Thursday, August 28, 2008

mad men: season 1, disc 2

Oh, Alan Sepinwall, how I love thy Mad Men commentaries, let me count the ways. Well, here are four below.

(1.6) Babylon
And speaking of Peggy, this is an interesting, if not totally unexpected route they're taking the character. The second episode, where Paul gave her a tour of the offices, established that female copywriters do exist, in very small numbers and only for accounts related to lady products, but this has some real potential. (If nothing else, I look forward to the first time she has to work for Don in this capacity instead of as his gal Friday.) And unlike David Duchovny's stupid, cliche-riddled blogging on "Californication," the phrases Peggy came up with ("basket of kisses," "I don't think anyone wants to be one of a hundred colors in a box") actually sounded good. If I was an ad guy in 1960 and I heard someone use those in casual conversation, I'd be intrigued, too.

(1.7) Red in the Face
"You know who else doesn't wear a hat? Elvis. That's what we're dealing with." -Pete Campbell
"Remind me to stop hiring young people!" -Bertram Cooper
Black is white, up is down, and Pete is absolutely right in a conversation where Mr. Cooper couldn't be more wrong. Though Pete's his usual overcompensating putz of a self the rest of the episode (we'll get back to his target practice foreplay in a bit), he's the only man in the Nixon brainstorming session who actually recognizes the threat John F. Kennedy poses -- not just to Nixon's presidential ambitions, but to the status quo that the men of Sterling-Cooper are dedicated to maintaining. Cooper and Roger see Kennedy's hatless-ness as a deficit; Pete recognizes the newness of it, and the fact that the country seems ready to embrace something new.

(1.8) The Hobo Code
I had assumed that the storyline would end one of two ways: Salvatore completely misreads the guy, who turns out to be straight and none too happy at another man making a pass at him; or the guy is gay but too afraid to do anything with Salvatore the accomplished homosexual. I never for a second would have thought it would be the other way around, because Salvatore has been written (and played by Bryan Batt) with so much confidence and energy and life force that I just assumed he had some kind of rich sex life in whatever underground gay scene New York had at the time. The notion that he's too afraid to act on his feelings, that he's a 40-year-old (gay) virgin, never even occurred to me, and yet when Salvatore revealed that he wouldn't know what to do in bed, then ran off altogether, well... like I said, dust. As with the Pete episode, it completely changes the way I view a lot of his prior behavior without in any way contradicting it.

(1.9) Shoot
I'm really fascinated by Betty's reaction to getting fired by the Coca-Cola people. She gets upset, but not in a defiant, "I'll show them" way where she intends to use those gorgeous photos to get another gig; she just gives up, surrenders back to her stifling life in Ossining, where she's bored but at least not subject to rejection. Don consoles her by telling her what an amazing mother she is -- and of course that's Don's chief attraction to her, given his upbringing and the fact that he seeks sexual and intellectual satisfaction from outside women -- and she responds by showing the neighbor what a real protective mama bear looks like, casually shooting away at his stupid birds in response to his threat to shoot her children's beloved dog Polly. She gets to show off her matriarchal side while also taking out her agression on the world that she feels has confined her to this house, this lawn, this life where she can still be in a nightie in the afternoon and it won't really matter. Ronnie, the Salvatore-esque art director for Coke, tells her that getting fired "has nothing to do with" her. The problem is, nothing has anything to do with her, and that's slowly driving Betty crackers.

(A really fantastic commentary. Click on the episode title to read the whole thing.)

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