Tag Archives: Mad Men

“Mad Men” was awesome this week. You really should be watching “Silicon Valley.” And I’m psyched for “The Americans” season finale

The Strategy

Haven’t done an all-TV posting in a while, as I’ve been fairly obsessed with the Stanley Cup playoffs, work and other things.

But three quick-hit thoughts on three of my favorite shows going right now:

First, “Mad Men” and I have been in a love-hate relationship for a few years, as I continue to be disgusted by most of Don Draper’s behavior, amused by Roger Sterling’s, and confused by many of the other lackluster storylines.

But the first half of this final season (they’re splitting up the last 14 episodes into two segments, one this year, one last year, because AMC can’t bear to see it go) has been stellar, and last Sunday was one of the best episodes the series has ever done.

(SPOILER ALERT) I love it when the investment you put into characters over years of a TV show pay off, and that’s what happened on “Mad Men” this week, when we had that oh-so-beautiful scene of Don and Peggy in the office, dancing to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” near the end. Their relationship has always been awkward, alternating between jealousy (of him) and resentment (of her), but this was perfect; two very flawed people who’ve known each other for a decade, realizing they’re not living the kind of lives they wanted, and taking comfort in each other.
Really, really sweet. I also loved the Joan and Bob Benson stuff, with Joan clearly having grown some over the years, and any scene with Roger in a sauna with other naked men is bound to be great, which it was. (I’m even hating Pete Campbell a little less this season. But he’s still an ass.)
One more “Mad Men” left until they take a break until next year, and unlike some seasons, I’ll be sad to see it go.


**Next up, I came late to the party on the HBO show “Silicon Valley,” but after missing the first few episodes I caught up and have been addicted ever since. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a group of 20-something, ultra-nerdy Silicon Valley programmers who are trying to get a start-up off the ground before a major competitor does.

You’ve got characters who could easily be stereotypes and unfunny: the brilliant but socially awkward Indian guy, the nervous genius, the way-too-cocky Steve Jobs wannabe, etc. And there are two competing and completely insane billionaire investor rivals, who both want the start-up (called “Pied Piper”) really badly.

But the show is really, really funny. It mines the little moments and turns them hysterical. The Erlikh character in particular is hilarious, and of course Martin Starr (from “Freaks and Geeks” and “Knocked Up”) is terrific as well.

Definitely check out “Silicon Valley” if you can; it’s just funny.


**Finally, extremely psyched for “The Americans” season finale tonight. I know I’ve raved about it on here a few times in the last few months, but really, I can’t praise this show enough. Things have been getting so tense the last couple of weeks, as danger encircles Phillip and Elizabeth, and maybe their kids.
Larrick is quite the psycho (not a shock, given that he’s an American-turned-Soviet spy, now gone rogue from both), FBI agent Stan is about to sell his country up the creek for a woman he loves (oldest story in the world, but told brilliantly here), and we have no earthly idea still who killed Soviet spies Emmett and Leann in the season opener. I still can’t believe they’re going to turn Stan from being an FBI agent into a spy for the Russians, but this show always surprises me.

I’m also hoping for Granny (the awesome Margo Martindale) to come back tonight and save the day, for Paige Jennings to run off and join the church and flee her parents, and for Henry Jennings to finally get that Intellivision he’s been wanting.

Great, great show.

“Mad Men” back, with Don sober and faithful? 4 babies, all laughing at their father. And a man exonerated after 25 years in prison.


There are certain things you can count on whenever a new “Mad Men” season begins, as the final one did on Sunday: (SPOILER ALERT. STOP READING AND SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT VIDEO IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET)
— Roger Sterling will be entertaining. His very-1969 forays into group orgies in the season premiere certainly was very much in character, and delightful.

— Pete Campbell will give me reasons to hate him. Although Pete seemed like a new man out in California when the show begins, his obnoxiousness came out quick once his realtor girlfriend showed up.
— Peggy Olson will be aggrieved, and Joan will be disrespected. Check, check.

— And Don Draper will engage in some self-destructive behavior and generally bring misery down upon himself.
But actually, that last one didn’t happen, which made Sunday’s premiere pretty interesting to me. Given a chance to once again cheat on his wife Megan (who I really thought we were done with after last season, but nope, Matthew Weiner continues to inflict her on us), Don turns down the mysterious woman on his flight (Neve Campbell! And where the hell has she been?) and goes back home to his bachelor pad he’s now sharing with Freddy Rumsen, improbably.

