Monday, September 14, 2009

Mad Men 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy

Another fascinating, tough and tender mix of social commentary and piercing personal psychology circa early 1960s on Mad Men 3.5 tonight.

The social: Pete is given the flat Admiral television account - not flat TV sets (those would be decades in the future) but flat sales of Admiral television sets. Pete looks carefully at the sales figures across the U.S., and discovers that Admiral sets are selling well - in fact increasing - in "Negro" areas.

He proposes to Admiral that they focus their ads in Negro media (Ebony, Jet, the Amsterdam News) and markets. Harry seems to agree - though, ever careful, he tells the client that his specialty is television "air not sets".

Admiral balks at the cost of producing a double set of ads - one for white and another for black markets. Pete comes back with the idea of a single campaign of integrated commercials - featuring black and white consumers.

"Isn't that illegal?" one of the Admiral people says. Pete assures them it's legal. But Admiral isn't buying it, and, predictably, Bert and Roger chew Pete out, with Roger asking Pete if he's Martin Luther King.

All of this against the backdrop of Medgar Evers being murdered - about as trenchant a piece of period social commentary as you're likely to see on television...

The personal: Medgar Evers' murder also figures in tonight's personal story, as Betty gives birth to a baby boy in what seem barbaric hospital conditions - barbaric psychological conditions, with the father kept completely out of the picture, and the mother treated as if she were in psych ward.

Betty sees and feels connected to her father, who died last week. In one softly nightmarish scene, she sees Gene mopping up blood on the floor, and her mother at a table with a black man ... who is likely Medgar Evers. Sally's teacher (whom Don is attracted to, and vice versa, but that's another story for another time) mentions Evers' murder when Betty and Don come see her at school.

But everything works out ok with Betty and the baby. Though her naming the baby Gene was not something Don especially wanted.

All in all, a big, good step forward for this complex family.

And, once again, some very fine capturing of life in the 1950s and early 60s. I remember standing outside the hospital and waving to my mother when my sister was born, just as Don and the two kids did with Betty and the baby. And we had an Admiral television set in the Levinson household in the Bronx...

See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture

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







8-min podcast review of Mad Men






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