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Posts Tagged ‘Mad Men’

Pocahontas’ Wedding Site Found [via Discovery News]

Archaeologists working in the historic site of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia have uncovered what they believe to be the Anglican church where Pocahontas was wed to English settler John Rolfe in 1619. Lead archaeologist Bill Kelso and his team have found a number of deep holes they believe were once used as wooden support columns for the 60-foot-long church. A number of graves found near what is believed to be the alter indicates it is the church; important Anglican settlers would have been buried in that area.

Blind People Perceive Touch Faster Than Those With Sight [via Science Daily]

A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that people born blind can detect tactile information more quickly than the sighted. The scientists wanted to study whether those who rely more heavily on a particular sense, as the blind do touch, could process such sensory information faster. “Our findings reveal that one way the brain adapts to the absence of vision is to accelerate the sense of touch,” lead researcher Daniel Goldreich said. “The ability to quickly process non-visual information probably enhances the quality of life of blind individuals who rely to an extraordinary degree on the non-visual senses.”

Sterling’s Gold: How Mad Men’s Fake Memoir Became the Real Deal [via New York Magazine]

“Sterling’s Gold,” a fictional memoir featured multiple times throughout the latest season of AMC’s “Mad Men” this summer, has become a real book. “Sterling’s Gold will be subtitled ‘The Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man’ and feature the same kitschily framed front cover seen on the show (except for a prominent John Slattery head shot). The text will consist of many of the one-liners you’ve already heard, divided by chapters on ‘Clients,’ ‘Women,’ ‘Drinking,’ and such. ‘Being with a client is like being in a marriage,’ reads one familiar koan. ‘Sometimes you get into it for the wrong reasons and eventually they hit you in the face.’”

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Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Mad Men,” “Tomorrowland.”

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After the blockbuster series finales “Mad Men” has enjoyed in the past (think Don’s secret revealed, think the company is sold, think they’re breaking away to start their own firm), last night’s finale was surprising in its dearth of surprises. Little happened that was truly shocking, and generally the plot was unsatisfying and underwhelming. This didn’t feel so much like a finale as a mid-season break, and perhaps Matthew Weiner’s storyboard sketches were too much for a single season this time. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dig in.

The episode opened in the ghost town of an office, typewriters covered, desks unoccupied, Joan reduced to pushing the mail cart. But it’s okay, Joanie; Lane informs her that the partners have given her a sweet title — but no raise. Joan, like a pro, professes only gratitude, for the time being. After all, what more duties could they assign her? “Well, it’s almost an honor,” she says sardonically. And Joanie’s not the only one reduced to clerical duties; we’re treated to Roger typing at his secretary’s desk, maybe because his own spindly, Alice in Wonderland-style desk can’t support anything heavier than his phone, rolodex and emotional baggage.

At the Francis residence, Carla is on duty when creepy Glenn shows up. “I just want to say goodbye,” he pleads. She relents, and their farewells are chaste and almost lamentable. He even asks if she’s decent before he enters her room! He’ll be able to drive in a few years, he says, maybe he can come visit. It’s sweet because you know it won’t happen; it’s creepy because it just might. I loved Glenn’s line, “I say goodbye to people all the time.” But Betty arrives home just as Glenn’s on his way out. “Why do you hate me?” he screams. Betty’s pissed, and she does perhaps the dumbest thing yet: cans Carla. It’s sad to see the most sensible person ever portrayed on “Mad Men” leaving, but at least she was able to vent off the tiniest amount of steam at Mrs. Francis. You go, Carla!

Meanwhile, Don is planning a business trip-slash-vacation with the kids to — where else — California. He’s with his accountant when Betty calls, urgently, but, Don confides, “It’s always urgent.” It turns out it’s no trivial call — Carla was supposed to accompany him out west to look after the children when he has meetings and such. Don turns to Megan (eliciting an immediate groan from those watching) and she becomes his replacement au pair.

Henry Francis, meanwhile, is fed up with Betty’s childish crap. He’s furious that she let Carla go and won’t give her a letter of recommendation after all her years of faithful service. And he doesn’t even know half the crap Carla probably was privy to. Betty throws a fit and asks why Henry is never on her side. “No one’s ever on your side, Betty,” he says, resignedly.

Back in the office, Peggy’s lesbian friend Joyce Ramsay stops by with some out-of-work model (and a horny Harry Crane) in tow. It seems clear that she was subtly giving Peggy a business tip; whether it was altruistic or if she has some endgame in mind is undetermined. It turns out Topaz pantyhose has summarily fired its agency (putting the model out of work). Peggy and Ken jump on it and secure a meeting. At the Topaz offices, Peggy impresses them by spooling off some impromptu ideas (with one stumble from Ken that reminds him why he’s accounts, not creative). As we later find out, she pitched at least four ideas they liked on the spot — all without Don’s input or knowledge.

Out in the Golden State, Don is discovering a odd blissful domesticity with Megan. She’s great with the kids, teaching them songs that are, like her, of French extraction. They sleep together (in a separate hotel room, thank goodness), but it isn’t until Sally and Bobby are fighting during lunch that he comes to a realization. Sally knocks over a milkshake during her protestations, something that would have sent Betty over the edge. Megan, however, calmly intones that it’s just a milkshake and proceeds to clean it up. I have to hand it to her; she’s smart, stable, competent, everything Don needs. He proposes to her the next morning, and she accepts. It’s worth noting that he used the ring the real Don Draper had given Anna. Is it an acknowledgement that he’s found a truly fulfilling relationship? Or is he tarnishing both their memories with a hasty and poorly-thought out marriage?

Their announcement back at the office is humorous. Roger didn’t even know Megan’s last name (though to be fair I don’t think any of us did), and Pete corrected someone that you say “Congratulations” to the groom and “Best wishes” to the bride. It’s strangely fitting that the last time I heard that was from uptight matron Emily Gilmore on “Gilmore Girls.” It’s at that moment that Ken tells Peggy they landed Topaz, a quarter-million dollar account and their first new business since Lucky Strike left. It’s huge news for the two second-in-commands, but when they burst in to tell Don their news is preempted by the engagement. Peggy once again proves her mettle and her unique relationship with Don when she shuts the door and subtly questions him. Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s not pissed.

