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Mad Men: A conversation
July 25, 2010 9:51 PM   Subscribe

The first episode of season four of Mad Men (so much previously [meta-previously]) aired tonight. Shortly after, the first "Mad Men"': A Conversation blog entry was posted on the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog. There will be a post for every episode.

From the first post:
Every Sunday after the newest episode of "Mad Men", lawyer and Supreme Court advocate Walter Dellinger will host an online dialogue about the show. The participants include literature professor Toril Moi, political science professor David Paletz, media expert Evangeline Morphos, and historian Alan Brinkley. Dellinger will post his thoughts shortly after each episode ends at 11 p.m., and the others will add their commentary in the hours and days that follow.
posted by silby (112 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I believe that would be a part of Mr. Murdoch's empire. Hmm. I'll pass.
posted by uraniumwilly at 10:20 PM on July 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is it that time of year again when we're inundated with Mad Men posts?
posted by Jubey at 10:38 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


So (having not seen the episode yet) what's the verdict so far? Is this season looking good or not? I skimmed the blog but wayyyyyy too many spoilers.
posted by crapmatic at 10:40 PM on July 25, 2010


Wall Street Journal? Probably a chorus of "why can't the world be like it was back then?"

It's okay, uraniumwilly, you can just watch Family Guy on... ooops... Fox.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:44 PM on July 25, 2010


The first episode was...interesting. I missed the first 3-5 minutes, but what was weird about that was I questioned whether or not I had accidentally missed a first hour and 3-5 minutes. Apparently, a lot happened in the lives of the characters between the seasons and we get to find out about it through conversational implicature. It was sort of odd.

Also, everybody was really angry and edgy.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:52 PM on July 25, 2010


mad men is the only show in more then a decade that has given me a hard on--i mean it has made me laugh, gasp, cry, and made me angry, and overjoyed, and mystifed--but also it takes sex as power seriously, and let's adults make those choices about sex, and that's powerful.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:53 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gee, imagine if there had been blogs and political scientists and historians and literature professors and assorted bullshit artists around when significant TV shows aired in the past.

February 25, 1955: "The episode about Ricky forgetting Lucy's anniversary and hatching a plot to convince her that he hadn't forgotten it at all was one of this show's darker ones. We're seeing Lucy at her lowest here. I don't know how they get past this to the series' happy ending. This one's not giving me a real story arc."

December 26, 1977: "Edith Bunker losing faith in God because her drag queen friend was murdered by thugs? Not feeling very true to the general flow of the series to me at all. Now let's put it all in the context of what's been going on in the Carter Administration over the past several weeks ..... "
posted by blucevalo at 10:58 PM on July 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


Eh. Walter White has way more at stake than these smug, rich folk.
posted by Tacodog at 11:54 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the post. Might want to look up info on these foks before making sweeping condemnations and generalization, folks.
posted by raysmj at 12:11 AM on July 26, 2010


Who are these men and why are they so mad?
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:15 AM on July 26, 2010


I guess they're the ad wizards who keep coming up in this one.
posted by pracowity at 12:20 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


which ones are the foks?
posted by cucumber at 12:34 AM on July 26, 2010


I was a little confused as to what Don's date Bethany was trying to say about the world when she brought up Andrew Goodman -- I didn't recognize the name and thought he might have been someone killed by black protesters and that she was trying to imply that civil rights would have to wait if it meant white people dying. But in fact he was a civil rights worker trying to get blacks to register to vote who was lynched by the KKK, so now I think she was actually voicing disgust for racists and support for the movement. At any rate that reference at least cements the suspicion that it's now 1964.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:40 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who are these men and why are they so mad?

nerd point: "mad" is actually short for "Madison avenue"

I'm actually visiting my dad in Texas this week and it turned out he didn't have AMC on basic cable! Horrifying.

Thankfully the torrent was up at about 11:20 Eastern.

Anyway I kinda feel like the show has lost a bit of it's edge. Seems like things have gotten too safe.
posted by delmoi at 12:48 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got bored with this show halfway through season 2. Does it get less...boring?
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:04 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was a huge fan of Mad Men since almost before the first episode aired-- I was fascinated by the pitch perfect art direction, even in the previews that aired back then. (I was such a fan I even named my cat Peggy.) However, while I think Season 1 was fabulous and Season 2 was really good, I feel that season 3 kind of... jumped the shark a bit. The show, while really lively and engaging at first, seemed to get encreasingly dour, dull and meandering. Also, there were a whole bunch of storylines and characters that seemed promising at first-- then were dropped off the face of the earth. (The Brits, Peggy's baby, Peggy's relationship with Pete, Betty's neighbor Helen, etc etc.) I have hopes that things may turn around in season 4, but reading these comments here is not filling me with hope.

Oh well, I'll still have Burn Notice.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:36 AM on July 26, 2010


Glad to see the WSJ is getting back to the meat and potatoes of journalism; blogging about tv.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:56 AM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Huh, apparently it's thread-shit day here on the blue.
posted by !Jim at 2:02 AM on July 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


Bethany was the crazy pastor's wife from True Blood!

Can't really tell if this season is going to be a good one or not after the first episode. Don becomes a cocky asshole is about all I could gather.
posted by liquorice at 2:07 AM on July 26, 2010


My wife would not let me rest until I watched every episode, 'catching up' and 'getting ready' for last night's Season 4 opener. I had resisted - 'critically acclaimed!' 'best show ever!' Finally I caved and watched. OK, it's fine, a well-crafted soap opera. I now have the conversational currency that I need to get through life.
posted by fixedgear at 2:57 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got bored with this show halfway through season 2. Does it get less...boring?

