Thursday, August 19, 2010

MAD MEN so far

My thoughts on MAD MEN so far this season… not that anyone asked.

I guess I should say SPOILER ALERT although for Godsakes it’s Thursday. Watch it already.

First off, this is one of the best seasons so far. Usually they take three or four weeks to leisurely just set things up. This year they were off like a shot and every episode is packed with surprising events, wonderful moments, and this week they added nudes.

Don Draper under pressure is compelling to watch. And thankfully we’re seeing him deal with new pressures. The “will I be discovered for who I really am?” stuff was great season one, and “do I want to go through life living a lie?” was fascinating seasons two and three, but “will I get so shitfaced I take off all my clothes, put a rubber glove on my head, and parade around Sterling-Cooper yelling ‘Hey I’m a squid!”? is much more fun.

They’re systematically taking away all of his support systems and isn’t it interesting to watch a golden boy go bad? It’s like the realization of all our high school fantasies! Usually Don is so savvy in handling people but now the old tricks aren’t working. It’s a new world now that Bobby Dylan has replaced Bobby Darin.

And I don’t know if it’s all the drinking, or just shifting attitudes but Don Draper, who used to be Fonzie in a suit, has suddenly become clueless when it comes to dealing with women. Giving his secretary her bonus in cash after sleeping with her and asking her to write her own recommendation when she quit – Jesus, those are Pottsy moves, not the Fonz.

On the other hand, it’s such a delight to think that in some cases even I know more about women than Don Draper!

The brilliance of the show is that you are enthralled with this character, damaged and at times even hateful, and you can’t wait to see what he does next.

If there’s a unified theme for the rest of the work gang its’ “Be careful what you wish for”. Peggy has her independence but is being pulled to settle down with Ralph Bellamy. Joan is unhappily married to a young mediocre doctor who enlisted in the army and is destined to become Viet Nam’s Frank Burns. He's pressuring her to start a family but here's how bad a doctor he is -- he still thinks a stork brings the babies. Meanwhile, she’s the Wendy to Don & Roger & Pete and all the other Lost Boys of the agency (or, considering how much they all hit the booze -- the Lost Weekend Boys).

Roger has his young trophy trollop but still lusts after Joan. I’d always like to see more of Roger but I assume his episodes are coming. He’s the most charming lush since Arthur.

Yes, Pete is a weasel but a first-class one. When he used his father’s death to help get him the American Airlines account you knew you were in the presence of smarmy greatness. He’s going to be father although something might still happen (depending on whether he ultimately wants a kid -- why do bad things or good things happen to bad people?). And I love his wife Trudy. Wouldn’t it be great though if it turns out the father is really Jeff from COMMUNITY?

I’m hoping we’ll see Sal return at some point. Maybe he can introduce Don to his new “friend” Truman Capote.

I’ve discussed my dislike for Betty. I don’t know what creepy Glenn saw in her. I see from the previews that she’s back next week. My fingers are crossed that poor little Sally didn’t use any wire hangers.

As always there is symbolism aplenty and subtext by the bushel, and of course I pick up on every little subtlety as I'm sure you do too, I mean, that goes without saying, right? But aside from that, MAD MEN continues to be the best drama on television. I'm most happy for series creator Matthew Weiner. All these stories for MAD MEN he wanted to do while on staff of THE NAKED TRUTH. Glad he finally got to do them.

27 comments:

Jon J said...

That lingering look between Peggy and Pete makes one wonder if their prior relationship might somehow blossom again.

SCDP said...

Watching Don's downward spiral is absolutely fascinating to me.

I really wanted him to chase down Allison and beg her to stay. Though his half assed attempt at an apology letter showed that at least he realized he was a major league dickweed!

I'm not missing Betty at all but I do miss Crazy Sally so hopefully we'll get some Sally with the Betty next week!

SB said...

"Mad Man" the best show on TV? Sure, it's a nice little program, but it's not even the best show on AMC. "Breaking Bad" and the incomparable Bryan Cranston is tops, hands down.

Greg said...

I know Don's personal life is in the crapper but am I the only one who feels he might be coming into his own creatively? His telling off the swimsuit guys and his speech to the focus group babe, combined with his acclaimed 'Glo-Coat' spot, make Don seem like a guy who might be finding his groove.

Jon88 said...

Just for the record: Allison's cash Christmas bonus was already sealed in an envelope in Don's desk the day before he slept with her. Not that that makes his behavior any more acceptable.

DaveMB said...

I hope Pete and Trudy's baby makes it. (I guess in those days you told everyone as soon as you knew, where nowadays we wait until the prime miscarriage season around three months in.) I don't know what plot considerations determine whether the baby survives, but I do know why Anna Draper has to die. As Don's personal life gets worse, the option of fleeing to California and becoming Dick again (but with some portion of Don's accumulated wealth) has to start looking more attractive. But the show needs him not to do that. For the same reason, I agree with Greg above that he will continue to blossom creatively, so that he has a reason to stay.