Is this a new chapter for Don? Might he actually be giving up alcohol? He’s still kind of a cad; his interactions with Megan were stilted and he seemed like he’d rather be anywhere else, but it feels like the show is going to try to redeem Don after 6 seasons of awful behavior by him. That would definitely be an interesting turn.
The other characters also seem to be in a lot of flux; Joan is finally getting a chance to be taken seriously by clients, poor Ken is overwhelmed by his new job, and I can’t wait to see what little Sally Draper has been up to.

Only about a dozen “Mad Men” episodes left, and it’s all happening in 1969. Should be a really fun ride.

**Next up today, this video is a few years old but I’d never seen it: A father entertains his quadruplet children by making them laugh hysterically. The table is genius, by the way.

Nothing sweeter than babies laughing.


**And finally today, another story that angers those of us who believe our criminal justice system is so very flawed. A man who spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit was just released, as it turns out his original alibi, that he was at Disney World at the time and not in New York City where the murder happened, was finally verified.

Jonathan Fleming, now 51 (hugging his lawyer, above), was convicted for a 1989 slaying where the key witness was a crack addict who later recanted his testimony.

Yet Fleming sat in prison for a quarter-century until his lawyer urged New York’s new district attorney to look into the case, and phone records showed that Fleming was indeed in Orlando when the crime happened in NYC.

It’s amazing how many innocent people are sitting in our prisons. Truly amazing.

“Mad Men” begins and “Shameless” ends: 2 great shows Sunday night. Louisville wins the national title. And RIP, Margaret Thatcher


Always enjoy the synchronicity when one of my favorite TV shows ends its season, on the same night as another begins.

I got a great season premiere of “Mad Men” Sunday night, and at the same time, the underrated and criminally unloved “Shameless” finished its third season.
Two very different shows, but both were fantastic on Sunday. First, some “Mad Men” thoughts (SPOILER ALERT!)

No. 1, a terrific episode that showed why we love Roger Sterling and Peggy Olson, and why we love and loathe both Don and Betty. I thought the scene with Don and the young Vietnam soldier in Hawaii was terrific; the whole episode was filled with darkness, which is right up Don Draper’s alley.
No. 2, I love that Peggy in her new firm has become a little Don Draper; ordering around the staff and making them stay late; she has become what she always railed against.

No. 3, how fantastic is all the new hair on this show? It’s 1968 and Harry and Stan have crazy beard/sideburns, and Abe, I don’t know what’s going on with Abe’s facial hair. But it’s beautiful. Six years ago all these guys were straight-laced and clean-cut; now it’s 1968 and they’ve all let themselves go.

Finally, I’m glad they’re finally showing Betty to be at least a little human this season. They’ve made her so damn unlikable that I used to root for bad things to happen to her. But now she’s at least showing a little bit of a soul in trying to help wayward young Sandy.

As for “Shameless,” this was a crazy year with a million bizarre plot twists, but it all ended really nicely. Fiona has no boyfriend again, as (we think) Jimmy/Steve has been killed by his gangster father-in-law. Lip actually got into college, and might even go. Ian runs away to join the Army, stealing his older brother’s identity in the process.
And Frank, well, I really hope the show doesn’t start next season trying to redeem him. In fact, I’d love it if they killed him off. I know William H. Macy is awesome and a brilliant actor and all that, but his character adds so little to the show, I think it’d be better without it.

If you don’t watch “Shameless,” catching up on the just-completed season would be a good place to start. It’s a riotously funny, tragic, wonderfully-acted show.