“Whatever can be on your mind?” Joan asks sarcastically as Peggy stalks into her office. They both light up. “I learned a long time ago not to get all my satisfaction from this job,” Joan tells her. “That’s bullshit!” Peggy corrects. From past experience and her current mood we know full well that Joan has always derived a great deal of pleasure from her job, and she knows full well that her new title is an empty reward. As we soon learn, however, Joanie really shouldn’t be smoking. I’m reluctant to admit it, but the “Mad Men” club over at Slate actually got it right when they predicted Joan kept Roger’s baby from several weeks back. Dr. Rapist, still alive in Vietnam, believes it’s his. Either Joan is betting that Dr. Rapist will die in Vietnam — a real possibility — or she’s hoping for one of two implausible scenarios: an extremely preemie baby, by several months, or that Dr. Rapist missed the day in med school when they learned pregnancies last nine months. Sure, he was a butterfingers surgeon, but the whole nine-months thing is pretty basic knowledge.

Finally, Betty proves she’s not yet over Don when he catches her waiting around for him at the house, which he’s showing to a realtor. Real subtle, Betty. We’re left with a shot of Don and Megan in bed, Don looking out at the bright moon, providing illumination even in the dark of night.

So what really happened? Peggy proved (twice, counting the gloves people) that she is a talented copywriter and sales pitcher, only providing her more ammo for her next fight with Don about attribution. Ken also defined his boundaries, showing he was unwilling to exploit his father-in-law-to-be’s business connections to land new clients. Joan has got at least one awkward conversation coming up. So does Roger. Betty will begin backpedaling on her once-fairytale-like marriage to Henry. Don is once again embarking on a wobbly relationship, it would appear, and we’re not clear how that will affect the children or him. Hopefully when we return to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce next summer business — and the gang’s situations — will have picked up considerably.

Alex Guillén

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This episode delivered oodles of delectable, characteristically “Mad Men” twists. Some of them we saw coming (the Joan/Rodger spawn lives!), and some of them were total game-changing surprises (turns out Megan is like Maria Von Trapp in more ways than one). In the end, life’s inexorable ephemerality consumes our dashing antihero’s thoughts, clouding his judgment and leading him to try to recapture a bit of his lost youth. In other words: mid-life crisis, party of one.

Don wakes up with a “sick feeling” in the pit of his stomach — a sort of Kierkegaardian sickness unto death. Faye encourages him to reconcile his past with his present, telling him that afterward he’ll feel less disjointed and better able to live in the now. Good advice if he were a well-adjusted person, but Don Draper has no interest in the present. In the present, he’s a middle-aged divorcé whose business is on the precipice of total failure. In the present, Don can’t be a god; he has to settle for being “a human being like the rest of us.” And that’s a scary prospect.

Visiting Anna’s house and seeing the wall where he painted “Dick + Anna ’64” shakes Don up even more. Anna’s really dead; he’s lost that chapter of his youth forever. This memento mori mingles with the youthful wisdom of Anna’s niece: “I’ve got the rest of my life ahead of me. So do you.” Yes, Don still has life ahead of him. But who can say how much?

On an impulse, Don proposes to his secretary, Megan. She’s 25, and filled with vitality. She makes Don feel young, too, enabling him to ignore that uncomfortable feeling that comes with the knowledge that he will someday die. It seems that Don, like the teenagers he describes to the people at the American Cancer Society, is mourning his lost youth more than he’s anticipating his future. Because, to his mind, his future holds nothing but old age and eventual death. If he’s lucky.

This turn of events raises a host of questions. Is Don going to tell Megan about his past? Is it possible he actually loves her? How will this affect the balance of power at SCDP? Will this action, done on a whim, somehow wind up making him happy? What about her? The only thing certain is that time will continue to push everything forward. There’s only so much room for mourning the past before, like Betty, you become merely an emotionally stunted shell of an adult human being. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that for Don.

Vanessa Van Landingham

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Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Mad Men,” “Blowing Smoke.”

Editor’s Note: Today’s Convo is down one as contributor Amber Lester is enjoying her honeymoon. The ACG Blog wishes her the best, and she swears she’ll be back next week to offer her thoughts on the season finale.

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Talk about a blast from the beatnik past. I was surprised how excited I was at Midge’s unexpected return, surprised because I had always been cool on her in the first place. But those were the early days of “Mad Men,” when the line between tradition and modernity was clearly defined. Now Don and Co. are more agile, more cutting edge, more with it, and Midge fits more into his world now. Besides, her yellow dress and blue sweater provided some much-needed color in SCDP’s lobby. Still, for a brief moment I was comforted by the thought that maybe Midge was an artist, even a starving one, and that she had ended up with her bourgeois lover from season one.

Alas, Don’s visit to her home and husband unraveled those warm thoughts quickly. It was clearly a shakedown; the husband (not the lovably anti-love beatnik) drops that Midge tracked Don down, that their encounter was not random. They also just so happen to have no cash to buy groceries, so Don “loans” him a tenner. Don also buys one of Midge’s paintings, a pity buy, giving her some cash to further what has obviously become a destructive heroin addiction. The whole encounter is disgusting and dirty, and the shakedown serves as a patent parable for Don and SCDP’s situation. He, too, began the episode by begging Heinz for a shot at the beans and sauces division’s money, only to be shot down. SCDP, like Midge, is going down in flames, but unfortunately SCDP doesn’t have an old sugar daddy it can go crawling back to.

