Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mad Men thoughts on the approaching finale of Season 7

It's known as a mind vacation.  You need it at the point of the semester when you know that, whatever task you work on, someone is going to be disappointed or angry, because you can't get everything done on time. 

But in a mind vacation, I can rewatch Mad Men for an hour or two while folding laundry or when I'm too tired to work or need to shut my mind down in order to get to sleep. The press of all the things I'm not doing/haven't done are completely at bay for that time.  Reading isn't a mind vacation any more, because I'm hammered by thoughts that I should be reading for work.

I began with Season 2 and am up to the beginning of Season 5. I'm looking forward with some anticipation and a little dread to the upcoming half season finale of Mad Men. Some random thoughts:
  •  In Season 4's "The Suitcase," one of the best hours of the series ever, Don and Peggy have a huge blowup before coming to understand each other. When she reproaches him for never thanking her, he erupts, "That's what the money is for!" She makes a personal or sentimental appeal, and he, as usual, reacts with rage or coldness. 

    What I hadn't realized until this viewing is that this is exactly what happened when Conrad ("Connie") Hilton drops Sterling Cooper in the last episode of Season 3, the fantastic "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." Hilton tells Don that he's "cutting him loose," and Don gets angry, making a sentimental appeal about Hilton wanting to kick him around, treating him like a son and then dropping him, etc.  Hilton just stands there and says it's just business (or some other Godfather-inspired thing). They end by shaking hands. 

    In "The Suitcase," Don is angry, sure, and upset about Anna, but he's channeling Hilton by telling Peggy that this is about business.  Of course it's about more than that, but what better way to reclaim your power than by channeling Conrad Hilton?  It's a lesson in business for Peggy, in this season of lessons, and by the end of Season 5 (when she leaves SCDP), she's learned to take this power into her own hands.
  • Speaking of "The Suitcase," why didn't Jon Hamm win the Emmy for this? I think he lost that year to Steve Buscemi for Boardwalk Empire, and while Buscemi did good work, it didn't touch Hamm's. Since I'm not a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, my opinion doesn't count for anything, though. 
  • Every single person in academia would benefit from spending an hour a week with lovable Dr. Edna, the child psychiatrist who sees Sally for a time in Season 4. 
  • They (the writers) should have kept Megan at SCDP.  Think about it: she's a naturally gifted copywriter and a decent actress.  Her ascent would have threatened Don in different ways, and it would have made for interesting conflicts with Peggy. We have Joan as a contrast to Peggy (traditional vs. new perspectives on women in the business world), but Megan would have been a different kind of competitor.  From the first, Megan seems a little . . . premeditated in her actions toward Don, and although she seems to love him, or tells him she does, there's a hint that he may be a means to an end.  She's like Jane Siegel Sterling but with career ambitions.

    Once Megan went to follow her bliss as an actress, there was less and less point to her being on the show. By Season 6, she would bounce into the apartment once in a while, but you kind of forgot why she was there.  She and Don seemed to have nothing in common; I would spend their scenes wondering what they found to talk about. She devolved into yet another example of his alienation, as if we didn't have enough of those already. Bonus: we could have seen more pitches like Cool Whip.  
  • To be honest, I fast-forward through some of the scenes. Lane Price and the pseudo-gangster. Some of Betty's perennial grouches.  The "weight-loss and hair-dye" Betty plotline from Season 6 might get skipped.

    Betty is like the reverse Sriracha sauce: a little of her makes the episode better by binding it together, but too much of her makes the episode more bland.
    Actually, a lot of Season 6 might get skipped.  The more I think about it and its Misery Theater, the more irritated I get at the wasted opportunity. See Don relive Season 4! See him drink and wallow in misery! See him engage in yet another affair, this one even more formulaic than the rest: 1. Sylvia expresses guilt at their affair.  2. They have sex.  3. Sylvia expresses more guilt and drops a few Pearls of Wisdom. Every. Single. Time.  The Bob Benson plot is fun, as is some of the agency stuff, but the Sylvia plot is irritating. 
    Your thoughts?  
Other Mad Men posts:
The Mad Men Dream Writing Group
Postwar Hauntings: Don Draper and Dana Andrews

Sunday, March 22, 2015


For a year or so, I've occasionally looked at the mostly empty box of business cards that I got when I came to Northern Clime.  Order new ones with "Associate Professor" on them? Or wait and see what happens?

Yes, dear readers, I now need new business cards because I can take the "Associate" title off and just write "Professor."

Thanks to all of you for hanging in there and reading, especially during the Great Obsessive MOOC streak.  This space and your blogs help so much--thanks!