NEW YORK (AP) — Who could ever forget the wisdom of the rock band Spinal Tap: "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."
After watching the season premiere of "Mad Men," I have hit upon my own truism: It's such a fine line between challenging and annoying.
By traditional TV standards, a lousy episode of "Mad Men" is unthinkable. From its cast to its costumes to its rich sensibility, there's always plenty to admire.
But that doesn't get this brilliant series off the hook as it starts its much-awaited sixth season. The two-hour opener was, simply put, a disappointment — even annoying — for how much it demanded from the viewer and how little it offered in return.
What did we learn from the episode (which, written by series creator Matthew Weiner, aired Sunday on AMC)?
Ad man Don Draper (series star Jon Hamm), though still married to his adoring mate Megan (Jessica Pare), was still tormented, brooding — and philandering. As his inaugural tryst of 1968, Don cheated with the wife of a physician neighbor who was called away from the Drapers' New Year's Eve party on a medical emergency.
"What do you want for this year?" the doctor's sexy wife asked Draper as they lay, one floor below his own apartment (and Megan), in post-coital repose.
"I want to stop doing this," he said.
It was a nice twist and the episode's only real payoff.
Meanwhile, Don's agency partner Roger Sterling (John Slattery) was still gin-soaked and sardonically bleak.
"Life is supposed to be a path," he moped to his psychiatrist, "and you go along and these things happen to you and they're supposed to change you." But it "turns out the experiences are nothing."