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Mad Men Music Monday: Space Oddity

4 May

Transitioning to a bigger firm was always going to be harder for some on Mad Men which is why they did everything they could to stop this from becoming a thing with no success in last week’s terrific outing. We’ve seen how seriously Joan and Peggy were taken in one of their meetings a few weeks ago and Joan’s desire to burn the place to the ground comes back in full force after she propositioned and treated like garbage.

Don has never been one for being tied down and the whole point of starting their own firm at the end of season 3 was to embrace a semblance of freedom. That has long gone and staring out of the window is far more satisfying than listening to another version of himself wax lyrical about dudes and beer. If these words were coming out of Jon Hamm’s mouth it might be different, but through this other guy the spell is broken.

Mad Men 7.12 DonHell, Peggy gets mistaken for a secretary and her new office is not ready so instead she is offered a place in the pool; a compromise she is not willing to take. All this is done via her secretary Marsha and she’s not even worth a phone call from anyone at McCann. Peggy gets the best deal of the episode in that she gets to hangout in the old office with a surprise companion. The moment where Peggy calls out asking out if anyone is there accompanied by creepy organ music is made all the funnier thanks to the person playing said music. It’s not just a soundtrack choice, but Roger putting off going over to his new office for as long as possible.

Mad Men 7.12 Peggy and RogerPeggy notes how this is the most Roger has ever paid attention to her and while she nails the reasons he wants her to stay there – so she can be his audience – these scenes are so much fun that I can only be thankful that they fucked up Peggy’s move. Roger talks in big terms when it comes to how much he feels for the company and while Peggy points out how miserable it was (let’s not forget one partner killed himself not all that far from where they sit) it was far from all bad. Roger has been the one in the past to tell Peggy how it is and that she should ask for things including not going over to McCann at 4 o’clock when she is drunk as they have already made her wait. Instead she stays drinking and now I have a new life goal:

Mad Men 7.12 PeggyMy track record with roller skates means I wouldn’t be able to secure my other life goal which is Peggy’s incredible McCann entrance.

Mad Men 7.12 Queen PeggyThis outfit, those sunglasses, that look; everything is perfection and it’s probably all going to go to shit in an instant. But at least we have this. Without Joan, Peggy’s accounts are going to get picked over and I just hope that Peggy’s career dreams won’t be left in the wreckage.

Peggy has been gifted with Bert Cooper’s ‘octopus pleasuring a woman’ painting by Roger and she proudly clutches it under her arm when making her big entrance. Bert Cooper makes an appearance in Don’s car as a sleep deprived hallucination and I’m glad to see him act as Don’s almost voice of reason while also pointing out that of course he did not read On the Road (I tried to read this book once, but it was very much not for me). Bert is the man who died watching the moon landing and spoke one of the lines of Mad Men – “she was an astronaut” – so it is fitting that he is in an episode that closes out with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

Don has his own mission which is to find Diana and while I have no investment in this relationship in the slightest, there is another interaction that warms my heart. When Don’s attempt to take Sally back to school is unsuccessful because she got a ride with someone else he does get to share a genuinely warm moment with Betty. He gives her a shoulder rub which looks like it could lead to more, but doesn’t and there is no antagonism here.

Mad Men 7.12 Don and BettyBetty has followed her dream of enrolling in college to get a Masters in Psychology – repeating my dream of ‘Mad Woman: Therapist Betty Draper’ as a spinoff please – and she’s already started on the reading list. Don calls her Birdie and whenever he uses this affectionate nickname I melt and forget all the shit that has come between them.

Two more episodes to go! Here is Roger to play us out this week.

Mad Men 7.13 Roger

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Mad Men Music Monday: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (With Bonus Side Eye)

20 Apr

Looking to the past and asking questions about the future is what advertising does by using nostalgia and desire for the things we had/want to shift products. Mad Men explores this notion throughout its seven seasons charting one decade and the two that bookend it. The 50s influence was clear to see at the start of the show from the style to the traditional Draper family setup.

Change has come in an explosive fashion throughout this ten year period and when a new decade begins there are plenty of questions/thinkpieces (even before this term was a thing) about what the future will look like, while examining the ten year period that has just occurred. The question of the future is something that looms over this episode which is kicked off by Roger giving Don the task of writing their Gettysburg Address for his work trip to the Bahamas.

