the rest of the Raisin Bran?

Jack: I just happen to think our readers have grown more sophisticated. I know my new wife is smarter than any of the last three.
Finch: And I’m sure the next one will be smarter still.

Rating
B

Just Shoot Me! 1×01 – Back Issues

I absolutely adore this show.

Way before I even discovered Friends, I grew up watching sitcoms that were set in a TV workplace. Just like the highly underrated NewsradioJust Shoot Me! immediately became one of my favorite childhood shows, so much that it made me want to work at a magazine myself one day.

Watching this snappy pilot, I thought I was heading into a premiere full of 90s vibes and nostalgic characters. While both of those things are certainly prevalent in Back Issues, I’m more than shocked to realize just how sharp this show is – right from the start. The writing is unexpectedly nuanced, the humor is right off the bat witty (I’m talking Buffy-like ‘witty’), and the characters immediately fully realized. A part of me feels that I loved this show as a kid because I wanted to be transported to a world of workplace hijinks and, of course, the stunningly charismatic Wendie Malick. I don’t think I even understood half the jokes back then, which will certainly make this rewatch all the more eye-opening.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud sitcoms on the air right now. I’m in love with Superstore and The Good Place, both of which are also NBC comedies (as was Just Shoot Me!), but I can’t help but feel that shows nowadays are highly dependent on the performers. The Good Place has its fair share of witty humor, but Just Shoot Me! made its performers with its sharp writing.

Malick is immediately lovable as Nina Van Horn, the former model and fashion correspondent at Blush magazine, and brilliantly brings this character to life almost seconds after she is introduced. Nina is one of my all-time favorite characters on television and she outshines even Maya during the show’s run. While I don’t really love David Spade nowadays (I detested his entire role on 8 Simple Rules), Dennis/Finch had a couple of amusing lines in this pilot. Also, it’s impressive how little Maya has to do to win us over as the main lead. Laura San Giacomo is charismatic and fits the title role immediately as the writer/journalist who desperately joins her father’s fashion magazine to make ends meet, and she plays off the rest of the lovely cast quite perfectly.

Another thing I absolutely love about this show, and certainly one of the things that make it most memorable for me, is its wildly creative mock-up Blush covers that weigh viewers in on some of the episode’s plots. I always looked forward to reading those headlines and trying to decipher the text; it’s a smart little bit of creative storytelling device that most shows nowadays really lack.

Finally, Just Shoot Me! has a lot of heart. In particular, Maya’s talk with her estranged father at the end of the episode (quoted below) honestly brought tears to my eyes – and how often can we say that about characters we just met?

Bits

– I love the title credits with the pencil breaking at the end. It’s a bit outdated for 2017, sure, but it still warms my heart.

– Hilarious introduction of Nina as she walks in, sunglasses and all, and starts picking at the models.

– You can see some of the crew’s equipment during one shot, especially the microphones floating over the characters’ heads. Oops.

Quotes

Anchorwoman: As I have told you over and over again, it should be “New York city police officials tell me gang violence is down”. That way, I am involved in the story.
Maya: You know, you’re right. People would love to see you involved in gang violence.

Nina: Welcome to Blush, America’s premiere glamor magazine. I am, of course, Nina Van Horn. My face appeared on over 40 covers. I was the Noxema Gotcha girl. You know… Gotcha. (the models just stare at her) Yeah, well, ask your parents.

Nina: Well, I want my old job back, but chances are that’s not gonna happen, but remember, just the fact that you’re here at all is something to be proud of. You’d be amazed at how many girls can’t find the building.

Nina: Honey, I don’t know who your agent is, but you need to grow six inches, lose 20 pounds, and find a hairdresser who gave up cocaine with everyone else.

Nina: You know, dear, you can understand why I didn’t recognize you. I mean, there’s virtually no resemblance.
Maya: Go away.
Nina: Ah, there it is.

Jack: Don’t you have a birthday coming up?
Maya: Yeah, in about 11 and a half months.
Jack: Good, I was afraid I missed it.

Jack: Don’t play innocent. You were heckling our wedding vows.
Maya: You let the woman quote The Lion King!

Maya: It just hit me. You are your magazine. You’re glossy, you’re slick, the cover’s great, when you open it up, there’s nothing inside.
Jack: I’ve got another one for you; I get fat in December.

Maya: Don’t you ever worry about the message you’re sending?
Elliot: (covers his eyes) Oh, hell, you’re one of those.

Finch: (into the phone) Maya says congratulations, but it’s in a tone that connotes disinterest. (Listens) Ooh, 8 pounds, 12 ounces.
Maya: Ouch.
Finch: (into phone) She’s making sport of your courageous wife’s pain. (Listens) Yeah. Blue eyes, dark hair, great lungs.
Maya: Just like Elvis.
Finch: (into phone) She’s comparing the baby to a bloated drug addict.

Jack: I’m terrified I’m gonna make the same mistakes with her that I made with you.
Maya: Then don’t. You know, there’s nothing magic about it. That’s your daughter in there. When she holds out her arms, pick her up. When she has a dance recital, don’t be in a meeting. And when she tries to push you away, don’t let her. It’s not what she really wants. Make her a part of your life. The rest will fall into place.

Rating
B+