“Mad Men”… insanity?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about Mad Men on this site… and that’s a shame. So let’s fix that!

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One thing I’ve always loved about the show is the bizarre lengths the producers go to to make it authentic. We all know some of the more famous examples, like how the show’s “costumes” include things like socks or stockings and underwear, even in scenes where characters aren’t going to show them. So every one of Joan or Peggy’s panty lines are from underwear based on actual 1960s designs. And then there’s the time Lane Pryce shook a handful of change and the sound was distinctly the sound of pre-1965 silver coins.

But here are a few borderline insane attentions to detail you might not know:

– One of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s clients is a fictitious company called “Sugarberry Ham”.  In the season four premiere,  Peggy and Pete come up with a viral marketing stunt – hiring actresses to fight over hams in a grocery store – to get the recently-departed company to come back to the agency. You’d think finding a “historically accurate” canned ham would be easy… but no. Matt Weiner, the show’s creator and runner, rejected every single canned ham prop master Ellen Freund found… and she literally searched the whole world for the “right” canned ham. Freund was at her wit’s end, and was THIS CLOSE to calling a ham manufacturer to have a canned ham made to Weiner’s exact specifications. Luckily for her, another researcher found evidence that some of the canned hams they’d already found were appropriate for the time period. (Source)

– There’s another story that Matthew Weiner came to the set one day and obsessed over a bowl of fruit. Fruit of today is apparently much larger than fruit of the past, and shinier, since many types of fruit often get a coat of wax before shipping. So Weiner ordered a poor intern to go out and find smaller, duller fruit. (Source)

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– Ever looked at the ice cubes on Mad Men? For one thing, the show uses actual ice cubes instead of more common acrylic cubes that last much longer while filming. But that’s not all: the show has – yes, you guessed it – historically accurate ice cubes. For scenes set in people’s homes, the show makes cubes from vintage metal ice cube trays people would have had in their homes in the 1960s. But for shots outside the home – like restaurants and bars – the show has an agreement with a “specialist ice producer” in Los Angeles to make authentic one inch square cubes. (Source)

– Here’s perhaps the craziest story of all: the set designers needed a bunch of fluorescent bulbs for the Sterling Cooper set. So they bought several types, and found a few that appeared to match the required time period. So they placed an order for 800 such bulbs… but only after they arrived did anyone notice that the interiors of the bulbs had modern components not available in the early 1960s. The team made frantic phone calls to any supplier they could find, but could not get their hands on enough bulbs. So Movie-Tone, a lighting supply specialist for the movies – stopped production, retooled their manufacturing plant, and made all the bulbs the show needed. The last shipment arrived on the first day of filming. (Source)

Mad Men: Symmetry

Last night, Pete Campbell’s transition into Don Draper came full circle. The symbolism was blindingly obvious… after all, does this shot:

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Remind you of anything? How about this shot from “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”:

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More beautiful symmetry from Matt Weiner and Co.

 

Some Goofs from “The Doorway”

Hi-ho Mad Men fans! What did you guys think of the season premiere? I liked it, although it was a bit rough around the edges (WTF, Betty?). Of course, most Mad Men premieres are a bit “slow”, so I’m kind of… not “shocked”, exactly… but sort of… “confused” by much of the negative press the premiere got. What do you think?

Some observations – mostly goofs – from last night’s premiere:

– Did anyone catch that Megan was wearing a backless dress at the luau (no bra), but was wearing a white bra later that same night in the hotel room?

– Those really tall hotels at the base of Diamond Head didn’t exist in the 1960s. Here’s a picture of what it looked like in 1967, and here’s a pic of what it looks like today. I guess it would have been too involved and\or expensive to remove the new hotels via CGI.

– Is it just me, or was the product placement even more blatant than usual? Ritz crackers? Smucker’s jelly? Talk about on the nose!

