Tag: Joan Harris

Mad Men 4.4 – “I’m going to need a new secretary.”

This week’s “Mad Men” blog starts off in much the same way as this week’s “True Blood” blog: with a thank-you to the gentleman who so capably filled my shoes while I was at the TCA press tour. Kudos to Bob Westal, who – unlike the Beverly Hilton – actually gets AMC, thereby putting him in a far better position than myself to write up last week’s episode. Fortunately, I had the chance to watch the episode when I got home, but I also read Bob’s blog, which should ostensibly mean that I’m doubly prepared this week.

Rarely does a basic cable program which opens with the words “the following program contains brief nudity” ever disappoint me, so I was glad to see that particular phrase gracing the beginning of tonight’s episode. Based on Bryan Cranston’s comments about how he hates to direct episodes of “Breaking Bad” without having as much lead time to prepare for them as possible (to date, he’s only helmed season openers), I presumed that seeing John Slattery’s name in the directorial slot meant that we’d see little in the way of Roger Sterling, but damned if he wasn’t the second person to show onscreen. John, don’t work yourself so hard!

The national crackdown on smoking advertisements would seem to be cutting into what SCD&P can accomplish, but, of course, Roger’s telling everyone that “Don doesn’t think there’s a problem.” Meanwhile, there’s clearly a problem with Don, who picks up an empty bottle of Scotch, only to be informed that the reason it’s empty is because he drank it all. The “ladies” are looking for him to make business decisions, but he’s just looking for ice. The poor bastard: with everything going on in his personal life, he’s clearly hovering in the vicinity of a nervous breakdown, but he’s stuck having to be the big man on campus with the new firm. The moment he pulled out the photo out of the letter, there was no question in my mind that it would, by episode’s end, prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and it was only cemented by the bug-eyed look Don gave Allison when she saw the photo and asked if it was from the letter from California.

Pete’s in a grouchy mood from the moment he turns up this week, bitching about not being included in the Lucky Strike call, and things only get worse when Roger tells him that SCD&P is going to have to kick Clearasil to the curb. Lane attempts his version of putting salve on the wound by explaining the mathematics behind the decision, leaving Pete even more upset, but Roger tells him to throw himself on the grenade, as it were, for the good of the company. “This evening, if you can,” adds Lane. What a guy. “I hate this office,” says Pete, as he storms into his office, where he finds…Harry Crane? Yep, dude’s just hanging out, having a snack, and waiting to cheer down Pete even more with the news that his old nemesis, Ken Cosgrove, is marrying the daughter of the CFO of Corning. When Harry says that he’s going to the opera with Ken because they’re friends, Pete sneers, “Friends? Why are you always looking for a job?” Oh, Pete, you’re such an unlikeable little shit. If we’re supposed to feel sorry for him…well, sorry, but I don’t. With an attitude like that, you reap what you sow. But with that said, I did have to smile at his excitement at learning that he was going to be a father, and the scene with him and Trudy was genuinely touching.

After Lane battled back from being a British Businessman to offer Pete legitimate congratulations on his impending child, it seemed as though all was right in Pete’s world, so much so that he even agreed to join Harry for a lunch with Ken. Still, I sensed that something would go wrong at the luncheon. I just didn’t expect that, as soon as Harry went to take a phone call, Ken would be the one who came roaring out of the gate, pissed off at Pete. Not a surprise: Pete flailing to avoid being seen as guilty. Less expected: offering an apology that sounded at least 10% sincere. (I was only expecting 3% sincerity, tops.) Fast forward to Pete’s dinner with the in-laws. The kid’s clearly gotten his second wind with this kid coming, giving Trudy’s dad the smackdown. Calling him a son of a bitch was probably more polite than I would’ve been.

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Mad Men 4.3 – We’re Going to Have to Smoke the Dress

Howdy Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce-heads. Will Harris, your usual “Mad Men” blogger, has found himself here in beautiful Southern California and ensconced at the Beverly Hilton, where — as you may have noticed from his numerous posts — he has been covering the twice-annual conclave of the Television Critics Association (TCA). Ironically, especially considering last year’s Conrad Hilton storyline, the beautiful and very pricey Beverly Hilton does not, in fact, carry AMC and so the job has been left to yours truly.

Now, for some reason, whenever I sit in for Will on one of these posts, there’s always something stressing me out. Tonight it’s these weird twinges in my upper right teeth that I’m hoping are somehow normally associated with the new nightguard I’ve been trying out from the dentist and not an early warning sign of a toothy catastrophe of some sort. However, as Don Draper would no doubt remark over an Old Fashioned, we’ve all got our problems And so it is in spades for pretty much all the featured characters on tonight’s episode, which takes place around the New Year’s holiday of 1964-65.