So Don, after studying Midge’s mediocre abstract painting for a while, connects the dots and places a full-page ad in the New York Times denouncing tobacco as an easy advertising gig; the sin sticks sold themselves, he wrote, and its users were helpless but to buy more. Don tacitly consents that Lucky Strike was SCDP’s heroin, and he rips the figurative needle from his arm. The partners (“Get out, Crane!”) aren’t happy — except for Roger, who notes at least someone else can be blamed for the ship sinking — and the ad draws a crank call from Ted Shaw Chaugh. The higher-ups are whipped up in a furious rage, but as Ken and the lower-downs note, nobody’s talking about Lucky Strike anymore.

“You haven’t commented on the ad,” Don tells Peggy. Many SCDPers were upset — Bert even flow the coop — and some, like Megan, thought Don was brave for taking a generic stand. But Peggy neither chides nor praises. “I thought you didn’t go in for those kind of shenanigans,” she says, calling back to the Sugarberry Ham fight from the first episode. They share a little smile, and move on.

Nevertheless, the firm is taking on water, fast, and some desperate measures need to be taken. Peggy is palpably relieved to discover she’s not on the chopping block (yet), but she loses most of the creative team. Interestingly, she points out to Don that, for an agency successful at marketing hams, laxatives, gloves and auto parts, SCDP stinks at selling itself. “Change the name,” she suggests, to Don’s derision. “That’s what we would do if this were dog food.” She may be talking silly, but at least Peggy’s thinking about how to save the company, despite quite literally having to listen through the walls. Don admonishes her that creative is the “least important and most important” aspect of their business, landing on a remarkable parallel to the current climate, where all the emphasis is on the economy and creating jobs and no one worries about things like innovation or talent anymore.

To keep the few people remaining employed, Lane decides that the partners must put up $50,000 to $100,000 apiece — a sum Pete does not have. He spends much of the episode fretting and fighting with Trudy (“Keep your voice down!” she screams) but in the end Don “Moneybags” Draper covers his share — a nice payback on the massive debt he owes Pete. Continuing on, business-wise, SCDP’s future is unclear. What is clear is that it’s not good news when your firm’s greatest financial hope is a pickup in holiday advertising for Sugarberry Ham. They picked up the American Cancer Society, unpaid public announcement work, but it’s something, I guess, and show’s they’re principled.

We were also treated to some weird Sally-Glenn-Betty drama. School is back in session, and Dr. Ginger wants to cut down on Sally’s visits. Betty looks alarmed, and Dr. Ginger recommends seeing a grown-up psychiatrist for her own problems. “You know, I’m a child psychiatrist,” she says. Betty responds with something about feeling comfortable talking with her, but all I could hear was Betty throwing a hissy fit and screaming, “I AM A CHILD!”

Sally and creepy Glenn are secret Coke-drinking friends (gasp!) and Betty is not happy when she finds out (double gasp!). Glenn’s fight-or-flight sprint away was one of the funniest moments of the episode. Betty, of course, finally decides it’s time to move. Henry is unaware of the drama, but Sally knows it’s to get her away from the one friend she seems to have. Is this the last we’ll see of the Draper home? Will Carla have an even longer commute? Does the fainting couch get to go? Will Sally finally become a lesbian in retaliation? We’ll have to wait and see.

Some final notes: As usual Harry Crane was magnificent in the two lines he had (“I didn’t think they’d start with him,” he notes dryly as Coop walks out the door.). Where did Coop even get all that stuff in his little box? He didn’t have an office. Did Don throw out his diary? Why exactly was Dr. Faye canned? And where did Ted Shaw Chaugh get such a good RFK impression?

Alex Guillén

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And that was the sound of “Mad Men” winning yet another Emmy. Can John Slattery direct my life?

Desperation always trumps dignity; it knows no class boundaries. From tertiary season one free spirit Midge to Don himself, there’s no room for ideology in a world of overwhelming need.

SCDP is about to lose everything. They need to drum up business if they’re going to survive, and harried frenzy is driving the operation. No one really knows what to do. When Don meets with the Heinz exec, his sense of urgency comes off as cheap. It’s not helping his cause. Heinz is interested, but not for six months. Gotta make sure the agency still exists, after all.

Soon after, Don “runs into” Midge, his artsy, bohemian buddy from a few years ago. She’s married now, and convinces him to come home and meet her husband. But, as it turns out, all is not well at home. Midge and hubby are both heroin addicts. They’d do anything to get a fix, just as Don would to save his company. Perhaps recognizing the similarities, Don throws some cash her way.

Tortured by feelings of impotency (metaphorically, of course; this is Don Draper we’re talking about), Don goes home and does what he does best — he writes an ad. A full-page open letter in The New York Times about the evils of tobacco. An “I dumped him” tribute to Lucky Strike and the Marlboro campaign that wasn’t. It was impulsive and a little frantic, but maybe just crazy enough to work. They’ve got a shot at an American Cancer Society campaign. It’s pro bono, but good advertising for the advertisers.

The marked lack of tension between principle and need in this episode was masterful. Everything becomes justifiable when you’re desperate. Midge never liked that Don was an ad man, but now that something’s at stake, she’s fine taking the money he made doing it. Don’s got no beef with tobacco — it put a roof over his head and fed his children. But he’ll sure as hell throw it to the wolves if it can save the company.

The spirit of both these actions is fairly underhanded and, as Burt put it, craven. Yet, as an audience, we’re willing to accept one much more readily than the other. Is Don really nobler than Midge? When even our butter packages make us question our reality and we can’t tell if the image or “after image” is real, isn’t it all just blowing smoke?

Vanessa Van Landingham

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Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Mad Men,” “Chinese Wall.”

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Shit finally hit the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce fan this week when word finally slipped out about Lucky Strike’s departure. I only wish Lane had not been across the pond for the little agency gathering where the news was broken. Instead, we were stuck with accountant Joe, who was able to muster about as much enthusiasm as a soft peach. Has anyone ever muttered “accounts payable” in an exciting way?

