Monday, April 2, 2012

Mad Men: Tea Leaves

Oscar Hammerstein died of cancer nine months after The Sound of Music opened on Broadway. And "Sixteen going on Seventeen" from that musical is about a world where the children are leading the children. That's the theme and I'm guessing not just for this episode but the whole season.

The title of this episode is brilliant. The first episodes set up the rest of the season. The children are about to take over. There is your theme folks and it's a good one. It's what everything in this episode was about one way or another. Don's conversation with the groupie at the Rolling Stones concert, Peggy hiring Michael Ginsberg, Pete usurping Roger's role, the possibility of Betty dying.

That is what happened in the 1960s. A whole bunch of cynical, WW2 generation technocrats who, despite much promise turned out not to be so good at running things, turned life over to a whole bunch of silent generation types who turned everything upside down, lived terribly self serving lives and now are turning a real mess over to the millennials who have no idea how badly screwed they are.

By the way, how many actual baby boomers are there in the show: Megan and Sally and (maybe) Micheal Ginsberg. People often talk about the visibility of blacks, Jews and gays on the show but it's really quite stunning how little part boomers have played until now. Or is that just historically accurate?

So it's a very good set up for the season and it has promise. I don't know that there is a lot more to say than that.

Okay, there is the lousy cheap shot. Henry doesn't want the mayor standing beside another politician because "Romney's a clown." He means the father of the current Romney except that he doesn't because it's a lousy cheap shot that they should have been above. What are you trying to do guys? Lose your ratings. Ha ha, wouldn't it be funny if you got cancelled because a lot of people got alienated and stopped watching? Apparently the children are still in charge.

They did taunt us with the possibility of killing awful Betty off only to pull her back off the ledge just as we were hoping. On the other hand, watching her slow decline, while it still involves having awful Betty around, will have some grim satisfaction in it. And Sally has to have someone to hate.

On that note, and I'm sorry to be such a  stickler, but the subplot reinforces a favourite myth of boomer women that they were thinner than their mothers. The exact opposite is the case. 1950s women were much thinner than their boomer children at every stage of life. (And today's millennials are fatter than their mothers were at the same age and ....)

Michael Ginsberg has real promise as a character. I loved it when he called Peggy "Margaret" in his meeting with Don. The moment when his father puts his hands on his shoulders and sings blessing over him was magnificent.

Don continues to fascinate. His response to the groupie was absolutely right. He remains the perfect MacGuffin providing the impetus but having no core himself. (By the way, last episode, Megan has a gay man as MC at Don's birthday and this episode she is taking him to see her friends on Fire Island.)

Poor Roger. He is such a great guy. He is the father some of us wish we'd had and now he seems to be slipping away. It was jolting to see how quickly Don shifted the conversation away from Roger being pushed aside by Pete to his concern about Betty's health. That, more than anything else, showed what a  dispensable character Roger has become. He's gone from being the second most important character to a guy they need to create a subplot just to keep him in.

To be fair, it's hard to see how they could have done otherwise. But what a step down it was from guys like Roger to Guys like Pete. I'm not giving up. I'm still hoping there is a twist that makes Roger relevant and important but I don't see it either in the show or in history. That is a tragedy.

Now I'll go see what other people thought.

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