Mad Men 7.10 magazinesThis is the most we have seen Don work in a while, but all he really does is ask other people how they see their future because he has no idea about his own. We see another divorced man celebrating the freedom of no plans, but without anything to look forward to, what is the point? Even the empty apartment which Don swears had some good times – all I can think of is arguments aplenty and Zou Bisou Bisou – is gone by the end of the episode and we are left with Don out in the hallway with no idea what the fuck he is going to do. Enter this week’s killer closing credits song choice with Roberta Flack singing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and even though Don’s sad face often has me rolling my eyes in exasperation on this occasion and with this song I feel for the dude.

You know who I feel more for? Yep, it’s Sally after she has to endure not one but two flirtatious encounters with her parents and her friends. The Glen/Betty relationship has always included this weird energy and Betty is incapable of not making something about her as she has this desire to be better than everyone, even her own kids.

Mad Men 7.10 Sally, Glen, BettyDon’s problem comes courtesy of his inability not to flirt if presented with the opportunity; on this occasion he claims he played along so not to embarrass Sally’s friend Sarah and even if this is the case it is still worthy of every moment of side eye and snark that Sally sends in the direction of her father. Before she gets on the bus she tells Don that he “can’t control himself” and that if anyone pays attention to either him or Betty then they just “ooze everywhere.” That imagery alone conjures up a whole lot and considering what Sally has walked in on the past it has a profound effect on how she views these interactions. Sally digs the knife in a little further by pointing out that she will hopefully be different to her parents, but Don flips this back on her by telling her “you are like your mother and me, you’re going to find that out.” Run, Sally, run!

Expectation versus reality comes into play throughout the episode and while advertising is fleeting – Don lightly scoffs at Peggy’s desire to create something with lasting value – it uses certain hopes/dreams to sell a product to us. No, this new vacuum cleaner won’t turn a house into a happy magical home, but they might use that idea to get you to buy one. So when Glen comes to see Sally, he’s really there to see Betty and he’s hoping to get something good out of his Vietnam predicament. Betty isn’t the reason Glen is going to fight in a war we have previously seen him want to protest (as Sally pointedly reminds him while also asking him “are you fucking stupid?”), but if he can re-establish his connection to Betty through this, then maybe there is a point. The same goes for Joan and Richard as his version of a post-divorce plan is ruined by Joan having a four-year old, something Joan inadvertently yells at Kevin about, but luckily her resentment is directed at the babysitter and then she feels like shit about it. Later on she snarks at Richard how she ditched her son for him.

There is a lot of disappointment oozing its way through the episode and a whole lot of side eye and angry face going on as demonstrated by this picture parade of brilliant reactions to dudes pissing off these ladies:

Mad Men 7.10 PeggyOh, Pete.

Mad Men 7.10 JoanOh, Richard.

Mad Men 7.10 SallyOh, Don.

And Sally isn’t the only one in Don’s firing line this week as Mathis takes Don’s ‘no apology’ advice after a horrific pitch meeting and ends up getting fired because he is no Don Draper. Mathis breaks the whole thing down saying how Don can get away with behaving like this because of how he looks and how the Lucky Strike story where he doesn’t give a shit about offending the clients is different in reality; it was only because Lee Garner Jr thought he was hot that earned him a valued seat in those meetings. Ahh, the handsome bubble. See expectation versus reality. You can dream big all you want but there will forever be obstacles in your way. Whatever magazines dare to envision for this new decade as hope springs forth will get mired down by what has come before it and the Vietnam War is not just going to go away because it is 1970. The past will haunt the present and while this allows us to dream for a better future, this won’t always be the case.

What do you see for the future?

Mad Men Music Monday: “Is That All There Is?”

6 Apr

Mad Men returns for its final episodes and the end credit music is asking the big question “Is That All There Is?” Peggy Lee’s half spoken track is also heard at the start of the episode in a scene which plays with the setting; is this a flashback to Don’s fur coat selling days? Is he in full seduction mode? Is he dreaming? The answer is none of the above; it is all an illusion and instead Cindy is in casting session with a couch full of dudes (some with new facial hair, oh hi Ted) all eager to take part in this decision.