What was enjoyable about the whole Lucky Strike affair was the manner in which, one by one, SCDP’s top brass reverted: emergency. Ken abandons his fiancé and her parents at a dinner; Pete leaves his birthing wife at the hospital with Mr. Clearasil; Don dumps Faye to await his return on his couch — before cautioning her not to spill the beans, of course. They gather at the office, Coop too, and Roger puts on a nice little horse-and-pony show of “calling” Lee Garner, Jr. and arguing with him for a bit. Roger even pulls a Jayson Blair and calls in from North Carolina while he’s really at a hotel in town. Joanie, smartly, ignores his request that she meet him there, so he shows up at her pad instead. “I’m not the solution,” she imparts. “I’m another problem.” “So that night we got mugged, that was the last time?” he asks, fedora askew, on his way out the door. “Wish I’d known that.” Never fear, though; Joan and Roger are never truly done with one another.

Back at the office, of course, Roger is missing a veritable triage of clients. The episode covered only a few days, and so far it appears only one other client has pulled out after Lucky Strike — Glo-Coat. Don breaks his Clio in anger and, forgetting all about Pete’s covering up his identity theft by spiking a $4 million deal with North American Aviation the week prior, lets loose on Pete. “Who do you think you’re talking to?” Pete says before stalking off back to the hospital. Seriously, how long was Trudy in labor, a week? Have the freaking baby already! While Pete waits, Ted Shaw Chaugh drops off a rattler and a proposition — C#1 at the firm of CGC is retiring, and Ted wants Campbell to be the new C. Pete doesn’t really have time to consider the proposition, but you know it will weight heavily on his mind next episode as he realizes he has a family to take care of and a firm potentially collapsing.

Desperate, Don begs Faye for the name of some clients who are adrift or unhappy with their current ad men. The ethical standards in this industry are low enough, she says, choosing not to make the obvious comparison with Don’s ordering her to keep a lid on the Lucky Strike bombshell. She storms out of his office, and Megan promptly moves in. She’s an artistic person, and one day she’d like to do what Don does — but first, she’d like to do Don. Shockingly He sleeps with her, shades open, not caring if the rest of Manhattan sees. Everything about Megan is suspect; is she some deep-cover operative placed at SCDP by one Ted Chaugh, or is she really just a slutty artist secretary? It’s worth noting that her hair, previously a tight bun like Joan, is now fluffier, like Peggy. Has she heard the rumor that Peggy got where she is by sleeping with Don and is now trying to replicate that? Whatever the case, Don returns to his apartment to find Faye slipping a note under the door. She’s gotten Heinz interested, she says, her ethics violated for a man who just violated her relationship. In that moment Faye crumbles. She had been the first woman to really stand up to Don; I’m not having any of that I’m in charge BS! In the end, though, Faye proved willing to compromise her professional ethics for him.

Peggy, as usual, had a compelling subplot. She’s finally hooking up with Abe, who apparently didn’t completely torpedo his chances with that little ditty against corporate America. He’s adventure-seeking, and shows up with a COD for Peggy — and the C doesn’t stand for cash. Stan seems to be jealous, or at the very least ignorant, and decides that the uncertainty at SCDP has provided him with an opportunity to finally seduce Peggy. She pushes him away, but he retaliates later by not telling her about lipstick on her teeth during a big meeting with Playtex. Obviously she was nevertheless convincing; Peggy lands the account without any hesitation from the clients. Hopefully this is something she can trot out later when Don claims she never does anything. This one was all Peggy. The only troubling thing was her mischievous smile after Stan left; was it merely a one-upmanship deal or is there some sexual tension developing there? I hope not, because I like Abe a lot more than Stan.

As much excitement as this episode contained — Lucky Strike is gone! Peggy’s nailing Abe in her office! Pete’s a father (again)! — it still lacked much of the deeply engrossing character interiority that marks all the truly memorable “Mad Men” scenes. The closest we came was with Roger and Joan, but even their conversation seemed restless, the topic swerving from Roger’s mistake to Joan’s pajama choice and back again. Listen, as long as she doesn’t look like cotton candy, Joan can wear what she likes to bed, thank you very much. Otherwise this episode was largely exposition. There’s nothing wrong with exposition, but hopefully it will be utilized for maximum effect for the final two episodes of the season.

Some final notes: Danny “Hobbit” Siegel, unseen for several episodes, returns to provide a cheap gag and show off his apparently considerable pipe aficionado. Harry Crane had a total of two lines and managed to steal every scene he was in; Rich Sommer is fantastic and criminally underused. And does Stan own anything other than polo shirts?

Alex Guillén

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When one thing dies, another is born. “Mad Men” was all about death and birth last night, but a little more on the death side. As Pete became a father, albeit from a safe distance, the proverbial house of cards fell down for Don and the rest of the staff at SCDP.

Things that caught the axe: Lucky Strike and Glo-Coat accounts; Roger and Joan’s prolonged fling; poor David Montgomery, some ad man Roger hates; and Don’s uncharacteristic stretch of fidelity.

But on the upside, a few births happened: Pete’s daughter (obviously) and Peggy’s love life and ability to sell a pitch.

This episode felt like a long time coming, but that doesn’t mean I was looking forward to its arrival. I was starting to feel uneasy about Don’s growing ability to steady his ship, and if I’m feeling the unease, lord knows Don must be, too. His new focus on becoming a better man was tested severely when the future of SCDP suddenly quaked and, as so many hip hop divas have warned us, once a cheater, always a cheater. Megan presented herself practically on a platter and Don, being a connoisseur, couldn’t say no to trying a new dish. I’m pretty bummed about this development, especially after he tried to convince Faye to give up on her silly ethics. She called him on it, and look what she gets.

It’s hard to know what the ending of this story is, since Faye relented and they cuddled up at the end of the episode. I’m really pulling for these two, but she deserves better.