**Monday night’s NCAA championship game was the best since … I can’t remember one as thrilling. It’s been a while, that’s for sure. Louisville and Michigan played a phenomenal, entertaining game filled with great athleticism and drama.
Some quick thoughts before I drift off to sleep:
— That first half was played as good as basketball can be. Spike Albrecht of Michigan, who averaged like 2 points a game this year, scored 17 (And I enjoyed all the “Teen Wolf” jokes about him on Twitter). And then the Hancock kid goes nuts to get the Cards back in.
— Trey Burke. How good is that kid? And the CBS announcers (Greg Anthony and Doug Gottlieb) are nuts if they think his sitting out the last minutes of the first half is why Michigan lost. The Wolverines lost because they couldn’t get a rebound in the second half, and couldn’t guard Peyton Siva in the lane (then again, no one can).
— Man, the basketball fans in the state of Kentucky are going to be insufferable this year. Last year Kentucky won, this year Louisville.
— So glad that after a poor-shooting tournament that featured lots of sloppy games, we got a thriller tonight. A great advertisement for the great sport of college hoops.
— I love “One Shining Moment” as much as anyone, but I thought this year’s was just … pretty good. I actually thought we’d see more Florida Gulf Coast highlights, but as always I got chills watching the buzzer-beaters and the emotional stuff.  So glad CBS has kept that tradition going.

— Can’t wait ’till Oct. 15, first day of practice next year. Let’s go Duke.


**It’s sort of hard to explain to young people just how important Margaret Thatcher was in world history. Oh, Meryl Streep did a great job (so I hear, I haven’t seen it yet) portraying Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” But unless you lived through it, I think it’s difficult to comprehend just how radical her being elected prime minister was.

For 11 years from 1979-90, a woman led one of the most important and powerful countries in the world. Long before Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel, Thatcher was the trailblazer.

She was beloved, she was hated, but she was truly a unique voice in the world.  Reading some of the obits about her on Monday, after she died at age 87,  it was clear that she revolutionized England, modernized it, and did things her own way and in a way no woman leader had ever done before.

She left a giant footprint on the world, and she’ll be missed.

Some TV talk: A really good new HBO show, “Girls,” and some “Mad Men” thoughts. And a car crash video you must see (if you can bear it)

Time for one of my semi-regular “here’s some good TV I’m watching that I want to tell you about” posts.

First, the new HBO show “Girls” received a ton of hype before its debut last Sunday. There were billboards all over NYC, the critics couldn’t stop gushing over it, and the show was basically hailed as the next great HBO show.

Got a chance to watch it Tuesday, and while it may not be the greatest thing since overtime hockey was invented (or sliced bread, depending on your frame of reference), it was pretty darn good.

“Girls” is about four young women in their 20’s living in New York, and the trials and tribulations they endure. But if you think this is “Sex and the City, the Next Generation,” you’d be wrong. The star, Lena Dunham, is no Carrie Bradshaw. She’s 24, depends totally on her parents for money, and does at least five stupid things in the first episode. Yet, she’s kinda lovable.
The rest of the quarter isn’t all that fleshed out yet, but each gets some good lines off in the premiere. It’s a funny show that’s actually quite sweet in some ways, and it looks like it’s going to be very different from your usual sitcom (just the scene with Lena’s Hannah in the hotel room with her parents was fabulous and inventive).
I’m not ready to anoint “Girls” as part of the historical HBO awesome pantheon, but it’s definitely got me back for a second look (And Digger Stiles from “Gilmore Girls”  is in it!).

It’s on Sunday night on HBO at 10:30.


**And now, a couple of thoughts on last week’s “Mad Men.” And I don’t even think I need to say “spoiler alert,” because folks, it’s Wednesday and you should’ve seen it already if you care.

— Fabulous episode. Of course, any episode where the detestable Pete Campbell gets his lights punched out is fabulous. God I hate Pete Campbell. I haven’t hated a TV character this much since Ziggy Sobotka on Season 2 of “The Wire.”
— Though I have to say, Don Draper being the only one to NOT cheat on his wife at a brothel party or whatever the hell that thing they took the Jaguar guy to was pretty stunning.
— I really hope they don’t have Lane leave his wife for Joan. That is one hook-up that I don’t think my eyes could ever “un-see.”
— I know Roger has pretty much no role at the agency anymore, but goddamn, John Slattery has the best lines every week. I loved this gem from last week, when Pete and Lane were about to fight: “I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?”

Man I love Roger.

*Finally today, one of the scariest “driver plows into a building” videos you’ll ever see. It comes from my old employer, the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Last weekend a 76-year-old Florida woman plowed her car into a Publix supermarket, and amazingly didn’t kill anyone.
This is from the surveillance camera at the store; I’m warning you, it’s very scary and a little shocking when the crash happens (around the :32 mark). Like I said, I feel OK posting this here because no one was killed or seriously hurt.

