Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mad Men, "My Old Kentucky Home": The decline and fall of Roger Sterling

A review of "Mad Men" season three, episode three coming up just as soon as I loan you my glasses so you can write this blog entry as me...
"No one thinks you're happy. They think you're foolish." -Don
"That's the great thing about a place like this. You can come here and be happy, and you get to choose your guests." -Roger
"My Old Kentucky Home" is one of those "Mad Men" episodes where very little seems to happen in terms of story, but where the atmosphere and character work are both so rich that plot becomes irrelevant.

Class, and the challenges and disappointments that come when you move from one class to another, are the big issues at work in this one. We spend a lot of time at Roger and Jane's country club Kentucky Derby party, where Roger and Betty and Pete (all of whom grew up privileged) feel right at home, and where Don and Jane (who didn't always have silver spoons) feel they're out of place. Jane retreats by drinking heavily and not eating at all, while Don finds temporary refuge in the club bar, where he bonds with a fellow climber of the social ladder, Connie (played by the fine character actor Chelcie Ross). Connie talks of growing up dreaming about what life must have been like in a fancy house on a hill; now a wealthy man, he knows that "It's different inside."

Connie's not the only person to understand that lesson by the end of the hour. Harry, despite his own ascension at Sterling Cooper, fits in no better at the party than Don. Joan throws a party of her own, where she learns that the vile Dr. Greg is the one gaining social standing due to their marriage, when she had always assumed she was benefiting from him. We meet Paul's old college buddy Jeffrey, who reveals that all of Paul's scholarly affectations are a put-on from a former scholarship kid with a thick Joisey accent, and we see that Paul's insecurity at being found out keeps him miserable.

The one person relatively content in their move up in class is Peggy, who partakes of some Jeffrey-supplied weed - after delivering possibly the funniest "Mad Men" line to date: "I'm Peggy Olson, and I want to smoke some marijuana." - and, high on the stuff, tells her overprotective new secretary Olive that she's doing just fine as a single career woman who lives her life the same as the men around her.

Peggy is inside, but she still sees with the eyes of an outsider, as do people like Don and Connie. But the characters who have always been upper class are too far inside to have any idea how their world really looks, or how it's going to change. Roger has no idea how offensive his blackface performance of the titular song will seem in only a few years (let alone how disturbing it is with nearly 40 years distance). Pete and Trudy don't recognize how sad their well-rehearsed Charleston is. Dr. Greg has no more idea how valuable Joan is to his career than Harry did during her brief stint with the television department.

Let's start with Joan, who didn't have much to do in the season's first two episodes. We see that Greg is the same prideful, violent oaf he was when he raped her in Don's office last season. He hates not getting his way, and he especially hates being reminded that his wife is often smarter and more worldly than he is. Joan, at least, has gotten better at handling him, as she shuts down the argument about the seating arrangements before things get too physical. But as the dinner party goes on, and she starts to get clues that Greg isn't quite the hospital superstar she thinks he is (he killed a patient due to a surgical error, and the chief of surgery's wife doesn't have a high opinion of him), Joan's ability to grin and bear it becomes more strained. When a flop sweat-covered Greg all but pushes her into playing her old accordion(*) to entertain the guests - and to distract everyone from thinking about his "bad result" - she chooses Cole Porter's "C'est Magnifique," whose lyrics are about the kind of perfect romance Joan wants to pretend she has. The melancholy look on her face suggests anything but.

(*) And I'm told that's actually Christina Hendricks playing the accordion. Don't be surprised if this episode leads to a boom in accordion lessons for and/or sales to young women.

If Joan's world is getting smaller and sadder as time goes on, Peggy's finally realizing that her own world is full of nothing but possibility. She's becoming more and more like Don, going through multiple secretaries and sampling a bit of the counter-culture to expand her sense of perspective. Elisabeth Moss has been maybe my favorite part of the season so far; she still plays Peggy as somewhat Sphinx-like, but the character and the performance are both much more confident and funny and sexy than they were even late last season. I'm sure Peggy has some tough times ahead, but it's a real pleasure to watch her ascendant and in command the way she is here.

Peggy's storyline also puts Paul together with Smitty (though Smitty's buddy Kurt has yet to appear this season) in one of the more interesting culture clashes "Mad Men" has to offer. Paul and Smitty are maybe five years apart in age, but generationally they seem as far apart as Paul is from Bert Cooper. Paul wants to seem older than he is, and is so insecure about his standing that he has to constantly recite his credentials. Smitty, on the other hand, is content with his youth, and even celebratory about it. It's so rare to see anyone on "Mad Men" this comfortable in his own skin - even if this is a persona Smitty assumed in the same way Dick Whitman became Don Draper or Jersey Paul became cultured Paul, it's a persona he's made his peace with - that he becomes an interesting, amusing foil for nearly every other character on the show. I remember Joan having no idea how to respond to Smitty's flirtation in last season's "The Jet Set," and I would love to see Smitty have to work directly with Pete on something.

Because the episode spends so much time at Sterling Cooper and at Joan's apartment, and because the Derby party is more of an ensemble piece, this is a more Don-light episode than usual. But the scene with Connie reminds us again of the very different world Dick Whitman grew up in, and in the present, we see that even though Don and Betty are both making more of an effort in their marriage, there's still a gap that can't be closed. Don will always feel out of place in Betty's life because he can't tell her who he really is. (I doubt he'd feel comfortable even telling her a relatively safe story like the one about parking cars at the roadhouse.) And in Betty's reaction to the attentions of Henry Francis, we see that her dalliance with Captain Awesome in "Meditations in an Emergency" didn't so much satisfy her need to understand adultery than it gave her a taste for it, or at least for what she's missing from Don. Don's trying, really trying, but it's been a long time since he looked at Betty with the awe and hunger that was on Henry's face when he asked to touch her belly. Before that encounter, Betty warned Don that she wanted to get some dancing in before the night was over; after it, she told Don she wasn't in the mood to hit the dance floor.

There's also, of course, some leftover tension from their separation, which comes to the forefront when a drunken Jane mentions it to Betty, who doesn't like that Don's former secretary (and Roger's current unpopular wife) knows about this, and who maybe wonders if Jane was with Don before she was with Roger. And Roger has the bad timing to come upon what looks like Don making a move on Roger's wife, just as Don once walked in on Roger actually making a move on Don's wife.

After briefly enjoying the role reversal, Roger falls back on his sheltered, delusional belief that his old friends are all just jealous of him. Just as he doesn't understand that blackface is past its sell-by date, Roger doesn't recognize that he's become a bad joke in his old social circles: a mid-life crisis cliche who has no discernible function at work, who's drunk all day (though never as impaired as his wife is here) and who has no idea he's becoming as obsolete in America at large as he is at Sterling Cooper. So long as he has his country club membership, and can retreat on the old comforts that his class provides, he can avoid facing reality.

The story of Sally stealing five bucks from Gene may not at first glance seem that connected to the rest of the episode. It's a well-played vignette about how difficult life is with Gene in that house, even (or especially) on days when he's relatively lucid, and it also shows that Sally is trying to learn how to lie like her parents do so often. But it's important to note that, in the happier moments, Sally's bonding with her grandfather by reading passages from Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." What's about to happen to the America of this era won't be quite as drastic as what happened to Rome, but thanks in part to the complacency and willful ignorance of people like Roger Sterling, Gene is more prophetic than he realizes when he tells Sally, "Just wait. All hell's gonna break loose."