Meanwhile, Peggy was cuddling up with Abe (finally!), who seems to have learned some game since we saw him last. She looked so darn cute in her beach clothes that I couldn’t help but smile when she was forced to sit on Abe’s lap. I was also happy to see her successfully sell a Don-style pitch for latex gloves, even with lipstick on her teeth. I just hope they didn’t buy the ad just out of pity for poor Pegs.

Roger is at a new low, chuckling over the death of David Montgomery, pretending he didn’t know about the impending loss of his only account, pushing himself on Joan and looking disdainfully upon poor Jane. Even Bert had some spicy words for Roger: “Lee Garner never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously.” I feel like Roger is this close to another heart attack or being found in a gutter. Something’s gotta give, and coming home to a box of self-congratulatory memoirs probably didn’t make him feel that much better.

We’ve passed the midway point in the season, so as we barrel toward the finale, I’m a little scared to see where we go. This season has been a little painful to watch, so I hope we get some bright spots soon. Too bad they couldn’t show us Don’s trip to The Beatles concert last week!

Amber Lester

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A lot happened this episode, yet it somehow felt a bit boring. For a show that consistently wows its audience with its ability to defy expectation, this was a particularly predictable installment. Maybe that was the point, though. Maybe Matthew Weiner and co. are trying to throw us off. After all, when it comes to “Mad Men,” what could be more unexpected than the expected?

Although I had hoped last week’s episode marked a maturation point for everyone, especially Don and Roger, I suppose it wouldn’t be “Mad Men” without horrible, self-sabotaging decisions on the parts of both these fine man-boys. Of course, Don Draper would recoil from real intimacy, cheating on Faye with sexretary Megan; of course, Roger would refuse to ‘fess up to his knowledge of the Lucky Strike crisis and run to Joan for comfort; of course, the employees and affiliates of SCDP would all display some questionable moral values — scalping clients at a funeral, asking others to compromise long-upheld business ethics, giving in to those requests.

The characters are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary in the name of their various pursuits. But the question remains: What, exactly, will be necessary? I may have been a little…whelmed by this episode, but I get the feeling it was the calm before the storm.

Predictions for the final two episodes: There’s a good chance I’m reading too much into these signs, but, for a couple of reasons, I think SCDP is going to come out of this disaster just fine. As we all know, this show has no problem writing out fairly major characters (Can we start a campaign to bring back Sal?); it would’ve been fitting enough for Trudy’s labor to end in the death of either her, the baby, or both of them, foreshadowing the death of the fledgling agency or the family the principals have created there. Instead, she had a long, extremely difficult birth, but everything turned out all right. To me, this symbolizes the rebirth of SCDP, albeit after an arduous battle.

My money says these guys land Heinz, a relatively small company that we all know blows up and goes on to unleash John Kerry on the world. Like Jane’s cousin (or, as I like to call him, Lamest-Buffy-Villain-Ever), it’s standing at the back of the room with its hand up, waiting to be noticed amidst the mass of other accounts. SCDP is going to be the agency to notice it.

Vanessa Van Landingham

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Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Mad Men,” “Hands and Knees.”

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Last night was the tenth episode of this season of “Mad Men,” and as in previous years this is about the time when secrets start to boil over and the plot aims itself toward the finale in a few episodes — the revelation that Don is not really Don in season 1, the sale of Sterling Cooper in season 2, the formation of SCDP in season 3, and now, perhaps, the end of SCDP in season 4.

Roger did not have a good time of it last night. First, Lee “In The Closet” Garner, Jr. drops it on him that Lucky Strike — which Lane was kind enough to make clear earlier in the season is the majority of SCDP’s business — is pulling out to consolidate their advertising under a different agency. Roger successfully begged his way into 30 more days, but what good that will do is unclear. At the same time, his post-mugging hook-up with Joanie a while back (only one week for us viewers) led to an accidental pregnancy — Joan’s third, if I remember correctly. Roger suggests they wait and see if Joan’s husband, Dr. Rapist, who is in Vietnam by now, lives to see the child. “Greg dying is not a solution to this,” she huffs. The solution, it turns out, is a far-away hush-hush abortion. Joanie is confronted with a could’ve-been (or maybe a should-be) at the clinic, the early-30s mom there with her knocked-up 17-year-old daughter. Joan lies about having her own young daughter there that day, but is it simply to save face? It’s entirely possible Joan’s first abortion was 15 years prior, and she could have been in the same situation as that mom. Poor Roger, who wanted to be a bit more gentlemanly this time, was pushed aside. Not a good night at all.

Lane, who hadn’t been around much lately, had his own surprise revelation: black Playboy girlfriend! Is Lane just using her to distance himself from his family back in England? That certainly was the assessment of his gruff father, Robert Pryce. The scene from which this episode gets its name was humiliating for Lane (not to mention potentially brain-damaging after such a strong cane to the temple). Under physical duress Lane promises to return to sort out his family matters. Will we see Toni (played by the lovely Naturi Naughton) return? Hopefully, she isn’t relegated to a simple means like Kinsey’s girlfriend a few years back.

The North American Aviation account has moved forward enough that the office needs to obtain some clearance from the government. Betty is perturbed when some DoD agents show up to question her about Don’s past, for whom she competently if bumblingly covers. When he finds out what’s happening, Don freaks almost as badly as Sally when he told her about the Beatles concert (something so incontrovertibly awesome even Betty can’t be mad). But that’s nothing compared to when some possible G-men scare him in front of his apartment with Dr. Faye. Don practically keels over then and there. Later, he tells Faye about his past (her response? “My goodness.”) in some effort to abate his fear. But his problems remain; should the DoD dig much deeper, they’ll uncover Don’s real identity. He has Pete kill the $4 million NAA account, a giant dent in SCDP’s frame that looks like the ham account compared to the loss of Lucky Strike.

Pete, meanwhile, is frustrated by having to cover for Don again. He laments to the enormously pregnant Trudy that so many people just float through the world causing collateral damage and that he is one of the honest people who has to pick up the pieces. But we know Pete’s not honest, and the irony of saying that while perched next to his pregnant wife is astounding.

