May 15th, 2014
One thing that disappointed me about the commentary surrounding Time Zones was a general unwillingness on behalf of most critics to get stuck into not just Freddy’s pitch but the first scene generally. I understood why well enough, it was a depressing episode and seasoned fans have been well trained to mistrust the surface glamour of Mad Men’s premiers, which in the normal course of things turns to crap after the first half hour. But in the end that didn’t cut it for me, for two reasons. Firstly, because the opening pitch so often serves as the key to unlocking a season’s trajectory, and secondly, because Freddy’s first words, a confident and joyous starting gun on a gloomy story, were designed to nag.
“I want you to listen carefully. This is the beginning of something.”
The idea that these words heralded the beginning of the final season and nothing else seemed unlikely. Because, come on everyone, this is the final season. Every detail is important.
Initially the main effect of this nagging, this jarringly incongruous celebratory voice echoing across the ruins cheering the new day, was to force me to re-evaluate many of the scenes and plot beats most reviewers took for granted were evidence that things will never go right for Don. Then it got me thinking about the downward spiral of the season more generally, eventually concluding that this, like Don’s descent in six which led to that beautiful final scene, was probably a good thing too. I was listening, I was paying attention, and it occurred to me that the Something Terrible Don drew down with that first ad pitch in The Doorway probably wasn’t through with him yet. Megan leaving him to pursue her career in California and his getting fired was only the start of it. Things needed to get about as bad as they could before the pendulum would swing the other way.
Quite simply, I realised this season is about nothing less than the destruction of Don Draper.
April 17th, 2014
April 16th, 2014
Adam and I have decided to reroute our Mad Men musings back to our spiritual home at Mindless Ones. This is the first of what will likely be many posts.
Hope you enjoy them.
June 27th, 2013
Mark: What a fantastic finale that was. A good riposte to the claim last year that Mad Men’s storytelling jumped the shark, becoming more reliant on cheap shock value because Weiner had run out of ideas. If Megan had died the way people thought she would the critics might have had a case, but as it was we got a typically understated episode, with an ending so enigmatic only someone watching closely would be able to properly understand it. My partner burst into tears when Sally and Don exchanged glances, but a casual viewer would be left scratching their head. Quietly devastating. Proper Mad Men.
Matt Weiner often talks about his writing process starting with the last image and I love the idea that he began with the simultaneously comprehending and uncomprehending look (amazing acting!) Sally gives Don just before the before the credits roll. It was so moving and funny at the same time. Partly it was the contrast, the shock of ending on something so light after months of emotional turmoil. But mostly it was the just the sudden recognition of the surprisingly gentle truth that this was the only way the story could end.
April 29th, 2013
The following post is from She’s an Astronaut. Adam and Mark’s Mad Men Tumblr. http://shesanastronaut.com/
Afraid not, Mr. Burger.
Die-hard fans will already be aware that Mad Men high-fived 30 Rock this week. I don’t actually watch the Rock, but I wanted to write a piece about the drinks Peggy and Ted use to drown their sorrows after failing to snag Ketchup and it soon became clear that the latter’s tipple of choice doesn’t exist. It probably shouldn’t either. So for those of you who are slightly less nerdy, Ted’s cocktail, an Old Spanish, composed of a disgusting sounding blend of red wine, tonic water and olives, is a fabrication invented for the sole purpose of humiliating a character in another show, a show that, in the same episode where the drink debuted, made a couple of massive and rather funny nods to Mad Men. It was all an extended televisual love-in basically and most commentators have had nothing more to say about it than that.
But I have my remit!
Read the rest of this post on She’s an Astronaut
April 18th, 2013
The following excerpt is cross-posted from She’s an Astronaut, Amy and Adam’s Mad Men tumblr.
“It’s hard to argue with a direct appeal to our customers. I mean, we can artsy up the image of Jaguar, make it look romantic and stylish, but isn’t it better to tell people who are actually in the market for a car that a jaguar is available?”
The answer, Don knows, is an emphatic NO.
As he progresses through his pitch, countering the Jaguar representative’s concerns with the same line every time, the Bottom Line, Don begins to sound more and more like a salesman..
“I think it’s better to think about someone in New Jersey driving in their current car and hearing that around the corner there’s a jaguar to buy….at a low, low price.”
“I’m 100% positive that this approach moves cars. And not just Jaguars – this is proven to move all kinda cars. Hell, even used cars!”
More importantly though, he sounds – and looks, check the upward curl of his mouth – like an American. Note the use of the use of the colloquial contraction ‘kinda’, the ‘hell’ and the cherry on the cake:
“Fellas, this is gonna work!”
But in the end this isn’t simply about Jaguar, and Don knows it. It’s about the crassness of American consumerism versus the elegance and exclusivity of empire. This is a deeply felt cultural divide and Don’s anti-pitch exploits it to the fullest.
