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‘The Beginning’

‘Mad Men’: Where We Left Off

Peggy flaunts cleavage and fishnets, Don finds sobriety and a mandatory leave of absence, and Bob Benson’s still a potential sociopath with a hundred-watt smile.

After seven glorious years, Mad Men—the story of bigwig executives who drink all day, charm clients, and sleep with their secretaries—is set to embark on its seventh and final season on April 13. The first episode of the season is ironically titled “The Beginning.” The season will be broken up into two installments of seven episodes, meaning that the final 14 episodes of Mad Men will be spread over a two year time span. In preparation for Sunday, we're recapping where season six left the series' main characters—though God only knows where they'll end up.

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Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Don

New Look

From Swimsuits to Sitcoms

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Brooklyn Decker arrives at the 20th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party in West Hollywood, California February 26, 2012. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

The curvaceous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model opens up about her transition into acting with the new CBS sitcom ‘Friends with Better Lives.’

First impressions are tough to eradicate—especially in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. Once your role in the industry is set, you’re ensnared worse than Chris Farley in a little coat.  

For Brooklyn Decker, her entrée into the entertainment world came on Feb. 8, 2010. On that night, David Letterman announced on The Late Show that the statuesque blond had been chosen as the cover model of the 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The stunning image of her, smiling coquettishly in waist-deep water in the Maldives, breasts strategically obscured by hand-bra, was plastered on billboards and newsstands everywhere.

The image became so indelible that, one year later, Decker sported an identical yellow bikini in her big screen debut, wherein she portrayed the how-the-hell-did-he-land-her trophy wife of Adam Sandler in the high-concept comedy Just Go with It. A pair of underwritten roles, as Taylor Kitsch’s eye candy in Battleship and another younger trophy wife in What to Expect When You’re Expecting followed, and the burgeoning actress began to question her place within the movie machine.

So she did what so many other underutilized actors are doing these days: turned to television. First came the role of Gina Gibiatti, a nightmare of a woman who’s turned on by bum fights, in the F/X comedy The League, followed by a memorable cameo in arguably the best episode of Fox’s New Girl. The TV gods were so impressed that, when pilot season came around, Decker was cast as Jules Talley, a naïve single gal engaged to a New Age-y nut ball in the comedy Friends with Better Lives, alongside small screen vets Kevin Connolly (Entourage) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek). The show was picked up by CBS and made its premiere on March 31, immediately following the series finale of How I Met Your Mother.

‘You Never Know’

Baseball Books Bring the Heat

Wrigley Field, Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan, Sabermetrics, the Pete Rose controversy—a fine new crop of baseball books looks at the old, the new and the very weird.

Sounds of leather hitting leather and leather smacking wood apparently also translate into sounds of pages turning as Major League Baseball (known around the planet as the “the Bigs,” ”Las Grandes Ligas) opens its 162 game regular season. Our National Pastime occasions a plethora of books and monographs dedicated to an array of baseball-related subjects. You can look to George Plimpton and Jacques Barzun for explanations about the attraction that baseball holds for writers. And there is a notion that many people enjoy reading about the sport more than watching it. In any case, the healthy sampling below confirms the narrative-friendly qualities of hardball.

WRIGLEY FIELD STADIUM

Walter Arce/Landov

This year there are biographies and biographical memoirs for Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Nolan Ryan, veteran pitchers Jerry Reuss and Jamie Moyer, and 30-year MLB umpire Al Clark. There are books on landmark years, special stunts, Moneyball-inspired statistics, a couple of novels and a handful of anthologies.

Judy Blooms

Confessions of a Co-Star

After starring in over 90 movies and TV shows—from ‘Arrested Development’ to ’27 Dresses’ to ‘The Descendants,’ it’s about time Judy Greer got the recognition she deserves.

There’s a game that Judy Greer plays every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Though at times it’s less of a game, really, then it is a chore: helping strangers on the street figure out who the hell she is.

Judy Greer

Doubleday/Random House

Because everyone recognizes her. Don’t you?

NIGHT HAWKS

Which Colbert Will CBS See?

Fans are worried that Stephen Colbert will lose his edge after he takes over from David Letterman on CBS’s The Late Show. But the competition between him, and Jimmys Fallon and Kimmel could refresh the stale landscape of late night.

Oh television, you capricious beast you. One week, Stephen Colbert is the focus of a hashtag-led campaign to have his show canceled amid a race row, the next it is announced he has landed one of the plummest jobs on late-night television.

