02 April, 2012

Review - MAD MEN the First 2 Episodes

This is not a recap... in the way Sunday Bloody Sunday is not a rebel song.

Don Draper turns 40 and his wife throws a surprise birthday party for him where she sings and embarrasses him. At the office, there is much talk about this happening. In Don's world, he overreacts because he hates sharing his happiness with others. Don likes to collect his prizes and hide them away so that no one else can steal them from him.

In the office world, when a rival company embarrasses itself with an insensitive prank on some local African American protestors, Don and Roger put an ad in the paper proclaiming their diversity. This has unintended consequences and they end up being forced to hire a new secretary so as not to embarrass themselves in the process.

Meanwhile, Betty is fat and has a lump. The lump turns out to be benign (OR DOES IT?!) but she's still a fatty. Does that story go anywhere? Not really but these writers never do anything without meaning to lead it somewhere later. Perhaps Betty's largeness relates to her unhappiness without Don. Perhaps Don's need to keep his young prize away from prying eyes, and his attitude toward her in the first two episodes somehow relates to his need for a woman who understands him more.

Pete acquires a big whale of a client in Mohawk Airlines and Peggy hires a new full-time copywriter to be their whipping boy on the account. He is all kinds of strange and apparently wildly talented, plus Jewish. Seems like diversity is the name of the game this season as we pass the mid-60s. Peggy doesn't really want to hire him, partly perhaps because of his talent (though she declares that is not so), but mostly because she fears Don will hate him, and her for hiring him. Roger tries to reassure her that there is nothing to worry about.

Roger is given the account since the client seems to be more comfortable with him. Later, when Pete announces the client to the office, he takes all the credit for the acquisition and treats Roger much like an underling. This is clearly not taken well by Roger and a sense of worry can be seen on Don's face as his fellow senior partner fakes his way through an applause. Roger then warns Peggy of impending trouble with her new guy, as Pete was Roger's last hire.

This early in the season the theme looks to be about fear, youth, changing times of diversity, and a hint of redemption in the wings. There is also the notion that Pete is becoming a bigger fish and will some day execute his master plan of taking over the universe, one whiny declaration at a time.

If I had to rate each episode, it would look something like this.

Week 1: 93 out of 100
Week 2: 90 out of 100

It is a slow burn and I left out a lot of stuff... but no one is paying me to write MAD MEN reviews anyway. I'm just doing this for fun. You know, like everything else.


  1. In the advertising business, a person go from star to dinosaur in the space of a few years.

    Odd comment:
    One thing I've noticed is wardrobe. Almost everyone at the office has changed their wardrobe to match the mid-60's. Even the media guy has converted from those bowties he used to wear to something more contemporary.

    One exception, though is Don. He's pretty much wearing the same suits he's always worn. We got the scene backstage at the Stones concert where he looks extremely out of place.

    One thing I clearly see is an exploration of career trajectories within the ad business. If Weiner is realistic, even the great Don Draper would head in the direction of becoming the dinosaur that Roger and that other old guy are already.

    I wonder if Weiner is going to go there. If he does, I wonder how fast the transition might be.

    BTW--Pete may be whiny, but they've been good at showing that he actually has some marketing chops and is closer to being a modern day account executive. Roger's generation of doing that job was all about drinking and getting the clients hookers.

    1. I think MediaSavant just volunteered to write future MAD MEN reviews. ;)

    2. I am so tempted. Damn it for being on a loaded Sunday night.

    3. Is it wrong that I was more worried about Sterling Archer getting Cancer thant the possibility of Betty getting Cancer? I would rather root for a cartoon character than a real life flesh and blood child abusing chore that is Betty Francis.

      As for Pete he along with Peggy are probably the only people who are not racist and actually sympathise with African Americans of that era. I liked when he said you cannot call security they are applicants. I did not realise that Americans in that time did not like Jewish people or Italians (wops/dagos) or Spanish or Mexican (Beaner) or Native Americans (Savages) or Irish or chinese or anyone who was not white and protestant (for those who do not know the words in brackets are the perjorative words used to demean said races and ethnics).

      Man is Roger Sterling a tool but a funny one at that, lol. Harry Crane is the worlds biggest douchebags but funny as hell and the same goes for Stan.

      Is it wrong to root for the cancer? I mean I like Walter White more than Betty and he is a terrible character. Yikes!

  2. Premiere was good, didn't feel like much happened but that's typical of this show. I know I'm probably the only one on the planet but I was happy we got to see Betty finally. As much I hate her character sometimes; I enjoy her stories. I think the cancer story, like all things, relates back to her general dissatisfaction with the life that was basically dictated to her.

    I would however be happy if Megan disappeared from the face of the earth. Her terrible French serenade and love of white carpeting makes me want to punch my television (also FYI Don and Megan vacuum cleaners were invented by 1966- get an Electrolux!)

    That leaves Peggy who is awesome as usual. Also, Pete used to really annoy me but more and more I am sympathizing with him as you see how ridiculous Don and Roger are being toward him.

    1. That is actually a great point about Roger and Don against Pete. I do wonder by showing Pete in full control of Roger what will happen if Don starts to feel the same pressure. Will Don plot Pete's downfall in order to survive becoming extinct? Will Roger and Don fight the wave of youth that is surging throughtout the 60's? Good stuff.

      Fan and critic expectation that the 60's will immediatly make Don and Roger relics has always stunned me, like just because it is the 60's does it mean that Roger and Don are just going to hand their agency over to youth and walk away? I mean what do people expect? Yeah times are changing and SCDP are now forced to hire Jewish and African Americans but this is not the end for the older generation, it stuns me to think people believe it is.

      Sepinwall and Mo Ryan beleive that to be the case but I am not sure it is and I think Matt Wiener will not take the predicatable route.