No. It's a great show but it doesn't get less boring. Season 3 was by far the low point.

Oh well, I'll still have Burn Notice.

If this is a joke you should be writing for Entourage. If it's not a joke, you should be writing for Burn Notice.
posted by dobbs at 3:12 AM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


If this is a joke you should be writing for Entourage. If it's not a joke, you should be writing for Burn Notice.

All righty then. According to you, I guess my poor little girl brain is going to explode from liking Burn Notice and Mad Men simultaneously.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 3:24 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't get the s3 hate. I thought s3 was fine, just as good as the first. We got to see Sal developed a lot more, crazy blackface, the amazing trip to Italy, Sally acting out, salted ice cream, JFK, Don trying benzos and Peggy trying weed, Betty finally discovering Don's secret and going apeshit, the British screwing over Layne, Don getting owned by Connie, watching the jai alai guy be so hilariously confident, rapey-doc coming undone, the accordion, the mower, and the coup at the end. It was by no means dull to my mind.

Burn Notice on the other hand.... I've stuck with that show since the beginning and I have to say I'm really not thrilled with how it's stagnating and becoming rote. Yes, they added the Jesse character which helps a bit, but overall it seems like they just ran out of gas and are going through the paces now. At least they need to get a new opening sequence -- it's just ridiculous that the opening VO goes on about how when you're burned you have no bank account, you can't get a job, you're stuck where they dump you, and you have to take whatever work comes your way. And then cut to Michael with designer suits, handguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, fast cars (hello Hyundai product placement!), knives, mountains of explosives, remote detonators, surveillance gear, computers, phones, bugs, police contacts, financial contacts, etc.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:38 AM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Apparently, a lot happened in the lives of the characters between the seasons and we get to find out about it through conversational implicature. It was sort of odd.

All of the seasons have done that time-jump thing. I think it's more of a nod to the fact that there's a huge wait between seasons. It's easier just to start from a fresh point in time than to try to carry a direct narrative across a very wide gulf in time.

I found the season premier pretty satisfying. I was hoping to see the agency still working out of the apartment though. Don certainly seems to be positioned to explode somehow. Dude is wound tight. The bedroom scene was, amazingly, the first real insight we've seen (that I can recall) as to his true, personal side. *SLAP*

Oh, and, I gave up on Burn Notice two seasons ago. I loved it in the beginning, but it just sort of became the same show weel-after-week. I'm lovin' Justified, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:06 AM on July 26, 2010


rapey-doc coming undone

I watched and loved S3, but I genuinely have no idea wtf that is referring to. Someone...?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 4:11 AM on July 26, 2010


Rapey-doc was Dr. Greg Harris, Joan's husband. He raped her in one episode, and for the rest of the season his career went down the drain. At the end of s3 he enlisted in the army to become a medical doctor, so good times ahead for him in Vietnam, I'm sure.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:14 AM on July 26, 2010


An interview with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner about the season four premiere and where the show is headed - at least thematically.

I'm not at all sure I understand the season three hate, either. In fact, I found it fascinating from the standpoint that it was the season the series most directly addressed the year it was set - Medgar Evars, MLK's I Have a Dream Speech, allusions to and then reactions to JFK's assassination - by mostly implying that people living through history don't/can't always appreciate what they are living through.

I mean, it seems almost ludicrous to have an episode where "I Have a Dream" is barely heard but gives thematic weight to stories about these characters much smaller dreams - but it fits perfectly with the idea that people (especially white middle class people) just didn't really understand how big that moment was at the time.

Presumably this wasn't true of all people, but for some I'm sure it was just another day. Just as JFK's assassination is portrayed in season three's penultimate episode - some of these characters just have things to do that draw them away from that pivotal moment in American history. And Roger's daughter's wedding the next day is ruined by it; destroyed by the weight of history.

Beyond that I still found the characters deeply fascinating and can't really separate one season from the next. The season four premiere certainly jumps into its Thanksgiving 1964 "brand new world" setting with much gusto, but there aren't any big questions to hook me so far.
posted by crossoverman at 4:30 AM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


nerd point: "mad" is actually short for "Madison avenue"

Isn't that just common knowledge?
posted by pracowity at 4:51 AM on July 26, 2010


there aren't any big questions to hook me so far.

Oh, I don't know...on the business end, there's: how this new agency will survive with Lucky Strike still accounting for 70%+ of their billing (good god, people: diversify), there's whether Harry now having some sort of a spine (and possibly talent?) will carry them into the exploding TV market, what other possible stunts Peggy and Pete (who are now, interestingly, friends again?) may pull for press coverage that might backfire, and whether Lane and Bert are becoming dead weight (what exactly do they do?). On the domestic side: Betty and Henry are obviously not going to last and Don's actually showing some fatherly feelings, how the hell is that going to blow up? Then of course there are Joan, Pete, Peggy, and Roger's home lives, very little of which we've yet seen. It could be a corker.
posted by kittyprecious at 4:55 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slate also has a commentary blog, as does Salon.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:57 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Also, there are unknowns like Ken, Paul, Duck, and Sal floating around in limbo or with rival agencies...any of them could pop up and cause some trouble. And WHERE'S CARLA?)
posted by kittyprecious at 4:58 AM on July 26, 2010


Really looking forward to 1) watching Season Four, and 2) not reading one goddamn liveblog/pop-culture roundtable discussion/cultural analysis thereof.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 5:04 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just as the creators of That 70s Show said they would end the series before being obliged to deal with disco, Mad Men ought to close up shop before it gets to Sgt. Pepper's.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:18 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks suburbanbeatnik - I was trying to think of doctor characters (like someone Peggy or Betty has seen) rather than secondary characters who happened to be rapists.

