Monday, April 27, 2015

Mad Men: Time&Life

The good

I heard four songs. The first was the bar scene after Jim Hobbart breaks the news. The song was the Clovers singing "Come to Me" from 1958. Next there was the scene where Peggy opens up to Stan about her pregnancy ten years earlier. The song playing on the radio is "Stranger on the Shore" by Mr. Acker Bilk. Then there was a clip from later when it's just Don and Roger at a bar and there is some jazz trio playing. I didn't hear enough of it to recognize it. Finally, the credits rolled to the sound of Dean Martin singing "Money burns a hole in my pocket". That was the B-side of his hit recording of Sway in 1953.

That's pure nostalgia.

It made me think of The Magnificent Ambersons, a movie that starts pushing nostalgia for a bygone era and then ends up being nostalgic for the period of its own beginning. Mad Men started being a nostalgic show and now it's being nostalgic for its own opening.

Flash back with me to the episode Shoot from season one. That's the episode where Jim Hobbart originally tried to poach Don from Sterling Cooper. Don agrees to stay with the firm but extracts a promise of $45,000 and no contract out of Roger. Roger agrees and then asks what is in it for him. The following dialogue ensues:
Don: "If I leave this place, one day, it will not be for more advertising."
Roger: "What else is there?"
Don: "I don't know. Life being lived? I'd like to stop talking about it and get back to it."
Roger: "I've worked with a lot of men like you and if you had to choose a place to die it would be in the middle of a pitch."
Don: "I've done that. I want to do something else."
And that's where we are again. Everyone else is more or less happy in advertising. They may feel good about their future or they may feel insecure about it but, either way, it's a future in advertising.

Not Don.

The troubling stuff

The Joan romance thing felt completely unreal. By itself that wouldn't matter but we have the ghost of Diana haunting Don. Mad Men has always been good on advertising and seduction and utterly unconvincing on falling in love and marriage.

We also had the return of the adoption plot from season one. It was well done I thought so long as you didn't think about anything else. The key line was when Peggy said this to Stan about the child she gave up:
I don't know because you're not supposed to know. Or you can't go on with your life.
But suppose Peggy had had an abortion. How would she have put it then? Would she have said,
"I don't think about it because you're not supposed to think about it. Or you can't go on with your life."
That would be different.

The complete failure

The stupid rivalry between the Pete Campbell and the MacDonald who runs the exclusive kids school also rang false. The actual slaughter of MacDonald's is a real historical event. What's insane is imagining that east-coast preps would care about such things. They say that Jane Austen never wrote a scene with men alone in it. The speculation is that she didn't because she didn't want to write about things she didn't know about. Matt Weiner would do well to take that as advice. Any time he tries to write about the country club set it comes across like a school boy with face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window.

And the future ...

I don't see a place for Don in the future. He belongs in and to the past. In season one he is compared to Batman, to Moses and to Nixon (the last by himself). Like the City of New Orleans, he's got the disappearing railroad blues. The question is, how do they get him out? Does he just slip away like Batman? Does he get to the edge of the promised land but not in like Moses? Or does his whole world collapse in scandal like Nixon? Or is it a mix of those options?

No comments:

Post a Comment