Some other thoughts on "My Old Kentucky Home":

• I should say that, while Jane is usually a fairly unlikable character, "My Old Kentucky Home" did make me feel some sympathy for her. Yes, she got what she wanted by landing Roger, but she's in way over her head socially, she knows everybody hates her, and on top of that, Roger (in terms of stature and possibly finances, based on how quickly he seems to be burning through the PP&L sale money) is no longer the man she thought she was marrying.

• Also, shocking as the blackface moment is to modern sensibilities, the concept wasn't entirely dead after Roger's day. In the early '90s, Ted Danson got in some hot water for donning blackface for a Friar's Club roast of his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. (Goldberg later said she helped him come up with the idea as a response to the hate mail they were getting for their interracial relationship.) And Spike Lee's 2000 movie "Bamboozled" was all about blackface, albeit with black actors donning the makeup themselves.

• It took me until second viewing to realize that the Peggy/Paul/Smitty scenes were largely taking place in Paul's office, and not Peggy's, as the layout was identical. (I'm assuming it was the same set, redressed.) When Peggy moved into Freddy's old office late last season, guys like Paul and Harry were outraged that The Girl got her very own office before they did. Apparently, the firings by the PP&L folk cleared out enough dead weight that Paul doesn't have to share anymore.

• I couldn't help noticing Gene tell Sally, "Go wash your teeth." I assumed that was some outmoded phrasing, but "wash your teeth" turned up over 40,000 hits on Google (albeit compared to over 800,000 for "brush your teeth"). Is it maybe a regional thing?

• Michael Gladis, who plays Paul, and Rich Sommer, who plays Harry, don't look exactly alike, but their build is similar enough that I imagine they were confused for each other early in the show's run, which in turn led to the joke here where Paul offers to borrow Harry's glasses and pose as him at the Derby party.

• Pete and Trudy's Charleston was the second time in three episodes where Vincent Kartheiser has been able to show off some ridiculous yet limber dance skills. His legs almost seem to be made of rubber for parts of this one. The dance seems absolutely like the kind of thing these two might throw themselves into learning; they can't have children (though it's clear Trudy still longs for them), so instead they find another way to compete with the couples around them by rehearsing and rehearsing their dance steps to show off at an occasion like this.

• I'm hoping Carla is more involved this season, as she has a unique perspective on the Draper family. We see that she's already figuring out how to deal with Gene, and she's savvy enough to realize, just as Gene did, that Sally stole the fiver before she "found" it.

• The real world comes up a few times, as we're reminded that the First Lady was pregnant at this point (it wouldn't end well), and that the '63 Kentucky Derby took place on the same day that New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller married his second wife, Happy. As alluded to in the brief discussion of that, the marriage (only a month after Happy's own first marriage came to a legal end) was a major turn-off to many Republican voters. It not only damaged Rockefeller's own national ambitions (though he'd wind up as Gerald Ford's appointed VP), but arguably was the beginning of the end for the national dominance of the more socially moderate wing of the Republican party, since the marriage to Happy led to Barry Goldwater getting the '64 nomination, which led to Ronald Reagan's ascension, etc, etc. I bring this up in spite of the usual No Politics rule only because Roger is a classic Rockefeller Republican, and the ascension of people like Goldwater will likely create yet another part of his life where he's going to be left behind.

• A few people complained last week that their recording was cut off before the show ended. That's not going to stop, unfortunately. The episodes are now all going to run a couple of minutes past the hour to allow for more commercial time (while simultaneously keeping Weiner from having to cut any story time), so until/unless AMC and the various programming guide services can get their stories coordinated, I'd strongly advise padding your recordings by at least 3 or 4 minutes, though theoretically you should only need 2.

Finally, I want to again commend you guys on both your insightful comments and on your sticking to the commenting rules even as the number of comments each week rises to a level not seen on this blog for anything but maybe "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica." You're bringing up things I didn't necessarily think of, and you're playing well with each other. On the internet, those two qualities are still an unfortunate rarity. So thanks.

What did everybody else think?

316 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 316 of 316
CarolMR said...

Was Connie married to Zsa Zsa at this point in time?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the drink info Karen. Sounds yummy. Now if I could only convince my boss that I need a bar in my office. --Milhouse

Alan Sepinwall said...

For those of you still reading, AMC has renewed Mad Men for a 4th season. Not a surprise, but still nice to know for sure we'll get to see it.

Karen said...

Great news, Alan--thanks! Although, as you say, not surprising.

smarty said...

@ Dupree: And no one has mentioned the Charleston transition yet. Pete and his wife finish their dance and it immediately cuts to Paul reciting "This is the way the world ends". T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" contains so many allusions to Mad Men, 20th century man, apocalypse, death of religion/spiritual life, etc. It's difficult to know where to begin. The first two lines of the poem are "Mista Kurtz - he dead. A penny for the Old Guy." These are references to Joseph Conrad's (Connie again?) "Heart of Darkness" (the basis for "Apocalypse Now") and Guy Fawkes Day (a pagan ritual - like the May Pole of previous episode?) The cut from the Charleston, a 1920's dance, to this excerpt from a 1920's poem is not accidental. Nor is its allusion to the title of the poem. The Mad Men are the Hollow Men, the stuffed men, only as good as their last ad, selling lies, no spiritual underpinnings, soulless, dancing around the mulberry bush in the "cactus land", a desert devoid of life. They fill themselves up with booze and cigarettes and marijuana, and nostalgia in order to stave off the end of the world they sense is coming, be it from the atom bomb, the cultural change or their own mortality. Add this to Sally and Gene's reading of Gibbon, Gene's statement that "all hell is going to break loose", visual and literary references to Gatsby, even Olive's comment to Peggy about what she is doing to her future, and it's pretty clear what the writers are saying. Great connections for anyone who wishes to look just below the surface. Very well done.

Profjoe223 said...
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Profjoe223 said...
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Devin McCullen said...

The only proper thing for Wiener to do?

Dump AMC and broadcast the rest of Mad Men on Conelrad.


He's a hell of a detective.

berkowit28 said...

Guy Fawkes Night (not Day) is hardly "a pagan ritual"!

To quote Wikipedia:

"Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night, is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of the 5 November, 1605, in which a number of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, were alleged to be attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament, in London, England."

So, more explosions forewarned, all hell breaking loose, rtc. I like your alluding to Mad Men as the Hollow Men, though. They seem to be a bit more complex than that, mind you.

smarty said...

@berkowit28: Thank you for the correction. You are right, but the reference to the children's song All Around the Mulberry Bush in "Hollow Men" is still appears to be connection to the May Pole in Mad Men. BTW, ProfJoe223's comment about allusions between T.S. Eliot and Mad Men seemed a bit disingenuous. From the posted profile, he seems to be a legend in his own mind. I just wanted to start a thread about the connection, never implying that Eliot was alluding to Mad Men, rather the reverse.