“We avoided a tragedy,” Joan assures Roger before the partners’ meeting (or, as my episode notes say, the “partners’ meeting of SECRETS + Bert Cooper”). But it seems pretty clear they haven’t, not in the long run. Don threw off the feds, for now, but at the price of a $4 million account and by pissing off Pete. Roger slightly delayed Lucky Strike’s departure, but 30 days flies by. Joan got rid of this baby, but as her doctor warned her, having so many abortions could render her barren for if and when Dr. Rapist returns from Vietnam. And Lane’s leave of absence can never solve his long-term familial problems across the pond.

We again got only the briefest glimpse of Harry, although he insisted he had to jet off to California right away on the NAA contract. His frequent California trips appear poised to come back and bit him in the ass. Sadly, there was no sign of Peggy, who was apparently holed up with the rest of creative and art. Finally, what the hell was Trudy wearing? It looked like she had wrapped her torso in cotton candy. The cast of “Mad Men” has generally pulled off the ’60s look, but that train wreck of a nightie was almost as bad as Lady Gaga’s meat dress.

Alex Guillén

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Living a lie is the hardest thing in the world, and yet it’s the norm in the offices of Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce.

This week’s Mad Men focused on what happens behind closed doors and the secret lives being led by the firm’s partners. In a way, the episode was also about what Mad Men is always about: daddy issues. Roger fathered a child he didn’t want (or did he? or didn’t he?). Pete Campbell is weeks away from becoming a father and is busy judging Don for the secrets he keeps (remember that baby you never knew, Pete?). Lane conveniently forgot he has a family in England, and tried to get his father’s approval of the new life he’s chosen for himself. And Don, oh Don, tried to make it up to Sally with Beatles tickets, while he came face-to-face with the past he’s always running from.

Jon Hamm turned in an amazing performance this week as Don is hunted by G-men doing a routine security clearance check. It was so classic to watch Betty fidget when the DoD guys asked her if Don goes by another name. Come again? The usually unflappable Don was completely and thoroughly turned inside out when he thought he saw G-Men in his apartment hallway, enough that he thought he was having a heart attack. Jon Hamm can literally sweat on demand — very impressive. The scene gave us another peek into the new, tender, honest Don who is trying to get it right with Dr. Faye. He tried to push her away, but she stuck by his side and offered support when he told her about his desertion. A gold star for you, Faye!

Lane showed he’s got a loyal gal pal, too, but he sure does not deserve her. I felt like he chose Toni specifically to rile up his stodgy dad — a black Playboy bunny? Really, Lane? He acted like a rebellious teenager when his dad told him he needed to come back to England, and then Dad up and beat Lane down. I can’t lie… I was on his dad’s side on this one. Lane’s wife is a bitch, but Lane can’t just live these double lives blithely unaware of the consequences. That’s Roger’s bag!

And Roger… oh Roger. He again tried to be the stand-up guy for Joan, this time offering his support when she revealed she was pregnant with his child. But as usual, Joan had to clean up the mess. I was a little stunned when he said, “If we have a future, I don’t want us to start with a scandal.” Um… did getting robbed of his wedding ring cause him to forget about Jane? Joan was the consummate professional through it all, but a part of me wanted her to have the baby. Didn’t her doctor warn her that having abortions could cause trouble down the road?

In the midst of all the personal turmoil, SCDP is still struggling on the business front. Lucky Strike has all but walked out the door, and Don is forcing Pete to give up the airline contract (Don really, REALLY should have owned up on that one. Pete isn’t going to soon forget this affront). Lane is leaving to piece his life back together. I might be getting my hopes up, but I’m ready to see some of that old Draper magic again soon. Let’s hire Sal back and write some good campaigns, guys!

Amber Lester

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Our favorite SCDPers (minus Peggy, which is just unacceptable — give them a bigger budget, AMC!) have been straddling two worlds. And shit is hitting the fan. It’s time for them to grow up or bow out, but they definitely have to make a choice. “Either there, or here. You will not live in between.”

Lane thinks he knows what he wants: to live in New York and sex up his Playmate. In fact, he’d rather do that than ever see his son again, refusing, initially, to return to London even for a visit. And that’s a pretty horrible message to send to your child. (As is a cane to the face, but still…) Lane may have daddy issues, and rightfully so, but he’s perpetuating the same abuse he’s obviously suffered at the hands of his own father, albeit decidedly less physically. At the end of the episode, Lane makes up his mind to give responsibility a shot.

Speaking of offspring — poor Joan. She wanted a baby with her husband, and when she wasn’t getting pregnant, she thought it might be her fault. After all, she’s been around the block a couple of (dozen) times and had to get things “taken care of” before. As it turns out, Joan’s baby-making parts work just fine. As do Roger’s. Joan abandoned promiscuity in favor of (what she thought would be) the stability of marriage, and her indiscretion with Roger — an echo of that former life — is costing her a lot more anguish than she bargained for. It’s time for Joan to figure out who she wants to be, and whom she wants to be with. (Sidebar: I think we all know what the right choice is. That baby would’ve had more swagger than the spawn of T.I. and The Fonz.)

As for Roger, he’s got his own issues to deal with. Lucky Strike Tobacco, the biggest account the company has (and the only reason Roger is still relevant), is headed for greener pastures. Roger’s been riding the wave of his father’s entrepreneurship down the hedonism pipeline his entire life. He inherited everything he has. As he hunkers down and goes through his Rolodex, probably doing actual work for the first time in his life, Roger’s showing that he can be the kind of man who fixes his own problems. In his 50s, Roger’s finally deciding to grow up. 