“Mad Men” is back, and I am happy. A 2-year-old cuts a rug on the dance floor. And glorious pictures of spring

**Follow me on Twitter here.

After being off the air for what seems like a hundred years, one of my favorite shows is back on TV this Sunday.

The men and women of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are back! I am talking, of course, about “Mad Men,” the totally awesome AMC show about an ad agency from the 1960s.
I have no idea why they took 17 months between episodes, but I’ve gotten over that. This show’s brilliant acting and writing will quickly make us loyal fans forget about the hiatus.
I wish I could tell you what may happen Sunday: if Don Draper really did marry his secretary; if Joan had her baby, and what’s going on with Peggy these days. But the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, is ridiculously paranoid about details of the show leaking, so even critics have no idea what will happen.

I only hope the show picks up where it left off last season, which was very strong. Don’s proposal came totally out of left field, so methinks that, if the show follows its pattern and skips ahead two years between seasons, Donnie boy is divorced and sleeping with everything that moves again.

And I’m sure I’ll have new reasons to hate Pete Campbell this year.

“Mad Men” is back. Two hour season premiere Sunday at 9. I am happy.

**And now, what’s becoming a weekly staple of Good News Friday here on the blog: Cute kids, dancing like crazy.  Seriously, how good is this kid (whose name is William Stokkebroe) at channeling Elvis? His parents should hire him out for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

**I thought I left 80 degree days in March behind when I moved back to New York from Florida last year, but apparently not. Man oh man has it been warm in NYC this week, almost like it’s late May or something.
As it’s been warm across the country, the good folks at Boston.com’s The Big Picture photo site have had plenty of gorgeous spring photos to choose from. They put together this fantastic gallery that I think will put a smile on your face. My favorites are No. 3 (above), No. 10 and No. 15.

My first-ever book giveaway contest! A “Mad Men” thought (not a spoiler). And Week 1 in the Niffle (NFL)

Big day here at Wide World of Stuff, and no, not because the rain-delayed U.S. Open final starts at 4 p.m.

It’s because I’m doing my first prize giveaway! I’ve never felt more like Wink Martindale in my life. You may remember a few weeks ago I wrote a post about a brilliant idea of a book, called “P.S. I Hate it Here: Kids Letters from Camp.”

It’s basically a compilation of the best letters the author, Diane Falanga, collected; horror stories from kids who desperately hated camp and wanted to be picked up immediately.

I read the book, and it’s brilliant and hilarious. And now, thanks to the publisher sending me a copy, it can be yours for free.

All you need to do to win it is tell me a story of your worst camp nightmare. The hives that lasted for weeks. The bully who tried to drown you in the lake. The camp counselor who made you their personal whipping boy (or girl).

Whoever sends me the funniest, smartest or most interesting tale will win this brand-new copy of the book.

Judging will be based on wit, originality, and being a Jets fan (kidding. Though I’m very nervous about tonight’s game.)

Good luck to all, and send me stories!

**It was a weird episode of “Mad Men,” last night, but don’t worry, I’m not going to give anything away here.
I did come to one discovery, though: Every single man on that show is an ass.

I hate all of them. Don’t give me “it was 1965″ when excusing the behavior of these schmucks. You’re telling me there’s not ONE redeeming man at this advertising firm, or in the lives of these people, Matthew  Weiner?

Just saying.

**Spent the first glorious Sunday of the NFL season watching as many of the early 1 p.m. games as possible, then caught most of the Cowboys-Redskins game. Man am I glad NFL football is back.

A few scattered thoughts:
— Is there a bigger baby in the world than Albert Haynesworth of the Redskins? I mean, really, anywhere in the world? He pouted his way through training camp, bitched to the media about his role on the team, then threw a hissy fit on the sideline after one series Sunday. What an absolute schmuck.

— Huge win for the Texans. Good for them to finally beat Indy. Colts will still go 12-4, though.
— Miami did everything possible to blow that game to Buffalo. Everything. But the Bills refused to take it.
— Wes Welker, you are an amazing man. Nine months after shredding his knee, he comes back with 2 TDs for the Pats, who looked awfully good.

— Finally, a word about my old friend Eric Mangini. The former Jets coach burned every bridge and angered everyone possible last year while head coach of the Browns, yet amazingly, he kept his job.
Then Sunday, with his new boss, Mike Holmgren, watching, the Brownies go out and lose to the worst team in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Bucs. Ah, Mangini, how we (don’t) miss you in NY.

