Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Who is Don Draper?

A valid question at any point in the series, but even more so now. Show creator Matthew Weiner has stated that this season will work out that knotted and thorny tangle this year and it's as good a time as any.

There are the changes in his personal life, even more muddied than I would have imagined: not only does he have a frosty ex-wife and two children to passively father, he also has to deal with that somehow perfect/somehow menacing Henry Francis living in his house, with his ex-wife and growing children. Sleeping in his bed, for Christ's sake. And for all that, Don keeps a surprisingly level head.

Could be that he's getting everything he (thinks) he needs from a pugilistic call girl and a dowdy, mildly pestering housekeeper (oh Don, just get into some therapy for God's sake). But Betty, in her justification for staying in the home far past the date set forth in the divorce proceedings, does save her from looking like a simple ice queen; saying that she wants to provide as much stability for the kids in a time of great turmoil is laudable, if not believable. More understandable is her refusal to let go of everything from her past. As angry as she is at Don (and with good reason), she is not completely prepared to live a life without him.

Also, it's not surprising to see more of the running time devoted to Sally Draper (as evidenced by Kiernan Shipka's appearance in the opening credits), it looks like Bobby Draper may step into the light a little more, perhaps as a clown and diffuser of familial tension. Which there will be plenty of, if the Thanksgiving in this season's opener is any indication.

For a show devoted to style and production design, it makes sense that just as much time and attention would be paid in creating the new offices of Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce. It wasn't until I saw the new office, with gleaming floor-to-ceiling windows, white floors and even a globular modernist lamp on Sterling's desk, that I realized how much the old office stood in as that early 60s holdover of the previous decade. Whereas the old office was dark and apparently filled with antechambers, the accent now is on transparency (including a good running gag about their lack of conference room table). The question is, how good is that for a self-made man like Don? Will he embrace the opportunities it presents (much like of that coming decade) or will he disappear completely?

Before watching this episode, I would have guessed the latter. Having seen it, I'm likely to believe the former. There is a leit motif in the episode about "the second floor". It seems that the new firm has been talking themselves up as taking over two floors of the Time Life Building, but the reality of it might be less impressive (even Bertram Cooper refuses to engage in that tale-telling). But along with the suggestive campaign Don creates for the family-friendly Jentzen swimwear company ("So well built, we can't show you the second floor"), and Don's reaction when they reject it (that is to shoo them out of his office), it seems that Don is ready to take care of business and sell the idea of what's going on in the second floor, even if that's the only way he'll be able to fill it.

And a random thought: I hope Betty doesn't move--how will we ever see Francine if she does?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

One More Sleep!

It is difficult at this critical stage to avoid information about the upcoming season--I mean, this isn't opera, we don't have to know the whole story before diving in. But even more trying is resisting the urge to wonder what the next season holds:

  • How will the new Sterling-Cooper-Draper-British Guy firm hold together? I'm sure the scrappy nature of their endeavour will be enough glue to keep the team working as one, but for how long? With any luck, not very long at all.
  • We did see a brief flash of Pete Campbell's wife Trudy, but how far will she intrude on the inner-workings of the new upstart ad agency, to say nothing of the Pete & Peggy show, a dance that I think isn't close to over. More prosaic is the concern that actress Allison Brie will have little time to spare her 60's husband as she is currently a featured player on NBC's comedy Community.
  • Will Sal have some kind of Hitchcock-like walk-on at some point? Even just looking into a restaurant through a frosted window. Goddamn I'm going to miss him.
  • What role will jock/literary figure Ken Cosgrove play in the new firm? Recent cast photos have featured him but did not fit Paul Kinsey into the frame. Will the painful-sounding "Tapping Maple on a Cold Vermont Morning" short story still have some cache in '64?
  • And when the words "Mad Men cast member poses for Playboy" are put together, I'm sure this is not the hoped for model--but have no doubt, she's quite lovely
  • Who's going to have a medical emergency this season? Don is always cruising for one, but I have a sense that throwing in with a bunch of hungry upstarts might cause more damage to old Bertram Cooper than any one else, including Roger
Out of all this, I have but one iron-clad prediction to make, one I'm willing to stake my reputation upon: by the end of season 4, Don will leave the new agency and head off on an even more uncertain road.

Also, a sung-through musical episode. Holding my breath for that one.

I am also holding my breath for purchases of Kings of Madison Avenue right here!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top Five Reasons I Can't Wait for Season 4 To Start

  1. It's not even the end of July and it's been so hot that I'm making my own ass-crack gravy--watching the Mad Men & Women will surely ease my pain.
  2. Seeing Jon Hamm in the trailer for The Town only whets my appetite...and the movie looks all kind of Heat-inspired good.
  3. News that Kiernan Shipka (aka Sally Draper) is getting her name in the opening credits. She really came into her own in Season 3 and this can only bode well for her character's involvement in the show.
  4. Waiting to see which characters made the cut and which didn't (a moment in silence for Sal).
  5. And, possibly finding out how this happened. Although I'm not sure anyone could answer that.
More to come in the days leading up to the big premiere, including a reason as to my long absence (because I know you've been wondering) and further musings. Get your Brylcreem ready...

Get Kings of Madison Avenue right here!