With the everyday hustle and bustle of work, school, family, and the city, it’s hard to stop and appreciate the art that is around you. Hey, you know that big building you walk by every day? Well, that’s the Willis (Sears) Tower or the Empire State Building or whatever pretty big building is in your town. Same goes for what we listen to and watch on television. Do we really have a good hour of our day to entirely devote to a tv show? In an age where reality television is still popular and all standard formats just seem regurgitated, it’s interesting to find a breath of fresh air. And isn’t it ironic that the fresh breath we find is from something (kind of) old? Mad Men made it’s debut on AMC in the summer of 2007 and slowly found it’s way into my heart.
Set during the 1960’s in Manhattan, Mad Men follows ad man Don Draper and his staff at the fictional ad agency Sterling Cooper as well as his family. The first season had us intrigued with Don’s sexual liaisons, his wife Betty’s insecurities and loneliness, and his secretary Peggy’s (mis)adventures. That first season brought us wonderful moments of Betty taking a shot gun and shooting her neighbor’s birds, Don in the East Village with his mistress, and Peggy having office sex and surprise! Peggy is pregnant. The season ends beautifully with Don presenting a campaign for Kodak and waxing poetic on life, love, all that good stuff he’d been messing up.
The second season offered us lovely gems. Peggy gave up her baby and got a promotion from secretary to copy writer, Don was still having affairs, Betty isn’t as naïve as she looks, and Sterling Cooper was selling the agency to a company overseas. We also learned more about Don’s background. Born to a prostitute who died at birth, he was given to a poor family. He grows up and goes to war where his sergeant dies and Don takes over his name. Convoluted? A bit, but the beauty in Mad Men is that each episode presents itself as a chapter in a novel. Everything is not solved in the span of an hour. Are questions answered? Yes. Are more questions brought up? Yes. It’s fair to say that each season finale were works of art. Each episode could have been written for the stage and I doubt anyone would complain about exposition.
The start of the third seemed to have put a band-aid over the death-bed confessions brought on by the season 2 finale. Convening about 8-9 months after season 2’s finale, Don and Betty’s marital problems are seemingly gone. Betty is about to have her third child and Don seems, once again, committed to his family. He allows for his ill father-in-law to move in to appease his wife. Peggy is still growing into her own as a 20 something woman working on Madison Avenue.
So here we are, four episodes into season 3.
Betty’s father Gene continues to bond with her children, especially her daughter. He also presents his will and arrangements in case of his death. The conversation takes a heated tone when Betty shows her uneasiness. He comes at her calling her “Scarlet O’Hara,” suggesting she shields her feelings and that she did not live up to expectations. He echoes this sentiment with her daughter. He ends up passing away at an A&P later on in the day. Don, Betty, and her brother are all around the kitchen table sharing their grief. Betty’s daughter comes in and screams at them for acting like no one is dead. It’s an interesting exchange between daughter and mother. Betty is acting like the child and her daughter is acting like the mature adult.
Peggy decides she is moving to the city. Already working there, she sets out to find a roommate. Peggy is always at an interesting phase. She is confident in her work and mind but when it comes to her sexuality, she is lost. She asks Joan, her former secretarial boss, to help her write an ad for a roommate. Peggy the creative ad woman asks for help writing an ad. Peggy may know a lot but she acknowledges that she doesn’t know all. Her future roommate is a bubbly, fun-loving, city girl. It will be interesting to see how Peggy comes around.
Salvatore or Sal, is Sterling Cooper’s art guy. Mad Men let us know in seasons past that Sal was gay. They’ve been taking it about twenty steps further this season. Sal’s already been caught with a bellhop by an accepting Don in a previous episode. Here, his wife catches on. She comes to him in a night gown and says her “needs need tending” and he stops her saying he has work. He indeed has work; he was promoted to direct a commercial for a diet cola campaign. When he reenacts the scene for her with excitement and giddy, we see the sorrow and realization on her face because she knows that he’s gay.
I think it’s interesting how these three storylines show people being a bit unmasked. If you get a chance, catch up on a few episodes. You’ll also see Don coming to terms with the changing of the times. Not only with his acceptance and discretion of Sal’s secret, but also with race and themes of war. Season 3’s My Old Kentucky Home is definitely worth catching. Mad Men usually throws in a few good lines to laugh at as well, and last night’s episode did have one hilarious line. When discussing a campaign for jai alai (some sort of sport) and it’s star player: “I’m terrified of him catching balls in the face.”