“Let’s break out the booze and have a ball”

Mad Men 7.08 Sad DonThat’s what we should be doing with these last few episodes and everyone on screen is striving to make sense of what they have or what they want to have. Advertising is about wish fulfillment and these characters embody this idea albeit in a wonky fashion; Ken gets fired and instead of seeing it as a sign to write that novel he maybe dreamed of doing he instead takes another advertising position as big fuck you to the company that has shown him no loyalty. Joan is more than financially secure, but the original source of those funds can’t be forgotten when skeezy dudes don’t take her seriously and Peggy backs up this notion that it’s down to her appearance. So she goes shopping and pretends that she never worked at Bonwit Teller. And yes people will still go shopping even when department stores are being blown up with Joan proving Don right.

Peggy allows herself to dream a little suggesting an impulsive trip to Paris trip with Brian Krakow (!), but then she can’t find her passport and the hangover the next day leads to sourness towards what she deems is a ridiculous notion. But I can’t forget her post smooch smile as it was a joy to see. Groovy looking Stan is quick to point out this is what fun looks like and yet all Peggy can feel is the hangover shame.

Mad Men 7.08 PeggyDon seems to have it all, except for any real personal connections returning to an empty apartment and ringing his messaging service (oh hey a real life answer machine). And while he can still pull his old Don Draper moves there’s something so sad and hollow about it. From women in their underwear almost mirroring Megan cleaning long ago or a back alley hook-up which only takes place thanks to Roger’s $100 tip. Don repeatedly comes back to the diner trying to place the waitress and yes Elizabeth Reaser has more than a passing resemblance to Rosemarie DeWitt; so much so that at one point even I was questioning whether or not it was Midge. Seeing exes all over the place infiltrates Don’s dream world as he sees Rachel Katz (née Menken) modeling the fur as if she is in casting.

What this dream does is prompting a desire to reconnect, which doesn’t quite pay off as Rachel died the previous week and Don’s trip to her apartment doesn’t necessarily provide him with the closure he maybe desires. There was something about Rachel and in a way she was one of the ones that got away even if Don was the one who couldn’t commit. Instant seething at his name from Rachel’s sister Barbara with passive aggressive questions about his family (fair) while pointing out that Rachel had everything (I don’t know how true this is, but also totally understandable why she tells Don this). Barbara wants to know what Don is looking for by coming here and it isn’t surprising Don wants to know what happened to this woman he once loved. ‘The life not lived’ to echo Ken’s sentiment.

Is Don going to find out there is something more or that all there is?

Oh and one quick costuming bonus starting with how much do I want Peggy’s dress that looks like a pre-DVF wrap dress pattern dream?

Mad Men 7.08 Peggy and Joan dressIf you answered with anything less than a “crazy amount” then sadly you do not get today’s prize (today’s prize is a plate full of hot cross buns, may or may not be imaginary).

And Joan’s rage filled retail therapy includes a dress that looks a whole lot like Peggy’s hanging in the background, but there is no way Joan would ever contemplate mirroring Peggy’s style. Not in season 1 when she gave her the tour of Sterling Cooper and not now after that elevator argument that broke my heart. These two women are never going to be the BFFs I so crave them to be.

Mad Men 7.08 Joan shoppingI’m going to leave you with this and pretend they are going off on lunch time missions in a secret spy caper.

[Source]

Mad Men Music Monday: “I Know, They’re Playing it all the Time”

19 May

Just like that, Mad Men takes what could be considered a really obvious and cliched song choice and turn it into a moment that near on had me sobbing. It’s on the nose and yet like any classic/overplayed track, there is a reason why it has been played so much. In this scene it becomes about these two people who fear they have nothing and despite how out of sync they have become, they circle back to each other.

One of my recent complaints about relationships between men and women on TV is there is rarely a middle ground for friendship and there is always temptation to turn it into a “will they/won’t they.” Regular readers of this blog will also know how much I enjoy this storytelling device, but there are limits and I’m glad Mad Men understands these parameters when it comes to Don and Peggy.

Mad Men 7.06 Don and PeggyPeggy is struggling with the Burger Chef pitch and part of this is down to Don’s return as she’s now questioning her work against the Don Draper standard. There has also been a push/pull between these characters since he has come back to SC&P and conflict has always existed between them; it has just been magnified this year. Peggy’s confidence has been shaken and she’s been slipping all season and the promise of the plaid power pantsuit we saw her wearing at the end of last season feels like a distant memory. What transpires between Peggy and Don while they brainstorm in the same location as “The Suitcase” is another version of this episode and those conversations. This time Don isn’t screaming “That’s what the money is for” and instead he is actually actively helping Peggy with her problem.