Because, you know, there were just so many rapists in S3 that they all rolled into one... *sigh*
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:23 AM on July 26, 2010


According to you, I guess my poor little girl brain...

No, that's according to you. I didn't mention gender.

I've stuck with that show since the beginning and I have to say I'm really not thrilled with how it's stagnating and becoming rote

Wait a minute Rhomboid... are you saying Burn Notice got worse since season 1?
posted by dobbs at 5:30 AM on July 26, 2010


So, Dobbs, you're still saying it is impossible to like Burn Notice and Mad Men simultaneously.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 5:50 AM on July 26, 2010


The fatal flaw with Mad Man, for all its striving for historical accuracy, is that no one has a New York accent. This was pointed out by my partner who is a life long New Yorker, and whose father worked on Madison Avenue for a time. On the show, everyone speaks in that flat middle America way, with some mid-century posturings, when in reality nearly everyone should have some sort accent, especially the secretaries from Queens and Brooklyn.
posted by kimdog at 6:20 AM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I never said it was impossible any more than I mentioned your gender. It was a joke about Burn Notice. Believe it or not some people think it's boring and that that lead actor is the least charismatic creature to ever walk the earth. (We meet Wednesday nights for wings.) Lighten up. Or, you know, tweet your feelings. I'm sure someone cares.
posted by dobbs at 6:44 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've already forgotten New Guy's name, but I'm happy Peggy gets an assistant. Also, good to see Peggy and Pete get a thirty year jump on viral marketing.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:47 AM on July 26, 2010


I *really* want to see what happened with Sal. let's see: fascinating character, terrific actor, interesting storyline... let's kill it! (Wha--?)

And Ken. Bring back Ken.
posted by grubi at 6:49 AM on July 26, 2010


I *really* want to see what happened with Sal. let's see: fascinating character, terrific actor, interesting storyline...

I think Weiner commented on this... something like, "Once Don knew he was gay there was nowhere to go. If we'd had Don ignore it, it wouldn't have been believable--we would have been proselytizing from the vantage point of the present and not story telling." I'm paraphrasing deeply but that was the gist.

I'm happy Peggy gets an assistant

I didn't get that he was her assistant. In fact, I thought he worked in the ad department--didn't she instruct him to draw something at some point? I think he's Sal's "replacement".

I was most disappointed with Peggy as I don't think she's dumb enough to do what they had her do.
posted by dobbs at 6:57 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just as the creators of That 70s Show said they would end the series before being obliged to deal with disco, Mad Men ought to close up shop before it gets to Sgt. Pepper's.

No, it has to get to 1968-69ish in order to show the most important thing of all: the parent-abnegating, substance-enhanced, counterculture buzzsaw that will be Sally Draper.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:59 AM on July 26, 2010 [24 favorites]


I miss Paul the most. And also can't wait for Sally to meet hippies.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:01 AM on July 26, 2010


Dobbs, you may not have meant it this way, but you were coming across as a bit rude and condescending. I like how Burn Notice doesn't take itself too seriously... as opposed to Mad Men, which can get sort of pretentious at times. I wish MM could be a little more fun again, rather than being so... ANGSTY!

And of course, my legion of fans wait for my every tweet.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:05 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH! And Paul.
posted by grubi at 7:07 AM on July 26, 2010


Don becomes a cocky asshole...
posted by liquorice


Huh? Don wasn't a cocky asshole in the first three seasons?
posted by kingbenny at 7:08 AM on July 26, 2010


Was office furniture drastically cheaper in the 60s? How the hell does a new company, scraping by, afford Herman Miller's swankiest products? With framed paintings?

Because every time I fill out a requisition form, I invariably get it returned with some shitty product circled in an Office Depot catalog with the comment, "Same thing half price," and it is like no god dammit I wanted an Eames molded plastic chair, this is just a plastic chair.
posted by geoff. at 7:23 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


what's the verdict so far?

There's a focus on the business end, which is good, but nothing hugely revelatory happened aside from a shift in Don's thinking about something important, which ends in a killer brief final scene that had me laughing out loud. It was a relatively dull episode, but you know, I've grown to understand that Mad Men isn't really a "must hook 'em with a blockbuster every week" kind of thing, and they've become masters at doling out just enough of the smart, sharp little moments to keep me interested.

That said, if this episode doesn't begin seriously exploring the lives of at least two African-American characters - THERE IS NO LEGITIMATE FUCKING EXCUSE FOR THE LACK OF ON-SCREEN TIME AND DEPTH GIVEN TO BLACK CHARACTERS OVER THE FIRST FULL THREE SEASONS OF MAD MEN - I will be done with it.

(And season three was as good as any.)
posted by mediareport at 7:33 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


if this episode

...if this season...
posted by mediareport at 7:34 AM on July 26, 2010


I think Weiner commented on this... something like, "Once Don knew he was gay there was nowhere to go. If we'd had Don ignore it, it wouldn't have been believable--we would have been proselytizing from the vantage point of the present and not story telling." I'm paraphrasing deeply but that was the gist.