Eric said...

So what percentage of views saw the "Brief Nudity" "warning" and thought "Please be Joan! Please be Joan!"

Kate from NYC said...

FWIW, John Slattery directed this episode, that's why not so much Roger.

Anonymous said...

Hey, how did I miss the nudity? I must have blinked.

James said...

So much to say but I'll narrow it down to this. I really liked Sal. I hope he comes back. I keep thinking the door is open, but then realize they have to do something about Lucky Strike first. Either they lose that account of the guy leaves the show. You can't bring Sal back otherwise.

James said...

Anonymous: the nudity was in the photos the Asst. Photo Editor showed to Peggy when they were in the editor.

blogward said...

Don? Downward spiral? If you ask me, he's doing it all right for the first time. Just kidding. Have you seen Burt Lancaster's The Swimmer? Mad Men is like a prequel to that.

David Schwartz said...

I really enjoyed the dichotomy in the last scene between Pete and Peggy. Peggy is shown with all of her counter-culture, beatnik friends and Pete is aligning himself with the old guard of the agency. It was a perfect way of showing the huge difference between the younger people coming into their own in the 60's, and the establishment growing more and more out of touch with the youth of the time. Excellent visualization of that complex concept in a very simple scene.

jbryant said...

I agree, David. Slattery acquitted himself quite nicely behind the camera on this one.

Paul Duca said...

I think what's really hurting Don is the terminal illness of Anna (ex-wife of the real Don Draper). She is perhaps the only woman for whom Don has total respect, if not necessarily love. Certainly their relationship has been the most honest he's ever had, since she knew the truth from the beginning. and he couldn't use his deceptive charm (charming deception?) on her.

Also...if Sal doesn't return I think we have something with that LIFE edition (the one with the nude photos).
I saw how she was looking at Peggy as she got off the elevator.

Jon88 said...

Alan Sepinwall interviewed John Slattery about his directing debut: http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/interview-john-slattery-on-his-mad-men-directorial-debut

Anonymous said...

NO ONE will ever replace the great BOBBY DARIN! He was one a a kind.

Mary 39 said...

Correction: NO ONE will ever replace the great BOBBY DARIN! He was one of a kind. Amazing talent and versatility still current today.

Mary

Anonymous said...

So am I interpreting things right that Pete agreed to some special treatment to have a child, as the price of getting the Clearasil account, and now that his wife is pregnant, he used that to get the whole company's business?

DaveMB said...

So am I interpreting things right that Pete agreed to some special treatment to have a child, as the price of getting the Clearasil account, and now that his wife is pregnant, he used that to get the whole company's business?

I didn't get the impression that the sudden pregnancy was due to anything more than luck -- did you see something in the show to point to some medical intervention? I had a little trouble reading that scene -- the "son of a bitch" seemed to come out of the blue the first time I saw it. But what I've seen in other discussions makes sense -- Pete realizes that as the father of the family heir he has more social leverage within Trudy's family, so he asks for what he wants and what Tom can give him. Some one (Alan S?) pointed out that his asking Trudy for more ice in the middle of the conversation was an unsubtle reminder to Tom that Tom cares about Trudy and Trudy is now even more with Pete in any lining up of sides. And then the "son of a bitch" is Tom's partly appalled, partly admiring reaction to Pete's being willing to use his family situation for business ends. Or not....

Anonymous said...

The Clearasil account was pulled because Pete wouldn't do what his wife wanted with regards to having a child. It only came back at the end of Season 3 when Pete needed to get enough money for the new company.

Anonymous said...

Plus the show has a habit of dialogue that means more if you've seen all the shows, like Don talking to Peggy.

Here Pete says You gave me the account with certain expectations, now I've met them.

blogward said...

"Chickenshit into chicken salad". Not sure I like that metaphor, but it's EXACTLY the kind of thing a Pete would say.

Steve Paradis said...

Pete 'n' Trudi's still:
1. The dictionary illustration of "perky"
2. Allison Brie singlehandedly drives the culture back to the 60's.
3. The second before they did a duet of "I Believe In You."
4. Pete: "H.R. Haldeman: The Early Years".

jbryant said...

Paul Duca: If the look the Life editor gave Peggy was too subtle for some folks, there was the ear-nibble at the party to remove all doubt. And of course the immortal exchange about Peggy's boyfriend not owning her vagina, but renting it.

DaveMB said...

Anonymous -- thanks, it does look like some sort of medical treatment may be impied. Not that I'm very clear on what that might have been back then. It looks like Greg and Joan are trying to time things for her ovulations, but what would medical science have beenable to do for P&T?

John Pearley Huffman said...

The single best thing about Mad Men is that when AMC finishes up a season of the show, that means it's time to start a fresh season of Breaking Bad.

And vice versa.

This seems an almost ideal way to sustain the two best shows on TV.