Friday, September 7, 2007

Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo, Excellent

AMC's Mad Men was firing on all cylinders tonight, in a powerful Episode 8 which furthered and deepened the story of at least three sets of characters:

Peggy and Pete start off with a morning quickie in the office. Pete of course feels a little guilty about this - he has a quintessential late 1950s mix of starched morality and male entitlement - and later disapproves of Peggy dancing the Twist. Peggy is not happy about that, but just about everything else is going her way, including even getting a little patronizing admiration from Don and the guys about her excellent ad idea for the lipstick campaign - which Don brilliantly maneuvers the client into loving.

Don gets a $2500 bonus - a lot of money, obviously, in those days, in which a brand new book sells for a couple of bucks. He wants to use it to take Midge to Paris, gets stoned on weed with Midge and the beatniks instead, and in the process we see one of the best sequences in the entire series so far: Don as a boy in the 1930s, his family getting a visit from a sage hobo played by Paul Schultze (heroic death as Ryan Chappelle on 24, lasagna Father Phil on The Sopranos), and Don seeing what a mean-spirited man his father is.... Meanwhile, back in 1960, I don't think Midge and Don have much of a future.

And Salvatore (well played by Bryan Batt) finally gets a little more screen time, in a sensitive, strong scene in which he turns down an opportunity for a tryst with man. This scene, I thought, had Salvatore acting right in key for the temper of the times.

But other 1960s elements were a tiny bit forced - like "the medium is the message" line in Episode 6. True, the Twist was around then, but would the ad crowd really have been dancing it in such numbers? The Cha-cha, absolutely, the Twist ... I don't know...

And there's something slightly, temporally off in Don and Midge and company getting stoned. First, some of Midge's friends look more like hippies than beatniks - but hippies were at least five years in the future. And I'm not convinced that Don would have smoked weed - tobacco and weed were and are, after all, two very different things.

But the stoned scene did give us a chance to see more of Don's boyhood family, and I'll just mention one other good thing that struck me about that: did the hobo look a little like Don's younger brother, or was that just my imagination?...

In subsequent episodes: I'd like to learn about Harry Crane - who looks just like Isaac Asimov did back then!

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

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarettes and Nixon Coming ... 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 Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

6-minute podcast review of Mad Men

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
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