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Cure for the common TV show

I know I’m not due to post on Mad Men at this place until next week, but I might as well say now that I was thinking of doing something on the new “pathetic” Don.  Last night, I’m afraid, may have made the topic too obvious for words.  All I can say is that the meeting with the guys from Life cereal was excruciatingly unwatchable, so of course I watched it three times.  Somehow, Don’s “I got this” is even more horrifying than his lost weekend.

On the other hand, Peggy.

Posted by on 08/30 at 12:58 PM
  1. I’ve been wondering how new the “new” pathetic Don is. During last night’s episode I asked my fiancee whether Don had ever been so annoying, and realized the answer could be yes, always. Since the beginning, the show has cast Don as alluring because he’s the Subject Who Knows, dictates terms and bestows social order, as in the episode when he informs Betsy’s brother that their father will move in with the Drapers, that the brother will sell the father’s house, and that he will present it as his own desire. But the nagging conflict was Don as Subject, i.e. “Who Is Don Draper?”

    I suspect season 4 will reveal that the issue of Don’s identity has been a red-herring, or at least not ultimately very interesting. I remember when the market research person Faye Miller passive-aggressively apologized to Don at the Christmas party because “no one likes to think of himself as a type,” I thought, say goodbye to Mysterious Don. Going forward I expect the Don conflict will be about whether he is the Subject Who Knows (what’s good for everyone) and the extent to which anyone should be expected to care. “I got this” indeed.

    Posted by  on  08/30  at  03:40 PM
  2. capitalism, history, and race.

    Well 1965 was certainly a huge year for film industry income and profits; wonder why no one on Mad Men talk about it?  While some of us were seeing Help and Dr. Who and the Daleks (oh my), most of the US was wandering into theaters buried under an avalanche of movies (and films) that were making, quite literally, tons of money.  I would hope that Lara’s Song will play at some point, even if it is not the Friends of Dean Martinez version.

    As for history and race, it was a truly staggering year including massive marches in the south, assassination of Malcolm X, race riots in the north, and more.  I perhaps should mention the first increase in the draft for Vietnam, but i am not sure if anyone on MadMen is younger than 25. 

    I am showing my age indeed.  I do remember quite well going to see the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and the Stones at the LA Sports Arena (my university days were filled with live music).

    Posted by  on  08/30  at  03:54 PM
  3. I’ve been wondering how new the “new” pathetic Don is.

    Well, that’s exactly the question.  He’s done some truly pathetic things before—his misadventure with those hitchhikers was pretty hideous—but none of his underlings called him pathetic.  Now they do.  Is he really falling, falling, or is it that he no longer has the facade of the knockout wife and kids and house in the suburbs?  Keeping in mind that this isn’t an either-or kind of blog, of course.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/30  at  06:59 PM
  4. The TV, there’s some good things on it sometime.

    Posted by  on  08/30  at  09:21 PM
  5. Meh, the last two episodes came across as pretty hacky.

    Last week it was The Wacky Caper Episode. Will the plucky team pull off the caper and dupe the rival maddies? Watch this montage and find out!

    This week it was Don gettin’ all drunky and hiring an eager newbie much like a drunky Roger Sterling did some indefinite number of years back. And the crazy, kooky, madcap circle of Mad Life continues! 

    On the other hand: Jonathan!

    Posted by  on  08/30  at  10:47 PM
  6. I’ve only seen the first episode so far this season. (I wait until I’m house-sitting at a place that gets HBO, then I catch up.) I was feeling a wee bit meh about continuing to watch.

    But now that ed has invoked the ineffable numinosity that is Jonathan, I am SO there.  As Danny “Superstar” Strong goes, so goes my nation.  I wonder if he’ll play something from the new album....

    As for “Mad Men”, I betcha that in the end, Don learns to type, and becomes Peggy’s secretary.

    Posted by  on  08/30  at  11:50 PM
  7. My significant other, “Bullock” (his blog name), has a theory about why they’re making Don pathetic now.  He thinks they got wind that you have a big old man crush on him and they needed to do something to cure it for you. grin

    Btw, don’t you find it strange that it’s 1965 in Mad Men world (though I *swore* it was New Year’s 1964 at the beginning of the season) and they haven’t mentioned the Beatles yet?

