Monday, September 7, 2009

Mad Men 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Commercial

A truly superb Mad Men 3.4 last night, making me sure now that this is the best Mad Men season so far.

Among the highlights -

1. Sal's wife Kitty is beginning to suspect that he's gay. She certainly is feeling there's something wrong when he says no to her in inviting baby doll pajamas and pleads his work. But when he performs the Ann Margret role that is the heart of the commercial he's scripting - performs it with a real flair - Kitty is especially discomforted...

2. Sal is indeed putting his heart into this commercial. It's an important step in his career development. And - what do I know - it looked appealing to me, but ... not to the Patio soda client. Why not? Here's a multiple choice question for you:

The commercial failed because (a) the client thought a commercial that copied the beginning of Bye Bye Birdie would be great, but in reality it just didn't work; (b) the actress who played the Ann Margret role was good, but she couldn't capture that indefinable sex appeal of Ann Margret (no one other than Ann Margret could); (c) the commercial lacked a heterosexual something because Sal made it; or (d) all of the above.

It is worth noting here that Don told Sal he had done a good job, nonetheless. Was this because Don was being supportive, or because he truly believed the clients didn't know what they wanted?

3. Grandpa Gene dies, after a great run in which he endangers the kids' lives by letting Sally drive (!) and Bobby handle a big knife, but Gene in his own way makes a real, loving connection with the kids. Sally is especially affected by his death, and Betty has one of her worst moments as a mother when she at first has no response to - or doesn't see - what Sally is going through, and leaves Sally to grieve on her own. And when Sally does tell everyone how she feels, Betty reacts with annoyance.

4. A rich young client with a jones for jai alai gives us a chance to get a run down of media opportunities in 1963, as the gang at the office go through the possibilities. Salient points for me were no regular color on CBS in 1963 (CBS saw it as an NBC bailiwick) and the client's impossible request to have the same program on all three networks at the same time, just like a Presidential address. Significantly, Paul blurts out the truth about CBS's lack of color to the client, but Harry, shushed by Pete, does not address the no-can-do network trifecta.

5. Peggy has some prime moments with her family and at the office with her decision to move into Manhattan and seek a roommate. But I especially liked her line early in the show about what the caned seats on the NYC subway cars do to her pantyhose. Many's the time I wondered as a kid, as the cane on the train was jabbing into my pants, just what idiot designed those seats?

Well, Matthew Weiner is certainly no idiot and is responsible for Mad Men, and I'm looking forward to more...

See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

6-min podcast review of Mad Men

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