Monday, May 13, 2013

Mad Men 6.7: Merger and Margarine

It occurred to me, watching the superb Mad Men 6.7 tonight - right after Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece Theater - that for people who weren't cognizant in the 1960s, watching Mad Men must be not much different than watching Mr. Selfridge, which takes place right before World War I.  Two brilliant period pieces, two history shows, both about selling.

I did live through the 1960s, and that means I see the show through the very different lens of having been right there, been in that world, which makes the show's connection to real life history-changing events all the more potentially powerful, but I'll get to that in a minute or two.

The main themes in the office tonight were merger and margarine.  The merger of the SCDP and CGC advertising firms means that some people will be let go - the new merged firm can't accommodate and won't need everyone.  Burt Peterson, another perennial loser (in a different way than Pete), is unsurprisingly the first to go.  No loss.

The product du jour - the first campaign - that the new combine tackles is Fleischmann's margarine.  Peggy contributes the important nugget that margarine was invented back in the mid-1800s by Napoleon III in France, because it didn't turn rancid like butter so it could be used by the army.  I didn't know this, and neither did the assembled ad thinkers around the table, but that was the last Peggy had to do with margarine.  Don - late for the meeting - gets together with Ted a little later, gets him drunk, and comes up with a good campaign.

Don's late because he was in a hotel room with the doc's wife Sylvia, in what was one of the best set pieces in the series, repulsive yet instructive because it was so revealing of Don.  Sylvia earlier called Don at the office to say how much she needed him - "I need you, and nothing else will do" - and this sets off Don making his fantasies real.  Unfortunately, those fantasies entail Don treating Sylvia like a sex slave.  He puts her through a ridiculous and demeaning series of requests that last into the next day - the doc's out of town on business - and Sylvia eventually ends it, telling Don she feels ashamed.  Don, the ultimate cool when it comes to business and to sex when it goes his way, is stunned.   And for the audience, it's both a relief to see Don's bad behavior over - for now - and a reminder of why Don is such a fascinating character.  He has a unique mix of decency and indecency, reasons to admire and despise and pity him.

But these revelations into personal character were not the most profound moments in tonight's episode.  Those come at the very end, when Pete's addled mother has some news for him early the next morning.  Pete think she's crazy but we know it's true.  And we soon see Megan and Don reacting to it.

As I said earlier, to have lived through a time depicted in an historical narrative gives the narrative special power, and also responsibility to get it right, as you remember it.  The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968 was one of the cruelest cuts of all in that decade of assassination.  Not only the President but now his brother were killed, and just two months after Martin Luther King, Jr.   Mad Men closed on this national tragedy tonight, and did it just right, with the news of the RFK shooting on television fading into the credits, and Friend and Lover's "Reach Out of the Darkness" playing in the background.

Friend and Lover could be a good title for Mad Men ideal but often unattained or lost relationships.  For all its focus on making money, Mad Men is and always has been about something much more.

See also Mad Men 6.1-2: The Lighter and the Twist ... Mad Men 6.3: Good Company ... Mad Men 6.4: McLuhan, Heinz, and Don's Imagination ... Mad Men 6.5: MLK ... Mad Men 6.6: Good News Comes in a Chevy

See also Why "You Only Live Twice" for Mad Men Season 5 Finale ... Mad Men Season Five Finale

See also Mad Men Season 5 Debut: It's Don's Party  ... Mad Men 5.3: Heinz Is On My Side ... Mad Men 5.4: Volunteer, Dream, Trust ... Mad Men 5.5: Ben Hargrove ... Mad Men 5.6: LSD Orange ... Mad Men 5.7: People of High Degree ... Mad Men 5.8: Mad Man and Gilmore Girl ...Mad Men 5.9: Don's Creativity  ... Mad Men 5.10: "The Negron Complex" ... Mad Men 5.11: Prostitution and Power ... Mad Men 5.12: Exit Lane

And from Season 4: Mad Men 4.1: Chicken Kiev, Lethal Interview, Ham Fight ... 4.2: "Good Time, Bad Time?" "Yes." ... 4.3: Both Coasts ... 4.4: "The following program contains brief nudity ..." 4.5: Fake Out and Neurosis ... 4.6: Emmys, Clio, Blackout, Flashback  ... 4.7: 'No Credits on Commercials' ... 4.8: A Tale of Two Women ... 4.9: "Business of Sadists and Masochists" ...4.10: Grim Tidings ... 4.11: "Look at that Punim" ... 4.12: No Smoking!  ... Mad Men Season 4 Finale: Don and -

And from Season 3Mad 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 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8 ... Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in 3.9 ... 3.10: The Faintest Ink, The Strongest Television ... Don's Day of Reckoning in Mad Men 3.11 ... Mad Men 3.12: The End of the World in Mad Men ... Mad Men Season 3 Finale: The End of the World

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

  


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