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Monday, August 11, 2008

Mad Men 2.3: Double-Barreled Power

A double-barreled Episode 2.3 of Mad Men last night, with two almost completely separate stories of power and insight.

First, Harry Crane - played inimitably by Rich Sommer - discovers that Ken is making a hundred dollars more per week than Harry. Ok, Ken did sell a story to the New Yorker last year - but a $300 to $200 a week advantage in salary is a lot for Harry to swallow, especially with a wife who is expecting (since I'm writing about the early 1960s, I'm trying to observe its euphemisms).

But apropos of appropriate language, Harry calls a friend at CBS - looking for a possible new place to work - and discovers that an episode of The Defenders (that great E. G. Marshall show) has been dropped by skittish sponsors who don't like the word "abortion" appearing so many times along with their commercials. Harry gets a copy of the tape, tries (unsuccessfully) to interest a Sterling Cooper client in buying some ads for the episode, but impresses Roger enough to create a new television division of the firm, and make Harry its chief. Typically, of course, Roger only gives Harry a $25 a week raise ... but Harry and wife are happy, and so was I with this story (though next time, Harry, schmuck, ask for $400 if you want $300 a week...)

Meanwhile, Don gets a classic problem dumped into his lap: a Jackie Mason/Don Rickles kind of comedian insults the client when taping an ad for television. Don needs an apology to the client from the comedian, but has to deal with the comic's wife, who comes on to Don .... He resists - but not too much. Fast forward to the dinner, with Don and Betty, the client (husband and wife), and the comic and his wife (also the comic's manager). Don shows his brutal side when he gets a little rough with the wife, after she indicates there will be no apology. And the apology happens, but the most interesting, instructive scene happens in the car, on the way home, when Betty, tearful, indicates how happy she is to be part of Don's business - we're a team, she says.

The lies have always been what has really made Mad Men tick - not just on the professional level (how could it be otherwise for ad-men) but on the personal level, too. So Don, after sleeping with the comic's wife, is appreciated by Betty, who, by the way, has a flirtation going with someone at her riding club (but she resisted getting ridden by the guy).... (Harry, by the way, is something of an exception, having told his wife the truth about his one-night stand last year.)

Potent show, and I'm liking this season even better than last year's...

See also: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 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

And listen to my fabulous 20-minute interview last Fall with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

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