In the interview linked upthread, Weiner also speaks more generally about the importance of events having real consequences and there are several beyond losing Sal - the show's two main characters got divorced, after all.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:56 AM on July 26, 2010


Mad Men ought to close up shop before it gets to Sgt. Pepper's.

Unless they retcon Don into the cover collage next to Aleister Crowley.
posted by Beardman at 7:59 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


'Tis not The Sopranos, and never will be...but for all that I enjoy it's salty, brittle zip.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:03 AM on July 26, 2010


THERE IS NO LEGITIMATE FUCKING EXCUSE FOR THE LACK OF ON-SCREEN TIME AND DEPTH GIVEN TO BLACK CHARACTERS OVER THE FIRST FULL THREE SEASONS OF MAD MEN

How about historical accuracy? There have been two black characters that I can remember on Mad Men - the elevator operator, and Carla, the housekeeper. Do you know why those were the only two roles? Because in the early 1960s on Madison Avenue, jobs like those were pretty much the only way that black people would have been involved in the lives of people like Don Draper and Roger Sterling. And writing a long plot thread about a housekeeper or the elevator man would just feel extremely forced.

Madison Avenue in the 1960s was the nearly-exclusive domain of white men. Yes, that sucks, and we've hopefully evolved beyond that. Black people were relegated to very small supporting roles in the lives of those white men, and the show accurately reflects that status, despite the fact that that historical accuracy comes at the price of potentially offending more evolved 21st century sensibilities about race. Mad Men is ridiculously thorough when it comes to making an accurate portrayal of life in that place and time, and shoehorning in a contrived subplot about a black character just because there hasn't been one yet would seem to be at odds with that commitment to historical accuracy.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:14 AM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Periodic Table of Mad Men
posted by Kabanos at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


nothing hugely revelatory happened

You forget that Don unwittingly smothered American jai alai in its cradle.
posted by Iridic at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've already forgotten New Guy's name, but I'm happy Peggy gets an assistant.

His name is Matt Long. He played Jack in the ill fated but fantastic Jack and Bobby. I actually thought this was a pretty significant casting error. He doesn't feel right and has a too much acting history to fit in with an existing cast with very little, if any (?) (minus John Slattery).

Fantastic episode. Can't wait to see how they continue to deal with the changing culture of America in the 60's.
posted by Big_B at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2010


****SPOILER*****

Remember in this series opener, when Betty and her new husband make out in the garage in the car, and then later Don comes back with the kids and Betty and new guy are conspicuously absent?

I turned to my husband and said, "Wouldn't it be incredible if they died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage because the car was left on with the garage door closed?" I even thought it was foreshadowed, with Betty reminding him to open the garage door and him ignoring her because he wanted to make out.

That would have left single, ladies-man self-loathing but cocky Don having to raise the kids, gotten rid of I'm-pretty-but-I-can't-act January Jones and really taken the show in a different direction, including Don maybe making a hasty remarriage to bring a Mom back into the kids' lives.

No such luck. Betty lives. *sigh*
posted by misha at 8:42 AM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I turned to my husband and said, "Wouldn't it be incredible if they died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage because the car was left on with the garage door closed?"

i thought it was possible they never left the car/garage, and just spent all night schtupping in there.
posted by grubi at 8:44 AM on July 26, 2010


Heh. I pretty much pictured both of those scenarios too.
posted by Big_B at 8:46 AM on July 26, 2010


misha: my wife said the exact same thing to me last night. (Are you my wife?)

It was such an exciting thought, but I guess it was just wishful thinking...
posted by nushustu at 8:48 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I turned to my husband and said, "Wouldn't it be incredible if they died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage because the car was left on with the garage door closed?"

My wife and I thought the exact same thing. It seemed like nothing much was happening in the episode and I thought that would be the Big Event that would start the season off.

In a related note, did anyone else watch the episode of Rubicon that followed? Was it just me or was that the dullest hour of TV ever? First I was all "Hey, it's the judge guy from The Wire and that guy from The Pacific. This could be good." But then, no. It wasn't any good.
posted by bondcliff at 8:50 AM on July 26, 2010


I watched the Rubicon sneak preview after the season finale of Breaking Bad with high hopes -- political thriller done right is compelling TV. However, it couldn't hold my interest and alternated between being incredibly boring and incredibly contrived.
posted by proj at 8:54 AM on July 26, 2010


THERE IS NO LEGITIMATE FUCKING EXCUSE FOR THE LACK OF ON-SCREEN TIME AND DEPTH GIVEN TO BLACK CHARACTERS OVER THE FIRST FULL THREE SEASONS OF MAD MEN

I dunno. I mostly agree with deadmessenger, I think. I'm not a big fan or expert of the show, but the series does begin, I believe, with Don in a conversation with a black waiter about what cigarettes he smokes and why (the original Lucky Strike episode with "toasted").

There's also the whole bearded dude, his relationship with the black woman, and their trip to Mississippi to register black voters.

I don't remember the elevator operator's name (i don't remember the bearded dude's name either), but I think he was given a number of speaking scenes in the first couple seasons. Mostly opportunities to let Pete look like an ass or cast Don as heroically progressive on racial issues, I believe.

