Summer is my least favorite season. Monstrous humidity, bland movies, and no school. Combine all these and the Bean-mind atrophies. But I admit that summer is full of possibilities. Some say those should include outdoor recreation, camping, or taking vacations. I disagree. Why get even sweatier when summer offers great and unexpected things you can find on your computer or TV screen? Somewhere Michelle Obama and the Surgeon General are screaming out loud and don’t know why. Oh well. To the suggestions!
The first is a series of World Cup preview videos produced for Grantland by Men in Blazers – a.k.a. Roger Bennett and Michael Davies. You won’t believe me because I’m the guy who treats college football like an annual religious festival, but anyone can enjoy this series. This pair of Englishmen pick apart the World Cup contenders with acerbic wit and helpful insight for us footie-deprived Americans. Imagine the Crash Course series redirected from exploring history to explaining how the American side will play differently from the Dutch side. Plus they make their predictions after tasting nationally-themed “World Cup Cakes.” It’s great stuff. Highly recommended for anyone looking to burn off time in an entertaining fashion. Also, they tweeted at me!
You can leap right into Men in Blazers, soccer knowledge or not. Regrettably, my other favorite thing of the week – the finale of this year’s Mad Men episodes – is much less immediately accessible. AMC split the seventh and final season of Mad Men into two halves, as they did with Breaking Bad. Happily, this first run of seven episodes have been as sharp, insightful, and engrossing as the series has ever produced. It’s right up there with the return of Louie as the best thing on TV. I won’t recap it in any meaningful way – that’s what Todd and Sonia at The AV Club are for – I’ll just run down the gamut of riches from the last two episodes. Mild spoilers ahead.
The return of Bob Benson! The Unsinkable Lou Avery being endlessly entertaining by being so utterly pedestrian and such self-obsessed scum. Peggy and Don breaking past each other’s barriers again and sharing a dance to Sinatra’s “My Way” in the office they’ve both coveted. That pair and Pete creating a strange nuclear family in the window of a beautifully inviting Burger Chef franchise. The moon landing! The death of a partner at Sterling-Cooper. Roger finally taking the reins as a manager and holding onto his company. Don’s hypnotic dream vision of a departed mentor singing and dancing to “The Best Things in Life are Free.” This all felt so great to watch because it was a burst of hopefulness in a show that can be extremely gloomy. Matthew Weiner and company probably won’t make next year’s true finale a feel-good event, but the series no longer occupies the same philosophical universe as Game of Thrones. Which makes me happy. Watch Mad Men this summer if you haven’t, then report back and we can reminisce about how great an introduction to a long-overdue summer that soft-shoe routine was.
Until then, spend these muggy days indoors.