Mad Men: “The Jet Set”

Wow. I really did not like this episode of Mad Men. I’ll explain why later… but first: the recap… which begins right now:

The episode starts off with Roger and Jane in bed at the Sherry-Netherland hotel. Jane is dressed only in a sheet. Jane writes poems about Roger. Roger proposes to Jane. Seriously. I’m still not buying it.

Meanwhile, Peggy leads a meeting about Right Guard deodorant, with Paul, Harry, Sal, Kurt and Smitty in attendance. Paul mentions a study that found that “80% of men say that Right Guard makes them feel more confident at work”. Wasn’t “confidence at work” at part of Right Guard’s advertising later on? At any rate, it’s clear that no one is very interested in working in Don’s absence: the meeting quickly turns to pop culture gossip: Sal asks if anyone saw The Loretta Young Show the previous night; he then says it was “awful” with “the aprons, the nauseating upholstery on the couch”. Upholstery, huh? Smitty asks if anyone’s heard from Paul Kinsey, who is at Ole Miss protesting on behalf of black student James Meredith (this dates the episode to around September 30, 1962). A conversation starts about prejudice but quickly turns to how the event will affect business. Kurt says the he has no idea what’s going on, since he doesn’t have a TV. Harry tells him that he must have a TV for his job. The guys ask Kurt what he does in his spare time instead of watching TV. He says that he goes to concerts, and Smitty mentions that Kurt recently saw Dylan. This sparks an interest in Peggy, who breaks the meeting up to flirt with Kurt, who asks her if she wants to go see Dylan with him.

Don and Pete have made it to Los Angeles. The airline has apparently lost Don’s luggage, so he’s stuck at the pool in a suit:

Pete wants to spend the day at the pool, but Don tells him to get out his list and get to work. Pete kind of mumbles for a few minutes, then Don snaps him to attention with the best line of the episode:

“Do you want to be on vacation, Pete? ‘Cos I can make that happen.” – Don Draper

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Mad Men: “The Inheritance”

This episode kicks off with Pete reading a list of companies that will have a presence at an aerospace convention in Los Angeles. Sterling Cooper will have a presence there, too. Don says that “every engineer, scientist, and general will be there trying to figure out how to put a man on the moon… or blow up Moscow, whichever one costs more.” Don appoints Pete to be the Talker and Paul to be the Listener. They are not only to look for “traditional” advertising business, but also to look for Congressmen trying to get funding for projects. Sterling Cooper will gladly help members of Congress in “selling” their plans to the public. Awesome. He then blasts Paul and Pete for not reading the material that Peggy had put together. “Maybe I should send her”, Don laments.

Later that night, Trudy begs Pete to take her to Los Angeles with him. Pete declines, to which Trudy says that she will go to her parent’s home in Rehoboth (Delaware?) while he is away. Pete asks why, and Trudy says that her parents are concerned… thus, bringing up the whole “baby thing” again. If I were Pete, I guess I’d be ticked off, too. I mean, sure… Trudy is pretty hot, in an “Emmy Rossum is hot” kind of way… but the constant nagging about having a baby would drive me crazy too! Trudy brings up adoption, while Pete decries as “unnatural”.

At around the same time, Betty calls Don at his hotel. Betty’s father has had a stroke. He’s “up and around and talking”, but Betty’s relatives refused to put him on the phone. Don says that he’ll come get her that moment. Betty refuses, saying that she doesn’t want to wake the kids. Don says that everything will be OK, and that he’ll pick her up at 8am the next morning.

The next morning, the Drapers arrive at her father’s house a few minutes ahead of her brother William. Betty’s father Gene initially recognizes Betty and Don. In fact, he seems almost completely normal. That is, until Betty mentions that they should have called her (Betty) earlier, as Don knows some great doctors in New York. This causes William to roll his eyes and talk about “oh yes, the great doctors in New York, where everything’s better”. It also causes Gene to mistake Betty for Ruthie, his deceased wife (and Betty’s mother). Betty then asks Gene what the doctors said, to which her dad says “ah, it’s just like last time”. Betty, who had no idea that he’d had one before, freaks. Gene tells her that it’s just “a couple of little strokes” and that it’s not a big deal.