There's certainly a lot of black history that the show is not addressing, but as dm mentioned, for these characters (upper class new yorkers), the civil rights struggle hasn't hit home yet. Give 'em a year before getting all suspicious. (But I guess that was what you were saying ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:55 AM on July 26, 2010


Rubicon looks terrible. It didn't help matters that when they first aired the premiere, after the Breaking Bad finale, that viewers thought Breaking Bad was going to be two hours long. I felt cheated.
posted by nushustu at 9:11 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, here we go again - My argument that Mad Men Is Making A Mistake By Avoiding Black Characters:

How about historical accuracy?...Madison Avenue in the 1960s was the nearly-exclusive domain of white men.

Yeah, that's the standard line Mad Men defenders immediately trot out. You want to talk historical accuracy? Here's some historical accuracy for you: THERE WERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE EXCLUSIVE DOMAIN OF WHITE MEN IN AMERICA DURING THE EARLY 1960S. That's some serious historical accuracy right there, deadmessenger.

Look, that cute excuse worked for the first season and a half - defining the world of the show as the primary province of white men - but frankly, it's become a bullshit rationalization at this point.

Here's why: We have clearly been presented with multiple examples over the course of the show of people who live outside of that white male domain - we know more about Peggy's poor Catholic mother, e.g., than we do about the elevator operator or the Draper's maid. And if the writers can find so many fascinating ways to explore issues of women's power in that male-exclusive world (Betty's manipulation of the psychiatrist after she found out Don was getting updates from him is one of my absolute fave moments of the show so far), then *surely* they can find ways to take a few minutes to explore what life is like for the African-American characters living in the ad world's shadow. That one scene between Peter and the elevator operator about black TV-watching last season ("You don't watch baseball? Riiight.") was pure gold. All I'm asking is that the writers include *more* of them; two Af-Am characters getting to actually act for a second or two per fucking season isn't enough. The fact that the show has done tiny scenes involving black characters well only proves that it's a clearly conscious decision to avoid showing African-American lives in any depth. Frankly, that decision is wearing extremely thin by now.

A pal and I argued this a few weeks ago after I Netflixed season 3 and the best thing we could come up with was that the writers are waiting until 1966 or so to start substantially including black lives on the show. For "HISTORICAL ACCURACY" purposes, of course. Even if that's the plan, I find it kind of disgusting. These are smart people, these writers. It's way past fucking time they smartly found a way to include some black characters in their show. Not doing so has reached crisis stage, in my opinion, and if they don't start doing it during the first half of this season, I'm done with their fucking show.

No matter how much I love those goddamn lamps. I want to marry the person who chooses those fucking lamps. Or at least force them to decorate my apartment.
posted by mediareport at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I turned to my husband and said, "Wouldn't it be incredible if they died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage because the car was left on with the garage door closed?"

I said the same thing to my husband!

Apparently, metafilter wives are hella dark.

I wasn't sure about the episode--it felt like a slow burn up through the final few scenes. But honestly, the premiere of the second season might have raised the bar a little too high--I don't want a normal episode as an opener, dammit. I want music and underwear.

I love how mod their new office is. Also thought it was interesting that Don's date looked so much like Betty.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:30 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about letting the writers present their vision of their story rather than "finding a way to include" characters that will please your political sensibilities? Honestly, when you read novels do you put them down if there aren't enough characters of certain races? The show, despite all of its attempts at historical accuracy and depictions of America, is about DON DRAPER and the people around him. Ultimately it's a character study of DON DRAPER.
posted by proj at 9:30 AM on July 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


The show, despite all of its attempts at historical accuracy and depictions of America, is about DON DRAPER and the people around him. Ultimately it's a character study of DON DRAPER.

Good, good. And - this may be the hard part, now - one of the characters around Don Draper is.....his maid.

*shock of recognition*

I know, I know. She could have a teensy bit more development without interfering with the "character study of DON DRAPER.

I don't know why folks insist on disputing this stuff. The conscious decision on the part of the writers of Mad Men to *not* include ANY SIGNFICANT SCREEN TIME FOR BLACK CHARACTERS AT ALL has reached a crisis stage. That couldn't be more obvious.
posted by mediareport at 9:41 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, this is going to go nowhere, that much is certainly obvious.
posted by proj at 9:42 AM on July 26, 2010


has reached a crisis stage.

We're at DEFDON one.
posted by grubi at 9:44 AM on July 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


I also suggested the carbon monoxide angle to my wife, but I started it with "Oh man! I hope..."

Then I wondered aloud if the actor who plays Betty feels shame that the kid portraying Sally is twice the actor that she is.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:46 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


DEFDON 4, more like.

Ok, I'm done. I've had this argument a few times before with Mad Men fanatics and it always goes the same way, but I've made the points I want to make and I'll leave the cream session alone now (but jesus, the show's about media, which is why it gets such an overdose of media attention - duh).
posted by mediareport at 9:47 AM on July 26, 2010


The fact that the show has done tiny scenes involving black characters well only proves that it's a clearly conscious decision to avoid showing African-American lives in any depth.

That seems a bit of a leap. I think you're also overlooking the omnipresent story line of Don Draper having assumed an identity and entered a world he was clearly not born into; the writers have spent all kinds of time discussing how radically different Don's childhood was in comparison to the experiences of the people he's interacting with on a daily basis. Expecting to have race discussed in the same level of detail as they are doing with social class seems like a lot to expect. There are lots of other shows that could and should spend more time creating and developing African-American characters, but Mad Men already has a lot on its plate.
posted by ambrosia at 9:48 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the only one here resembling anything close to a fanatic is you, mediareport.
posted by proj at 9:49 AM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


We had the same "ooh! Carbon Monoxide poisoning!" reaction at the ambrosia household too. Makes me wonder if the writers aren't actually toying with killing Betty off in some sudden and unexpected way.