Anonymous said...

re: the Charleston. There's a big difference between knowing a dance and doing it well and wanting others to know you know a dance and do it well. If every couple doing the Charleston back in the 20s needed an entire dance floor to do it, it never would have been as popular as it was. Pete and Trudy are putting on a show, and it seems to me their performance would have been just as over the top when the Charleston was all the rage as it felt in the 1963 setting. Great for getting attention in a dance contest, but odd at a party where most people want to dance with their friends.

Brandon said...

I just copied and pasted the comments into a Word document after reading half of it. Uh, yeah, 92 pages.

Capcom said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on what Don was muddling for that drink, Karen.

I also thought that the Guy Fawkes plot was about a Catholic uprising against the Protestant royalty.

Back then it wasn't really too odd for a couple who could dance exceptionally well to get the dance floor for a particular dance. If they did it for every song, that would definitely be rude though. That's not to say that TPTB were not actually portraying Pete and Trudy as being overzealous on the dance floor of course.

It's interesting to note the differences in the analysis of Mad Men's portrayal of the 60s era, between posters who were living then, and those who look back through eyes that have only seen what has been recorded and interpreted. I don't know how many people on the Mad Men staff are writing from hands-on experience, or anecdotally in hindsight, but sometimes they do get things a bit wrong concerning the general zeitgeist of certain aspects to those of us who were there. Having said that, they do a fine job with the many things that they hit amazingly spot-on.

olucy said...

Check out Time Magazine for July 1963 -- just weeks after Don met "Connie."

http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19630719,00.html

Profjoe223 said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

Profjoe, you're coming dangerously close to violating #1 & #6 on the commenting rules for the blog: be nice.

If you can't disagree politely with other people, if you can't dispute someone's points without attacking them, being obnoxious and/or condescending, then you shouldn't comment. And if I see one more comment from you with the same tone, it's going to be deleted. Period.

Anonymous said...

@Profjoe I have seen It's a Wonderful Life, but isn't that famous Charleston scene a dance contest? ;) Perhaps I'm not giving Pete and Trudy enough credit, but having seen how much of his life is performance, this scene struck me in the same way.

Profjoe223 said...
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Anonymous said...

I am little confused about the anticipation of the characters in this episode to suddenly turn evil.
People were picking up on a molestation vibe from grandpa, which I did not get at all. I was not even worried that he was going to hit Sally, which made the scene with Sally's petrified look on her face so funny to me. But you never know, maybe it was the look on Sally's face that stopped Grandpa from getting angry. The real question, I guess, is what lesson did Sally learn from all this?

CarolMR said...

For a different and interesting point of view, check out http://tomwatson.typepad.com/ - Don Draper, the anti-JFK.

LA said...

I think the vibe between Grandpa Gene and Sally was very similar to the vibe we had in S1 between Betty and Glenn. Something was kind of "off" and you didn't know what to expect. Add to the equation that one of the players is a child, and there's potential for creepiness. In Gene's case, his dementia makes him a bit unpredictable, though I got no sexual overtones this time around.

As someone who had a demented parent for many years, I assure you that the lucid moments are very real and the filter is turned off. I am actually looking forward to Gene's unfettered observations of the Draper household.

Bravo on season 4 being confirmed.

LA said...

olucy - great find on the Time cover of Conrad Hilton. The resemblance to the actor Weiner chose to play "Connie" certainly is the seal on what the very sharp commenters here had already figured out.

helga said...

I'm with the posters who felt the Shining vibe, Gatsby and magnificent looney tunes singing frog. Also felt Kubrik was being channeled again for a moment with the "eyes wide shut" -like scene, during which an unaccompanied Betty in all her formal wear glory is approached by the very bold, very appreciative older man.

janie said...

@ Karen: I guess it was the club soda I was questioning. The muddling was beautifully done but I've not seen club soda an Old-Fashioned. Water and sugar, or a little pre-mixed simple syrup, sure. Just not anything carbonated. Could be I learned a regional twist. I know I'm convinced if Don Draper says or does it, it's gospel!

Profjoe223 said...
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Tyroc said...

Joan is pregnant, right? That's why she keeps talking of leaving.

And that's why she gets so offended when the women tells her not to get pregnant.

Or am I reading it wrong?

olucy said...

If Joan *is* pregnant, she hasn't revealed that to us yet.

She keeps talking about leaving because she anticipates Greg becoming Chief Resident, which would allow her to quit working and start a family. But as far as *we* know right now, she isn't.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the painting of "Pie-O-My" make an appearance behind the bar as Don and Connie chat it up over a couple of coctails. Thanks for the Sopranos flashback Mr. Weiner...damn I miss that show!

Anonymous said...

What relationship does Mad Men have to NYPD Blue? Casting team? Writers? Directors?

Betty's sister-in-law (Judy?) played a great pregnant teen in an episode of NYPD Blue. The man who touched Betty's belly in this episode played a great racist cop who eventually grew and changed with Lt. Fancy's influence.

I haven't kept track through all 3 seasons, but there have been others who acted in both series. They can't all be coincidence, can they?

Anonymous said...

I read at the AMC site that Weiner says that both Don and Betty are thinking of other people during the kiss at the end of this episode.

Of all the comments I've read here and my own take on that scene, that was not what I imagined it to be. I wonder how different other perceptions might be vs. what Weiner has in mind when he writes the scenes.

That is what I love about this show - we all bring our own perceptions, history and experiences to it when viewing and see different things in each scene.

Oh, if all television was like this show it would at last fullfill the extraordinary potential that it inherently has but never reaches - except for a handful of productions.

Karen said...

@Profjoe223

Since Don was making his old fashioned for himself, and not as a professional bartender for a customer, perhaps he was making it the way he liked. After all, Don drinks a LOT but never seems to get drunk. There's got to be a reason for it.

Profjoe223 said...
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Anonymous said...

I might be in the under 40 crowd around here (not by much) but I'm not going to change my mind on the Charelston scene. Just like the blackface, that scene is meant to show just how behind the times the country club set is.

If I was at a wedding with my boss and his boss and his boss, and my wife and I cleared the dance floor with a perfectly choreographed disco number, people would clap and cheer. But people would not think "there goes a guy with his pulse on 2009 culture".

--Milhouse

Profjoe223 said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

Profjoe, in terms of getting details like the Old-Fashioned recipe right, all I will say is that while most TV shows don't have the time to sweat the small details, Matt Weiner is one of the two most detail-obsessed men I've met working in TV. All he does is sweat small details. If Don's recipe isn't the traditional one, there's a reason for it.

olucy said...

If I was at a wedding with my boss and his boss and his boss, and my wife and I cleared the dance floor with a perfectly choreographed disco number, people would clap and cheer. But people would not think "there goes a guy with his pulse on 2009 culture".

OK. But I think that says more about "the people" and their snap judgments than it does about you.

olucy said...

I read at the AMC site that Weiner says that both Don and Betty are thinking of other people during the kiss at the end of this episode.

Interesting! We can guess who Betty is thinking of. I'd love to know who Don is thinking of.

olucy said...

Was Connie married to Zsa Zsa at this point in time?

According to imdb, their marriage was over almost 20 years by this point. On a related side note, it says that Zsa Zsa claims in her book that their daughter was a result of Connie raping her while they were married. (The marriage only lasted 4 years, I think).

Karen said...