Mad Men 7.06 My WayParallels exist between Peggy and Don from the secrets they harbor to the way they are both searching for a connection and the really special episodes of Mad Men are when they connect with each other. Pete thinks the word ‘family’ is vague, but so is the concept they are replicating and Peggy asks Don “Does this family exist anymore?” when the real question is whether it ever existed in the first place. Age and specific years are mentioned in “The Strategy” with Don and Peggy mentioning 1955 (a great year for Don) and 1965 (a great year for Peggy) and we are reminded of the first point of major upheaval on Mad Men with a newspaper from November, 1963. Peggy mentions that she just turned 30 and she kept it a secret; this age signifies her lack of achievements, despite her professional success story. From personal experience, I had the “shit, I’m turning 30” tremors and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like in 1969 with a whole other list of expectations focusing on family.

With Joan, Bob sites her age (nearly 40) as a reason to settle with him but she’s still after true love, no matter how fanciful and ridiculous that sounds. Bob mentions that GM expect a certain kind of executive and he is looking at things through the heartbreaking reality of this era. They would be the perfect family, except it would all be a lie.

Mad Men 7.06 Dancing“I worry about a lot of things, but I don’t worry about you.”

Offering Peggy a handkerchief is a kind gesture, offering her a hand and a dance is so much more and it’s one of the most intimate moments this show has produced. Peggy rests her head on Don’s chest, he kisses the top of her head and I sit here and get teary about how illuminating this exchange is. Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm are electrifying in these scenes and this could easily be an Emmy submission episode for either actor. For every awful and self-pitying Don Draper action, this makes me forget it all and by reinforcing this relationship gives me a reason to cheer for a Don success story instead of last year’s figure of loathing. Another show might have gone in for a kiss, this is not that show.

Peggy and Don to sing “My Way” at a karaoke bar in 15 years time, please.

 

Mad Men Music Monday: “On a Carousel”

5 May

A carousel is a symbolic high point for Mad Men as Don channeled his inner turmoil in the season 1 finale to perform one of the pitches of his career. When he tried to recreate this by combining a personal anecdote with a product at the end of last year it had the opposite effect as he went too far; stories about family are a yes, stories of whorehouses are a big no. Don is back at work and he’s acting like a spoiled child and he’s no longer the superstar genius who everyone wants to work with. To people like Ken, who bought up the carousel pitch last week he still holds mysticism and charm, to Peggy and most of the partners he is a liability who might implode at any minute.

Mad Men 7.04 DonAfter a much needed pep talk from Freddie, who like Don has tried to find a solution at the bottom of a bottle, Don goes back to work with the right frame of mind. Freddie didn’t get the chance to make up for his pissing in the office misdemeanor, even though this was something that happened behind closed doors and his six months leave was a polite way of saying fired. Freddie has become Don’s mirror in a way and a lot of this final season is circling back on the first. It’s why the carousel is still an important image, despite that episode ending with personal sorrow as Don returned to an empty house.

This week closes with The Hollies singing “On a Carousel” and with the repetition of “up, down, up, down” it is a tad on the nose, but hey it’s the closing credit music so I’ll give it a pass. That is also an Olivia Pope combined with Alicia Florrick size wine glass on the single cover.

 

 

Mad Men Music Monday: “This Will Be Our Year”

21 Apr

“Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you.”

The first episode of Mad Men‘s seventh season ended with a punch to the gut for both Peggy and Don as one collapsed on the floor of her apartment in tears and the other sat outside on his freezing balcony in a catatonic like state. It’s Valentine’s Day, 1969 and there’s not a lot of joy in either of Peggy or Don’s life at the moment as the secrets they keep are eating them up inside. For Peggy, her relationship with Ted or really his departure to California and away from her is causing her way more sorrow than she would like to admit; a simple mix up over some red roses sends her spiraling. Peggy passes vague messages through secretaries only to take out her frustration and embarrassment on an innocent Shirley.

Mad Men 7.02 PeggyIn another part of town Don jokingly declares that he is looking for love and he finds it in an unlikely place as he has reconciliation with his daughter. There’s a lot that has been left unsaid between Sally and Don since she walked in on him with Sylvia and while it would seem he has divulged details of his upbringing – the truths he told at work are nothing she doesn’t know he reassures – the topic of his dalliances is different.