I would not be terribly upset if that happened.
posted by ambrosia at 9:51 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know why folks insist on disputing this stuff.

At a rough guess, it's because people disagree with you.

I could be wrong though...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 9:52 AM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ok, I'm done. I've had this argument a few times before with Mad Men fanatics and it always goes the same way, but I've made the points I want to make and I'll leave the cream session alone now (but jesus, the show's about media, which is why it gets such an overdose of media attention - duh).

Look, you threw in a panicky "crisis point" remark. It's not a crisis point. There is no crisis. It's a fictional portrayal of a time in history from a particular point of view. It doesn't HAVE to do anything, beyond entertain. If you'd prefer for black characters, well, fine. So would I. But I don't believe they're required to do a damn thing about it.
posted by grubi at 9:52 AM on July 26, 2010


I think the only one here resembling anything close to a fanatic is you, mediareport.

Heh. I freely admit to a love/hate relationship with that damn show. But you can engage the specific points I raise about the rationalizations for the show's obvious lack of black character development any time, proj.
posted by mediareport at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2010


I would not be terribly upset if that happened.

Nor would I. It's funny to see Sally acting less petulant and bratty than her mother. I find sally to be interesting, but Betty? SHE'S the "attractive cipher".
posted by grubi at 9:54 AM on July 26, 2010


Good, good. And - this may be the hard part, now - one of the characters around Don Draper is.....his maid.

*shock of recognition*

I know, I know. She could have a teensy bit more development without interfering with the "character study of DON DRAPER.


Well, we might--there's still time for that. I honestly agree with you. Carla is/was consistently one of my favorite characters. I like the complications she adds to Betty and Don's lives, and I hope that as the Civil Rights movement develops, the writer will allow these characters to move from the background--where they probably still are, in the perceptions of the white main characters--to the forefront.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:55 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The conscious decision on the part of the writers of Mad Men to *not* include ANY SIGNFICANT SCREEN TIME FOR BLACK CHARACTERS AT ALL has reached a crisis stage. That couldn't be more obvious.

Mad Men's black audience should put some pressure on AMC. You can't ignore 20 or 30 indignant emails.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:56 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]




But something momentous did happen, right at the end of the episode-- Dick Whitman finally reaches the inevitable end of the road of his impersonation of Don Draper, and actively, publicly, participates in the creation of the Mythology of Don Draper. He refused to talk about himself to the first interviewer; in answer to the opening question, "Who is Don Draper?", he hedged and baffled. The interviewer, as of course we couldn't help but note, is a Korean vet-- with an artificial leg, no less-- and another grinding reminder of Don's falsity. Don avoided it as long as he could, but now he has to step out of the shadows and inhabit a public persona. The conflict with Betty could lead down interesting byways should she decide to use her knowledge of his real identity against him...
posted by jokeefe at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mediareport, you would have a point (re; the lack of black characters) IF the show was a Ken Burns/PBS documentary series about the history of New York in the early 1960s. But that's not what the show is. It's under no obligation, save our 21st century sense of political correctness, to give equal time to all races and other minority groups. In fact, to do so would be very much counter to the intent of the show, which is to immerse the viewer firmly in the world of white businessmen in the 1960s. In order to stay faithful to that intent, I'm afraid black folks pretty much do have to stay on the periphery (at least for now). But a huge amount of the interest in the show is that it's relying on you, the viewer, to know damn well what's being left out. When Carla turns down the radio that's playing the Martin Luther King speech because Mrs. Draper's just walked in, the audience is asked to fill in the blank. We know what's being hinted at and pushed aside by the blinders the white folks are still living with at the time.

As a gay man, I dearly miss Salvatore after his firing last season. But it must be admitted that losing his job was a real possible consequence of getting caught, in 1963, and if the show's going to be truthful to its premise, it had to happen. (I still hold out hope that Sal will show up again, and will be surprised if he doesn't, but that will sort of depend on how close to 1969 the show ends up getting.) And really if I want more detailed stories about the lives of gay men in the 60s, I can find them elsewhere. The thrill of "Mad Men" is in all the moments when the audience knows so very much more about all of that than the characters.
posted by dnash at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


Makes me wonder if the writers aren't actually toying with killing Betty off in some sudden and unexpected way.

I think the writers should have an "OMG Betty is about to die!" moment in every show from now on, like that episode of South Park where they never actually killed Kenny.
posted by bondcliff at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think they should do a spinoff about Midge.
posted by box at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2010


In all seriousness, I hope they keep the black characters as marginalised as possible for as long as possible - not because I don't like the characters, but because part of me likes how uncomfortable the whole situation makes me feel. I guess it's a case of enjoying knowing that I, in this day and age, couldn't handle the obvious 'isms' that exist in that office.

In the same way, I dislike Peggy's success. As a wannabe being held back by the sexism of the workplace, I enjoyed feeling uncomfortable every time they patted her on the head like a performing puppy, but as a successful copy writer she ever so slightly dilutes the sting of the subservient female role.

It's the same with Sal - there's no way he could be allowed to work there after the revelation of his sexuality, because then the office wouldn't have seemed so homophobic.

Maybe this is what jazz fans mean when they tell you to listen to what isn't being played...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:37 AM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mad Men's black audience should put some pressure on AMC. You can't ignore 20 or 30 indignant emails.