“Mad Men” is back and again is awesome. And a titanic meeting of the family dogs

“Mad Men” is back and not a moment too soon, as we’re in the vast television wasteland of mid-summer right now.

It’s a very odd show, different from most others on TV, but it’s been terrific for two seasons. So naturally it’ll be good again this year, especially since they’ve opened up a lot of new storylines with most of the major players starting their own firm at the end of last year.

Some quick hit thoughts from the premiere Sunday night (SPOILER ALERT: SKIP DOWN UNTIL YOU SEE PICTURES OF DOGS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET)

**Solid episode, with some really funny lines from, of course, Roger Sterling and Don Draper.

**Loved how mean they’re making Betty Draper, like we’re supposed to believe Don is the victim in this divorce. Please. He’s a cad, always will be.

**Hilarious stuff with the two ladies in the diner who fought over the ham.

**Don Draper has to hire a hooker? Really? Guy gets laid a hundred times in the first few seasons, every woman he meets seems to love him, and he needs a prostitute? That part didn’t ring true to me.

**They’re making Pete more likable, dammit. I hate that guy.

**It was a day that been coming for months, and no one knew how it would turn out.
Cautiously, optimistically, thrillingly, we waited until the day finally arrived.
Saturday afternoon, the two family dogs met each other for the first time.

Sadie (right), my sister-in-law’s seven-pound terrier-chihuaha mix, has always had most favored dog status since she’s come into the family five years ago. She’s a bundle of energy, had a spring-loaded ass (can jump from anywhere to anywhere), and is extremely interested in human food (I’m told she knows what the words “burrito” and “Pizza” mean.)
Anyway, since Julie and I got Bernie a few months ago, we knew at some point the two tiny doggies would meet (though at 10.2 pounds, Bernie is HUGE compared to Sadie).
That day arrived. How’d it go? Well, Bernie was all into Sadie, sniffing her butt and chasing her around my in-laws big house. Sadie was sort of annoyed by Bernie, especially since Grandma and Grandpa’s house has always been her sole domain.
At one point Saturday they had a “pooping in the house” contest, with both leaving their marks on the kitchen floor. Another highlight was their staring contest on Sunday, when for about five minutes they just walked toward each other in the kitchen, and wagged their tails while staring intently in each other’s eyes.
It was the canine equivalent of “High Noon.”

Finally, Sadie went home to New York City, and Bernie remained. They didn’t kill each other, and now hopefully next time they meet things will go more smoothly. Meanwhile, Bernie lays here at my feet, exahusted.
It’s tiring trying to get siblings to like you sometimes.

Great fall TV, the power of LeBron helps the Jets, and Rush Limbaugh as NFL owner?

bedwards_560x375So the braincurb-your-enthusiam08‘s a little fried tonight, too fried for any deep thoughts. So, I figured it’s time for a post about the television I’m watching. It’s really been a great fall season; I usually get depressed after the summer when “Rescue Me” and

“Weeds” go off.

But a bunch of my favorite shows have been really good this year:

**”Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I’ve been pretty hard on this show the last two seasons; it was so incredibly awesome for the first four years, with so many classic episodes (“Krazy Eyez Killer,” the one with Larry humming Wagner, the last “Producers” episode, just to name a few), and then I really feel like it fell off a cliff the last two seasons. It was like Larry David ran out of ideas and was just doing anything silly without a point.

But after three episodes the funny is definitely back. The reunion of the “Seinfeld” cast is bound to be hilarious, and good ole’ Leon still won’t leave Larry’s house (he was the only one of the Black family that I liked). It’s been almost as good as it’s ever been, which is good enough for me. And Susie Greene has been screaming at Larry, which I always enjoy.

**”Glee.” I’ve already raved about this show a bunch here, but it has gotten even better as the season has gone along. Jane Lynch is so perfect as the cheerleading coach, the scene with the gay kid Kurt trying out for the football team to Beyonce’s music was pee-in-your-pants funny, and the music is, of course, fantastic. If you’re not watching this yet, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.  If you like “Weeds,” you would definitely like “Glee.”

