Mad Men: “For Those Who Think Young”

Season 2 of Mad Men kicked off last night, and I finally figured out why I love this show so much: when I watch it, I am completely and totally sucked in to this world. When Mad Men is on, I’m not watching a bunch of actors reading lines – I’m watching a magical time machine that’s taken me back to the early 1960s. Mad Men isn’t a simple television show – it’s a portal to an earlier time.

Season 2 begins on February 14th, 1962 – 14 months ahead of where season 1 ended (yet another reason to love this show: it’s never explicitly stated that it’s 14 months later – the writers assume that you’ll be intelligent enough to figure it out as the show goes on). Some things are the same. Some have changed. Perhaps the most shocking change is in Peggy – who went from shy secretary to junior copy writer in season 1. Peggy now a serious Sterling Cooper employee. She feels like the only professional woman in the office, and needs to lord it over the secretaries so that they’ll remember that she’s not “one of them”. Her conversation with Don’s new secretary is priceless:

"Lois... do you know where Mr. Draper is?"
"Lois... do you know where Mr. Draper is?"

And then there are the Drapers. Don and Betty appear to be together again – not a peep from Don’s many mistresses – and superficially appear to be happy together. I personally think that Don is just happy to have a family and beautiful wife (love the intro in the hotel!), so he doesn’t want to mess it up. He feels like he dodged a bullet. He’s also worried about his health. I think Don feels like the world is closing in on him. His life has been one lie after another, and now his health is on the line. I think Don’s more worried about karma being right around the corner than the police. And something’s not right with Don and Betty’s sexual relationship. In this episode, they check into a hotel for a little “Valentine’s Day Lovin'”, but Don is unable to “close the deal” so to speak. Other web sites have speculated that Don “couldn’t perform” because of a health issue; I thought everything with Don and Betty was just awkward. You be the judge…

Don is also erratic at the office. He’s running the office from afar: he doesn’t return calls, he misses all kinds of office talk, and he misses meetings:

Waiting on Don...
Waiting on Don...

There are also changes on the way in the advertising world. A client has begged Roger Sterling into hiring a team of “young guns” to do their ad. Indeed, word on the street in the advertising world is that clients want younger and younger people working on their ads. Youth is “in” in a big way in advertising. What will this mean for Sterling Cooper’s staff?

There’s still a lot to be said for manners, though. Another reason I get sucked into Mad Men is that it portrays an era that, although inherently sexist, bigoted, and racist, was far better behaved than the people of today. There’s a great scene where Don walks in an elevator with these two guys that are explicitly describing a sexual exploit. At the second floor, an older lady gets on the elevator. The two guys continue with their story in front of the older lady… until Don the guy telling the story to take off his hat (hidden message: shut the hell up):

"Take off your hat."
"Take off your hat."

There is, of course, a lot more going on with the show. I won’t take up your time going through all those things… but I do want to end on “The Book”. Early in this episode, Don is in a bar eating some lunch (when he should have been at the meeting pictured above). A guy at the bar is reading a book of poems called Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara (Amazon). Don ends up with his own copy, which he mails to someone. Who? We don’t know:

Who is Don thinking of?
Who is Don thinking of?

Lastly… TV Squad (in this recap) said that “January Jones is one of the most beautiful women on the planet”. I can’t say that I could argue with them. Enjoy one last screen cap:

Ms. Betty Draper
Ms. Betty Draper

Leave a Reply!