– Given the high profile of the Super Bowl, I’m surprised that they got so much wrong about it. First, some background: American football was created by universities. The first football game was played by Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1869. The sport rapidly spread to other universities, and it was the success of college football as a spectator sport that led to the creation of the American Professional Football Conference in 1920 (it renamed itself the “National Football League”, or NFL, in 1922). However, professional football would remain a distant second in popularity to college football until the late 1950s. Nationwide TV broadcasts allowed millions of Americans to see the games for the first time, and air travel made a geographically larger league possible. However, the NFL was reluctant to expand into “untested” cities. A man named Lamar Hunt (son of Texas oil tycoon HL Hunt – the inspiration for the “J,R. Ewing” character on Dallas – and younger brother of Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, who famously tried to corner the silver market in 1980) approached the NFL about creating a team in Dallas. The NFL turned him down, so Hunt, along with others who had been refused teams, created his own league, the American Football League (AFL). At first, the NFL dismissed the upstart league, but when the AFL quickly became popular with football fans, the two leagues went to war with each other. Both leagues expanded to new cities and fought with each other over players leaving college. It was soon obvious to everyone that the whole situation was counterproductive, and merger talks began between the two leagues. 1970 was the first year they played as a combined league, but before that the leagues agreed to play a game between the NFL and AFL champion at the end of the season. This was, of course, the Super Bowl. However, for the first two seasons it was known by its official name, the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game”. So I’m not so sure Peggy would be calling it the “Super Bowl”. The name “Super Bowl” existed, but wasn’t officially adopted until Super Bowl III. What’s more, the first few Super Bowls were not the huge “events” they are today. Super Bowl I didn’t even sell out: the stadium was only two-thirds full, perhaps because of the “high” ticket price of $12 ($81.40 in 2012 dollars, which is almost laughable given that face value of tickets for the most recent game, Super Bowl XLVII, was $850 to $1,250!). Super Bowl commercials really didn’t become a “big thing” until Apple’s famous 1984 ad from Super Bowl XVIII in 1983:

Before that, the only really notable Super Bowl commercials were from Master Lock (their iconic “lock getting shot with a rifle” ads debuted during Super Bowl VII):

Coca-Cola (the “Mean Joe” Greene commercial, aired during Super Bowl XIV in 1980, and considered by many the best Super Bowl ad ever):

And Xerox (their “monk” ads first aired in Super Bowl X in 1976):

So it’s also highly unlikely that Peggy would be stressing out over a “Super Bowl ad”, when such ads had not become a “thing” yet.

– While I’m on the subject of football, the “Cotton Bowl” was mentioned. This is a postseason college football game played in Dallas, Texas. College sports are somewhat confusing, especially to people outside the United States. The oldest “bowl” game is the Rose Bowl, which started in Pasedena, CA in 1901. At first the game was meant to feature the best team from the eastern US against the best team from the western US, and whoever won the game was considered national champion. The bowl game was incredibly popular, and other cities wanted to get in on the action. A few decades later you had the Cotton Bowl (1936, Dallas), the Orange Bowl (1934, Miami), and the Sugar Bowl (1934, New Orleans). Nowadays there are over 30 bowl games! And for the record, in the Cotton Bowl mentioned in Mad Men, Texas A&M beat #8 Alabama 20-16.

– As far as I know, there were no courts martial for war atrocities in Vietnam until well in to 1968.

– DEFCON (short for “defense readiness condition”) is an acronym used by the United States military to describe their overall alert level. The system was instituted in November of 1959, but I’m not sure how much the average public would have known about it in 1967 (especially since Peggy notes that the system “counts down” rather than up; i.e that DEFCON 5 is normal and DEFCON 1 is nuclear war).

– Lastly, the area around St. Mark’s Street was known as the “Lower East Side” until the 1980s, when “East Village” became the norm. There were people calling it East Village in 1967, but it was rare, and very unlikely that a 15 year-old girl from Rye would even know to call it that.

Good News!

Great news, Mad Men fans! The series returns April 7, 2013 with a two-hour premiere written by Matthew Weiner and directed by Scott Hornbacher!

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The premiere airs at 21:00 on April 7, with following episodes returning to the show’s 22:00 time slot!

Sadly, I won’t be able to recap this season. Just as with last season, I have friends coming in from the Netherlands (actually the same friends from last year) and we’re going on a trip to Florida later that month. Although I’d only miss two episodes at most, I found that once I’ve fallen behind I just can’t seem to catch up. So I’m not even going to try this go-round. Sorry.

Mad Men: “Far Away Places”

“Far Away Places” is different type of episode. Rather than follow a standard linear timeline, it focuses on a day on the life of three characters, Peggy, Roger and Don, with plot lines woven between the three characters. Instead of a traditional recap, I’m going to recap each character’s day. Note that “Other Stuff” will follow the linear format, with factoids and notes listed in the order they appear in the episode.