**Mad Men:” Outstanding start to Season 3. I dislike Pete Campbell as much as ever, especially after Sunday night. I totally don’t get the Duck-Peggy shtupping thing, but maybe she sees in him someone who can make her a star in the ad world. I’m really surprised they still haven’t really explored Sal’s homosexuality in an intelligent way; this is one show I trust wouldn’t fall victim to stereotypes and cheap, stupid jokes.

And the John Deere tractor accident in the office? Too damn funny.

**”Desperate Housewives:” Solid start, though once again I wonder, “Do any of these people ever work at their real jobs?” Love having Gabby and mini-Gabby (her niece) in the same house. So many of these characters are bordering on pathetic to me, though; Susan, Bree (come on, sleeping with Carl???), and now they’re making Katherine a psycho.

Gotta love having Adrianna from “The Sopranos” on, though. I still can’t look at her and not hear her saying “Chris-to-fuh.”

**And of course, my new fave, “Modern Family.” Three episodes in, all hilarious. Wednesday night’s was freakin’ brilliant. Ten-year-old Manny sitting at the kitchen table counseling his “sister,” played by Julie Bowen? Phil and Ed O’Neill’s character flying a model airplane together? This show is so good.

**I got a hilarious voice mail from my sports-obsessed friend Tony Jones this morning, before I’d heard the great news. Well, great news for Jets fans.

“How big is LeBron James in Cleveland? He can get a Cleveland Brown traded! That ain’t even his sport!

I laughed, but Tony’s dead right. Braylon Edwards has been a malcontent for years, missing meetings, fighting teammates, loafing on the field, all of it. And nothing happens to make the Browns want to get rid of him.

But then he punches one of LeBron James’ friends outside a club, and three days later, bye-bye Braylon! You DO NOT mess with a member of the James posse and live in Cleveland to tell about it. I’m sure it was just a coincidence, right?

Anyway, as a Jets fan I’m very happy. Yeah, Edwards comes with some baggage (he drops a lot of balls, has some off field issues) but he’s in a new, winning situation now, and he knows he has to behave and play well if he wants a big new contract. This could do so many things for the Jets offense: take pressure off Jerricho Cotchery, open up the field for tight end Dustin Keller, and give Thomas Jones and Leon Washington some running room by not allowing opposing defenses to stack the line of scrimmage.

(By the way, my mother and my wife, the two women I love the most, didn’t understand a word of what I just wrote. But it’s all good.)

This is a great move made by a bold Jets franchise that’s been making good moves for a few years now (including firing Eric Mangini).

**Finally, it looks like Rush Limbaugh is trying to buy the St. Louis Rams. All I can say is, if it happens, expect the Rams to run a ton of plays to the right.

Thank you. I’m here all week. Try the veal.

Federer and “Mad Men:” A beautiful Sunday


Sunday has always, always, always been my favorite day of the week.

No question about it, Sunday rules. From the Sunday New York Times, which I’ve been reading since, I don’t know, ever, to NFL games, sleeping late, and just the whole relaxed vibe of the day, I am totally, madly, deeply a Sunday fan.

This particular Sunday was pretty darn good: Roger Federer and Don Draper made up my the bookends of my day.

First, Mr. Federer. He had a sensational weekend, dispatching Andy Murray, who’s owned Fed lately, in the semifinals Saturday of the Cincinnati hardcourt event (I’m sorry, but I refuse to write out “Western and Southern Financial Group” as the name of the tournament.).

Then on Sunday, Federer barely perspired in slamming Novak Djokovic, 6-1, in the first set, and winning a close 7-5 second set.

Federer was at another level; I once made the comment that, like in “Spinal Tap,” he can raise his game to 11, while everyone else was stuck at 10.

I actually think the win over Murray was more impressive than beating Djokovic, although both opponents have owned Federer of late. Murray came in absolutely rolling, moving past Rafael Nadal (more on him in a minute) to reach No. 2 in the world, and hardcourt is his best surface.

But while Fed may not be the same guy who dominated so easily a few years ago, he’s not the “bum” who struggled to reach the finals of tournaments earlier this year.

He played beautifully against Murray, attacking the Scot’s second serve, powering forehand winners, and just moving about the court like a butterfly on a spring day (sorry to get all poetic on you).

He was perfect from the baseline in both matches; Sunday you could tell Djokovic (who had a fine week himself) had no answer for Federer.

