Mad Men 4.12 – A Certain Kind of Girl

Sorry for the delay in knocking out this week’s blog, but I spent the weekend attempting to cover the New York Comic Con, and the end result was that, upon flying home and making it into my house at about 10:30 PM, my attempts to watch and blog the show while wearing my spiffy new “Mad Men” button from NYCC – it has an illustration of Roger Sterling, along with the words, “When God closes a door, he opens a dress” – were interrupted by my complete and utter inability to stay awake.

So here we are on Monday morning, and although I’m still pretty freaking tired, I’m at least slightly better rested than I was last night.

Guess I picked the right button: it’s another episode directed by John Slattery. Things kick off with Don having an off-the-record meeting with a guy from Heinz, trying to get a feel for whether or not the company might be willing to hook up with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. It’s clear that he respects Don and his work (though he may just be saying that because Don’s behind his premise that beans don’t have to be funny), but they’re on different timetables. There are two people at that table, but only one of them has any real confidence that SCDP will be around in six to eight months, and, frankly, you can’t blame Heinz for wanting to make sure that they’re working with an ad agency that’s going to have some sort of staying power.

Geoffrey Atherthon lays the state of SCDP on the line, using dating metaphors to make his point, and since “tobacco is your ideal boyfriend,” he’s helped provide the firm with a meeting with Philip Morris about their new cigarette line for women. “We will listen more than we will speak,” says Bert, matter-of-factly. “Like a good girlfriend,” smirks Atherton. Immediately after the meeting, everyone begins to break into small camps: Bert and Roger discussing what sort of clients they should be pursuing, Harry and Ken mostly just trying to figure out where they stand in the firm, and Pete and Lane talking about the state of the office and Don saving the day. Meanwhile, Don and Faye are chatting as well, but it’s work-related, so the conversation ends in a handshake, a decision which clearly bemuses Don. I’m guessing it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the shot was framed in such a way that Megan appeared to be between them.

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Mad Men 4.11 – Too Little, Too Late

When I saw that this week’s episode was entitled “Chinese Wall,” I found myself overwhelmed by a sudden wave of deja vu. “Now, wait a minute,” I thought. “I know damned well that phrase has been utilized before, because I posted the video for Philip Bailey’s ‘Walking on a Chinese Wall’ when it happened.” And, indeed, that was true: Faye made the reference back in Episode 4.9.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s an expression which, according to the never-fallible Wikipedia, means “an information barrier implemented within a firm to separate and isolate persons who make investment decisions from persons who are privy to undisclosed material information which may influence those decisions.” In this case, the wall in question has been constructed by Roger, and he’s put everyone else on the other side of it.

And, now, on with the episode!

Hey, look, Peggy’s hanging with the lesbian from Life and her pals, including the guy who pissed her off with his writings a few episodes back. I guess all is forgiven now that he’s asking permission to quote her, since she immediately brings him back to her pad (I was disappointed, though, that Peggy’s reference to her roommate didn’t result in an appearance from Carla Gallo), and a good night evolves into an even better morning. We’re seeing a whole new Peggy, people!

Ray Wise in the house! Ken Cosgrove and his fiancee are having dinner with her parents – yep, Mr. Wise is her dad – when he gets word that Lucky Strike is moving out of business with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. As you can imagine, this information scares the heck out of him…so much so, in fact, that he rushes out of dinner and into the waiting room at the maternity ward, where Pete is waiting for Trudy to have their baby. Pete’s immediately on the phone to Don, and although he interrupts his makeout session with Faye to take the call, the topic of conversation instantly puts a damper on his libido. The next thing you know, everyone who’s anyone – minus Lane, of course, though it’s acknowledged that he’s been duly informed – is at the office, ready to pounce on Roger the second he walks in. He claims it’s an impossibility and immediately calls Lee, except we know from his comments that he’s clearly not talking to him.

Don heads back to his place and immediately starts drinking, and you know that ain’t a good sign. He acknowledges that he’s more or less dreaded this possibility for quite some time, but although Faye tries to remind him of how valuable a player he is, Don dismisses her level of concern, saying, “I’m not at that point yet.” Clearly, he’s not going to go down without a fight. Pete’s father-in-law, meanwhile, is almost immediately dismissive of any chance of the firm’s survival, basically saying, “Ah, well, you had your fun, now back to the real world.”

Should I feel sympathetic for Roger? Well, I did, at least a little bit. It’s not his fault that Lucky Strike decided to pull out, and I can’t blame him for not wanting to admit the loss to the firm, but at the same time, he’s clearly getting in over his head with this chicanery, getting a highly warranted smackdown from Joan for keeping his mouth shut when something could’ve been done to save the situation. After she once again relents and lets him swing by her pad, they share a sweet embrace, but even though he’s pretty pitiful when he departs from the premises, she’s seriously disappointed the next day by the fact that he’s continuing to weave his web of lies, and the awkwardness between them is palpable. I don’t think she’d betray him to them, mostly because it’s not like they could save the account at this point, anyway, but his actions are putting her job in jeopardy, too, and I think it’s pretty well established how much she enjoys her niche at the firm. For his part, Roger seems to have been temporarily swayed by the arrival of his book. Maybe he’ll be inspired to become the ad man he once was…?

