Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mad Men 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda

A second episode of the third season of Mad Men tonight, especially rich in Spring 1963 historical detail...

Don says the family will go to Carvel, after they do stuff the kids will find boring in Tarrytown. Ah, Carvel ... its first store was opened on Central Avenue, not far from where I live in Westchester. Many's the time we took the kids there. Many's the time my wife and I earlier enjoyed Tom Carvel's hoarse, heart-felt sell of his Carvel cakes on local TV. So it was good to hear Don say the name tonight. And especially moving, because that first store was demolished just this past March. Gone now, melted away like ice cream from a bygone era...

Later, down in the office, Paul Kinsey puts his noble foot in his mouth over an important client, Madison Square Garden, which wants to fight back against the bashing it's been taking over its plans to tear down classic Penn Station and replace it with ... well, the ugly vestibule and corridors that pass as Penn Station in NYC today. Paul speaks up for tradition and the importance of preserving history, and nearly loses the client. Don's called in by the irritating Brit overlord (financial officer Lane Pryce - well played by Jared Harris), and gets the client back, by weaving a good tale about the new station being a gleaming future against New York City's decay - only to learn that the powers that be back in London think Sterling, Cooper et al should pass on MSG as a client after all. (But the original Penn Station was indeed torn down, so the MSG people apparently were able to withstand the criticism back in the 1960s, after all ... And so we've suffered for all of these years, but it looks as if Moynihan Station, under the splendid 33rd Street Post Office, will be the new Penn Station at long last, so lovers of great train stations will have the last laugh.)

Soda 1963 style also played a role in tonight's Mad Men, with Peggy struggling against the boys to launch an ad campaign for a Pepsi diet soda - Patio - that didn't riff so completely off women wanting to be like Ann Margret in Bye Bye Birdie (a superb movie, I don't care what they say, as was Viva Las Vegas in its own way)(my man Harry Crane certainly enjoyed Ann's performance). Peggy does a good few bars of Bye Bye Birdie herself - to herself in the mirror - and she also has a great scene with an engineering student she picks up at a bar. And the Mad Men writers get the history of diet cola just right - Ken says Pepsi wants Patio to be another Diet Rite cola, which indeed was the first diet cola, introduced in 1958, five years before Pepsi's Patio and "the Coca Cola Company put the robust flavor in Tab!"

But soft-serve ice cream, trains, and fizz weren't the only historical details that rang true in tonight's episode. There was an ominous, bone-chilling detail as well. We see the date of Roger's daughter's wedding on an invitation in his office. November 23, 1963....

This will be a countdown that will be ticking away, one heart-rending beat at a time, this whole season.

PS - I didn't mention one other very important storyline in tonight's episode, because it had no important historical detail. But it does further demonstrate a point I made in my review of last week's episode: Don's fundamental, surprising decency, despite his obvious flaws. Tonight we see it when Don, seeing Betty's distress over her mentally fading father, engineers his moving in with them.

See also: Mad Men Back for 3

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

10-min podcast review of Mad Men

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