Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mad Men: Public Relations

First, I have to announce (which I already kinda did over on my Facebook page) that I finally handed in the manuscript to my Finding Lost Season 6 book yesterday, so now I'm hoping to be back and blogging on a more regular basis. I think people thought this really was just a Lost blog, since I completely disappeared the moment the show was done! But it was just to write the book, and now I'm back. And I'm not the only one who's back...

Oooooh, Mad Men. It's back, it's slick, and it's as hip as it's ever been. This past Sunday saw the season 4 premiere of Mad Men, opening with a reporter asking Don, "Who is Don Draper?" and making notes in indecipherable shorthand. Don's responses are about as cryptic as the notes the reporter is making in front of him, and when he decides the best way to conduct the interview is simply to be evasive and silent, blowing smoke rings above the guy's head instead, he makes a huge mistake. This guy knows how to sell just about anything except himself.

Don's snafu ends up putting his new partners into a tizzy when the article paints a less-than-flattering portrait of the new company, and Don realizes he can't just think of himself anymore, he's got to think of everyone. As Peggy tells him at one point, "We're all here because of you. Because we want to impress you."

The new offices are all brighter with 60s glass walls rather than the 40s wood panelling in the old office. They all keep telling clients that there's a second floor that's under construction, when no such floor exists. There's no conference table; they all sit in chairs in a circle to promote discussion (this would be an early version of those silly "team-building" exercises that now include beating on drums and "sharing").

Peggy seems a lot more comfortable (and FINALLY has a great haircut) as she chums around with the new cute copywriter and drinks whisky and smokes just like the boys. The first time we see them she's longingly sighing, "John" and he responds, "Marsha" and they keep doing it back and forth. I had no idea what this was referring to, but assumed it was from a movie or an ad at the time. A quick check online showed it was satirist Stan Freberg's "John and Marsha" routine. I went to YouTube to listen to it (you can do so here) and it's an absolutely brilliant one where you hear a complete conversation between two people who say nothing but each other's names in various degrees of desire, anguish, sorrow, anger, and giggling happiness. It's genius. Peggy, and the way she's evolved from last season (including an amazing scene where she sort of tells off Don in his office) was the best part of the episode.

On the home front, Don's lawyer tells him that Betty is supposed to be out of the house that he's still paying for, and it's time he throw her out or ask her for rent. Don's living in an apartment, a single dad taking the kids on occasional weekends (something that would have been seen as very strange at the time). Meanwhile, Betty is being seen as her new beau's sloppy seconds, and his mother rightfully notices that the children are terrified of her. Sally has noticeably lost weight (are they going to introduce an eating disorder in a future seasons or can we just assume this is losing some of the adorable baby fat she had last year?) and is clearly disturbed by her new unsettled family situation. Betty continues to be a difficult character -- she's far from a loving mother, and yet she seems to have fallen into the arms of yet another man who just takes her for granted.

There was a lot to love about this episode, and I did. Roger, in particular was REALLY on. Some of his zingers:

• Roger on the newspaper who sent a reporter with a wooden leg: “They’re so cheap they couldn’t send a whole reporter.” AAHH!!
• Roger on the two prudish guys who have the swimsuits that are NOT bikinis: “I love how they sit there like a coupla choir boys. You just know one of them is leaving New York with VD.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
• Roger trying to get Don to meet his young wife’s 25-year-old friend: “You hit it off, come Turkey Day maybe you can stuff her.”
• Roger on why Don needs to go to Roger’s fave restaurant on his blind date: “They have Chicken Kiev. Butter squirts everywhere.”
• Roger tells Don that the blind date liked him after explaining that the reporter screwed him in the story, and says, “If she liked you maybe you should have fondled Peg-leg Pete.” HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

While the girl on Don's date seemed to be a bit vapid, I think it’s just Don’s nature to chase her because she wouldn’t let him follow her up to her apartment. The moment he conquers her, he’ll probably just toss her aside again, Don style.