@Profjoe, since I am an Ivy League-trained medievalist, I am intimately familiar with both William of Ockham and his "razor." Because I was a bartender in NYC from 1978 to 1993, I am also familiar with how to make an old fashioned.

I see no reason to assume that the simplest explanation for Don's bartending skills is that they got it wrong. As Alan points out, Mad Men is a show with a details-obsessed creator, and the sloppiness you infer from your viewing would be unusual. It makes much more sense to me that Don made that drink the way he did for a reason.

Juanita's Journal said...

Now that Joan realizes Greg is reaping the benefit of being married to her, rather than the other way around -- and now that Greg knows she knows this -- HE will be on guard. Of course, the dynamic of his insecurity and jealousy is a hallmark in abusive relationships, but if anyone could handle this without becoming victimized, it would be Joan.


How do you explain that Joan had went ahead and married this guy, anyway? What does that really say about her?

KarenX said...

How's this for a compromise?

The Charleston scene doesn't show Pete and Trudy as out of date an old-fashioned, because all the old ballroom dances were what everyone knew (they're what Johnny was hired to teach in Dirty Dancing, set in the same era, after all).

What the Charleston Dance does not show Pete and Trudy being is progressive, cutting edge, or forward thinking. If we must read anything into this scene, it's where they will fall on the generational divide when change comes. Will they be flexible enough to adapt? There are characters that we know will--I'm thinking of Paul and Peggy--and there are characters we know can't--like those British people. Is a showy display of an old dance all that Pete and Trudy have, or was it really just a scene that showed them happy together, in sync with each other?

It was a 1920s party, after all. That the Charleston was played at the party signifies nothing. That it was a 1920s party in the first place someone could analyze, but I think it's just supposed to echo the fall of Rome and the poetry Paul was reciting.

sara said...

The pleasure I get from watching MM is akin to the pleasure I feel when watching "Six Feet Under", particularly the later seasons.

For me the slow pace is mesmerizing because I know that the pieces/themes of the individual story lines, that at times appear so unrelated, will ultimately lead to what I hope is a thoughtful "aha" moment (mine!) where I see the common thread between them. I find the writing and the details (the details!) so amazingly fulfilling and intricate and satisfying. If I had the time to go back and re-watch earlier episodes (someday!) I think I would be overcome!

I think the "charades" mention that someone made is a strong contender for the "theme" here...the storylines seemed to me to be about disguises (or maybe perceptions -- your own and others of who you REALLY are) or about trying on other personas out of desire or necessity...

Don is, of course, the master of the persona, Betty too. So much of what has already been commented on captures it that I won't be able to do it justice by rehashing but the more I think about this episode the more I like it...(Sally trying out the role of "thief", Joan as the role of the dutiful wife but then clearly coming out as the stronger of the pair only to have hubby try to mock her with the accordian to have her emerge unbelievably victorious, Peggy and her battle between who she feels like she is, wants to be, is seen as, etc.)

The comments bring me so much, too...thanks to all who take the time to post!

Juanita's Journal said...

What the Charleston Dance does not show Pete and Trudy being is progressive, cutting edge, or forward thinking. If we must read anything into this scene, it's where they will fall on the generational divide when change comes. Will they be flexible enough to adapt?


I don't know about Trudy, but hasn't the series already hinted that Pete is capable of adapting to change or being forward thinking?

As for Joan, no matter how "victorious" she has emerged from the dinner party, that does not disguise the fact that she had went ahead and married a guy who had raped her two months or so before the wedding. So far, the only explanation I have read about her decision was that "she had no choice" or that Joan didn't understand that she had been raped. And quite frankly, I find both arguments hard to accept.

Juanita's Journal said...

I see no reason to assume that the simplest explanation for Don's bartending skills is that they got it wrong. As Alan points out, Mad Men is a show with a details-obsessed creator, and the sloppiness you infer from your viewing would be unusual. It makes much more sense to me that Don made that drink the way he did for a reason.


They do get it wrong on MAD MEN, sometimes. They got Ann-Margret's age wrong.

olucy said...

While Pete and Trudy were both raised as Old Money, I'm not convinced that they're incapable of being progressive. I think they could go either way, at this point.

Their home is certainly furnished in the modern style -- they're not clinging to their parents' tastes in that regard. And I keep remembering how Pete understood what JFK's candidacy would mean to Nixon far ahead of all the other guys at the agency.

Like I said...I think they could go either way.

KarenX said...

hasn't the series already hinted that Pete is capable of adapting to change or being forward thinking?

Yes, they have. Pete has bounced good ideas off of Don, who at that time spurned them in favor of the conventional. So Pete's forward thinking, but he's terribly concerned with advancement, too, and he's in a company that has really shown that it is not interested in the new. I wonder how long Pete will suppress his new ideas about advertising in order to fit in and get promoted at a traditional company.

Peggy is a good foil for this. She does not care about being unpopular or going along with convention, but she advances anyway.

Karen said...

They got Ann-Margret's age wrong.

Do you mean when Peggy referred to her as being 26 going on 14? I think that was Peggy getting it wrong, rather than the writers. Because in addition to her being only 22 at the time, Ann-Margret's character was supposed to be 16. But it's more likely that Peggy would make a generalization, not having IMDb at her disposal.

Karen said...

Sorry, I meant "26 acting like 14."

cgeye said...

There are two levels on which a 'wrongness' can be interpreted -- whether the writer/director/actor got a detail wrong, or whether a *character* made an error, being not a robot and all that.

Lane Pryce having an OED printed years in the future is a production design error.

Don Draper fixing an Old Fashioned his way could be the character's choice or a design error.

If in a future episode Don ate bologna sandwiches with peanut butter, that might be an error in our eyes, but it certainly would be a telling character detail, especially if he did it when no one was looking. So much of what we learn about these characters comes from their private aberrations, and I'd hate to lose those character development threads because the writers got spooked about us bitching about them.

However, the use of a soda gun instead of a soda siphon remains a detail still in need of historical verification.

Juanita's Journal said...

Do you mean when Peggy referred to her as being 26 going on 14? I think that was Peggy getting it wrong, rather than the writers. Because in addition to her being only 22 at the time, Ann-Margret's character was supposed to be 16. But it's more likely that Peggy would make a generalization, not having IMDb at her disposal.


It's funny that Peggy felt she had to mock a scene in which the actress was mocking teenage girls.


Was Connie married to Zsa Zsa at this point in time?

I believe they were married at the time.


Peggy is a good foil for this. She does not care about being unpopular or going along with convention, but she advances anyway.


I wonder how long this will last. Because right now, Peggy is coming off as a little too perfect to suit me.

Anonymous said...

*How do you explain that Joan had went ahead and married this guy, anyway? What does that really say about her?*

To me it says that while she would have felt wrong about it, it was still accepted, there was no real retaliation available and it wasn't worth the cost/benefit at the time. She still had all the cards in her hands at that point as far as she knew and if it meant being pushed into undesired sex on occasion, that was worth it.

Joan understands very well that it's about image, and it's a big deal to publicly shatter that image, much bigger than today IMO (and at 29, I'm one of those under 40 types FYI). Joan may be the queen bee at SC, but that also means the other kitties will take every opportunity to take her place if she gives them the opening.

