By Gina Carbone
As the light fades, so does my energy. And my patience.
I still watch all of the shows I usually watch — plus a few more, now that I’m writing about “Castle” and “The Vampire Diaries” for Wetpaint, on top of “The Bachelor,” “Bachelorette” and “Dancing with the Stars” — but some of these things sap my strength.
So here are capsule recaps/performance reviews for most of the current shows I watch, with notes on whether I will actually keep watching them once it gets dark around 4 p.m. and I start to think I’d be better off sleeping for 16 out of 24 hours.
MAD MEN (Click title links to be directed to my archive of recaps/other stories)
Season 4 status: Awesome. Epic. Best season ever. But see below…
Recent episode, “Chinese Wall” status: Frustrating. It’s hard for me to accept season 4 as Don Draper hitting rock bottom and finding himself when EVERY SINGLE WOMAN HE MEETS HITS ON HIM. Even Megan. Megan who said she wants to do what Don and Miss Olson do. Megan who has ambitions. I loved hearing that about Megan but, of course, it had to be followed with her speaking to Don like a scene from a cheesy Harlequin romance novel. He’s in her head all day, at work and at home… Then he kisses her in the office? So that’s Allison, Faye and now Megan, on top of the women outside the office, like Bethany the Betty clone and the prostitute who slapped him because that’s what he wants (and deserves). Look, Don is an attractive, powerful man and maybe he smells like the Old Spice Guy, but this is a bit much. We’re supposed to sympathize with this guy going through a crisis and his “crisis” involves hot young things hitting on him constantly. Stop it.
By the way, tonight’s episode, “Blowing Smoke,” was directed by John Slattery, aka Roger Sterling. We finally found something for Roger to do!
Season 5 status: Boring
We’re only two episodes into the new season. I accepted that the first episode was slow. But the second one was slow too. Glacial. There’s a happy medium between the slow pace of “Dexter” season 5 and the frenetic pace of “True Blood” season 3. (It’s called “Mad Men” season 4.) Pick up the pace before I fall asleep by 9:30 p.m. every Sunday night.
Update: Oct. 10 episode picked up the pace big-time. We’re back on track with an actual stalking/murder. For once this is a good thing!
Season 1 status: On notice
I want to like “Boardwalk Empire” but I’m having trouble getting into it. Part of this is due to the too-perfect set. That does not look like a boardwalk anyone actually walks on. Those shops look like they’re freshly painted every week. The windows are pristine. Was it really like that? Maybe it was. Then there’s the dialogue. Even before the first episode aired there was a preview where Michael Shannon’s (WORSHIP) agent Van Alden says of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) “he’s corrupt as the day is long.” The second I heard that, I deflated. Really? With all the millions they are spending on the set they can’t do better than a trite line like that? I was hoping they would never actually air that line, but they did last week. Nothing about the rest of the dialogue has shown they are planning to do anything but navigate through more cliches. I’ll give it a few more chances, but I don’t owe it anything. If it can’t show me something new I’m going to leave Atlantic City for good.
Update: Oct. 10 episode was my favorite so far. Plenty of action and interesting character development. Give Chalky more good speeches.
Season 21 status: Meh
Everything old is new again with “Nicaragua.” Maybe I’ve been spoiled from The Russell Show, but I’m not feeling too strongly about any of this season’s contestants. Even NaOnka Mixon is such an obvious villain I’m not upset with her as much as CBS for so gleefully casting someone they had to know was just going to self-destruct and ruin her own reputation. She’s just plain unstable. It’s old vs. young and I do like Jane of the old tribe, but not so much that I’m compelled to root hard for her. I’m just sort of biding time to see which boot list is correct. On the way I’ll stare at Chase and Jud/Fabio, but I’m really just waiting for Russell vs. Rob.
Cycle 15 status: Too obvious
Just give the Vogue Italia cover to Ann Ward already. She just won her fourth challenge in a row — the first time in “Top Model” history for that particular feat, Tyra says — and if she somehow DOESN’T win, whoever does win is going to have to feel like a usurper. Ann was the star of the cycle before the first episode aired. She was thrust into the controversy spotlight for being 6’2″ and having the world’s tiniest waistline. (Or something. Has anyone really gone around measuring all the grown women in the world?) My girl Kayla is still in play, but we lost my previous favorite Rhianna and the challenges just keep getting more and more ridiculous. A conveyor belt in heels? Do you hate the contestants that much? This show has no connection to reality anymore. It’s a parody of itself. So why do I keep watching?
Season 11 status update: Borderline rigged
People need to stop trying to convince me that this isn’t already an open-and-shut case. Even if Jennifer Grey weren’t the best of the crop so far, she has a RABID fan base dying to give her the mirror-ball trophy. Seriously, if you go to Wetpaint’s Dancing with the Stars Facebook page, people adore her. She is going to get the votes no matter what she does. Which means Derek Hough will be the first pro to win three mirror-balls. He also won last season with Nicole Scherzinger and won season 7 with co-host Brooke Burke, who favors Derek too. Derek runs the place. Meanwhile, Maks is mouthy. He needs to stop making everyone adjust to his attitude/the way he was taught and actually adjust himself a drop for the people around him. Just a drop.
Season 36 status: Disappointing
The premiere was all about the old school and since then each episode has given little glimpses of the new cast members. Meanwhile, the guest stars are not being served well by the material. To put it mildly. I thought Bryan Cranston was pretty much wasted last week but that was before I saw them completely waste Jane Lynch. She deserved the Betty White treatment and instead she didn’t even get a bottle of sparkling apple juice moment. What gives? She’s definitely funny and game to do whatever — same as Bryan Cranston — but they give her such weak sketches. Last season SNL had some good stuff for Jon Hamm, Taylor Swift and even Blake Lively. This season they seem more focused on the cast members, especially Kristen Wiig injecting herself into everything. Why?
TOP CHEF: JUST DESSERTS
Season 1 status: Sweet and sassy — love it!
Am I going straight to hell if I miss Seth Caro? I thought he was hot from day one and his inherent bitchiness just made him more intriguing. Until it didn’t. As in, I think he may have a serious but treatable mental illness. I want him to seek treatment and then return. Because, man, is he interesting.
I had the crazy idea that a show about sugar and spice and everything nice would be, you know, sweet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Meltdowns like crazy, and not just from Seth. Malika just quit and her face when she announced she was leaving showed such joy and relief. Maybe it makes sense. Baking is harder than cooking. If you’re a chef you can experiment more than a baker. The slightest thing can ruin a pastry. Love watching it all play out.
Sidenote: Stop teasing me with the idea of Hubert Keller as a permanent judge when he’s not even there every week. I need more face time with my beloved French Gandalf!
Season 8 status: Love the drama, not the clothes
Mondo Guerra is going to win, despite me not really getting most of his clothes. To me, he is the naked emperor. But as a person, he is fascinating. Quirky, funny, cute, and alternately vulnerable and arrogant. He laid his soul on a slab last week by announcing his HIV positive status. But this week he showed himself to be above-it-all with his rudeness to Heidi Klum, aka a judge and producer on the show and this week’s client. The editing of the previews has been very “Bachelor” manipulation, which is a shame since the natural drama speaks for itself. Ivy Higa needs to go on “Survivor” with NaOnka Mixon. Gretchen Jones should spar with Seth Caro on “Top Chef.” So many crazy reality TV personalities to deal with. But on “Runway” they are more bitchy than mentally unstable. I prefer that. I’m fine with disliking people’s behavior on TV. I’m not fine with potentially unstable people being exploited for ratings.