Did anyone else notice that Don’s date was Sarah Newlin (the minister’s wife) from season 2 of True Blood? She looked SO familiar to me, and then a friend of mine the next day said, “Yeah… she looked exactly like Betty!” and then when we IMDb’d her we realized who she was. How much do I love Mad Men for completely camouflaging people I’m watching on other shows??

And I cannot end this without mentioning the Divine Miss Joan. Oh, Joanie; my girl crush on you has not abated ONE BIT.

Other highlights:
• Harry returning from his trip all sunburned and peeling and saying he was indoors the whole time.
• Joanie reassuring him that she won’t even tell anyone about his big television news after it’s aired. Ha!
• Don ordering the prudes from the swimwear company out of his office. Brilliant. (Even better when he snaps his fingers at them like they’re animals.)
• The end credit song, “Tobacco Road” by The Nashville Teens. I remember my dad playing this song when I was a kid, and I loved it. Great to hear it again!!

What I didn’t love:
• No Sal. Sadness. I miss him so much.
• While I loved seeing Joan, she didn’t have much to do in the ep, and probably only had a couple of lines. That said, they could only focus on certain characters and I’m sure we’ll see more of her in the coming weeks.

So what did you think of the return of Don Draper and the gang?


LoyallyLOST said...

Yay! I'm the first one on here!!! I am so glad that you are going to be back! You are truly an amazing woman~raising a family, writing books & doing everything else you do!
I have to admit, I don't watch Mad Men! I tried last nite, but, having not watched it from the beginning, it's a little confusing. Guess that's how latecommers(sp?)felt about LOST! It looks like a cool, slick, well-done show. Perhaps I will catch up!
Can't wait for your book!!!
Welcome back!

Emilia said...

I hope this means you have time to tell us about your trip to Harry Potter Land!

humanebean said...

I just LOOOOOVES me some Mad Men! I thought this was a fantastic episode and a great way to start the new season. As we hear in the first line of dialogue, this show was all about identity - not just Don's - and the gulf between how one sees oneself and how one is viewed by others.

Quick correction, Nik - the "John and Marsha" soap opera parody was by Stan Freberg, a satirist and all-around brilliant dude. His "Green Christmas" was another hit, a smashing parody of an advertising agency's commercialization of the holiday. It still gets a lot of seasonal play today. Another nice wink to the audience from Mr. Weiner and company!

Last season ended with the Roy Orbison song "Shahdaroba", which Roy told us "means the future is better than the past". Now, eleven months later, we can see Don Draper's 'future' and despite the shiny (and reflective) new surfaces of SCDP's new offices in the Time-Life building, it's far from ideal. It's not until Don seizes control of his destiny once again by carefully reconstructing the story of SCDP's origins for yet another reporter that we feel he's prepared to come to terms with the shattering events of the closing episodes of season three and move more confidently into that 'future'.

The episode closes with that fantastic cover of "Tobacco Road" by England's The Nashville Teens. The stomping beat and snarling lyrics are a perfect match to Don's newfound mojo - and very reflective of his troubled past:

"I was born in a trunk.
Mama died and my daddy got drunk.
Left me here to die alone
in the middle of Tobacco Road.

Growin' up rusty shack,
all I had was hangin' on my back.
Only you know how I loathe
this place called Tobacco Road.

But it's home, the only life I ever known.
Only you know how I loathe Tobacco Road.

Gonna leave, get a job
with the help and the grace from above.
Save some money, get rich and old,
bring it back to Tobacco Road.

But it's home, the only life I ever known.
Only you know how I loathe Tobacco Road.

Bring that dynamite and a crane,
blow it up, start all over again.
Build a town, be proud to show.
Give it the name ... Tobacco Road"

Can't wait for Sunday night!

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humanebean said...

My apologies for the multiple deletes - Blogger didn't seem to want to publish my original comment, then did it four times!

Batcabbage said...

First of all, congrats on handing in the manuscript, Nik!

Secondly, I agree with humane: love me some new Mad Men! I always forget how much I love this show during the off season. This season's premiere took about 2 seconds to remind me why: Don Draper. I read somewhere that a Marvel writer (Ed Brubaker, maybe? Can't remember) said that Jon Hamm would be perfect to play Captain America, and I wholeheartedly agree. He's smoother than the smoothest thing you can think of. Even when he loses his shit ("Go on, get the hell out of my office!" - to potential clients, no less!) he's still smoother than most really, really smooth things.