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Mad Men: “Six Month Leave”

Marilyn Monroe has died. Don learned about it the following morning thanks to the newspaper left at the door of his room in the Roosevelt Hotel… so no, Betty hasn’t let him come home yet.

At the office, all the “girls” are weepy about Marilyn’s death. Peggy, who took the elevator up with Don, says that she’s glad Playtex didn’t go with the “Jackie\Marilyn” campaign, since Sterling Cooper would have to do some massive damage control. Don agrees.

At his first meeting of the day, Don listens as Ken, Paul, Sal and Harry discuss that day’s blood drive. Interestingly, Don is all for the drive, and even gives Paul some pointers to help increase the number of people participating. One of Don’s ideas is a cash bounty… which causes Paul to ask if the bounty is for him or for the people giving blood. “This is for mankind, Kinsey”, Don says. At that same meeting, Harry invites Don and Betty to a Mitch Miller concert hosted by NBC. Don declines (being on the outs with Betty), saying that one of his kids is sick.

Back at his office, Jane gives Don the rest of his schedule for the day, then admits to screwing up: Sally called the office yesterday, wanting to know when Daddy would “come home from his business trip”. Jane, not knowing what to say, told her Wednesday. Don quietly lets Jane know that the matter is personal, and that he doesn’t want her getting involved in his life in any way. He doesn’t even want her giving him concerned looks:

Meanwhile, Pete, Peggy and Sal are in Freddy’s office having a walkthrough of the presentation they’re about to give to Samsonite. Freddy, who is such an alcoholic that no one even notices he’s drunk anymore, turns away from the other workers and then pees in his pants… just before passing out at his desk. Pete and Peggy take control of the situation: Peggy will do the pitch, Pete tells Sal to go to the conference room and look as if he’s been waiting, and also tells Peggy to tell “Freddy’s girl” about the situation.

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Catch Up with AMC

If you haven’t been paying attention lately, AMC has two of the best shows on TV right now: Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

If you read this site at all, you probably already know all about my obsession with Mad Men, a show based in a New York advertising agency in the 1960s. So I won’t waste your time. Just click the “Mad Men” category on the sidebar to learn all you could ever want to know about the show.

I haven’t said nearly as much about Breaking Bad, which features Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) as a high school chemistry teacher who finds out that he has inoperable cancer. He wants to take care of his family financially after he dies, so he teams up with a former student to sell the best crystal meth known to man. It sounds serious (and it is), but the show has lots of humor to take the sting out of Cranston’s situation. Cranston, for example, is as square as they come… so even though he knows everything he needs to know about actually making the drug, he has no idea how to sell it… which leads to a lot of “fish out of water” humor. It’s a great show, and one totally worth watching.

I mention all this because AMC is running marathons of both Mad Men and Breaking Bad in the next few days. The network will run the first 8 episodes of Mad Men season 2 today, starting at 4pm. Next Wednesday, AMC will run the all 7 episodes of the first season of Breaking Bad starting at 8pm.

Look, folks… this is great TV. Mad Men just won the “Best Drama” Emmy, and Cranston just won the “Best Actor” Emmy for Breaking Bad. It’s incredible stuff… so check it out!

Mad Men Emmy Predictions

This post over at AMC has some predictions as to how Mad Men will do at Sunday’s Emmy Awards. You can (obviously) read the whole post yourself, but I’ve excepted a large chunk of it below:

Let the handicapping begin. Mad Men is up against some very strong shows for best drama: Boston Legal, Damages, Dexter, House and Lost. Newsday says the odds are in favor of Mad Men becoming the first basic-cable drama to walk away with the best drama Emmy; the New York Post favors Lost but adds Jon Hamm should win for lead actor. As for Mediaweek, that publication predicts Mad Men wins for best drama, outstanding lead actor, outstanding directing, and outstanding writing for the pilot “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

“A win by Mad Men or Hamm would help the Emmys do one of the things it does best: help to break new shows on the verge of bigger ratings,” reports Broadcasting & Cable. Emmys for Mad Men would also be a coup for Lionsgate, the studio that produces the show in association with AMC, says Multichannel News.

