Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Virtual Water Cooler

So did you see “Mad Men” Sunday night? (Spoiler alert!)
It’s not as much fun to tell people about “Mad Men” any more. With all the Emmys and attention, everybody knows about it. As do the people I know. But what does that mean now, “knowing” somebody?
The definition of “knowing” somebody really has changed in recent years. The definition of “friend” has changed too. I guess it’s not that unusual to have a thousand Facebook “friends.” Which means anything from somebody who knows somebody you may or may not have known twenty years ago to someone you might actually want to have coffee with, but I digress: the question is, who really knows Don, now that Anna is gone? More specifically, who knows Dick Whitman?
Nobody. Except maybe Peggy. Maybe.
This episode was extraordinary, as good as my other favorites, “The Hobo Code,” from season one, and “The Grown-Ups,” about the Kennedy assassination, from last season. I watched it twice and will again before I post this. The second time, I noted some of my thoughts in real time: here they are, with a minimum of commercial interruption, presented for your entertainment at the virtual water cooler.
Were Don and Peggy actually going to….no. This is going somewhere much more complex.
Brutality/power game from Don. He’s channeling Archie, his brutal, drunken father.
Peggy quotes market research to counter Don’s breezy “Women don’t buy suitcases” remark.
Say goodbye to hunch-based advertising! 
Standing by the elevator, Peggy makes the crucial decision between work and family, and chooses work. 
(Okay, okay. With the option being dweeb-boy Mark and the collection of gargoyles who comprise Peggy’s family, she wouldn’t choose work?)
 Amazing gesture from Jon Hamm, when he taps Peggy’s hand after holding it (an affectionate knuckle-cracking squeeze, then a “buddy” tap). 
Hamm has a face like Lon Chaney Sr. It seems to be made of plastic, putty or silicon. It’s as if he can arrange his facial muscles over the bones in different ways for different situations.
What did he have to do, though, to make himself look that bad? That wasn’t makeup.
I flinched when I realized there was going to be a vomit scene. Thank you thank you, we don’t have to watch. TV and film directors out there: were you listening, boys? You don’t have to actually show it.
Here comes Joan as The Office Dragon Lady. Is this what she’ll be?
When the copywriter defies Joan in that sneering, Dylan-esque way, it’s clear: the generation gap has come to Sterling Cooper Draper Price. Joan is on the other side of it.
So is Don.
Peggy, 26, is a creature of the moment, in this, her moment.
When Don draws a static image to illustrate his brilliant idea and Peggy says “how are they gonna put that on TV?” the torch is passed.
They have become creative partners. A creative partnership so much more interesting than an affair -- with more tension, similar battles, and about as good a chance at lasting.
The director of this episode gave the cast room to move. A minimum of reaction shots, jump cuts: the camera is trained on their faces, quietly, as the actors work. 
Here is Don Draper, as the 60‘s pick up speed; the facade has to crack or he’ll shrivel inside it like a mummy. 
As for us, in the nearly-new millennium, we’ve got bios and profiles and photos -- only the best ones, of course -- and LinkedIn, and likes and dislikes, and walls, and these are how we communicate with our nine hundred “friends.”
Social networking: let’s hope it doesn’t make Don Drapers out of all of us.
The photo came from an industrial-supplies catalog.
For a chance at winning the perfume samples (see last week’s post) just leave a comment below. The drawing is next Tuesday, September 14.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, my friend & I were just at the office coffee pot talking about Mad Men!! We're hopelessly addicted. We were also wondering just how long Don can go on like this. He's turned into such a train wreck. We're also hoping that the writers don't let Don & Peggy sleep together. It would be "game over" for sure. It's funny how neither character is really what you'd call likable, but you like them all the same. Or feel sorry for them. And by the way, neither of us can remember what happened to Peggy's baby. Did she give him up for adoption? As for Joan, she is sort of turning into the office grouch, but WOW can she fill out a dress better than any woman on the planet? I still remember the episode where she's getting dressed & finishes it off with a little Shalimar perfume. OMG! She's gorgeous AND smells good. LOVE HER!!

Tamara*J said...

I too love MadMen, been hooked like a fish since it started.I want to save Don and yet I can hate him as well. He embodies many things that make me desire and deny him at the same time.He's also hotter than hell.Those blue eyes that smolder and look longingly into a past make me shiver with delight.

This last episode had me and my daughter Sophia bawling,but it ain't the first or the last time that will happen. I just feel for these characters,they endear themselves to me with their struggles and the decisions they choose to make. These actors are so surreal , your right there with them, you want to hold them when they break down...now that's good TV.

Anonymous said...

Another lover of Mad Men here-- I only wish they weren't moving through the 60s so quickly. The latter part of the decade has been overexamined in popular culture (though we can at least hope that MM's creators will avoid the usual cliches.) Society and politics of the late 50s/early 60s hold much more interest for me. I'm fascinated by an era in which people kept their cards to themselves-- and of course by the show's fantastic visuals! I do hope Joan pulls herself out of her funk, though; she deserves more than the dead-end that seems to be looming for her. I hope that the MM team keep their mojo going (oh, and that I can win the samples).
-- Gretchen

Aparatchick said...

Jon Hamm is such a good-looking man that it's easy to forget what a good actor he is. Until an episode like this.

I was happy to see that Peggy and Don not have an affair. They are far more interesting as a creative team.

MM is such a fascinating show; interesting characters (though not a lot of likeable ones), excellent writing, terrific acting. It can be difficult for me to watch - the misogyny is something I remember all too well - but it's very worthwhile.