Matthew Price, writer and book critic
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Category: Television

Bobby Fischer Against the World

HBO’s new documentary perfectly captures the pathos and ugliness of one of chess’s all-time greats. It’s a fine compliment to Frank Brady’s new Fischer bio, which I reviewed earlier this year in The Boston Globe.


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They F**k You Up, Your Mom and Dad

Peggy Olson is shaping up to be one of the most interesting characters on Mad Men, but little Sally Draper is giving her a run for the money. Played by the startlingly precocious Kiernan Shipka, Sally is by turns manipulative and vulnerable, deeply cunning but profoundly isolated. Don and Betty may not mean to poison her with their shortcomings, but they do, and, whatever her flaws, Sally is now a fully fledged member of Mad Men’s distinguished pantheon of complex, misunderstood women—except that she’s a ten year old girl. (As for the utterly self-possessed Shipka, how many child actors would explain, as she did in an interview at the 2010 Emmy Awards , that they “try to be method on the set”?) We’re rooting for you, Sally.


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The Same Man: Dexter Morgan and Don Draper

As the publicity for the upcoming season of “Mad Men” builds to a frenzy—with 16 Emmy nominations, it’s no longer just a cult fave—I’ve been mulling something that no one seems to have pointed out. Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” and Michael C. Hall of “Dexter” have been doing some of the most interesting work on TV over the last few years. “Dexter’s” macabre delights and “Mad Men’s” delirious period style have rightly been acclaimed, but what strikes me is the similarities between their lead characters. I realize that a serial killer and an ad man might not be the most natural pairing—but Hamm’s Don Draper and Hall’s Dexter Morgan, outwardly studies in conformity, going along to fit in, are desperate men. Gnawed at by an emotional blankness, they summon counterfeit emotions when they’re forced to do so—especially with their romantic partners, the stunning January Jones and the beguiling Julie Benz, respectively—but they are both seemingly incapable of any genuine feeling. They don’t know what to do with themselves. (Unlike Dexter, however, I think Don Draper is at least capable of feeling something—perhaps Season 2 will tells us what exactly that is.)

Is this a new commentary on a particular kind of masculinity? “Dexter” and “Mad Men” are far more revealing about men and women than HBO’s “Tell Me You Love Me,” which put it all out on the table, but didn’t really get down to emotions on a gut level.


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