Awesome! I can’t wait until Sunday!

Mad Men: “A Night to Remember”

Sorry for the delay in posting this!

Another great episode of Mad Men is in the can… so let’s get right to it, shall we?

The episode begins with Betty having a rigorous morning ride on a horse. She returns home, only to pester Don into fixing an errant wall outlet. To say that the tension between Don and Betty is palpable is an understatement; it almost seems as if those two can’t even be in the same room with each other these days. For those of you keeping score at home, Don calls Betty “Birdie” for the first time in what seems like forever.

While all this is going on, Peggy visits her mother’s house. Father Gill arrives and asks Peggy if she’d do some pro bono work for an upcoming church dance:

On Monday morning, Duck gives Harry hell for a humorous gaffe from the television department: the night before, a Sterling Cooper ad for a Maytag washing machine called “The Amazing Agitator” ran during a movie about communist agitators. Maytag’s switchboard “lit up like a Christmas tree” with complaints, and Sterling Cooper was forced to eat the cost of the ad time. Duck tells Harry that, regardless of politics, clients are always looking for a way to get out of paying the agency, and that he (Harry) needs to be on top of situations like these. Harry then begs Sal, Ken and Paul for help in reading the scripts of upcoming shows so that Sterling Cooper’s ads don’t conflict with them; when it becomes obvious that they’re not going to help him, Harry looks around the office in a panic.

Meanwhile, Duck and Don meet about Heineken. The problem with the Heineken account is this: the company wants to compete in bars, while Duck and Don feel that the brewer should focus on “home sales”. Imported beer was something of a novelty in 1962, and Don wants to push Heineken to housewives planning sophisticated parties at home. “For women entertaining in the home, Holland is Paris”, Don says, as he comes up with a plan to test market sales in grocery stores by putting Heineken on end caps, away from the other beers, with cheeses, crackers and “toothpicks with cellophane tips”. Pete even suggests “shorting” the displays, to make it look as if the beer is already selling well.

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Mad Men: “The Gold Violin”

Well, folks… let me begin by saying that I just don’t have it in me this week to do an exhaustive recap of this episode. Which is a bit of a shame, given that this was a damn fine episode, maybe my favorite of season 2 so far. Let me summarize the episode as best I can, then get into my thoughts on it:

The episode begins with Don at a Cadillac dealership. He wrecked his car a few episodes ago, remember? So now he needs a new ride. The thing is that while he’s talking to the car salesman, he has a flashback of his own days in the car business. Whilst trying to sell a car to a kid, a woman comes in asking for Don Draper. When Don introduces himself, the lady says that “you’re not Don Draper”:

Later that day, Don meets with the “Young Turks”, who share their vision of what “advertising” is for “young people of today”. Don, surprisingly, seems to like their ideas.

At the end of the day, Jane convinces Ken, Hal and Sal to sneak into Cooper’s office to look at his newest painting, something Harry and Paul decline for fear of getting caught. Paul even tells the group to “call me from jail.” Harry actually initiated all this by mentioning that Cooper wants to have a meeting with him. Harry is nervous because he thinks that the meeting will only be about about the new painting, and he doesn’t know if Cooper bought the abstract artwork because he actually likes it, or because he thinks it’s a joke and will enjoy seeing his employees try to kiss his ass with compliments for something that Cooper thinks is trash.

After looking at the picture, Sal, Ken and Jane share an elevator on the way out. Ken tries to flirt with Jane by mentioning that he’s a published author; amusingly, Sal picks up on this and talks about how much he liked Ken’s story. Later on in the episode, Ken asks Sal to read a story he has been working on, and Sal invites him over for Sunday dinner.

In an amusing scene, Cooper and Harry have their meeting. Harry still thinks that it’s to admire Cooper’s new painting. Come to find out, the meeting really is about the finances of Harry’s TV department, but Cooper and Harry have a fun discussion about the painting where Harry tries to be all “arty”, only to find out that Cooper has bought the painting solely as an investment.

There’s another scene with Cooper a few minutes later where he calls Don into his office to essentially orders him to take a seat on the board of a folk art museum. Cooper is not only giving Don money and power in the office, he now wants Don to have social status as well.

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