Thanks for clearing up the "John/Marsha" thing Nik. It seemed so random. Batkitty says to me 'Why the hell are they saying that?' "I dunno," I says. "Tourettes, maybe?" Glad I was wrong!

I knew you'd get the True Blood connection. I saw her and immediately said to Batkitty "Look, it's Mrs Jesus-Camp. From Jason Stackhouse to Don Draper? Good for her!"

Gotta say, I am really hating Betty. She's gonna turn Sally into a serial killer or some such thing. I'm interested to see where they take the 'broken family' angle. That woman is just messing those kids up.

Great post, Nik! Congrats again, and welcome back!

VW: mingster - 1. an afficionado of mingers. 2. Former nickname of Ming the Merciless, used only once by a former intimate, before Ming destroyed them.

Ambivalentman said...

Great post, Nikki! Glad to see you're back.

A couple things I liked about last night's episode:

1) Don expecting the prostitute to strike him during sex. This flagellation seems to be him re-living one of his last moments with Betty. It's like he's trying to de-sensitize himself to the pain of losing his family. The scene was desperate, pathetic, and one of the few times we've seen a truly vulnerable Don.

2) Betty and Henry Francis fooling around in the car was a mirror of their first kiss when she was still married. A few scenes before he couldn't quite rise to the occassion with her in bed -- Don's bed -- but was frisky as ever when in his own element. We're constantly being reminded that Henry is borrowing Betty from Don, and this scene really showed that.

I loved the "John" and "Marsha" reference. It reminded me of listening to the Dr. Demento Radio Show (not sure if he was known in Canada) on Sunday nights when I was a teenager.

TM Lawrence said...

Congratulations are indeed in order! I can't imagine the relief to finally put the nail in the coffin on that one. Or stake in the heart... Actually, leaving the vampiric references and Whedonverse behind seems to have upped the commentary counts, so I won't complete that analogy. I'm gonna have to give Mad Men a third or fourth chance based on the high praise of the esteemed previous posters and yourself. Clearly, my initial take on this show (an oily slick Dynasty of parasitic, self-indulgent and self-loathing future cancer victims) must have been off base. I'll try...

Lisa(until further notice) said...

Glad to be reading everyone's posts again. I've actually decided to pay for Mad Men this season on iTUNES, as I have difficulty staying up and watching those shows that start at 10pm and are only rerun at 11 pm on some random day. Damn you RESCUE ME as well.

Loved watching Sally "throw up" at dinner. That kid is really struggling.

Loved the back and forth between Henry and Don...
Henry: "Don, it's temporary."
Don: "Believe me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary." HaHa

Loved Tobacco Road as well...usually I don't sit and listen to the whole song after a show, but this time I was diggin' it!!!

Congratulations on the book, Nikki. Can't wait to read it. I am on another personal rewatch and just finished A Tale of Two Cities. Glad to have Desmond and Juliet on screen again. August 24th is just around the corner...

Ta ta folks...

Anonymous said...

Awesome episode. Nice to see Don shooting from the hip more than ever. He is so Tony Soprano without the violence.

I'm not sure what to think about the Pro slapping him though. I can't see him paying for what he seems to get at will for free. He like the challenge and that would be too easy.

Roger Sterling is awesome.

Hope to see weekly reviews on MM and True Blood now (and maybe FNL)!

-Tim Alan

Scott said...

Did anyone else notice that Peggy's new boyfriend is played by Blake "Karl" Bashoff?

Peggy, you can do so much better!

Loretta said...

Cute new copywriter is played by Matt Long--I know him from the one-season long Jack and Bobby, which I loved and which STILL has not been released on DVD (it aired in 04-05). I was so happy to see him, because he had kind of disappeared for a while (turning up only in the abysmal The Deep End recently).

I adore Joan--it seems that she's been given a lot of power in the new office. I'm actually most excited to see what's happened to her in the 11 months we missed. I assume she's still married to her terrible husband/rapist Greg, but has he shipped off to the army yet?