Kiernan Shipka gets a lot of red carpet props on here, but really it’s her role as Sally Draper that is everything as she conveys just how hard it was for her to come to Don’s building and practically spits out the word “hairspray.” Later on “spectacular” has the same level of snarky venom as Don inquires about her studies. There’s a wealth of resentment and her apathetic feelings towards her father and his lies is completely understandable.  Being a disaffected teen is nothing out of the ordinary, however this extra layer of disenchantment thanks to the lies adults tell hits Don right where it hurts.

Mad Men 7.02 Sally and Don

“Please stop. Stop Talking.”

Instead of avoiding the issue which is generally the Don Draper approach (unless he is backed into a corner), Don confronts this Sally thing head on and I’d be quite happy to spend an entire “Suitcase” type of episode with father and daughter hashing it out. It turns out they don’t need this long and while Don doesn’t get any magical enlightenment in how to fix his work problems, he does heal this wound and Sally’s last line (which opens this article) is enough to push me into misty eyed territory.

The song which closes out the episode after Sally has given Don an unexpected reaffirming declaration is The Zombies with “This Will be our Year.” So while this season has started with utter despair, this signals that there is still hope to be had.

 

Mad Men Music Monday

3 Jun

Mad Men ended this week with an unexpected sight as Pete Campbell strolled up to Stan and took his joint off him; instead of destroying it, Pete instead took a seat and started to smoking it. Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart” kicked in as Pete continued to smoke, with a look of contempt at all those around him (and Vincent Kartheiser showing off his best bitchface). This version of the song is performed by Joplin’s band Big Brother and the Holding Company and is from 1968 (the year of the episode).

“A Tale of Two Cities” is all about the fractured climate in both the office and the nation as discontent is spreading and this felt like Pete’s way of succumbing to a system that is no longer following the rules. Janis Joplin is a big part of the counterculture and so it is fitting that this song plays over this episode and her death in 1970 (just 16 days after Jimi Hendrix died) reveals the darker side of this era; a side that Mad Men is showing in episodes like this.

Mad Men Music Monday

27 May

This week’s Mad Men presented some of the characters with choices from their past and present in both professional and personal capacities. Peggy and Megan face conundrums that cover both of these aspects of their lives and the song that closed the episode really pulled the focus on Peggy. Peggy stood in the middle between the offices of her two bosses and she has just been rejected by Ted as he doesn’t acknowledge their previous conversation where they both admitted they had feelings for each other. Peggy has earlier told Don that Ted has never made her feel the way Don does, but now that isn’t the case either. Peggy has already had the night from hell as she accidentally stabbed Abe (she thought he was an intruder) and then Abe broke up with her in a semi-delirious state saying  “Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment; I’m sorry, but you’ll always be the enemy.” Peggy has been set adrift by her boyfriend and her current mentor and the song “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” by Lou Johnson that plays over this end scene perfectly fits the tone of this moment and this episode that has had so many characters looking to the past (Roger, Don, Peggy). Peggy, Megan is also crying out for a friend and one that doesn’t hit on her so I would suggest you give her a call.

Mad Men Music Monday

20 May

The Crash” is a surreal episode of Mad Men and this song choice further emphasizes Don’s mental state as he becomes a creepy hallway stalker. Don makes several attempts to get Sylvia’s attention this week after she broke off their affair in the previous episode, by attempts I mean he stood in her hallway smoking while listening to her conversations with Arnold. In a scene that could have been part of his drug taking hallucination (it seemed more real than not), Don presses his face against their service entrance door and listens to the song that plays on the radio. The song is “Going Out of my Head” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 and the lyrics fit Don’s Sylvia obsession. The way the camera stays on Don as he listens in is unnerving, as is much of the episode that has an underlying menacing tone throughout.

Mad Men Music Monday

6 May

We return to “Mad Men Music Monday” with a song that played as we got a look at the Chevrolet lobby in Detroit on this very fun episode of Mad Men. This recalls the caper type atmosphere of the season 3 finale “Shut the Door, Have a Seat” this song worked perfectly to emphasise those elements that are occurring once again. The band Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels points to the car manufacturing headquarters they are visiting and the lyric “I ain’t masochistic but why do I dig the pain?” sums up Don in a rather succinct fashion. “For Immediate Release” is a huge turning point for this season and I’m glad we can associate it with this fun song “Baby Jane (Mo Mo Jane).”

Also this has nothing to do with the music on Mad Men but this gif from “For Immediate Release” might overtake my previous favorite Pete Campbell gif where he dances alone in his office.

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