Here’s a look back at the best and worst of TV in the past week (Aug. 21-27), and a look ahead at what’s coming up.
1. “Mad Men” (AMC). Wow, so much going on. Shame and guilt were the themes (The book of the night, “The Chrysthanthemum and the Sword,” distinguished cultures of shame from cultures of guilt), and the major players were feeling it. Don’s feeling guilty about not appreciating his kids and being relieved when they’re gone; Roger brings shame upon the office by insulting the Japanese clients (besides an obvious lingering hatred from the war, perhaps he’s carrying some survivor’s guilt); and Betty is ashamed by Sally’s, um, “incident” at the sleepover, and uses guilt and the threat of chopping off her fingers to try to change her behavior (more Mom of the Year material there). In another literary reference, when Betty looks at the doll house in the psychiatrist’s office, is there a purposeful parallel to Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” with Betty and Nora both wives who seem to have it all, only to be miserable and trapped by convention? (Thanks to my GF for pointing that one out.) There’s an awful lot of subtext going on here. On a lighter note, the scene with Peggy put-put-puttering around in circles during the fake commercial shoot was hilarious.
2. “Burn Notice” (USA). Great summer finale. I could have done without the kidnapping subplot and had more Michael vs. Jesse action, but the cliffhanger ending sucked me in. So who took the briefcase?!?
3. “The Great Food Truck Race” (Food Network). This has quickly won me over. With elements of “The Amazing Race” and “Bands on the Run,” high-end food trucks travel from city to city selling their fares. Whoever sells the most, wins. Whoever sells the least goes home. It’s a simple concept, and it works well. The personable truck crews and drool-worthy food don’t hurt either (wow, those burgers with the grilled-cheese sandwiches as buns should be served with a defibrillator). I wish we saw a little more of how teams are getting the most for their money, and some idea of how much they’re making, but whatever, it’s a fun ride and I’m on board.
1. “Top Chef” (Bravo). The two most least surprising things about this week’s show: Angelo is a tool who follows Tony Robbins and recites mantras, and Amanda is still clueless. I was highly satisfied with who went home, though again, not at all surprised. Other than scoffing at Angelo and Amanda, it was a pretty blah episode (and literally blah, as in how in the world does Amanda think it’s a good idea to serve raw, graying fish at a baseball game?). Looks to me like Tiffany, Ed and Angelo will be in the finals, which will be held in Singapore. That could really be to Angelo’s advantage, since he can only cook Asian fusion.
2. “Entourage” (HBO). God, Vince is annoying. I think this season is leading up to him going into rehab, but I kinda hope he OD’s and the show is reworked so that Turtle becomes the tequila king of Southern California and gets his own entourage. Another thing that bugs me: Why is Ari’s wife so upset when his foul mouth is exposed? We’ve heard him say some pretty awful stuff in front of his wife and kids and pretty much everyone in Hollywood; why would the revelation that he verbally abuses his employees be shocking? I’m loving everything about Drama’s animated gorilla sitcom though. It’s at once stupid yet hilariously inspired.
3. “No Reservations” (Travel Channel). Don’t get me wrong, it was good. I was just expecting . . . . I don’t know, more. I wish there was just a little less of Tony talking about how food brings Beirut together, and more of him showing how food brings Beirut together. It just seemed forced and didn’t flow well.
Looking forward to . . .
1. “Mad Men” (10 p.m. Sunday, AMC). The TV highlight of the week, pretty much every week.
2. “Being Human” (9 p.m. Saturday, BBC America). I’m loving this season, and there are only a handful of episodes left so the tension is ratcheting up. Can’t wait to see how/if Lucy betrays Mitchell, and what that creepy religious dude is going to do next.
3. “Chopped” (10 p.m. Tuesday, Food Network). Former champions return to duel it out in the kitchen. With “Top Chef” faltering this season, “Chopped” is filling my chef-competition fix.