If you're comfortable with the notion of a network forcing significant plot and character changes in a serious drama as the outcome of popular protest, then you should seriously re-evaluate your attitude towards television and possibly art.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:38 AM on July 26, 2010


l33tpolicywonk, I think you missed the joke. "You can't ignore 20 or 30 indignant emails." - the joke is that only 20 or 30 black people watch Mad Men - i.e., it's "stuff white people like."
posted by dnash at 11:45 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I'm asking is that the writers include *more* of them; two Af-Am characters getting to actually act for a second or two per fucking season isn't enough.

I know this may come as a shock, but the show isn't about you.

A character study of Don Draper includes, by necessity, his relationships with family, and his co-workers--not with his maid. If you think this means that the writers of a show about the 1960's white-male-dominated worlds of Madison Avenue and wealthy suburbs are willfully ignoring race, all I can say is I disagree.

(but jesus, the show's about media, which is why it gets such an overdose of media attention - duh).

Jeez, you're right. I can't think of The X-Files The West Wing Lost The Sopranos any other television show that was covered in newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. to the extent that this one is.

Maybe you didn't notice because you weren't looking?
posted by tzikeh at 12:03 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the same way, I dislike Peggy's success. As a wannabe being held back by the sexism of the workplace, I enjoyed feeling uncomfortable every time they patted her on the head like a performing puppy, but as a successful copy writer she ever so slightly dilutes the sting of the subservient female role.

I agree to the extent that fiction has to make more sense than real life, but the writers have said that they have had significant input from a number of the real Mad Men, and that there were several successful women at Peggy's level; it's just that nobody ever heard about them.
posted by tzikeh at 12:07 PM on July 26, 2010


Also - and sorry for the multiple comments:

I think the show is unbelievably good, I thought last night's episode kicked ten kinds of ass, and haters gonna hate.
posted by tzikeh at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'll tell you what really threw me for a loop last night. Roger Sterling, of all people, now has an Eero Saarinen desk with a Nesso lamp.

I mean, it's kind of a cool trick that by having the characters start a new agency, they get to update all the furniture to show us what was new in 1964, I just never would have expected Roger Sterling, as one of the old men of the agency, to have such avant garde taste in furniture. And meanwhile, Don Draper appears to have made his new office as much like his old one as possible.
posted by dnash at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


But a huge amount of the interest in the show is that it's relying on you, the viewer, to know damn well what's being left out.

By ignoring it they are calling attention to it. Like a bikini ad with a black bar. Damn you just blew my mind.
posted by Big_B at 12:16 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, dnash, I need to go buy myself a hamburger.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:34 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The season premier exceeded all expectations for me. We knew that they were going to change the show, but I'm really amazed by just how much.

The original premise of the show, to be concise, was the deceiving appearance of Don Draper's seemingly perfect life in Manhattan and his perfect wife, perfect family, and perfect house the suburbs, and that story played out to its logical conclusion over three seasons.

The season 4 premier starts with the line "Who is Don Draper?" and for the first time in the series the audience knows exactly who Don Draper is; over the last three seasons Don's facade has been revealed not only to the audience but also to his (ex) wife. Now Don is living in a dark old apartment, Betty is an absolute train-wreck, and the conservative late-50s/early-60s office of Sterling-Cooper has been replaced with a very modern and vibrant 60s vibe.

It's like the show has been turned on its head, yet it somehow still works better than ever and I'm dying to see how the season plays out. With writing as good as this, they could take this show through the 70s and 80s.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


dnash writes:
I just never would have expected Roger Sterling, as one of the old men of the agency, to have such avant garde taste in furniture.
His 21-year-old wife probably picked it out.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:54 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Roger Sterling, of all people, now has an Eero Saarinen desk with a Nesso lamp.... I just never would have expected Roger Sterling, as one of the old men of the agency, to have such avant garde taste in furniture.

Mad Men City | Time & Life Building.

Mad Men's New Home: Still Very 60s Modern, but No Longer Truly 'Mad'.

“Mad Men” Furniture (with comments from the 'Mad Men' production designer and property master on the evolution of furniture/accesory choices from the Sterling Cooper office to that of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.)
posted by ericb at 3:37 PM on July 26, 2010


liquorice Can't really tell if this season is going to be a good one or not after the first episode. Don becomes a cocky asshole is about all I could gather.

Jesus, no he doesn't. He grows up a little and realizes that he has to act a certain way to help the firm, and all those people he dragged along with him. He doesn't want to give interviews, he doesn't want to talk about himself and he doesn't want to be a businessman. At SC, he basically was an artist. Now he's a partner and as to be a little like Pete, a personality, a glad-hander. He has to drum up business, and he hates it. But after Peggy and Bert chided him, and after he realized that if he plays it safe it's going to be pitching boring things to idiots like the "modest" swimwear people, he stepped up and did something he doesn't want to do.

If you refuse to give this show any credit, you'll miss everything it has to offer.
posted by spaltavian at 5:33 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


He has to drum up business, and he hates it...he stepped up and did something he doesn't want to do.

Or did something he'd forgotten is simply part of the game. Once he remembered (with Peggy and Bert's help) that spinning stories for the press was an essential part of his job it seemed to me he stepped up and enjoyed the hell out of it.
posted by mediareport at 5:42 PM on July 26, 2010


It never seemed to me that was Don's game though. Don had a special status at SC; the goose who laid the golden egg was exempted from some of the genuflecting that clients and superiors demanded. And that was possible, because SC was a large established firm and had tons of people to do the "tawdry" account work. But at the new firm, Don is the pitch, and after Pete, Peggy, Roger and Burt told him as much, he accepted it somewhat and moved out. I felt that this episode was in part Don acknowledging that he had to play a game that (along with its players) he always held in mild contempt.