Women still make the same bargain constantly- but have more resources and options in case a guy actually does jump the gun.

-EmeraldLiz

Dan said...

I didn't get the sense that Dr. Evil was trying to mock Joan at all by forcing the accordian on her.

As Alan pointed out, he's covered in a flop sweat, terror covering his face, as he looks for something -- anything -- to deflect attention from his monumental screw up.

What better way than yet another display of talent from his beautiful and charming wife.

BTW -- if the biggest mistake Weiner and Co. make this season is that a character adds too much club soda while making a drink, that's pretty damn impressive.

Tim W said...

Thanks Alan for this wonderful blog! It's amazing what I can miss even with my full attention on the show.

This was probably one of, if not my favorite episodes. I really enjoyed the pace, the contrasts between characters, the interesting party/get together settings, etc. I really enjoyed the way Don opened up about his past with a stranger in a way he never would with his family/friends. I do hope, also, that "Connie" comes back in a later episode, he seemed to have a lot of depth and a great respect for Don, it would be interesting if he indeed is Conrad Hilton.

This season has gotten off to a really great start, so far none of the characters are rubbing me the wrong way like Bobby or Father Gill did last season. I'm guess the major arc or theme will probably be Don and the Americans battling the Brits.

Love it so far.

Kathy said...

I noticed when Betty let the man touch her pregnant belly and he didn't feel the baby move that she made the comment that "She isn't moving now." It made me wonder if they are leading up to her having a stillborn.

PanAm53 said...

Kathy said...
I noticed when Betty let the man touch her pregnant belly and he didn't feel the baby move that she made the comment that "She isn't moving now." It made me wonder if they are leading up to her having a stillborn.


Kathy, I so agree! I was thinking about coming out of lurkdom, and posting my thoughts on this subject.

I had thoughts about Betty giving birth to a stillborn girl after putting two and two together re: Don/Dick's adoptive mother giving birth to a stillborn girl, and then Betty stating so adamently that she was carrying a girl.

I got shivers when the guy at the party touched her belly, and Betty noticed that the baby was not moving. Unborn babies do have quiet times, during which they do not move, BUT I am a believer in the theory that every line of dialogue has a purpose.

Kathy said...

Especially foreboding given that we know Jackie Kennedy gives birth to her son Patrick prematurely in August of 1963 and he survives only two days before dying from what was known at the time as hyaline membrane disease.

olucy said...

True.

But otoh, the beauty of this show is that just as we're speculating on these plot directions, they'll go in a completely different direction.

It just goes to show how we've become conditioned by so much predictable storytelling over the years.

Profjoe223 said...
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LRosen said...

There were many themes in this episode that helped to explain this era. One that seemed to be threaded through each individual story line was the roles of female in the eyes of men. Women seem to be 'toys' to show off to make themselves appear better to other boys. To compliment this theme, we see that it is actually the women who are taking care of the men, much like mothers and little boys. Even Sally reading to Gene seemed like a little mother reading a bedtime story to her son. Sally is just another woman of that era-in-training by a man. I get the feeling that Olive the secretary is symbolizing Peggy's conscience. She is in constant conflict of acting like a women or a man, so her role/character in this era is fragmented. Don's interaction with the old man at the bar made me think that he is seeing himself in the future. I couldn't help but notice that you could see Don's reflection in the mirror at the bar in most of the scene- done to drive home the point that he is seeing 'himself'? Loved this episode with its layers: gender roles, social classes, foreshadowing...

Anonymous said...

Parry and thrust then, eh Professor?

PanAm53 said...

Matt Weiner is very detail oriented, and I always defend him regarding history, fashion, décor, etc.

However, I have a couple of issues regarding his depiction of the social mores of the time.

I was an eighteen year old freshman at Queens College in NYC in 1963, a bit younger than the main characters on Mad Men, most married and all with careers.

Firstly, when an unmarried Peggy gave birth and placed her newborn up for adoption, she was encouraged to view and hold the child. This would not have occurred in the early or mid sixties. At that time, an unwed mother who was placing her child up for adoption would be discouraged, or even prohibited from having any contact with the child.

Then we have Greg vacuuming. During this time period, men did not routinely do any housework. I believe that we see Greg vacuuming because Joan is pregnant. However, a normal pregnancy did not preclude performing routine housework, and if Joan had a problematic pregnancy she would not be allowed to continue working at an outside job.

Kathy said...

I think the definition of "rape" has also broadened, largely thanks to the feminist movement, to include what happened between Joan and her fiance. She would have been more likely to view his behavior as boorish or inconsiderate than to view it as a violent act. I was a young woman at the time and I know that it would not have occurred to me to consider that a rape. Times have changed and so have our feelings about what is acceptable between a man and woman in a committed relationship...right or wrong.

PanAm53 said...

Once again, I agree with Kathy. At that time, what occurred between Joan and Greg would not be considered rape.

Anonymous said...

This post might be a little late because I read every comment that was posted before. I congratulate everyone for their insight. I loved this particular episode and as usual hated to see it end - I'm so invested in these characters.

To DaveMB....John and Jackie Kennedy had a third child (as was previously posted named Patrick Bouvier Kennedy) who died shortly after birth. I repeat this because I remember the media saying that her trip to Dallas on November 22, 1963 was her first outing since mourning the loss of her baby....can you imagine?

Thank you Profjoe223 for bring up The Million Dollar Movie - it sure brought back memories, and do you remember the theme song was the soundtrack to Gone With the Wind?

One last note on the Charleston - I was a teenager in the 60's and my friends and and always danced the Charleston as a goof. We thought it was such a fun dance, similar to my daughter and how she feels about The Twist today!!

Spiral Jacobs said...

Does it matter if it would have been "considered" rape? It was rape, and Joan was obviously very unhappy about it. However, and this is what holds Joan back and keeps her from being happy in all areas of her life, she is unable to think outside of what society tells her is acceptable for a woman. Thus, even though I'm sure her inner voice was telling her that Greg violated her, she went ahead and married him anyway, because that's what she was supposed to do. I hope something happens this season that helps Joan throw off those shackles of conformity that are limiting her and making her unhappy.

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Hannah Lee said...

On a lighter note, one scene I thought was funny was the Cranes attempt to join in conversation with Don, Betty, Pete and Trudy.

Jennifer (trying to egg her husband on): Go talk to them.
Harry: I don’t have anything to talk about except work and that’s verboten.
Jennifer: I’ll do the talking; come on.

They then march right up to the Drapers’ and Campbells’ table, and manage to get all of two words out before Jennifer total freezes up and says nothing. Then they slink away. So awkward but so funny.

Elizabeth said...

Kathy and PanAm53: I have also been wondering if Betty's baby will be stillborn ~ the title of next week's ep is "The Arrangements" and that made me wonder. I know that there was a promo shot of Betty holding a baby at what might be a Baptisim, but maybe that was to throw us off? There have been a few allusions to Betty not taking care of her baby ("Eat some oatmeal, Betty - that baby is going to weigh a pound!")

Just something to chew on.

Liam said...