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PEGGY’S DAY: The episode opens with Peggy and Abe arguing about her obsession with work and its impact on their love life. Abe asks her to go to the movies later that day, but Peggy says she can’t think because she has her big presentation for Heinz. The two argue, and Abe leaves. Don and Megan leave the office to visit a prospective client, leaving Peggy to pitch Heinz by herself. The Heinz folks don’t like her idea (and seem to not like the idea of a woman pitching to them generally), and Peggy nearly gets into a shouting match with them. Peggy leaves the office to blow off steam by having a few drinks. On a whim, she goes to see a movie. She sees a young man in the audience smoking a joint, and partakes herself. She then gives the young man a handjob in the theatre. She goes back to the office, where she sees Ginsberg arguing with his father. She passes out on Don’s sofa, only to be awakened later by a frantic call from Don. Peggy goes back to her office and finds Ginsberg there. She asks about his past and he initially tells her that he’s from Mars. But he eventually admits that his father isn’t his biological father, and that he was born in a concentration camp in World War II and lived in an Swedish orphanage until he was five. Peggy, moved by his story, goes home, calls Abe and invites him over.

Continue reading Mad Men: “Far Away Places”

Mad Men: “Signal 30”

This episode begins with a group of people sitting in a high school classroom watching a film about car wrecks. It’s obvious that this is a driver’s education class, and Pete Campbell is one of the students. He laughs at the film, and a pretty young girl tuns around and smiles at him.

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He smiles back at her, and looks at her legs.

Later that night he’s in bed with Trudy, wide awake thanks to a leaky kitchen faucet, which is making loud dripping sounds. He gets out of bed, finds his toolbox and appears to fix the problem.

The next morning, we see Rebecca trying to get Lane to hurry up and get ready for a social engagement. Lane asks if they just want a nice lunch, why not go to the park? Rebecca says she wants to get to the pub and enjoy the chitchat with friends. Lane says that they’re her friends, not his, and that he’s never enjoyed spending hours in pubs watching football. He also says that he hates “bringing England over in pieces”, and that it’s for the homesick. Lane sighs and tell Rebecca that her face becomes lovely when she tells him she needs something. He takes a long slug off his drink…

We then see him at the pub, happily cheering England on with his (Rebecca’s?) friend Edwin Baker. Later, the two couples eat lunch at the pub, and while the women talk about the differences between England and America, Edwin mentions that he might want to throw some business SCDP’s way.

Continue reading Mad Men: “Signal 30”

Mad Men: “Mystery Date”

This episode begins with Megan and a very sick Don getting on an elevator. The elevator stops, and an old flame of Don’s named Andrea Rhodes gets on. She begins flirting with him until he introduces her to “his wife, Megan”. Andrea backs off, and gets off the elevator a couple of floors later. Megan, almost under her breath, says “incroyable!” (“incredible!”) after Andrea leaves. Megan asks how many times they’re going to run in to someone Don has slept with. The two start to argue, but Don starts coughing and Megan turns away.

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In the office, Peggy, Stan and Michael work on a pitch for Topaz. Peggy’s friend Joyce Ramsay shows up with graphic pictures from some recent murders in Chicago. Stan and Peggy eagerly look at the photos, but Ginsberg is repulsed and calls them “disgusting”. Michael gets up and leaves, calling them all “sickos”.

At Joan’s place, our favorite redhead pulls a cake out of the oven and laments that it’s not set. Greg is coming come and Joan is obviously planning a party. Gail offers to go to the bakery, and Joan, obviously frazzled, asks if they have beer. Gail offers to take the baby, but Joan says that Greg will want to see him. Gail says that he’ll really want to “see” Joan first. Gail starts talking about what men doe when they’re away from home, and Joan tries to cut her off, as she knows that Gail is talking about her husband.

Meanwhile, Don lies on the sofa, obviously sick. His phone buzzes: it’s Sally calling him. He asks what’s wrong, and Sally says that “Grandma Pauline” is there and she (Sally) hates her. Don advises her to stay out of Pauline’s way and reminds her that Betty will be home Friday morning. Sally says that it is Friday, and that someone called Henry’s line and said that they couldn’t get a flight from Buffalo and that someone will be driving them back tonight. Don says that you’d think Henry could get a flight, and Sally agrees, sarcastically adding that Henry is so important. She then says that Henry and Betty call Bobby all the time at camp, and that they might talk to her if she was peeing in her pants like Bobby. Don says that she’s not being nice, but Sally continues to complain about Pauline’s perfume and that Betty lets her watch as much TV as she wants during the summer. Don advises her to go outside and get some sun. She says that she has already, and that it’s really hot outside. Don tells her to stop complaining, then starts coughing. Sally asks how he is, and he says that he has a cold, but that Sally’s call made him feel better.

Continue reading Mad Men: “Mystery Date”