How do you beat Fed when he’s playing like this?

An imagined conversation between player and coach:

Player: So, um, Roger’s serving 120 miles per hour out wide. How do I deal with that?

Coach: I dunno.

Player: His forehand crosscourt is killing me.

Coach: Yeah, try to stay away from that.

Player: His backhand down the line is eating me up.

Coach: Yeah, stay away from that, too

Player: You want me to stay away from his forehand AND his backhand?

Coach: Yep. OK, I’m going to get lunch. Good luck kid.

It’s truly been an amazing turnaround for Federer this year; if you told me in February, after once again losing to Rafa in a Grand Slam final (for the 3rd time in the last four Slams), that Fed would win the French, win Wimbledon, and be a bigger favorite than Tyson over Buster Douglas going into the Open, even I, a huge Fed fan, would’ve laughed.

But man, who’s going to beat him in Flushing Meadows? I see No. 16 coming right around the bend, as the No. 7 train pulls into Queens.

**Now, about Nadal … Here’s the thing about most tennis fans: We can’t bring ourselves to root against either Federer or Nadal. There are no villains here; both guys are likable, incredibly talented, decent champions that a lot of us want them both to do well.

But after watching Rafa in a few matches since his comeback, I’m worried about the Spanish lefty. He’s moving OK, the knees don’t seem to be bothering him, but he’s just missing … something (I’m using italics too much in this post, I’m noticing. Got to cut that out. Wait, was that out loud?).

Take Saturday night, in his semi against Djokovic. Rafa was getting pushed around the court, playing way too much defense. Novak was dictating everything, and Nadal was scrambling just to stay in points. I know it’s his least favorite surface, and he appeared to have his stomach taped (which baffled the ESPN announcers, and me as well), but I don’t think Rafa’s close to 100 percent yet.

Maybe it’s mental, and he’s worried about re-injuring himself. Whatever it is, I don’t like our chances of a Nadal-Federer final, or even semi-final, at the Open.

**One more tennis thought: ESPN, you’re killing me with these tape delays, especially on matches in America, where’s there’s no time difference issue! I avoided the result of Nadal-Djokovic for a few hours Saturday night, and then watched it on ESPN. But first ESPN shows 10-15 minutes of filler, then toward the end of the second set, I KNEW Nadal wasn’t coming back, because ESPN’s programming window was about to close. It didn’t help, at 5-4 Djokovic, when they ran a crawl saying the stupid “NASCAR Now” show was going to be on at 12:09. Gee, anyone think Nadal was making a comeback at that point?

Tape delays take all the surprise away. And I do love surprises.


***OK, on to “Mad Men.” Big fan of the show, have been since the wife and I started watching it three years ago. I will say, though, that I think the amount of hype the show has gotten has been a little ridiculous. I mean, I understand pop culture arbiters fall in love with a show, and the media elite write and talk about it endlessly, but I don’t ever recall so many writers trying to seem “hip” by writing about “Mad Men.” It’s a really good show.

But let’s not put it in there with “Hill Street Blues” and “The West Wing” and “The Sopranos,” yet, OK?

Anyway, after two episodes this season, my reaction is: Eh. Not thrilled with the way it’s started (SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven’t seen Sunday’s episode. Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.)

I feel like the whole British ownership storyline is forced; I don’t really care about it, and I don’t think the writers have done a great job explaining how this will work. I also feel like they’re pushing some of the best supporting characters, like Joan and Ken, out of the way.

But there’s some good stuff brewing, it looks like. They’re finally developing Peggy’s character more; I feel like they’ve never given her enough to do, or shown us more of who she really is.

The writing is still excellent, and every scene the wonderful John Slattery is in makes me smile (Seriously, who’s been in more great stuff than this guy in the last 10 years? He was in “Ed,” which was criminally unloved, he had a nice guest role on “Desperate Housewives” for a while, and now he’s fantastic in every scene he’s in on “Mad Men.” Love this guy.)

I like where they’re going with Betty’s father, and they may even be setting us up for a discussion of Sal’s homosexuality, which ought to be wildly interesting.

If they would just have more bad things happen to Pete, I’d be happy. Man I hate that guy. Can’t he fall down a well or something?

Anyway, step it up, “Mad Men.” You’re better than what you’ve shown so far this year.