Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bye Mad Men. Now, What Are We Gonna Do?

Because the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New York Times and the country's foremost Jesuit Priest didn't say it best, here are my thoughts on the "Mad Men" finale.

But, outside of encouraging you all to light a smoke and pour two fingers of Canadian Club neat, my thoughts have little to do with the actual show. No ma'am.

If you didn't like the show, didn't watch the show, or you were expecting Don Draper to commit suicide by jumping out of a window like the silhouette in the opening credits, this blog isn't for you.

No, this blog is for the millions of people like me and my wife, who now find ourselves lost, adrift in a sea of channels with nothing to watch — again.

For eight years our tumbler overflowed with awesomeness. Now we're the bearers of a cold, empty vacuum where a smoldering, smoky love once burned.
Where do we go from here?

In the months leading up to the show's conclusion, Mrs. Blackwell warned me — repeatedly — that she wasn't sure how she'd cope when it was all over.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," she cautioned.

Mrs. Blackwell doesn't do crazy so I wasn't worried about her falling off the deep end and embarking on a bizarre career producing "Mad Men" fan fiction.

That said, my wife is the only person I know more in love with the show than I.

For years now, "Mad Men" has occupied a prominent space in our lives. We've bonded over the show. It goes back almost as long as our marriage and before the birth of our son.

When the show is in the middle of a season, we talk through episodes, discuss characters, hypothesize possible meanings and potential outcomes.

And, when it's in between seasons, we spend a month or two in which we dust off our Blu Rays, re-watch the episodes and do the same thing all over again.

As a burgeoning academic, Mrs. Blackwell occasionally finds some interesting journal articles. One such study she told me of concluded that the end of a television show can be accompanied with a legitimate sense of grief amongst its viewers.

The paper she referenced was regarding a circle of friends that sprouted via a common love of "The Sopranos." Each week, they'd congregate, share food and their love of a great TV show. When "The Sopranos" faded to black, the circle of friends dissolved and, just months later, they no longer met.

How incredibly sad.

With that cryptic scenario in mind, we marched solemnly toward last Sunday's finale. As we did, our eager anticipation was imbued with one colossal question hanging over our heads like a guillotine: "What the hell were we going to do next?"

Like anyone who's followed the show closely, I found myself searching for the most positive interpretation of its ending. Of course the final episode doesn't define the previous eight years but this was goodbye so, naturally, one wanted it to be positive-ish.

It was.

Don did the Coke ad and Jon Hamm said as much (there's no wondering folks). Roger found a woman his own age. Peggy found a man. Joan found a career and Pete found his heart in the heartland after pledging to die in Manhattan. So, the show took care of itself in fine form, just as we fans expected.

The boy had a suggestion for replacement viewing. 
But, as for the guillotine question, well, Mrs. Blackwell and I still don't have an answer.

What the hell are we going to do next?

A friend of Mrs. Blackwell's recommended we start watching "The Americans" so we did.

That poor, poor show.

I'm sure it's good but, to be candid, it doesn't have a chance. It's the rebound show — the tawdry strumpet we picked up in a dumpy dive bar (or the FX network, whichever you prefer) after our old flame dumped us.

Once a knife fight broke out five minutes into the pilot, I knew it was going to be a long summer until football season arrived.

But even then, I don't share sports with Mrs. Blackwell — I watch; she tolerates.

Mrs. Blackwell isn't lamenting the Packers' use of the jet sweep when they should have run play action and she's not questioning the existence of a God because the Maple Leafs are, well, the Maple Leafs.

Unfortunately we still don't know what the hell we're going to do next and sometime during the second fist fight in "The Americans" this icy, harsh reality finally sunk in.

Thankfully, Mrs. Blackwell is nearly four months pregnant and soon, we'll have another shared diversion that'll take up plenty of time.

Until then, I have no doubt we'll be dusting off the Mad Men Blu Rays, at least one more time. 

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