Stephen Colbert

Scott Gries/PictureGroup

The outstanding puzzle, the one which Colbert, CBS, and even Colbert’s fans will no doubt stoke playfully in the coming year, is which Stephen Colbert will rock up to present his first edition of The Late Show, after David Letterman’s retirement in 2015. He has already indicated it will not be the bug-eyed, conservative-satirizing hyperbolist of The Colbert Report, which has disappointed some fans.

Dark Pop

When Harry Met Cancer

Harry Hudson was about to launch a music career when he found a tumor the size of a grapefruit in his chest. Then the 20-year-old documented his fight on Twitter and Instagram.

Harry Hudson can pinpoint the exact minute he was booted out of the Garden of Eden.

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Brittany Dixon

An up-and-coming musician, Hudson was on the brink of stardom when life came crashing down. He had just managed to score a meeting with the legendary Martin Kierszenbaum, head of Cherrytree Records, the same guy who launched Lady Gaga's career. It was a good meeting. Kierszenbaum seemed impressed. But that sense of elation would last only a few short hours.

Torchbearer

Openly Gay in the NCAA

The 22-year-old guard followed in the footsteps of Missouri All-American Michael Sam and NBA player Jason Collins in confronting their fears and coming out. And this is just the beginning.

College basketball has finally entered the 21st century.

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University of Massachusetts basketball guard Derrick Gordon, 22, enters a hallway before facing reporter on the school's campus, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Amherst, Mass. (Steven Senne/AP)

Exactly two months after NFL prospect Michael Sam publicly came out as gay, University of Massachusetts shooting guard Derrick Gordon has done the same, becoming the first openly gay player in Division I men’s college basketball.

Way Back Machine

Colbert’s First ‘Late Show’

It was in 2005, before ‘The Colbert Report’ premiered. And he’s not in character!

Before Stephen Colbert was officially replacing David Letterman—it’s happening!—Stephen Colbert needed David Letterman.

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CBS

Once upon a time, you see, The Colbert Report had not yet debuted, Stephen Colbert was not yet one of the country’s most beloved late-night personalities (and certainly was not yet entirely defined by the “Stephen Colbert” persona), and The Late Show was not yet a television dynasty with a host soon to abdicate his desk-throne. That time, to be exact, was fall 2005, when Stephen Colbert made his first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, the very show he would be announced as the new host of nine years later.

Adaptation

Woody Allen Returns to Broadway

Bullets Over Broadway seems ripe for musicalization, though the audience may wonder if the on-stage story is Allen’s comment on, or defense of, the moral responsibility of an artist.

Late in the second act of Bullets Over Broadway, one character proclaims of her new lover, “With an intellect that big, you tend to create your own moral universe.”

Bullets Over Broadway

Paul Kolnik

The theme of morality, and the vicissitudes of its codes, runs through this adaptation of Woody Allen’s 1994 film as regularly as the leggy chorines and tap-dancing mobsters who inhabit the 1920s Manhattan of the musical’s world. In the film’s final scene, the protagonist puts aside his own philosophical wrestlings, makes a few satisfying declarations on the value of human life over the integrity of art, and decides to get married and move back to Pittsburgh. In the hands of another filmmaker, the character’s neat conclusions might make for little more than a feel-good Hollywood ending. But Allen shoots the scene in the damp, moody shadows of a Greenwich Village night, and as the credits roll, the viewer is left with the sense that something unsettling, something more complicated, remains hidden and unanswered in the alleys just beyond the camera’s frame.

Viral Vid: Game of Goats

Think ‘The Red Wedding’ farmland-style.

Every new season of HBO’s popular Game of Thrones seems to bring with it a host of cover versions of the sweeping theme song. The last week alone has seen a smooth jazz rendition, an a capella arrangement, and a live performance by the New York Philharmonic conducted by the theme’s composer Ramin Djawadi.

Viral Video

Youtube

After Letterman

Colbert Will Nail ‘Late Night’

Colbert is officially replacing Letterman as the new ‘Late Show’ host. Of course he’ll drop the character and he’ll get the ratings. But will we let him leave the ‘Report’ behind?

Whenever a late-night TV host announces his retirement, there’s inevitably speculation about who will be crowned the next king of the 11:30 time slot. This in turn has created tremendous interest in a response from me. OK, nobody asked, but it seems appropriate for me to weigh in on one of the few issues I can actually be considered an expert on.