    Posted by Dr. Virago  on  08/31  at  08:23 AM
  8. Oh, they’ve mentioned the Beatles, all right, Dr. V—but only in the distant margins.  As spyder remarks w/r/t film, it’s not like the MM universe is tracking mid-60s popular culture very closely.  But yes, everybody (not just me!) is supposed to have decathected from Don by this point.

    Last week it was The Wacky Caper Episode. Will the plucky team pull off the caper and dupe the rival maddies? Watch this montage and find out!

    Eh, if you read it that way, Ed, you miss the fact that the episode was all about mortification.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/31  at  08:31 AM
  9. "On the other hand, Peggy.”

    Indeed. Is that what the return of the repressed looks like? (Poor misogynist pig never saw it coming.)

    Posted by  on  08/31  at  10:26 AM
  10. On the other hand, Peggy.

    I wonder what Elizabeth Moss experiences each day, on the set, having to make herself look, and act, so odd for the sake of the program.  One would hope the $$ are worth every bit of it.  The guys don’t really look much different than they would appear today in suits and ties.  Same as it ever was.

    Posted by  on  08/31  at  03:25 PM
  11. Weird bit from the current topmost post about Mad Men at that other place: <q>Pete, coached by the Sinophile Bert Cooper, learns the finer points of gift-giving etiquette.</q>

    Sinophile?

    Posted by ben w  on  08/31  at  03:30 PM
  12. Eh, if you read it that way, Ed, you miss the fact that the episode was all about mortification.

    One may still grok the Central Message and still be annoyed by a sit-com grade gimmick.

    Also, too, the Miss Blankenship schtick has become tiresome. By the by, she’s portrayed by Daniel-san’s mother, Ms. Larusso. Makes a fella feel old(er).

    I have faith that TV’s Jonathan will make everything better. Like he always does.

    Posted by  on  08/31  at  03:38 PM
  13. "On the other hand, Peggy.”

    Seems like each episode she’s doing something different. I still chuckle when I think of her peeking into Don’s office from the high window…

    Posted by  on  08/31  at  03:54 PM
  14. still chuckle when I think of her peeking into Don’s office from the high window…

    Yes!

    Posted by Nell  on  09/01  at  10:16 PM
  15. I’ve never seen “Mad Men”, so I’m completely lost by this post. What’s the storyline?

    Posted by Allison Beckett  on  09/03  at  07:32 PM
  16. Allison, I cannot pretend to offer an unbiased view of the storyline, although I watch and appreciate the show, and admire the actors.

    What it is, basically, is a horror story.  It’s set in New York in the 1960s, and is NOT ripped from any of those headlines of yesteryear.  It’s about the American advertising industry, and even though it’s set at the beginning of the Vietnam war, World War II is omnipresent.  The United States was different from the other Allied (or Axis) countries in that is suffered virtually no war damage to its own soil or infrastructure.  (Contrary to popular belief, we Boomers did not ruin everything, but god knows there were hordes of us coming of age during the uproar.  And boy oh boy, were we a very fine and enticing demographic.)

    The horror part of it is that like most entertaining horror, it takes a familiar world and injects something unspeakably hideous into the narrative.  This horrific element is, in “Mad Men”, primarily (but by no means solely) displayed in the tribulations inflicted upon the women and girls in the story.  (And remember, all female humans were “girls” except the ones who were “ladies”.)

    Switchboard workers, steno pool, executive secretaries: stringent traditions of behavior and dress.  To get by, most female humans in the work force had to shut up and take it.  Take his coat and hat upon his arrival, take his colleagues’ undisguised ogling and verbal abuse, take and somehow avoid the presumption that you were a comestible not unlike the liquor and cigars in every exec’s office (kept sparkly and stocked by you).  And what’s more, you were encouraged to hope to marry one of your overlords.

    And black people?  Men worked the elevators.  Black women you never saw in the office suite.  They labored elsewhere, sometimes with the offspring of the mad men, often in the laundries and factories.

    There weren’t any actual gay people.  There were homosexuals, but they would burst into flame when exposed to the light, so you kept that door closed.

