Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Mad Men: I Didn't Like It (Don't Hurt Me!)

Am I the only person on earth who thought this episode bordered on disaster? I thought a lot of the acting looked like they were shooting a rehearsal. There are visual anachronisms all over the place, in dress, hairstyle (Peggy's hairdo is still a couple of years away from popularity, and her "boy toy" young Brad Pitt look-alike co-worker has a ridiculously modern haircut! ), set design and art direction. Roger really has a space-age office from the 70's? Yes, these things were entering the mainstream no too soon after the 1964 World's Fair, but I found it out of place and off-putting.

As for Don's "well appointed" new "digs" in the West Village? I know the writers and creator are going for heavy symbolism here, with Don's private life being squalid and dark, but I don't buy it. That neighborhood in the 60's was hedonistic and somewhat dangerous. He brings his kids there? His old beatnik girlfriend had a nicer place. Old, dark, beat up decor that smacks of "furnished apartment"? Don has more money than ever, has been used to a fabulous lifestyle for quite some time, and I would think that when he asked Joan to find him an apartment that she would not ever find him that dump, no matter how hard they want to drive home Don's private tortured symbolism. He polishes his own shoes? Please, he gets them polished at the train station or at work like everyone else in that time period.

The new offices? Everyone keeps going on and on about how "new, open, and fabulous" they are. Really? They look to me like they were conceived to symbolize a rat's maze--all narrow corridors and right angles and walls, walls, walls. Even if they are made of glass. You'll notice we were shown the low ceilings over and over to close us in. We were also shown on at least two occasions that those walls are paper-thin; everyone can hear everyone else. As for the lack of a conference table? Roger can have an office full of the most cutting-edge expensively made furniture on earth but they can't afford a conference table? It just doesn't wash. Many things about the office are too modern: the yin-yang Miramekko peacock textile print behind Peggy's desk, Don's blue Italian Murano glass mod ashtray, Roger's mushroom desk and arc lamps. My guess is that they feel these things will fit in fine by the end of the season (late 1965) and were too cheap and/or lazy so they just plunked them there now.

I also don't buy the fact that Henry would spend one night in Don and Betty's old house. Not one. He convinced her at her attorney consultation about the divorce that he would provide her with everything--he didn't want Don owing her a thing. And now he's freeloading in their old house? Trying to screw Don's wife in their old bedroom? Has Matt Weiner ever been in a relationship? He magically erased Henry of his pride and Betty of her territorial nature as a woman.

Sorry to keep complaining, but the whole ham actresses-fighting-in-a-supermarket scenario rings false as well...if you've ever met or worked with an actor in NYC. Those two women would never have gone to the police. They are actresses hired by a big ad agency in New York--they would never jeopardize the possibility of being hired again. Never. The "ham" was the best symbolism of the night. I think a lot of the activity on this episode rang false because they propelled the action by what they wanted to show us quickly in one hour.

After watching this episode a few times, it still smacks of wrong in a lot of ways to me...like somebody putting ketchup on a doughnut. Am I the only one who feels this way?


  1. You are NOT the only one who feels this way at all. The whole time I was watching the show I felt like I was watching a pilot instead of the first episode of a new season. Everything is new this season and it's hard to find anybody to root for.

    You bring up brilliant comments about the decor. Don's apartment bothers me to no end. Overall I feel like the writers are trying too hard to keep up with the hype of the show and they took it too far.

  2. I agree with you; and there are way too many unanswered questions from the beginning. I don't buy it for one minute that Don was unable to see the baby and yes, Betty's husband was going to take care of everything and she and the kids would never need anything from Don. I usually watch the episodes over but after one time, that was enough. Chris is right, the new offices were awful and closed in. What a disappointment!

  3. Honestly none of what you're writing about hit me--there was too much that I loved, and sometimes my eye for detail remains well, untrained. So although for me the experience doesn't match yours, you bring up a lot of reeeally interesting points. Ouch.

  4. I think Peggy's hairdo is period appropriate. I thought of Marjorie Lord the minute I saw Peggy's new do. Perhaps she was watching a lot of Make Room for Daddy. Here's Ms. Lord on an early 1964 TV Guide cover.

  5. this comment has nothing to do with Mad Men (although I love it). Chris, I'm trying to contact you, but your website has been down for the last 2 days (maybe longer). Is there another way to reach you?

  6. I'm with you entirely, and then some. Mostly, I think the premier for the season was badly directed. There's anachronisms of twenty-first century "entitlement" all over the place.

    Here's my entry. (If you don't mind me piggy backing on your fabulous blog.)

    Watching the premier of this season's Mad Men.
    There are some flaws.

    I don't like the sado masochistic slapping thing. That's not true to his character, I don't think. I'll look again.

    I don't like the art and his pitch for Jantzen. I didn't think agencies were trying to be slutty then and the implication feels like an anachronism. I think all the sex took awhile to start to be conscious.

    Plus the model was way too skinny. They didn't start getting skinny like that til Twiggy.
    And the Helvetica bold extended... and title case....feels wrong.

    I miss Sal. They should have hired him. Or at least had the same art people from last season. Sketches, not preprinted photoshop collages.

    They were all over the map with the Advertising Age interview. The printed piece that you can read in the HD version of the episode does not start out with Don Draper is a cipher. And it is actually written as if it was a real interview, contrary to the dramatized interview we see. Where the interviewer is just mean and has a "chip on his shoulder" in the form of a wooden leg.

    Poor Sally Draper. It's awful that she's bearing the brunt, but it seems like it's kind of over the top.

    A lot of the episode seemed over the top.

    I wanted the cool build up again. We don't have to start in a hedonistic frenzy. There's no where to go.

    And it sounds like continuity and research were a little weak this episode.

    >>HERE'S A stolen blog within my blog!!
    "Jantzen heydey was definitely early Sixties. Stuff was cool, still is. I’m glad the show used an actual company that the viewer could “know” instantly. My own pet reference peeve: Henry and Betty go to the Griswold Inn in Essex, CT for a quick weekend after Thanksgiving. NO ONE was going there from ANYWHERE in 1964. The place served locals and summer boaters only back then. (My family moved to Essex in that exact year) And the rooms at the Gris were VERY shabby (untery VERY recently). No Princess Betty was staying at the Griswold Inn in ‘64 nor ‘74, nor ‘84. Also, Essex is about halfway to Boston from Ossining and there was no I-84 for decades and I-95 was completed in that region a year later (1965). It would have been a hellish six plus hours one way. Uh, uh. Producer must new owners of the Inn who, though natives, have been Los Angles types recently."

  7. A long interview with Chris March from season 4 just went up on Dave Hill's Podcasting Incident. Lots of Project Runway talk and lots of fun in general:


  8. I just like looking at Jon Hamm. Were there other people on that show? ;)