But there’s a specific American Don’s impersonating. Herb wanted to speak through SCDP and Don’s only to eager to grant his wish. You want a ventriloquist act, Herb? You got one. Suck it the fuck up.
Read more at She’s an Astronaut
April 14th, 2013
Amy and I might be posting about Mad Men over at our new Mad Men tumblr, She’s an Astronaut, but that’s not going stop us putting up the occasional post here. We love our Mindless.
Here’s four of the best links from around the web.
The number one spot has to go to Sean of Sean T Collins fame. His superb post on the nature of the Hawaiian “experience”, Something Terrible Has to Happen, is an absolute must read, and his episode thought dump isn’t half bad neither.
The ever insightful and spiky Molly Lambert comes in second with her post on just about everything in The Doorway. Molly’s view is often tougher than mine, especially her take on Don, but in a way that suggests she actually knows these people. She’s judgemental in all the right ways. Go read A Lighter, a Mistress, a Lot of Facial Hair
Third place goes to the Internet’s most reliable and comprehensive Mad Men fansite, Basket of Kisses. In a post that typifies their thoroughness, BoK founder Deborah Lipp looks at how how The Door Resonates Throughout the Seasons. Every self respecting Mad Men fan should have BoK bookmarked.
And last but by no means least is glam image blogger (all the best Mad Men images evar) Bohemea on Don’s absence.
Amy and I will continue to update SaA a few times every week. Here’s my latest post on the state of Megan and Don’s marriage, Break a Leg.
April 12th, 2013
[Excerpt from Adam and Amy's new Mad Men tumblr, She's an Astronaut]
For once, the question this opening episode isn’t who is Don Draper?
In many respects this is a Don we know all too well: Don the womanizer, Don the drinker, Don with a past to hide. Don in search of salvation with an existential text in hand. Last season saw him shed those roles and go, to quote Burt Cooper, on love leave, only to come back to find a door in front of him. A door with a dead body on the other side.
Lane Pryce couldn’t bridge the gap between his fantasies and reality, but neither could Don. All those beautiful dreams he couldn’t own, Joan, Peggy, Megan. Especially Megan, the wife he felt compelled to give away so that she could chase her’s. And then he went through another door and found himself in bar.
“What are you, some kind of astronaut?” asks PFC Dinkins
“I’m in advertising” replies Don. A moment of naturalism or an ambiguous refusal on behalf of the script to deny the possibility that, yes, perhaps he is some kind of spaceman? Perhaps this isn’t Earth. The script certainly isn’t sure where he is, is it Hawaii? Vietnam? What’s this, a G.I.’s lighter, Don’s got one just like it… perhaps he’s in Korea. Or maybe this is Heaven, that light, that air, that blue. What about that fire, the bar dripping blood, could he be in Hell? He could ask Jonesy the door man, he’ll know.
June 15th, 2012
To celebrate the end of Mad Men Season 5 we thought we might do things a little differently, so we’ve invited blogger, journalist, writer, and fellow Mad Men fan Sean T Collins to join us. We’ve linked to Sean’s thoughts about this season in just about every post. I suggest you check them out if you haven’t already.
And while you’re at it, pay a visit to Sean’s A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones tumblr, All Leather Must Be Boiled, and his Game of Thrones column for Rolling Stone, for perhaps the most even-handed discussion of the books and TV show on the web.
Sean: Thanks for having me, Mindless Ones. Do I get a nickname? Can I be Destructor? (I’ve given this some thought.)
Ad: Yes you may (and yes you have). In all seriousness, lovely to have you with us, Sean.
Take it away, Amy
Amy: What lies beyond our rotting, aging, imperfect bodies?
‘You only live twice, or so it seems.
Once for yourself and once for your dreams.’
The Phantom of the episode’s title was, in the end, the ghost of lives that could, could not and might possibly come to pass. Sometimes the way to the spirit world was clear, sometimes occluded, some characters would dally there only to be forced to return home. In other cases, for good or ill, residency was more permanent.
There were haunted, painful absences, like a tooth-cavity: Lane, Adam, Beth in all her many different iterations pre ECT. But these absences were filled by other things, other fantasies, anything to stave off the grey cloud.
Peter dreamt of being a carefree bachelor in the city, Peggy Don, Megan a movie star, SCDP an agency with a second floor, Trudy a happy homemaker sipping ice tea with her equally happy and sun drenched husband around their swimming pool, and Don…..
All of them got one significant step closer to achieving their dreams this time around. Whether or not all of them should is another thing entirely. There is a violent push and pull between the physical and dream lives. Occasionally they collide and the results are devastating. The problem is that these are all individual dreams and sometimes they clash with the dreams of those around us.
June 8th, 2012
This post has moved to Adam and Amy’s new Mad Men tumblr, She’s an Astronaut, the new home of all their Mad Men posts.