I would just like to clarify that what Joan experienced was in fact a rape according to the legal norms of the day; she was not yet married, and thus the law did not yet impute consent to her. She refused consent, resisted and there was penetration. That's rape by 1962 standards and today's standards. However, in 1962, it was unlikely to be prosecuted if she filed a complaint, and she would have been socially shunned and the trial would have brought up her sexual past (cuz they could do that in those days). And most women of the period would have known that; they accepted their oppression on that score. Joan's marrying him is part of that pattern.

PanAm53 said...

I can only speak for myself, but I am in no way trying to maintain a positive image of Joan. I maintain that Joan would not have considered that she was raped by her fiance. However, by forcing Joan to have sex in a place where she was uncomfortable, Greg proved that he did not respect Joan. A woman should not marry a man who does not respect her. Joan is overlooking this disrespect and marrying Greg for her own selfish reasons.

Anonymous said...

Count me among those who consider this episode one of their favorites.

Two things really stood out:
-- Peggy's conversation with Olive when she was stoned. I didn't see Olive's "interference" as judgmental or even motherly. She is a woman who has been in the working world for a long time, knew just how rare Peggy's opportunity was, and didn't want her to blow it.
And Peggy got that. When confronted with a judgmental opinion, she usually freezes the offender out (her priest, for example). But she saw Olive's comments as sincere, and just as sincerely wanted her to understand that she knows what she's doing.
-- Peggy's Bacardi Beach brainstorm, which seemed to me to be a very "modern" advertising approach. Compare it for a second with the Coca-Cola ad that Betty shot -- the artificial picture-perfect family having its picture-perfect picnic.
Someone planning a similar ad for Bacardi would have a beautiful blonde (probably the same one from the Patio ad) on a sugar-sand beach. Peggy's approach is to say that anywhere can be a Bacardi Beach, even the dingy roof of an apartment building. That's much closer to the "Volkswagen" generation of ads than the ads we've seen Sterling Cooper produce so far.
Which is why I'd be shocked if it survives the SC vetting process. But it illustrates how forward-thinking Peggy is, and it lends credibility to the confidence she displays a few minutes later in her conversation with Olive.
--SuzanneK

Anonymous said...

What an amount of interesting comments here !!!

I just want to add another one, "pour ajouter ma pierre à l'édifice" as we say in French , to give my impressions of sunday great episode
I was quite shocked to see Joan with an accordion, to me, it's really a masculine instrument and I had no idea that it was played in the US, even in the 60's...I am now wandering if M.Weiner is saluting here Yvette Horner, who is the French Goddess of the accordion and who has a very precise look, with red hair...
http://www.myspace.com/yvettehorner
But some comments are saying that it was something quite commun at the time, so it could as simple as that !
I just want to say to people who were expecting child molesting : you're watching way too much news channels !!! I thought that the angry and threatening Gene was perfect. I don't think that Sally is as corrupted as her parents, I think she did a little mischief a lot of children would have done and is just seeking some attention.
I also think that Pete isn't enjoying the blackface because he's seeing his boss doing something excessive and ludicrous, a thing a boss shouldn't do in his opinion.

To me, Peggy's line reclaiming for the weed was really funny because it was just the opposite of what you should say in that situation, if you wanted to get high, a little less stiff...

Finally, I have to take sides in the Charleston debate...I thought it was quite a nice little routine, well executed, but it's a little sad because you can clearly see that they are trying too hard. The only characters who aren't performing in the show are Peggy and Bert Cooper. Peggy because she is getting to know herself, knowing what she wants and what she's worth and Bert because is too old and way too wise, he's just above all of them, he's not really living, he's just analyzing his contemporaries, see his comment on Betty reaction when they talk about Happy's wedding


Thank you all for keeping up the good work, it's nice to be able to understand better this great show

Lizhi

Alan said...

Lots of markers in Season 3 pointing to the 1920s. Should we be on the look-out for more?

As depicted in episode 1, Dick Whitman's birth probably took place in the late twenties. In episode 2, sirens in the night prompt Grandpa Gene to pour the Draper's entire stock of liquor down the sink, just as he might have during Prohibition.

T. S. Elliot's "The Hollow Men" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" date from 1925. By that year the Charleston dance craze was in full swing (no pun intended).

I'm intrigued by Paul Kinsey's choice of "Hello Ma Baby", written in 1899 by Ida Emerson and Joseph E. Howard. Unless Paul and his glee club pals from Princeton have been singing at post-graduation get-togethers, the Warner Brothers cartoon ("One Froggy Evening") featuring this tune could have inspired them. However, if the connection to "Hello Ma Baby" is vaudeville, it's yet another link to the 1920s.

Blackface as performed by Roger Sterling in episode 3 was a staple of vaudeville acts. Note this early sheet music cover for "Hello Ma Baby" --
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HelloMaBaby.jpg

A description of Michigan J. Frog's performance of "Hello Ma Baby" informs us that it's done in the "high stepping" style of Bert Williams (1875-1922). As a vaudeville entertainer, Williams appeared on stage in exaggerated blackface.

Unlike Roger, Paul, Pete-N-Trudy, Joan and Sally, the frog never performed on que.

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Karen said...

I think what Alan may have meant (correct me if I'm wrong, Alan!) is that Williams, already black himself, exaggerated the blackness of his features via blackface makeup, which is true. It was not as extreme as Jolson's--or even Bing Crosby's and Marjorie Reynold's in the Lincoln's Birthday number from 1942's Holiday Inn--but it was definitely exaggerating his natural features: Before and After.

LA said...

To anonymous above, Patrick was actually JFK and Jackie's fourth child. Jackie gave birth to a stillborn girl named Arabella Kennedy in 1956, the year before Caroline was born.

Capcom said...

Profjoe said: "This show does little but show the worst of heterosexual, adult men, and it's getting annoying." Thanks, I thought that I was the only one who felt this way.

I also feel that whether or not TPTB are trying to say this, many younger viewers (who have expressed this already) will go away from viewing Mad Men with the perception that everyone in the 50s and 60s were somehow deluded into thinking that a conservative and family oriented life was a trap full of lies meant to keep you from doing what you really wanted in life (i.e usually represented by whatever you can't/don't have), which isn't the case. Many people in that time were happy to have home and hearth and family at hand, and my family really was one of those. My father had a lot of fun working for the space program, but when the day was done he came home to the kids and wife who were always there for him, and we had a great little life in the suburbs. Those times weren't only about facade and deceit, as mostly portrayed on this show. OK, humbly stepping off the soapbox now, heheh.

Boy I agree with your thoughts on Joan, PanAm.

dylanfan said...

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the painting of "Pie-O-My" make an appearance behind the bar as Don and Connie chat it up over a couple of coctails. Thanks for the Sopranos flashback Mr. Weiner...damn I miss that show!

12:40 AM, September 02, 2009

OMG -- I hate that I missed this?! Has anybody got a link to a screen shot?

Danger Boy said...

Okay, I'm one of the ones who noted the "creepy" undertones with the Gene/Sally scene. Can't speak for others, but from my perspective, this show is chock-full of creepy undertones. I never know exactly where the characters are coming from or what they're going to do. They're full of surprises, often weird ones (Betty doing it with a stranger in a restroom, Pete and his odd love of his shotgun, Don taking off to Cali, what-his-name pissing his pants, Betty's odd relationship with the neighbor boy, AND Gene grabbing Betty's breast, among many, many others).