It's not a complete surrender, though, and I found it interesting what exactly he was willing to compromise- himself, not his work. At the end he's willing to act the part that people want from him (at least in that particular context). But he can't make stupid or boring ads. He won't play into the hands of the stuffy, traditional small town people- Dick Whitman created a new person just to escape from their world. A lot of people would have found it easier to give a client what they want and land a certain account than to go through a debasing and insipid routine that looked about as fun and as privately humiliating as most job interviews. Don will compromise his identity, but he won't make an ad he doesn't believe in. He does the interview, but throws the swimwear people out.
posted by spaltavian at 6:17 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The original premise of the show, to be concise, was the deceiving appearance of Don Draper's seemingly perfect life in Manhattan and his perfect wife, perfect family, and perfect house

The first scene of the series Don him lying on the chest of his lady friend (or special lady, not sure) in the Village. We had no knowledge of the wife and perfect house in the 'burbs yet, and did not until the last scene of the first episode. This is how viewers were introduced to Don Draper. The show's now taken Don back to where viewers started with him, to an apartment in the Village.
posted by raysmj at 6:58 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's why: We have clearly been presented with multiple examples over the course of the show of people who live outside of that white male domain - we know more about Peggy's poor Catholic mother, e.g., than we do about the elevator operator or the Draper's maid.
I don't think there's one single scene that shows Peggy's mom without peggy being there. Maybe one. Peggy's mom has a huge impact in her life and peggy is one of the main characters. We also see Betty's dad and brother, but they are secondary.

The secondary characters only exist as reflected by the relationship with the main characters: Betty's friends, Don's girlfriends, Peggy's family, etc. We do see Kinsy's black girlfriend, but Kinsey is one of the 'minor' main characters (especially at that point in time). We see parts of his life in it's own right, but he doesn't get a lot of screen time, so his secondary characters get even less.

But the thing is, even though the maid (carla) plays a major part in Don and Betty's life (before they broke up, I guess now just Betty's) she basically has to keep her mouth shut and be professional. As a secondary character we only see her in terms of betty and Don. The character has to hold her tongue but actually she gets to react to some interesting stuff, even if she can't say anything about it.

But anyway, beyond Carla the fact is this is a show about Rich elites in NYC in the 1960s. Trying to have a side story about Carla or the elevator operator would seem ridiculous. The only way we could have a major black character was if they were an athelete or entertainer type. (like the Utz chip guy).

The point I'm trying to make is that we only see secondary characters in terms of how they interact with the main characters. And Carla would have had to have been restrained in how she delt with the Drapers.
l33tpolicywonk, I think you missed the joke. "You can't ignore 20 or 30 indignant emails." - the joke is that only 20 or 30 black people watch Mad Men - i.e., it's "stuff white people like."
Which is obnoxious.

---
Also, carbon Monoxide poisoning? It was obvious to me that he haddn't turned on the car yet. If they were going to kill betty, they'd need to give her a more grandiose ending. But whatever.

I also don't think January Jones is that bad of an actress. Her character is just an icy bitch.
posted by delmoi at 7:28 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]



If you refuse to give this show any credit, you'll miss everything it has to offer.


I love this show! I give it tons of credit. I just think I'm one of the very few people that like Betty and despise Don. Which is why I'm of the opinion that he's turned into (even more of a) cocky asshole.
posted by liquorice at 9:26 PM on July 26, 2010


Don Draper's WSJ hedcut (even though they didn't start doing that until 1979)
posted by Rhomboid at 11:51 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, finally watched the season opener. Yay! It was so good. It allays my fears about shark-jumping.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:52 AM on July 27, 2010


So I watched Art & Copy right before the season premiere of Mad Men, and...Is anyone else just the tiniest bit worried that Don is going to turn into Hal Riney?
posted by pxe2000 at 4:08 AM on July 27, 2010


his lady friend (or special lady, not sure)

nice. :-)
posted by grubi at 6:19 AM on July 27, 2010


The argument that Mad Men could have more Black characters is not as hysterically PC as it might seem on it's face. I don't think the point is that they should force new characters or storylines, it's merely an observation of a missed opportunity.

And the "but that's not what the show's about" argument doesn't hold water. Who decides what the show is about? The creator and writers. They decided one thing, they could have decided another. Look at The Wire. Prime example of of a show expanding it's scope as time wore on.

Mad Men has flirted with being a "bigger" show, and has been great when it does so, but it's somewhat disappointing in that it always pulls back into it's bubble. As good as it is(it's far and away my favorite show right now) when it's al said and done, I think the stories it could have told and didn't will overshadow the stories it did tell.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:09 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who decides what the show is about? The creator and writers. They decided one thing, they could have decided another.

Right. But they didn't. If a bunch of chefs get together and decide to make a restaurant with a classical French menu, complaining that they didn't put Chicken Kiev on the menu doesn't hold water either. That's not what they decided to do. I really don't get the slagging on the writers' creative decisions- Mad Men is, after all, fiction.
posted by ambrosia at 11:22 AM on July 27, 2010




Just finally watched the premiere. Not bad.

But I miss Ken. Ken Cosgrove. Accounts.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:31 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


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