Don, on the other hand, seems to be reverting. More than anyone in the entire series, Don Draper is a man of many worlds and many secrets. And when they’re in danger of being exposed, he loses it, physically and mentally. No, he’s not going insane, but the progress he’s made recently is slipping away. And although his is no longer a choice between “being Dick” and “being Don,” he does need to choose between old, philandering, unhappy Don, and new, mature, fulfilled Don. Now that Faye knows his secret, is he going to push her away? Is this just too much intimacy for him? Judging by the lascivious eyes he was making at his secretary, next week’s episode is going to answer those very questions.

Vanessa Van Landingham

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Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Mad Men,” “The Beautiful Girls.”

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R.I.P. Ida “Hellcat” Blankenship.

The once-catty secretary executive secretary finally croaked, and she had the timing to do it with auto parts execs in the conference room. While sad, her passing certainly was not all that surprising, and led to the funniest sequence since last season’s lawnmower bit. “My mother made that!” Harry Crane yelped as they rolled her down the hallway, wrapped up in his now-tarnished afghan.

Thankfully, Ida was able to drop a few more barbed witticisms before keeling over, including giving insight into advertising. “It’s a business of sadists and masochists,” she told Peggy, freshly shot down yet again by Don. “You know which one you are.”

Head-on-desk action aside, it was Ladies’ Night on “Mad Men.” Practically every chick in the office got screen time, from Peggy and Joan and Sally to Faye and Megan and even Allison (aka Lesbian Photographer). Thankfully, Betty was kept to a minimum, as it should be.

Rapid-fire recaps:

Peggy got flirty/angry with insufferable pre-hipster Abe when she and Allison “ran into” him at a bar. He accosts her for representing the auto parts people, who won’t hire blacks for their stores. She storms off when he doesn’t seem as sympathetic to women’s causes. He shows up with some article that would kill her career; she makes him promise to kill it. Allison suggests she might like him (lesbian licking aside). Peggy’s story here was not as fulfilling, but it seems to be setting something up. She lamented earlier feeling threatened by new copy editors; might a black copy editor be in the future? That would make for interesting stories.

Joan (who still manages to be a bombshell in frumpy clothes and glasses with her hair pulled back) has a tiff with Roger, who sends over some authentic Swedish masseuses to “rub her the right way.” They reminisce over the good times at the out-of-the-way restaurant where they used to go during their midday trysts, where the clientele, Joanie notes, seems to have gotten older. Walking through “the old neighborhood,” which has gone downhill, Joanie and Roger are held up (Roger seems to be an old pro at it). The rush is too much for Joan, and she makes out with Roger for a bit. The next morning she acknowledges the kiss but stresses that they are both married. The theme here was beaten over our heads; Joan and Roger, revisiting their past love’s geography, found instead only aged, decayed locales, bereft of any former glory.

Sally hops on a train to the city, where some nice old dowager drags her in and shits on Don for a while. He’s pissed, and has Faye take her home (more on Faye later). That night she’s very saccharine, and manages to sweet-talk her way into a trip to the zoo the next day before Betty can be bothered to come pick her up. But Sally turns into a little Betty when it finally is time to go, kicking and screaming and running and falling. I’m still not sure what the whole deal with Megan was, so we’ll have to wait and see. Miss Blankenship made an astute observation; Sally has become a svelte young lady, no longer the pudgy ballerina who graced the first season.

Faye (who Don, despite his protestations last week, has bedded satisfactorily) felt her façade crumble a little bit more this week. Faced with actually interacting with a child, Faye turned into Dr. Faye, distant and proper. She freezes up again the next day during Sally’s hissy fit. She’s not good with children, she tells Don, and she wasn’t certain how to handle meeting Don’s kids before she got thrown into the Sally situation. He did some talking, probably comforted her, but to be honest I find it difficult to care about her and I zoned out for a minute. I did catch the conflicted look on her face as she entered the elevator with Joan and Pegs, a look they all shared. It’s a fine line between love and hate, ladies.

Peggy’s storyline seems more intimately connected to the civil rights movement than previous stories. Seemingly momentous historical moments (like Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech) have passed by with little more than a throwaway acknowledgment. So far on “Mad Men,” the civil rights movement has mostly been white people talking about black people. “Mad Men” has had a grand total of three black characters (Carla, Kinsey’s girlfriend and the elevator operator from the old building who once had a very awkward conversation with Pete). Are we finally going to see some color at SCDP, or is it all so much talk?

History lesson! Who is the “Ogilvy” Roger mentions when talking to his publisher? A quick Wikipedia search reveals Roger was talking about David Ogilvy, of ad agency (and SCDP rival?) Ogilvy & Mather, the “Father of Advertising.” Apparently one of his greatest successes was “Only Dove is one-quarter moisturizing cream.” Ogilvy’s 1963 book “Confessions of an Advertising Man” was mentioned back in season 3. I guess Roger’s memoir, even with its revelations about Coop, can’t stand up to Ogilvy’s bestseller.

Alex Guillén

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This episode was all about the building tension of having more women in the workplace, with more diverse roles, who are nudging toward more equality and independence but are unable or unwilling to completely give up on men (though Peggy seems to be getting closer every day!).

Faye wrestled with her decision to pursue her career over marriage and children. I was nervous the moment I spied her in Don’s bed, thinking they are moving too fast, but the way he tenderly held her in his arms as she confessed she doesn’t know how to act around kids was very, very sweet. He gave her an empathy he could never seem to give Betty, possibly because Betty didn’t have it in her to admit domestic failures, even when she was literally paralyzed by them. I still think Faye is a good match for Don, possibly for the long haul, but I’m not sure she’s got the chops to be stepmom to that wild Sally Draper.

Speaking of Sally — wowza. Sally seemed bent to prove to her father he didn’t need any ladies in his life except her. She can cook, she can take care of her brothers. She tried to show how life would be easy with her around, just French toast every morning and trips to the zoo. But when she didn’t get her way, she pulled a Betty and threw the hissy to end all hissys, conveniently in the hallway of her father’s workplace. It was hard for me to tell if she really tripped or threw herself, seizing an opportune moment. I had a little trouble understanding the response of the women in the office, who couldn’t tear their eyes away. Did they empathize with Sally or did they empathize with Don? I think a little of both, but it occurred to me that they might just empathize with the overwhelming desire to throw a huge hissy if it will disrupt a man’s day just once. They spend so much time hiding their emotions, I couldn’t help but think their thought bubbles said, “You go, girl!” the moment Sally smacked the floor.