As for creepiness, I think of Peggy and the priest last season. I was on edge every time they were together. I had no idea what his "angle" was. To save her soul? To break her down? To sleep with her? There was a ton of sexual tension there, and almost every relationship in the show is marked by sexual tension.

That's one of the things that intrigues me so much about this show. It's very dark and people are often inexplicably brutal to each other. I'm always very tense watching it and always expecting the worst.

So with so many scenes of Gene and Sally together, of Sally taking on more of an adult role, reading to him and, in fact, as I've said, reading some mildly salacious passages? Absolutely it got me expecting and thinking the worst.

smarty said...

@ Capcom: ... many younger viewers (who have expressed this already) will go away from viewing Mad Men with the perception that everyone in the 50s and 60s were somehow deluded into thinking that a conservative and family oriented life was a trap full of lies meant to keep you from doing what you really wanted in life ...

You are right that middle class families of the era were generally happy, wholesome, etc. But this show is about advertising which was, and still is in the business of selling images, and people are still buying them. The motto of the show is "Where the truth lies", a double entendre that means just what it says. Don tells Peggy that they are not making art, when she seems to want more honesty, or at least less shallowness. The characters in so many ways lie to themselves and each other, for a variety of motives, which may or may not be clear to themselves. And yet, have we come any further as a culture? Is this not especially true in today's media, where truth is sacrificed for the sake of audience share?

So if the younger generations come away from this show believing the families of the 50's / 60's were deluded by a trap full of lies, then are they not deluded by the same trap in their contemporary culture? How many other professions have we seen in this show, and how are these portrayed as compared to the Mad Men? I grew up in that era as well. Our TV shows were about conservative, wholesome, honest families; we bought that, wanted to live that dream. TV programming sold an image, and still does, just like advertising.

smarty said...

PanAm, Joan, Capcom,
I agree that the perception at the time of forced sex in a "committed" relationship did not carry the weight it does now. If Joan had broken off the engagement, she would not only suffer humiliation from the secretarial pool, but more, from Roger, to whom she flashed the engagement ring as a sign of victory, after being "forced" to play the game his way for so long, a trapped bird in a gilded cage, as his gift to her so fittingly symbolized.

The Burack's said...

Watching the scene were peggy smokes the mota followed by coming up with newer ideas for Bacardi actually reminded me of the Beatles being introduced to weed by Dylan, which happened in 1964. Their style of music was dramatically altered starting in the mid 1960's and use of drugs certainly had a lot to do with that. Peggy's altered state certainly helped her develop new ideas for Bacardi and I wonder if her weed will be Don's liquor and what affect it may have going forward.

Rachel said...

Don't have anything to add to the discussion but wondered if you are aware that you got name-checked by Bill Simmons in his latest podcast, Alan. (He was discussing MM with Tony Kornheiser.)

I'm pretty sure you're a BS Report listener (and I know you're a PTI fan), but I just wanted to make sure.

Anonymous said...

*One problem I have with the show, however, is the consistent and hammering portrayal of women as powerless and helpless "victims" against the tyrannical society dominated by white hetero-sexual males.*

(I am female if that is relevant) I don’t get that impression at all. What I see is a portrayal of women just beginning to tiptoe into having true direct societal power while still having to use all of their maneuvering and indirect behind the scenes power of the past and how complicated and difficult it is.

Perhaps more I see that we’re all victims of our circumstance to a large degree, simply the consequences we must deal with were very different based on sex in the past. I think Pete might be very pivotal in this way, he’s often been victimized due to his own choices and yet regularly is unable to avail himself of any of the power he has. Peggy, on the other hand, is learning to use her circumstances to every advantage

*This show does little but show the worst of heterosexual, adult men, and it's getting annoying.*

Perhaps it is necessary to establish such dour foundations in order to show a contrast towards the end of the decade?

-EmeraldLiz

Anonymous said...

Oh and to add that since it's on my mind, perhaps it's a good compare to today, where wives of politicians still "stand by their man" even after not only their husbands cheating on them personally but utterly disgracing themselves and their careers publicly? Have we really changed much at all?

-EmeraldLiz

KarenX said...

So Peggy and Olive the secretary are still on my mind.

In the Ann-Margret episode, no one listened to Peggy's point of view, thereby completely frustrating her. In this episode, Peggy even called Paul out for it. In this episode, too, Olive spoke up to Peggy about her behavior. A lot of people are interpreting that as Olive stepping out of her bounds, or being unfairly judgmental, or reading it as a negative thing about Olive. Peggy--while high, true--doesn't seem that upset by it. I think she's happy that someone is actually seeing her and recognizing her.

Olive might be criticizing Peggy, but she and Peggy are paying attention to each other and aware of each other as workers and people. Peggy doesn't really worry so much about being found wrong as about being ignored or overlooked. I think she can handle criticism. It means someone hears her and thinks about her in a normal way. That's the benefit of having someone like Olive in the office. Olive is at Sterling Cooper for no other reason than to work for Peggy, because she doesn't need to flirt and because she gets money for doing it. Plus, it's normal for older people to tsk tsk the behavior of younger people--Peggy is definitely used to that. It has to be a relief for Peggy to work with someone who has no reason not to see her for what she does on the job.

cgeye said...

A truly kick-ass discussion of Jolson, minstrelsy and their popularity in American entertainment, even past the 50s:

http://somecamerunning.typepad.com/some_came_running/2009/08/tales-from-the-warner-archives-3-wonder-bar-bacon-1968.html

Alan said...

Responding to Karen's post --
I think what Alan may have meant (correct me if I'm wrong, Alan!) is that Williams, already black himself, exaggerated the blackness of his features via blackface makeup, which is true.

You read my remarks correctly. BTW - loved the Bing Crosby image!

In my haste to get from one job to another, I made a mistake in my post, which read --

Unless Paul and his glee club pals from Princeton have been singing at post-graduation get-togethers, the Warner Brothers cartoon ("One Froggy Evening") featuring this tune could have inspired them.

I meant to write, could NOT have inspired them. "One Froggy Evening" was released on Dec. 31, 1955. As we heard more than once, Paul and his protege from Princeton belonged to the Class of '55. This Warner Brothers cartoon began running after graduation.

Hatfield said...

Wow, it's incredible to come back here five days later and see that we're pushing 300 comments. This show is worth it, too.

Alan, if you're still reading these, I thought you should know (assuming you didn't) that Simmons dropped your name, along with Tim Goodman's, on his podcast with Kornheiser this week when they were discussing Mad Men.

Julia said...

Check out the Time magazine from 1963 with Conrad Hilton on the cover that was linked above by the professor.

The inside article about Conrad says he held a party each time he opened a hotel and would dance a very old fashioned dance - " the courtly Varsoviana, brought to America from the palaces of Europe by Mexico's Emperor Maximilian . . . Hilton has adopted the obscure Varsoviana as a ceremonial dance of good luck. ." http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,896912,00.html

In 1973 I was a sophomore in college and remember doing all kinds of dances. People did a lot of dancing in those days and from time to time the band would strike up a charleston just for fun. We all had a go at it and laughed a lot. And from time to time a couple would be blazing hot and we would all back off to watch and clap. It wasn't a matter of being shoved off the floor by the dancers.