After Bert and Don give the State of the Union address, the feeling on the floor is that everything’s more or less under control, but Don’s not pulling any punches when he sits his team down. The best moment, though, came when it was just him and Peggy. They’ve definitely got their own special relationship now…if, uh, not quite as special as the one she had last night, which has put her in a stellar mood. Unfortunately, it’s pretty transparent to everyone around her, which results in Stan being an Alpha Male to the Nth degree. What a jackass that guy is. Still, even his minor-league attempt at getting revenge on her for her rebuffing of his advances didn’t do any damage: it takes more than a little lipstick on the teeth to stop the creative force that is Peggy Olson!

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Frank Loesser centenary movie moment #1

If you were listening to NPR news this morning, you might have caught a very nice interview with Jo Sullivan Loesser, the widow of Broadway legend Frank Loesser, best known for his songs for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Guys and Dolls,” a real contender for the best musical comedy score of all time.  The occasion is that this is the year Loesser, who died in 1969, would have turned 100.

So, here’s the key number from “How to Succeed,” in which young, extremely fast-rising executive and ex-window washer J. Pierrepont Finch serenades his favorite person in the world. The film version, directed by David Swift, isn’t a particularly brilliant piece of cinema in terms of taking the piece from stage to screen, but it documents the play on film rather nicely, as you’ll see below.

Of course that’s a young Robert Morse up there as Ponty. I’m not sure how widely known it is to younger viewers of “Mad Men,” but Morse is better known these days as the conniving and sagacious Bertram Cooper, until recently the senior mucky-muck of ad firm Sterling Cooper. (Any similarities between the often somber TV show and the sprightly satirical musical aren’t, of course, all that coincidental.) Morse is an even better actor today, but the above shows how skilled he was at age 35 back in 1966-7 (when he still looked about 20).  Daniel “Please don’t call me ‘Harry'” Radcliffe, who really is still practically a zygote, is going to be taking on the role shortly on Broadway, which will be interesting.

After he’s done…well, I wonder if Vincent Kartheiser (i.e., Pete Campbell) can sing at all. I’d pay to see that.

  

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Mad Men 3.13 – “Do We Vote or Something?”

DAMN, that was good.

Tonight’s season finale of “Mad Men” was one of those blessing / curse episodes: it took threads from throughout the season, tied them together into a happy ending of cheer-worthy proportions, but just as you start to think, “Oh, man, I can’t wait to see what happens next,” you remember that you’re watching the season finale and that your wait is going to last for the better part of a year.

When we first see Don, he’s a goddamned mess. He looks like crap, he’s been kicked out of his own bed, and even worse, his alarm didn’t go off, leading him to show up late for a meeting with Conrad Hilton. Not exactly the best start to a day, and it only gets worse: Connie drops the bombshell that McCann-Erickson is buying Putnam, Powell & Lowe, and since PPL owns Sterling-Cooper…well, so much for the Draper / Hilton partnership. Given his already rough morning, it’s no surprise that Don quickly descends into mouthing off to Connie about his treatment, leading Hilton to snap back with the suggestion that Don’s being a bit of a whiner. In the end, the two shake hands and depart as…not exactly friends, but still on some semblance of friendliness, at least from a business standpoint.

It’s after this encounter, though, that the ball really starts rolling, and, man, there are some points where you feel like the ball in question is the boulder that chased Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Seriously, this was about as fast-moving an episode of “Mad Men” as I can ever remember. After we have a quick flashback to Don’s childhood, wherein we see that he has some personal experience to abrupt business transitions, Mr. Draper blows into Mr. Cooper’s office and drops on him the bombshell that he’s learned from Hilton. The result, surprisingly enough, is little more than a shrug. (“It makes sense,” says Bert. “All that short-term thinking.”) When Cooper falls back on his “we’ve got a contract” mentality, Don lashes back and suggests that they try and buy Sterling-Cooper back from the Brits, making for an absolutely fantastic back-and-forth between the two of them, delivered with impeccable timing by Jon Hamm and Robert Morse. The buyback isn’t such a bad idea, but, of course, it involves Don and Roger Sterling having to start speaking again, which would seem to lower the odds considerably…and, yet, it doesn’t. Instead, it leads to a reconciliation between the two of them, though not before Morse and John Slattery get their chance to do some verbal sparring, with Cooper offering his “Join or Die” speech and Sterling openly mocking his tactics. Even after returning to speaking terms with Roger, however, Don still can’t catch a break, returning home only to get the word from Betty that she’s moving forward with her plans to divorce him.

The Trio of Power – that’s what I’ve decided to start calling Don, Roger, and Bert – soon reconvene and invite Lane Pryce in for a cup of tea, springing it on him that they know all about the situation with PPL and Sterling-Cooper. He tells them they’re slightly misinformed. Turns out that he’s slightly misinformed, once again getting the shaft from the company to which we’ve consistently seen him giving his all. This time they’ve gone too far, however, and he’s not afraid to let them know it. I gotta tell ya, I almost cheered when Lane began working out specifics with the Trio of Power about a possible partnership. This scene was even more enthralling than the ones which had preceded it, with the Trio more than willing to acknowledge Lane’s worth to them. And as soon as the quartet decided on their new plan of attack – to let Lane fire them and immediately begin working a back-door plan to start their own brand new agency – the tone of the episode officially turned into something not terribly far removed from “Ocean’s 11,” with a “we’re getting the band back together” vibe.

But what do you do when not everybody in the band wants to get back together?

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