Sunday, August 1

MAD MEN episode 1, season 4 WHO IS DON DRAPER?

The defining question throughout all of Mad Men. Who is Don Draper and what will he – and all of our favorite characters – do next? And where are they now, Thanksgiving 1964, one year after Sterling Cooper and the Drapers imploded?

At one point Betty said she thought she would float away without having Don. (Did she say “Don’s holding me down”?) But perhaps it’s in fact Don who might float away now that he is unmoored from Betty and the kids. He agrees to an interview with Ad Age but then doesn’t give the reporter anything to work with. And it was meant to promote the new SCDP agency. What was he thinking?

And what’s up with Roger? What a really gratuitous quip at the expense of the Ad Age reporter’s prosthetic leg earned in Korea. (“They’re so cheap they can’t even afford a whole reporter.”) When did the sardonic and witty Roger become nasty? I much preferred his remark to Pete who says they don’t have time for a drink. “One quick pop, Louise.” Then they’re off to the Jantzen pitch.

The actor playing Bob the client is utterly believable. I’ve sat across tables with this guy before. The Jantzen clients make themselves plain: they were looking to reach modest customers. That is their market. What Don later produces as a pitch is insane.

Meanwhile we are treated to our first look at the new SCDP offices, last seen as a suite in the Pierre. Why don’t they have a conference table? Why can’t they afford one or was that an affectation? The best shot is seeing Joan in her own office at long last. She’s so competent and capable. She deserves it.

Don’s in a snit because Jantzen is taking pitches from a bunch of agencies. So? That was very common. Why did that offend him? Does it remind him of the competition that won Betty’s heart? Is that it?

Peggy is looking good. She is chicer and more confident and now she’s paired with free-lancer Joey. They keep doing a “John...Marcia...” routine that I remember as a Stan Freberg thing. But why?

Don’s financial advisor tells him he needs to clear the squatters from his former house where he no longer lives but for which he continues to pay through the nose. But Don resists.

Roger’s Jane’s agent fixing Don up with one of her friends. And then we see Don home in his dark little pad and his housekeeper Celia who may be long-suffering. Don barks at her because she put his shine kit away. And within minutes of being home, Don is shining his shoes. Then we see his famous Glo-Coat commercial that Madison Avenue’s buzzing about. Hard to imagine why. It’s not that good. But I do remember Glo-Coat.

And we see Don make his bed before going out on his date with Jane’s friend at Jimmy’s LaGrange. Is he hoping to get lucky? Jane’s friend Bethany seems nice enough although she’s not that different from Betty. She does say the magic words: “mock drinking” “wench” and “courtesan.” Don responds. She does earn points though for being a sport and not minding wearing a bib for the chicken kiev. And for her directness when she says goodnight to Don in the back of the cab outside the Barbizon. I suspect Don likes her for delecting his pass, as exasperated as he might look

And then we are treated to some vintage BMW ads by Marty Puris (of Ammirati & Puris. Will they ever mention DKG? Ally & Gargano? Wells, Rich Greene?)

Peggy and Pete cooked up a PR stunt for Sugarberry ham and pay off the actresses hired to fight over a ham. This is not what ad agencies do.

Don’s Ad Age interview calls him a “handsome cipher” and likens him to Dorian Gray. Disaster.
Roger’s right. It’s a “missed opportunity.”

Ho-Ho is disappointed at not being mentioned in the interview and is withdrawing the Jai Alai account, leaving Lucky Strike as nearly 3/4s of SCDP billings. Bert Cooper wants Don to do another interview, this one with the Wall Street Journal. He’s right. Turning creative success into business is his work and he did fail.

Betty! We see her with her new family, the Francises. If the Draper household was the frying pan, this is the fire. Betty practices her usual parenting skills, shoving a forkful of sweet potatoes into Sally’s sullen mouth only to see it regurgitated onto her plate. Served her right. I’m with Sally who’s made at her mother for driving away her father. That’s how she sees it.

As bizarre as that Thanksgiving tableau is, it cannot compete with Don’s spent being slapped by his regular hooker. Yikes! And Peggy calls for bail money – shades of DUIs past – only it’s for her actress. Sugarberry stunt has exploded in their faces. And then we get to meet Peggy’s friend Mark who tells Don he’s her “fiancé.” He’s holding a chafing dish so they’re probably on their way to dinner. Just a quick stop off at the Tombs.

Betty catches poor Sally trying to phone her Daddy. Sally is going to make her pay! I’ll be rooting for Sally. Betty’s gotten rid of the green headboard. She and Henry have opted for something Colonial rather than mid-century luxe.

Don has his overnight with the kids-minus the baby. Henry and Betty play teenagers in the car.

Bobby and Sally have a bunk bed in the Village and Don claims to be able to sew on a button. Times have changed.

SKY KING! The black and white tv show the kids watch the next morning, I was thrilled to see, was one of my favorites: Sky King although I remember not a thing about it except he was a pilot and his niece? was named Penny.

Betty and Henry miss Betty’s own deadline. And most shockingly, Henry asks why the hell the dog is in the house. They’ve relegated Polly to the yard?? It’s worse than I thought.

Don wants to know when they are vacating. Betty claims not to have found the right place yet. And Henry protests that they’re overstaying their welcome is “temporary.” Which leads to the best line of the whole episode: “Believe me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary.”
And then we learn Betty isn’t even looking for another home!

Henry’s mother clearly hates Betty. She calls her a “silly woman” despite his saying (lying) that Betty “loves” her. Pauline Francis wants to know how Henry can live in “that man’s dirt.” Oh, my. There will be many more happy holidays at the Francis home.

Don presents his kamikaze pitch to Jantzen. As a former Madison Avenue copywriter I disapprove of his ad on two grounds: first, he completely disregarded the clients’ direction, which is always fatal. And second, the ad itself is inane.

Now Don has produced some good advertising. I happen to think his Hilton campaign of last season was tremendous. But this? “So well built” says the black strip across the model’s chest, “we can’t show you the second floor.”

HUH? This is a classically bad ad. It uses a pun but it makes no sense. “Well built” comes into it only because a woman can be said to be “well built.” But taken literally, a building that is so “well built” – how could we not show you the second floor? That’s stupid. There’s no pay off to this ad. So it’s just provocative but pointless.

And then Don commits the worst kind of offense. He goes off on the client and insults them. And then, not content with that he throws them out, probably what he’s like to do to the interlopers in the house he’s paying for. No way. No way.

And then Don is forced into doing the WSJ interview where he then lays bare his soul. He tells the reporter how he got Lane Pryce to fire them all. My immediate reaction is that he shouldn’t be saying this and that it’s going to backfire and blow up in Don’s face.

Is Don unraveling? It seems so. What’s exciting is that Matthew Weiner has chosen to remake this show which could have continued with more angst from the Drapers and more hijinks at Sterling Cooper. But the stage has been set for more changes. Despite my quibbles here and there, I can’t wait.

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