As we begin, Joan Harris is visiting her affable gynecologist, who is concerned that she’ll be able to have a baby when her and Dr. Greg are finally ready. The doctor is wondering what Joan is waiting for as most newlywed females as positively ancient as Joan is would be desperate to have a baby yesterday, or so it seems to the kindly doc. There is also the obliquely referred to issue of not one but two abortions. One of the procedures was apparently performed by doc, though abortion would remain illegal in New York until 1970. An earlier procedure was performed by a woman who claimed to be a midwife. This isn’t great, but Joan got pregnant (and unpregnant) after that and besides, there’s always the wise words of songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans: “whatever will be, will be.” (I need to remember that about my teeth.)

Then it’s off to offices of SCDP where Don is planning a New Year’s get away to Acapulco, which always seemed to be swinging bachelor destination of choice on sixties sitcoms. Speaking of said sitcoms, Harry Crane, now quite the show biz insider, notes a 24 hour L.A. lay over in Don’s itinerary. Why not hang out at the legendary Brown Derby with Harry’s new acquaintance, producer Bill Asher? It’s not mentioned, but William Asher’s new program in ’64 was a sitcom called “Bewitched” starring Asher’s then spouse, the highly underrated Elizabeth Montgomery, as a witch whose magic powers were often employed in helping her advertising executive husband land and retain new clients. Occasionally “Mad Men” has what I sometimes call “McMahon &  Tate moments” after the firm on the show — usually when someone saves a presentation at the last second with a sudden inspiration. Don, naturally, will blow off that Asher meeting. This trip is all about freedom, after all.

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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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Mad Men 3.11 – And Who Are YOU Supposed To Be?

First things first: my thanks to Bob Westal for ably filling my shoes last week while I was in the UK. Alas, I was so busy covering the press junket for “Pirate Radio” that I wasn’t able to hunt down the home office of Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. Oh, well, maybe next time…

Betty is packing her bags when the episode begins. Will it prove to be prophetic…? We’ll see, but it certainly doesn’t seem to bode well that A) she and the kids are heading off for a week at her dad’s old place, and B) her last moments with Don involve him…well, not so much lying to her face about his stash o’ cash as unabashedly avoiding giving an answer when she asks if he has any money lying around. But, even so, you can tell she’s still damned well pissed at him, and given all of the confusing information that she’s found out about him through the contents of the drawer, you can’t blame her.

We meet Annabelle Mathis, heiress to a fortune in dog food as a result of her husband’s unfortunately demise at the age of 51…and, boy, the look Roger cut to Don when he was lighting up just as Annabelle was revealing that her husband had died of lung cancer was priceless. Don’s given the opportunity to take a shot at the campaign (apparently, Sterling-Cooper used to have their business, but, per Bert Cooper, “Her father was a son of a bitch”), just so long as he follows two cardinal rules: don’t change the recipe and don’t change the name. What’s the connection between Roger and Annabelle? Well, there was clearly a relationship of some sort back in the day. At first, it sounded like an extra-martial affair, since she asked him if he’s still married, but it’s later revealed that their coupling was quite some time in the past…not that either one of them has forgotten it. It’s to Roger’s credit that, despite the amount of alcohol in his system, he still doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity for post-dinner entertainment that Annabelle offers him.

Speaking of Roger’s extra-marital affairs, Joan is trying to help her husband prepare for job interviews, and in the process, she learns that his father had a nervous breakdown. Somehow, that stands to reason. The next day, she decides to call Roger and, although she won’t ask him for her old job back, she’s not above asking him for assistance in finding a new gig. The two of them have a nice, flirtatious conversation that harks back to earlier seasons, making for one of the most pleasant scenes of the episode, and although it doesn’t entirely pay off for Joan yet, Roger does indeed start making calls on her behalf. Things don’t go nearly as well for Dr. Greg, however, who promptly does an emotional bellyflop during his interview, then comes home and takes his annoyance out on his wife. She, however, responds in turn, clocking him over the head with a vase and leaving him to pick up the resulting broken glass by his damned self. “Oh, shit,” indeed. You go, Joan. But by episode’s end, we’re left wondering if maybe she gave him a concussion, as he returns home to tell her that he’s joined the Army. Just the mention of Vietnam and the throwaway line when he references it, saying, “If that’s still going on…” is a sure sign that he’ll be going over there and probably never coming back.

The dog food test for Calcott Farms goes so horribly bad, with the participants immediately recognizing the name, that Don orders Peggy to turn it off, leading to one of the funniest lines in the episode: “I can’t turn it off. It’s actually happening!” And then…

Oh, but you don’t want to hear any more about this stuff, do you? Let’s get to the real meat and potatoes of the episode: Don and Betty.

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