Couch Commando

MAD MEN: Season 1 Episode 13 – “The Wheel”

Posted in Mad Men by LaurenStheTA on April 11, 2010

Viewed in the afternoon, on the couch, with a friend.

Betty Draper: Maybe if she turned down the lipstick, her husband could hear her.

So here we are. It’s finally come down to the very last episode of season one. Luckily, I don’t have to be sad since I’ve got two more seasons to catch up on, and this show isn’t going off the air any time soon. In this episode, Betty Draper is getting ready to spend Thanksgiving with her family. Don isn’t coming (mostly because he doesn’t want to) but he tells Betty that he can’t with his work load at the office. The next day Betty’s friend Francine is waiting for her to get home in a panic – she’s found out that her husband is cheating on her by looking at the phone bill. After Francine leaves, still distraught, Betty grabs the family’s phone bill.

Later at the therapist’s office, Betty Draper opens up a can of worms when she off handedly says,

Still, I can’t help but think that I’d be happy if my husband was faithful to me.

Woah, black Betty (Bam-ba-lam?). It’s clear that Betty is completely aware of her husband’s extracurricular activities.

At the office, Peggy Olson is running auditions for a radio spot. Impressively, she takes charge and even ends up firing a woman she hires when she can’t do the job to her satisfaction. Draper is working on a new campaign for Kodak and after looking at the box full of pictures from his brother, he calls him at his hotel only to have the clerk tell him his brother committed suicide.

Back to Peggy, she’s climbing the corporate ladder. Above her on the ladder is Pete Campbell, who drags in a new account for Clearasil. Draper thinks Olson will be perfect for it but Campbell says she’s just a secretary and not good enough for the account. In response, Draper calls in Peggy and immediately makes her a junior copy writer. She gets to share an office with another writer but before she can enjoy it, she starts feeling ill. Before you know it, she’s at the hospital where she goes into labor with Pete Campbell’s devil spawn. Yeah, that’s right ladies. That Seventeen magazine article about being pregnant for nine months without knowing it is true. You know, it’s true like that time George Bush told you that abortion would give you breast cancer? Is my sarcasm apparent?

Rosemary's baby. Ahem. Olson's baby.

Later a nurse comes into Olson’s room with the spawn and asks if she wants to feed it, but Olson just turns away without a word. The show ends with Draper returning home to an empty house. He sits on the stairs, depressed, and hold his head. The end of the show isn’t quite a cliffhanger, but I’ll definitely be watching the next two seasons to find out what happens.

After all that drama, I’d like to segue way to a more uplifting subject. Since I started watching the show, and even at the beginning when I wasn’t hooked, the one reason I would have kept watching is the costuming. The period costuming of Mad Men is amazing and for anyone who enjoys vintage clothing, a great show to be watching. I really enjoy vintage clothing and I worked in a costume shop while I was doing regional theater in the south. Two different productions of Bye Bye Birdie (a musical produced in 1960) later, and I think I’m pretty well steeped in 1960’s fashion.

Best dressed show?

Janie Bryant is the costume designer for the show, and she’s done an amazing job. A few posts ago I wrote about the color palette of the show – Bryant is largely responsible for the it. The show’s time period is great for costuming because it’s really a time when people weren’t afraid of dressing. There is so much color, texture, amazing patterns, and great design details to the clothing. Personally, I think this period is defined by the details. The perfectly executed kick pleat at the back of a skirt, the charming little bows and buttons, hidden pockets set perfectly into inseams and pin tucks, generous seam allowances, satin linings, and the absolutely masterful construction of clothing.

Joan and Peggy: 60's vs. 50's.

Joan Holloway and Peggy Olson are a great example of how transitional this time period was in silhouette. Holloway’s dress is more 60’s – the form-fitting dress with an attached scarf and a kick pleat in the front is killing me in the best way. Her fashion forward style also fits her character perfectly – the office manager sleeping with a partner wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less femme fatale. Olson’s dress is more 50’s – the wide circle skirt is an older, more conservative style which compliments her goody two shoes attitude. Bryant does an incredible job of matching the character with the right clothes.

I don't know what she killed for that hat, but it looks fabulous.

I have to admit, watching Mad Men has even affected my own clothing choices. When I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, I went vintage shopping with a friend who just happens to be a costume designer and fellow Man Men viewer. After our day on Magazine Street, we both ended up going home with 1960’s era wiggle dresses a la Joan Holloway. Now if I could only find a matching Don Draper to go with the dress, I’d be set.

Rated 5/5.

MAD MEN: Season 1 Episode 12 – “Nixon vs. Kennedy”

Posted in Mad Men by LaurenStheTA on April 10, 2010

Viewed late at night, on the proverbial couch, with friends.

Morning after the office party: embarrassing for everyone.

This episode of Mad Men takes place during the Nixon and Kennedy election. The office gathers around the TV with copious amounts of alcohol to watch the action. As the numbers get closer and the crowd gets drunker, one of the ad guys, Ken, chases down Allison, a secretary, as his friends shout out colors. He tackles her to the floor and lifts her skirt to find out what color her underwear are – blue. Everyone laughs and the viewer is relieved that Gloria Steinem exists.

Earlier that day, Pete Campbell discovers that Draper is considering hiring another ad guy for a job that Campbell wants. Instead of handling it with dignity, he goes the high school route and attempts to blackmail Draper with the information he’s found in the box he stole in the last episode. Draper runs off to Rachel Menken asking her to run away with him to LA, but she soon realizes he doesn’t want to run away with her – he just wants to run away. Draper returns to the office, calls Campbell’s bluff, and hires the other guy. When Campbell goes to the big cheese to tell him that Draper’s real name is Dick Whitman, Cooper says he doesn’t care. In a flashback, we learn how Draper became the infamous Don Draper. He basically got sent to a two man camp and when the other man died in an accident, Draper stole his dog tags.

This episode gives us a lot of background on Don Draper. When he was at his two man post, the two men come under attack. When it’s over they both light cigarettes and his superior points at some liquid at Don’s feet, when Don accidentally drops his cigarette, they realize it was gasoline. The explosion kills the real Don Draper and the new Don Draper gets sent back home, new identity and all. This brings up a lot of questions about Draper: Is he a coward? Or was it survival? Why did he abandon his (now dead) brother like that? And what kind of  butter fingers does he have to go around dropping his cigarette in gasoline? Still, this episode might be the most character development of Draper I’ve seen all season.

Don Draper #1 and Don Draper #2.

Also in this episode, Peggy Olson is starting to get on my nerves. While she’s learning to be a go-getter and I thoroughly approve of that, she can also be a whiny goody two shoes. Olson is so too pure to be pink it hurts (two Grease quotes in two posts – this is what a steady diet of kitschy pop culture gets you, my friends).

I have to admit, I didn’t really step outside of my normal viewing habits with this show. I was already considering it when I realized it was an option for our blogs. I tend to shy away from things that become rife with mainstream popularity, but I generally end up gimping on to the wagon a year or two later, as I’ve illustrated with this blog. The real reason I considered watching this show are the costumes. A subject I’m so excited about, I’m saving it for next time.

Rated 4/5.

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