Category Archives: Mad Men

‘Man Men’ gets naughty ‘At the Codfish Ball’

Tonight’s episode of “Mad Men” was called “At the Codfish Ball,” but it might as well have been called “The In-laws.”

Peggy, disappointed that her boyfriend, Abe, suggested they live together rather than get married, asks her mother over for a special dinner to announce their new living arrangements.

Instead of staying for dessert, Peggy’s mom gets up and leaves at the news. Heck, she even takes back the dessert she brought with her.

For all the change the series has been demonstrating as it marches through the 1960s, it was a pointed reminder that social mores had yet to change substantially and young women were expected to get married, or — as Peggy’s mom noted — get a cat. Then another cat. Then another cat. “Then you’re done.”

There was a similarly unpleasant undertone to the visit by Megan’s parents to the Draper household. Sure there were a few moments of lighthearted family fun, particularly when Sally and Megan and her mother went shopping and came home so Don could play Dagwood to Megan’s Blondie.

But most of the time the in-laws were visiting was filled with hate-filled French tirades between Megan’s parents.

Megan’s mother — played by Julia Ormond, who is, needless to say, too young to be playing Jessica Pare’s mother — livened thing up considerably at the ball that the family and Roger Sterling attended late in the episode.

After striking sparks with Roger, Megan’s mom accompanies him into a room down the hall from the ballroom. It is there they are spotted by Don’s young daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka) in a thoroughly compromising position. It’s another disillusioning moment for Sally and a shocking moment in the episode.

Random observations:

Roger’s one liners continue to be a highlight of the series. “Maybe Jesus was just pursuing the loaves and fishes account,” he notes during a discussion of motivations for good acts. John Slattery is at his most charming in this episode, partnering with Sally for the business gathering and jokingly calling her a “mean drunk” before giving her a Shirley Temple. And, needless to say, before giving her an eyeful by his antics with her sort-of-grandmother.

Joan (Christina Hendricks) gets the prize for best recovery of the episode. After observing that Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) isn’t wearing an engagement ring, Joan hears about Abe’s proposal and blurts out, “Shacking up?” before she recovers and convinces Peggy it’s really a romantic idea.

For the second time this season, “Mad Men” mines the “Twin Peaks” cast for guest stars. A few weeks ago it was Madchen Amick as Andrea, Don’s old fling.

Tonight Ray Wise, the actor who played Leland Palmer, murder victim Laura Palmer’s father on “Twin Peaks,” guest starred as a business executive who breaks some bad news to Don regarding the repercussions of his infamous ad about tobacco and smoking in The New York Times.

Which “Twin Peaks” vet will guest next? I’m holding out for Peggy Lipton.

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‘Mad Men’ tunes in and turns on with ‘Far Away Places’

This season of AMC’s “Mad Men” is one of the most enjoyable — if hard to predict — because you never know what’s going to happen next. In any given episode, Don Draper might be choking an old fling — at least in the depths of a fever dream — or Lane Pryce might be handing young Pete a beat down.

In tonight’s episode, “Far Away Places,” the plot was appropriately odd and disjointed, especially considering all the sex, drugs and rock and roll.

The show continues its headlong plunge into the heart of the most turbulent part of the 1960s as Peggy (Elizabeth Moss, who is always wonderful) gets fed up with the Heinz beans people and insults them, much to everybody’s shock. So Peggy, who earlier had an argument with her boyfriend, decides to take in a matinee.

Peggy gets offered a joint by a guy (in very loud striped pants) in the theater and doesn’t react with dismay when he makes a pass. As a matter of fact, Peggy administers an “Animal House”-style handjob — minus the Greg Marmalard plastic gloves — right there in the theater.

Meanwhile, Roger (the likewise always wonderful John Slattery) and wife Jane (Peyton List) go to a party and partake of LSD. The middle part of the episode finds Roger and Jane tripping out. When they come around, Roger tells Jane he’s moving out, a decision based on her acid-inspired comments.

Also meanwhile, Don (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Pare’) go out of town on a trip to a Howard Johnson’s. It’s ostensibly to check out a client, but Don plans the same uncomfortable mixture of business and pleasure that he’s been practicing with Megan all season. When they get into a fight and Megan disappears, Don’s anxiety skyrockets.

To top it all off, Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) — who’s spent how many seasons wandering in the wilderness of the conference room? — administers a brisk slap across the face to Don. Bert calls him out on how little work he’s done lately. Holy crap!

Other highlights:

I’m enjoying the little glimpses of Ginsberg and his father (“I’m the original,” the elder Ginsburg tells Peggy) but I’m curious where the characters are going.

Has “Mad Men” been employing flashbacks? Tonight we get a glimpse of the past in Don and Megan’s Disney vacation with Sally and the little Draper boy, whatever his name is.

In the preview for next week, Roger says he’s had a life-changing experience. Does he mean the acid trip? At the end of tonight’s episode, he was pretty damn cheerful.

“Mad Men” continues to keep us guessing.

‘Mad Men’ returns strong after long absence

It’s been about a year and a half since the last new episode of “Mad Men,” AMC’s drama about life — and incidentally, advertising — in 1960s New York.

With the return of the series tonight, creator Matthew Weiner gives us an episode that surely must have been designed as fan service. The two-hour premiere hit a lot of sweet spots for fans of the series.

Roger’s still a funny jerk, Pete’s still an insufferable brat. Some things don’t change at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Chief among them is the relationship between those two antagonists, silver fox Roger and boy wonder Pete. The two competed over office space and needled each other over which is the rainmaker.

Women are still second-class citizens. Joan, still on maternity leave, is told by her mother that surely she doesn’t think her husband will let her work. Secretaries are scolded and sent for coffee. Peggy continues to grow but still gets dismissive treatment from Don.

The mad men are restless. Besides Pete’s bitching about his office, we get Brit Lane Pryce’s fixation on a wallet he found in a cab — and the voice of the wallet owner’s wife or girlfriend. Lane is behaving in a twitchier than usual manner, which is fun stuff.

Don is settling into married bliss. Kinda. Sorta. After his whirlwind courtship and proposal to secretary Megan, Don seems to be settling into domesticity in a groovy apartment. But we know what happens with Don settles into anything. That’s right, Don the Moody lashes out at Megan for throwing him a surprise birthday party and singing a sexy French song. The “cleaning up the apartment in black lingerie” scene near the end of the episode is an eye-opener. Yikes.

The 1960s are about to close in on our protagonists. The episode opened with a protest by African Americans outside rival (and real life) advertising firm Young and Rubicam and ended with a big turnout of black job applicants at SCDP. And surely even the partners know they can’t treat Joan and the other women in their lives like second-class citizens forever.

“Mad Men” gets criticized sometimes for the glacial pace of its seasons and tonight’s episode, while packed with wonderful character moments, was typically low-key. Having said that, however, I have to note that the series continues to make the most of its leisurely tone. If the rest of the season is as strong as tonight’s premiere, it’ll be a great one.