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Martin Crook

I know Stephen Colbert, and I’ve known most of his staff—because I was part of it. For more than six years and well over 1,000 episodes, I entertained the live studio audience of The Colbert Report. Every night, I went out in front of the most devout members of the “Colbert Nation” and entertained them with a mix of stand-up and improv. It was the best job in comedy I’ve ever had.

MAKING A NOISE

Life After Sonic Youth

Famed as Sonic Youth’s bassist, Kim Gordon is also an accomplished visual artist who once did a watercolor of Blondie. She talks about life after the band—and the secrets of her artistic process.

There is a certain school of thought that says Kim Gordon—"musician, vocalist, visual artist, record producer, video director, fashion designer, and actress," according to her ever-expanding Wikipedia entry—is the coolest person on the planet.

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Peter Pakvis/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux

Gordon, for her part, cannot possibly understand why anyone would think that, which has the effect, of course, of making her even cooler.

Killer Drama

Is ‘Fargo’ Bloody Good? You Betcha

Menacing and suspenseful with surprising notes of satire and pulpy violence, FX’s ‘Fargo’ is most certainly not a pale imitation of the Coens’ gruesome dark comedy.

There’s something unsettling—and maybe a little exciting—about being on the set of Fargo and hearing the full whirring of a machine starting off the distance. The mind goes to one place: the wood chipper.

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Alas, no one was being ground up into bloody membrane and morsels of flesh—that day, at least—during the shooting of FX’s ambitious, risky, and some might even say sacrilegious limited series adaptation of Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 iconic film. It was just an unseasonably warm day in Calgary, and a fake snow machine was being revved up to help recreate the frigid feel of the setting the Coens described to new Fargo writer Noah Hawley as “Siberia with family restaurants.”

Smoking Reefers

Stoner TV Rules

From the tech nerds on 'Silicon Valley' to the girls on 'Broad City' and bros on 'Workaholics,' everyone's smoking pot on television these days. And they're all inhaling.

On HBO’s Silicon Valley, the tech nerds who stumble into a startup smoke weed with no consequences. At the end of the pilot, actor and comedian T.J. Miller lights and hits a bong. Like a gangster shooting in a Hays Code era motion picture, the inhale and the exhale are shown in separate shots. None of the other characters react. They are all shown to have alcoholic beverages as their narcotic of choice.

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The Daily Beast

Meanwhile, the guys on HBO’s Looking get high and casually converse. Comedy Central’s Broad City features a ganja-centric episode. Marijuana and “stoner” comedy has been making a slow comeback over the last decade. Workaholics has been on the air since 2011 and continues to produce stories about highly functional, stoned people. FX’s Wilfred ends every episode with Jason Gann and Elijah Wood hitting a homemade bubbler (although, like the bong in Silicon Valley, they never clear the chamber).

Fashion Favorite

Candidate to the Stars

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Tibrina Hobson/Getty

It’s always a good idea to get celebrity endorsements for your congressional campaign, right? Well, maybe not when Nicole Richie’s hair color choice is overshadowing your message.

When researching California congressional candidate Marianne Williamson, two of the first article headlines to surface are,“ Kim Kardashian Wears Plunging Top With Menswear-Inspired Look” and “ Katy Perry Exposed a Springy Strip of Upper Belly.”

Last October, the 61-year-old spiritual teacher and author announced her run for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent California's 33rd District, which includes cities in West L.A. such as Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Calabasas, Malibu, and Santa Monica. Although a longtime member of the Democratic Party, Williamson revealed she would be running as an Independent. "I believe that a wave of independent candidates, all committed to a huge course-correction, is necessary to turn our ship around, she said. “I feel my campaign, and most importantly my win, can help inspire such a movement.”

While Williamson’s platform is focused on serious issues like “climate change, humanitarianism, demilitarization, and corporate regulation,” the majority of her media coverage has centered on only one aspect of her campaign: her star-studded supporters. On Tuesday evening, Williamson received support from reality star sisters Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, B-list fashion maven Nicole Richie, and pop princess Katy Perry at her press event held at the Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery in L.A. Publicity for Williamson’s campaign came second to Perry’s new “slimey” green hairdo, Kim’s plunging neckline, and Kourtney’s near Marilyn moment, leading us to wonder: why is she relying on a slew of socialite-cum-celebrities to reach her constituents?

Why the GOP Is Angry About Colbert

When Stephen Colbert was announced as David Letterman's successor, Rush Limbaugh and company both criticized and politicized the move. Keli Goff discusses whether they're actually mad.

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