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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Monday
Aug172009

« In Which I Keep Going A Lot of Places And Ending Up Where I've Already Been »


His Wife But Different Somehow

by ELEANOR MORROW

A man dreams of his own wife, but differently dressed. Her attire is unlikely, the expression on her face borderline alarming. She's making out with him in the hallway, smelling as she normally does, but with the a slightly stale taste. Her blue eye shadow suggests something is off. "It's my birthday," the man murmurs, to expedite the blowjob that will no doubt be forthcoming. Don Draper is back, baby, and so is Mad Men.

Setting back Draper's humanistic learning curve to zero was a sad move, although I guess they need to constantly reestablish that he's unfaithful for new viewers. He can't evolve, he's still stuck seeing the past flash before him as he curdles milk for his pregnant wife. If you really want to grow up, Don, try being a father for christ's sake. Instead all you do is joke about your daughter being a lesbian and give her your mistress' stewardess wings.

Everyone was so obsessed with themselves in the 60s, it's like the 90s but with better weed. "You squint too much. You need reading glasses," his wife tells him, standing in for all wives. Family hasn't been this dreadful since they came over for Easter. No wonder Don wants to get out of the house more often.

"Was I really in there?" Don's little girl Sally asks her parents, looking at her mother's pregnant tummy. Mad Men is a moving eulogy for existence, and last night's premiere, "Out of Town", sang it loud in all the ways the show's first two seasons did.

Weiner seems a little confused about the difference between what's actually good about his show and what the media thinks is good. His show has gotten attention despite not-so-great ratings because it's not just the usual pablum. But jumping into the darkest parts of Mad Men might turn off newbies, so last night was more about restating the new Sterling-Cooper status quo than rocking the boat.

While last night caught us up on all the news that's fit to print, major changes are afoot at Sterling-Cooper. By major, we don't mean the loud firing of a guy we've basically never seen on the show before. Things have to start getting a little more mixed-up than usual, and it would help if they involved some of the show's best characters.


On the surface, Peggy appears to have all her actual drama behind her. Let's hope it doesn't stay that way. What about giving her an actual romance to hang her hat on? I'm pretty sure Ken Cosgrove has a big dick, for example. But seriously, what about a torrid love affair between Peggy and a sexy client who really respected her for her work and ancient taste in fashion? If you cast Shia LaBoeuf in that role, you could probably boost the show's ratings by a whole point. Then he could dump her for a model in the ensuing ad campaign (Megan Fox or Odette Yustman, assuming they're not one person).

It's pretty sad that Sal's relationship with that super-cute bellboy has more depth to it than any Peggy's been allowed so far. In the wake of Sal finally finding himself with the mother of all hjs, we can only hope that the show doesn't become a prism through which bigots can view their own disturbing feelings about homosexuality. We already have True Blood for that.

 

One thing you can say about Don Draper is that he's no hypocrite. Hmm, no. Try again. One thing you can say about Don Draper is that he doesn't mind a little peeping. It doesn't seem all that likely that he'd be so knowing and kind about a bellhop handjob on a work trip, but I guess it takes a cheat to know a cheat, and Sal has dirt on him, too. Leave it to Don Draper to take subliminal advertising to a whole new level with his marvelous London Fog campaign.

Between Hung, True Blood, Entourage and Mad Men, each Sunday we're going to have to put the over/under on estimated hjs at four. And how much do you wanna bet that despite showing the vast corpus of heterosexual positions, that Sal never gets to really prove he's a top and no bottom?

At least Sal's criminally untapped potential as a character is getting tapped. Men from Toledo to Cincinnati fell in love with Roger Sterling's winsome, extremely placable younger fiancee, and I would have paid to see that divorce go to arbitration. There's got to be more there than the casual fop who wanders into Don's office waiting for Draper to bend over to pick up a pen.

The new British guy looks exactly like Pete Campbell, and since I love Pete Campbell, I guess this is a welcome development. British people don't understand raincoats, and their version of an electoral body looks like a debate team, but they really have a nose for capitalism. We can only hope that Don gets challenged by somebody soon - he's like the reigning champion of the big dick contest for the last 50 episodes. If I see one more person defer to his everloving wisdom, I'm going to scream like Pete.

 

As for the real Pete Campbell, he's made up with his wife, and the band is back together. His coming war with Kenneth Cosgrove has already approached his flirtation/impregnation with Peggy for lolness. Pete is the perfect character: not sympathetic enough to be the protagonist, just pitiful enough not to be the antagonist. He's like a really well dressed Archie Bunker.

 

I would watch a whole show entirely based around Pete and his secretary. They have such an incredible relationship, it's so giving and knowing. There's nothing like the love between a man and his secretary.

Hopefully the deterioration of any agency for Christina Hendricks' character will end the constant talk of how 'hot' she is, as if the charity of praising her beauty wasn't another condescending male objectification. She's now the weakest part of the show, or she has been since Matthew Weiner had her raped on the floor of someone's office last season. If she starts blowing that British guy in the office he was so presumptuous to occupy, I'm going to quietly cry for womynkind.

All that's gravy, though. What's important is that the men and women of the 1960s stay forever retarded in their own time, and we look back happily on it thinking about how much more cosmopolitan and understanding we are. The genius of Mad Men is that it makes you feel good about yourself, then bad about yourself, then good about yourself again.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She lives in Manhattan, and she tumbls here.

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