As retired lawyer I'll add that what happened between Joan and Greg would not have been a crime if they were married, and probably would not have been prosecuted even if she reported it (as someone earlier pointed out). Juries would have been merciless thinking she called it on herself for dressing like she does - the women would have been harder on her than the men.

"A Hard Days' Night" will be coming out in 1964. Rent it and look for George Harrison's encounter with some advertising types who want to pick his brain about how to appeal to the kids. It's hysterical - they want his opinion on styles of shirts and hair. The power of youth captured on film.

I remember in the 50s seeing my father and others doing a soft shoe and singing routine for a fund-raiser -they were all in black face and announced by by an MC called an "Interlocutor" or something strange. Probably still going on in the early 60s, but not so much.

Julia said...

"In 1973 I was a sophomore in college" should typed 1963.

Great blog. Stayed up way too long to read all the comments.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

Great blog entries! It's taken me a while to get through them all. The Time magazine cover of Conrad Hilton was fascinating--thanks, Olucy 4:13 PM Sept 01--as were the additional comments on 11:19 Sept 02. Now after reading all the comments, I'll have to go back and read the article--I thought the comment about Hilton doing an old-fashioned dance at hotel openings was insightful. And, of course, I'm going to have to go back and view the episode again (keeping all 296 comments in mind) so I can see how much I missed.

Jessamyn said...

Re: the soda gun. After some digging, I found that apparently the "new" plastic-headed soda gun was launched in 1958. Would it have made it to the bar of a conservative country club by 1963? Eh - probably not. But at least it's possible.

Regarding the old-fashioned nature of Paul's song choice: My dad was in a barbershop quartet at Dartmouth in the late '50s/early '60s. I learned the songs from him in my own youth: "Coney Island Baby," "After Dark," "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" - all were old songs from the early 20th century. It was just how those groups were, and as a period note it was pitch-perfect (even if the fellas were not!).

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cgeye said...

"Regarding Stephen Foster, he was a regular part of most American school's curriculum through the 1960's, then the roof fell in on tradition and the connection to the past was severed."

His music died with Jim Crow. I find that's a reasonable price to pay, until the racists who love to whistle 'Dixie' and display the Confederate flag are only footnotes to history.

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Julia said...

Since around the early 70s, and beginning in the later 60s, there has been a Balkanization of popular culture that was not there in the time of MadMen. The famed Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights exposed viewers to opera, ballet, Broadway plays, and Russian jugglers, as well as Elvis and the Beatles. Johnny Carson was not quite as eclectic, but still aimed at a general audience. This no longer exists. A Life Magazine is today shunned by all because we have become compartmentalized.

In "Bye, Bye, Birdy", the Ed Sullivan Show is part of the plot. The last kiss of Birdy before he goes into the Army is to take place on Ed Sullivan - Ann Margaret is the winner of a contest to have the honor of receiving it. However, a Russian ballet performance is taking too long and may cancel the inclusion of the Last Kiss. What to do?

Ed Sullivan himself is part of the cast and there is a song about the wonderfulness of being on the show. Recall that this TV show was still going strong alongside Dick Clark. Adult culture was not yet a teenager's enemy. Teenagers even knew who Maria Callas was and could probably recognize her picture.

Many comments here are anachronistic because of a presumption that 1963 had the separate popular-culture fiefdoms we have today.

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Kathy said...

Maybe because most families had just one television set and adults and children were more likely to sit together to watch shows such as Ed Sullivan. In the same way, I remember sitting with my entire family watching the television coverage of the Kennedy assassination as each tragic event unfolded...the capture of Oswald, Jack Ruby shooting him, and all the events surrounding the funeral.

Anonymous said...

Alan must be away for the holiday, so I will remind everyone to be nice. Seriously, I would hate to see this forum turn into that other forum where posters say nothing and just delight in insulting each other. You know the one to which I am referring, don't you?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Profjoe, I asked politely for you to be nice and stop insulting other posters. You kept on behaving rudely, so now I'm going to ask you to leave and not come back.

Jessamyn said...

I, at least, didn't feel insulted, even if he can't spell my name ;^). I just don't see "old-fashioned" as a perjorative. That's how my parents, who fall in age between Paul and Peggy, thought of those old songs. "Old-fashioned" and "obsolete" are not the same thing at all.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jessamyn, you may not have felt insulted, but others did, and I found the tone and content of his comments enough to warrant the step I just took.

This is one of the more civil places to discuss TV on the Internet, and while most of that is because you guys are so smart and well-behaved, every now and then I have to step in and show somebody the door.

PanAm53 said...
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PanAm53 said...
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PanAm53 said...

Thank you, Alan. This truly is one of the most civil places to discuss TV shows on the internet, and even though I was not personally attacked by the poster who has been banished, the tone and contents of his comments greatly offended me. I have been a fan of yours since the NYPD Blue days, and I am so grateful for your continuing intelligent discussion of great TV.

Thank you!
PanAm53
AKA Anonymous

PanAm53 said...

Now on to Season 3 Episode 4!

Profjoe223 said...
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DiscoLemonade said...

Like many others, I disagree with Alan on the Charleston... it was completely and amazingly engaging and I don't know about anyone else but I was brought out of the Mad Men world and was just absorbed in their performance...it was like a dance seen in a Bollywood movie.

I also disagree that Greg doesn't know how valuable Joan is (one commenter also posted this)...he clearly thinks Joan is impressive to his coworkers.

Other thoughts...

the blackface...I guess i don't put it past Roger and maybe i'm ignorant about the time period, but is it really likely that someone like Roger would have done this at a country club? it seemed a little too absurd for me.

also, once more i think the writers might be giving Don a little too much credit, I buy his annoyed reaction to Roger's act, but it's definitely more b/c he's just disgusted with -Roger- than the blackface.

The comments about Gene molesting Sally...this did not cross my mind and I hope the writers don't go there, that would be completely unnecessary.

what REALLY bothered me this episode was how lucid Gene was...again, maybe this is my ignorance speaking, but i found it unbelievable that he'd be completely out of it thinking it's prohibition a few weeks ago, and totally with it this week, knowing Sally stole the money and being so decisive about his reaction to it. i think the writers are trying to have it both ways...

also i'm seeing being behind on episodes due to not having a TV makes commenting here tough... i couldn't get through all 312 comments and surely no one will be reading mine now! :P

Amanda said...

I don't think the Campbells had rehearsed the Charleston. They just knew it. My Mom's family was wealthy and her parents were very much a part of the Jazz Age. Mom was born about the same year the characters of Pete and Trudy would have been.

My grandparents taught their kids the dance that was all the craze in their youth,why wouldn't other parents have done the same?

In the late 1960s we kids would interrupt Mom during random times in day and demand that she do The Charleston for us. She always would. She was cool like that...

Caz M said...

In Ireland, people say "wash your teeth" - must have made it across the Atlantic. I agree it sounds strange when Gene says it though.

Al said...

I thought it was great to see a few of the characters exhibit skills that we don't usually get to see (and the actors must have trained a bit for):
* Don mixing a cocktail (not sure what it was);
* Pete and his wife dancing; and
* Joan playing the piano accordion

These help to shed a more human light onto the characters

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