Joan, who has worked so hard to keep her emotions in check over the past few episodes (sometimes unsuccessfully), spilled over when she found out her husband will be going to Vietnam. Roger was the hero in this episode, understanding more about Mrs. Harris’ needs than Mr. Harris will ever understand. Not only did the man order up an at-home spa day for his soul mate, but protected her during a mugging, proving himself possibly the most dignified victim ever. Of course, she repaid him with sex in the street. Was it wrong to root for that?

Peggy, meanwhile, was finally reunited with Abe the Journalist, who I originally liked. But Abe proved himself to be a little lacking in wooing capabilities and managed to offend her and her work. He didn’t get why she can’t get worked up about civil rights; when she explained that it’s because she doesn’t have much in the way of rights either, he laughed. I swear, Peggy is going to be Gloria Steinem by the end of the decade.

And last, but certainly not least, Miss Blankenship left us all too soon. Some jokes were made at her expense; Roger eulogized her as “dying like she lived: surrounded by people whose phones she answered,” and another in the office said her cause of death was Don Draper. I thought Bert’s sorrow over her loss mirrored Roger’s feelings for Joan. I think Miss Blankenship’s death certainly reminded the office’s women of an ugly truth: their lives are devoted to mens’ interests.

The closing shot looked like a still from “Three Pennies in a Fountain”: three women, unlucky in love, sharing an elevator. Not sure what it signified, but I was struck by the picture of those closing moments: woman after woman after woman in the workplace. The world is changing, and quickly.

Amber Lester

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The good old “Mad Men” identity construction arc was back in “The Beautiful Girls.” In the past, we’ve seen a lot of this storyline as it relates to Don Draper, but what resonated most about this episode, for me, was the faces the women of SCDP put on to get what they want, and how falling flat on them (sometimes literally) is an inevitability. 

It’s strange — I thought I would be excited beyond belief for THE RETURN OF ROGER AND JOAN, but watching Joan compromise the morals she’s worked so hard to establish and maintain was oddly disquieting. It seems like Joan’s desperation is wearing her down, and with her husband no longer physically present, she’s losing the firm grip she once had on her “married woman” persona.

Faye also lost it a little this episode. Her “cool and collected” mask cracked, and she let on to Don that she wanted to have the DTR and wondered sometimes if and when she would meet his children. She’s not used to being “dating Faye,” and having to preserve this nonchalance in the face of notorious womanizer Don Draper can’t be easy.

In many ways, Peggy has been lying to herself more than any of the women, going so far as to alter the way she speaks to better play her role. “One more drink and it’ll come out,” she jokes about her Brooklyn accent. But it isn’t a joke; it’s indicative of a larger problem that she has. Peggy is fully capable of deeper understanding of the social and political climate, but until now, she’s chosen to ignore the incongruity between what she does and how she feels – between who she really is and who Madison Avenue says she should be. When her date forces her to scrutinize her actions, the wheels in Peggy’s mind are set, perhaps irrevocably, in motion.

I can’t wait to watch our budding activist reconcile her political and moral ideologies with her work at SCDP. Pushing social awareness onto her colleagues is going to be an uphill battle, but as Mrs. Blankenship pointed out, theirs “is a profession of sadists and masochists,” and we know which one Peggy is. Let’s just hope she doesn’t end up dying at her desk.

Vanessa Van Landingham

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Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Mad Men,” “The Summer Man.”

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“You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency.”

Those soon-to-be-immortal lines — solid advice for college freshmen — were spoken by Peggy. It came amidst one of the three plots, all exploring self-empowerment.

First, Don. On a date with Bethany van Blowjob he runs into no other than Henry and Betty Francis. Awkward! Betty almost pukes at the encounter, although it might have something to do with the Scotch-and-cigarettes. “Don’t you want to be close with anyone?” she asks him, referring to his lax attention. She’s right; he does, but not with someone who talks about how he’s from a different generation. Yikes! He realizes he’s no different from Henry “Has A Daughter Her Age” Francis, just 15 years younger.

Don slyly hits up Dr. Faye for a date (after not-so-surreptitiously listening to her break up with “David”). There, he admits that he’s not welcome at baby Gene’s birthday party the next day, that “he thinks that other man is his father.” She tells him that he can and should present the reality to Gene that he wishes. Perhaps most indicative of Don truly trying to change, he fends off Faye’s advances (has he met a woman who didn’t throw herself at him?). Apparently he didn’t have the same taxi driver as on his date with Bethany; this one probably sighed in relief when the infamous Don Draper stopped with a little smooching.

Don brazenly shows up uninvited and spends at least a few happy seconds with his son, whom he openly admits during the narrative punctuates the action with poignant observations and beatnik-level contempt. Is it a journal, a way for him to keep track of his rise from rock bottom? Is he writing a letter to someone (the deceased Anna; Betty; Sally)? Is he writing a memoir, to be released a week after Roger’s? If so, how will he top the ball-less Cooper bomb?

Betty, whose search for empowerment collides with Don’s at the end, is upset by seeing Don and Betty 2.0 out on a date. She spirals quickly, shaking her way into a stall and dropping her purse on the way. Fortunately, she gets to bitch to Francine (Anne Dudek and her four lines stealing the scene, of course) about how Don shouldn’t be allowed to have that swinging bachelor life and his family. I guess she forgot that he doesn’t seem to see the kids that much anyway. But one glimpse of her shirtless and surprisingly fit hubby coming in from lawn mowing helps her realize: she has everything, and Don has nothing. You keep rationalizing, Betty; that last shot showed deep down you’re unhappy.

(more…)

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