    Part of the horror that extends even to the overlords is that some of them kinda sorta get it that they should flee the scene before the scary music gets too loud.  And they know that their jolly, convivial colleagues would happily drink their milkshakes and eat their branes if it’d give them an edge.  They worked scared.

    And the socially connected men have been made uneasy, because they feel the country club’s foundations groaning. Stupid war.  Still, the upstart usurpers remain vulnerable to the freeze rays that can be deployed upon them by the aristocrats.

    So the mission for an intrepid player in this horrorshow is to somehow navigate the environment and improve one’s lot in life, without getting killed ded, hopefully without killing others ded, thereby retaining discernible souls, all so that they can have interesting work and a chance at higher pay. And maybe fulfillment, or at least intermittent enjoyment.

    They’ll keep trying even if they can’t get to the pump before the vandals take the handles.  They’re creative.  Peggy will figure it out.  I just wish I could give Joan superpowers.  But that would take us from horror to alternate universe.

    But forget everything I said, because whatever the intentions of the show creators and runners, we are supposed to be blown away by how awesomely cool everything was when men were men, girls could type AND get coffee, and black folks couldn’t possibly ever be president of anything.

    And the undergarments that enable the women to look so exotic and delicious?  Were very uncomfortable, left red compression lines all over your body, contained straps and doohickeys that broke or popped open willy-nilly, cost a lot of your paycheck, and did I mention they hurt?  And do not forget: they did not have spandex or other stretchy fabrics, and even though I am the sort of monster who happily rips the wings off of maxipads, the products preceding the adhesive age were worse.

    But I enjoy the horror genre, so I’m kind of a fan.

    Posted by  on  09/03  at  08:31 PM
  17. The guys don’t really look much difference than they would appear today of suits and ties.

    Posted by authentic backpack  on  09/10  at  01:55 AM
  18. Is Mad Med really worth watching? I’ve been waiting for a few seasons to pass before committing to watch it on dvd.
    -Jane

    Posted by sell your songs online  on  09/14  at  07:34 PM
  19. Larkspur’s analysis makes good sense to me, a (just) pre-Boomer who while working as a switchman in the Jersey City freightyard used nevertheless to enjoy reading Philip Daugherty’s Advertising column in the Times.

    A couple more nuances: Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker a few years ago that “the Sixties” embraces three quite distinct (though fuzzily-bounded) periods. In advertising, the first of these may be said to begin with the Doyle Dane Bernbach “Think Small” campaign for Volkswagen, which was as innovative for its use of white space and its choice of font as for its counter-intuitive slogan in an era when US carmakers boasted that this year’s model was “longer, lower, wider” than last. The boutique agencies of the period and their work--Jack Tinker and Partners, Mary Wells Lawrence’s Alka-Seltzer stuff at Wells Rich Greene--represented the advent of Modernism and a challenge to stuffy old-line agencies like BBD&O. This advertising didn’t directly convey socially critical content; it didn’t address the Civil Rights movement (which, whatever “Mad Men” may say, began well before the Vietnam War) or the structural injustices imposed on women. What it challenged was the atmosphere of hushed, sober reverence for the products of corporate America. Jerry della Femina got fired from the Ted Bates agency when they were getting ready to pitch a new Japanese client, Panasonic, and he suggested “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor.” This wasn’t politically daring--the reverse, if anything, and della Femina’s later trajectory shows him to have been of moderately conservative views. But it kidded the corporate client, instead of treating it like an object of worship, and that had an insurrectionary character of its own--one that just happened to strike a chord with the emerging pre-Boomer and Boomer market demographics.

    I don’t want to make this element of the period’s history carry more weight than it can support. Still I think there’s a case to be made that the irreverence of late-60’s culture (go back and watch the Beatles in the train compartment scene of “A Hard Day’s Night” [1964]) first surfaced in the ad agencies’ discovery that a market existed, and could be targeted, that found sass more appealing than gee-whiz enthusiasm.

    Everybody should see the movie “Helvetica.” A feature-length picture about a font? Yes, and also about the triumph of Modernism and the subsequent rebellion against its cultural dominance. Brilliant.

    Posted by  on  09/20  at  11:24 AM
  20. Good article. Thanks for sharing.  smile

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