Also, I'm wondering how Ken Cosgrove is going to work into the narrative? He's still over at Stirling Cooper Original Recipe (TM), but he's in the opening credits...

Betty Draper is such a loathsome character so much of the time. I try to be sympathetic to her, for having to deal with the years of Don's lying and cheating, but find it really, really hard to do so when she's so cold and petulant.

I, too, miss Sal. I hope we at least get glimpses of him as the 60s roll on, maybe in a couple seasons when he can start to edge his way out of the closet.

So excited it's back. I hope you keep writing about it weekly!! :)

Ashlie Hawkins said...

Yay Mad Men! This is the first season that I'm watching as it happens, rather than all at once on DVD (actually, on BluRay, and now I'm completely spoiled!) It's going to be so hard to wait a week between episodes! Loved the first episode, love the new office - so much love!

Alina said...

Love Mad Men and loved the episode with the notable sadness that Sal was not there.

I know a lot of people hate Betty, but I feel so sad for her. She was not prepared for the motherly role, but she always seemed to want to please Don. And he often would dismiss or humiliate her. Now she is with Henry and things are not so bright either. Sad.

Feel sad for Sally too :((( Poor child.

JoanieG said...

I agree with Alina about Betty. I think she represents the repressed, frustrated woman of the late '50s-early '60s who is caught in the "feminine mystique" and can't quite understand why she is so second-class, not only in society but in the eyes of the men she is with. I hope that she gets involved in the Women's Movement and starts marching for her rights, as I did.

As for Sally. I see her growing into a '60s teen who protests the Vietnam War, takes LSD, has lots of "free love" and becomes the woman of the future. "If only"....

Having worked as a copywriter at an ad/public relations agency in the mid-late '60s, I can so identify with what goes on at SCDP. (Although I was more of the Joanie-personality type.) I think one of the reasons that the mags and TV were filled with so many ads that denigrated and made fun of women was because there were so few of us creating those ads, and almost no female execs at the companies that hired the ad agencies.

I'm still missing Lost, (and all those answers we didn't get) but looking forward to your book, Nikki.

SenexMacDonald said...

I have season 1 on DVD but have not gotten past that point yet. I am looking forward to the next few seasons with delight.

Did I ever mention that when Morena Baccarin came to FanExpo in 2006 that she brought a friend with her? One Christina Hendricks! I was working with Morena all weekend and so got to enjoy Christina as well.

I sorta remember Christina talking to Morena about either doing an audition or going to be going for an audition but since I was trying not to eavesdrop on private conversations...! In hindsight, I have wondered if it might have been for Mad Men. The show first aired in July of 2007, and I believe they filmed it completely before they aired it. If that is the case, the con was at the end of August 2006, and filming would have been started either just before Christmas or just after - depending on the length of time used to film each ep and then post-production.

Either way, I had the opportunity to meet Christina just prior to this wonderful show beginning its run. :)

TomWill said...

Really glad Mad Men and Nikki are back! Can't wait until a Joan-centric episode.

Senex, Thanks for the Christina & Morena story. Reminded me of Firefly "Our Mrs Reynolds" episode when Mal thought they shared a kiss! Great Whedon stuff.

IScreen said...

Nikki -- First, YAAAAAAAAY for book completion!
Secondly, here is my recap of public relations: http://iscreenyouscreen.blogspot.com/2010/07/mad-men-recap-conversation-about-why.html (no, I can't do links here, so you'll have to cut and paste).
I thought one of the most interesting things about the episode was that, even though the new firm appears far more solid than it did last year, its polished veneer hides many short-comings. There's no real conference room; no second floor; NO FREAKIN' SAL (sorry -- that one's not in the recap, but your observation totally fits in with my theme).
It reminds us how hollow most of the characters lives can be. Also, you did miss my favorite Roger line of the episode (see it in the recap).
So glad to have you back among the writing!

funny forum said...

My apologies for the multiple deletes - Blogger didn't seem to want to publish my original comment, then did it four times!

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