“MAD MEN”: Wasted Partnership

 

“MAD MEN”: WASTED PARTNERSHIP

Looking back on Season Two of AMC’s “MAD MEN”, it occurred to me that the rivalry between the series protagonist, Don Draper aka Dick Whitman (Jon Hamm) and a supporting character named Herman “Duck” Phillips (Mark Moses), seemed like a complete waste of time . . . story wise. Do not worry. I am not criticizing the writing of Matt Weiner and his staff. At least on this subject. Instead, I am criticizing the behavior of two male characters, who I believe had the potential to be a winning advertising team.

Following senior partner Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) second heart attack in the Season One episode (1.11) “Indian Summer”, one of the Sterling-Cooper’s clients had advised Bert Cooper (Robert Morse), the firm’s other senior partner, to make Creative Director Don Draper a junior partner. Which Cooper did at the end of the episode. He also told Don that as one of the partners, he should be the one to find someone to replace Roger as the Director of Account Services. In the following episode, (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy”, Don hired Herman “Duck” Phillips.

In the Season One finale, (1.13) “The Wheel”, Duck seemed appreciative of how Don’s creative skills landed Kodak as a client for the firm. Yet, the early Season Two episodes clearly made it obvious that storm clouds were hovering on the horizon for the pair. In the Season Two premiere (2.01) “For Those Who Think Young”, Duck informed Roger that he believed younger copywriters with a bead on the youth of the early 1960s, should handle their new Martinson Coffee account, instead of veteran copywriter Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray). Don dismissed the idea, claiming that a bunch of twenty year-olds lacked the experience and knowledge on how to sell products. But Roger forced Don to go along with Duck’s plans and hire the latter’s protégées – Smith “Smitty” (Patrick Cavanaugh) and Kurt (Edin Gali). Pete Campbell’s (Vincent Kartheiser) father perished in the famous American Airlines Flight 1 crash on March 1, 1962 in the second episode of the season, (2.01) “Flight 1”. And when Duck convinced Roger that Sterling Cooper should dump the regional Mohawk Airlines as a client and use Pete’s personal plight to win the bigger American Airlines (who sought to change advertising agencies following the disaster) as a new client. Naturally, Roger and Cooper dismissed Don’s protests and went ahead with Duck’s idea.

In the end, both men lost and won their arguments. Instead of gaining American Airlines as a new client, Sterling Cooper ended up with no client altogether. In (2.04) “Three Sundays”, Duck informed the Sterling Cooper staff that their efforts to present American Airlines with a new campaign had been for nothing, when the airline fired Duck’s contact. Many fans saw this as an example that not only had Don been right about not dropping Mohawk, they also seemed to view Duck as someone who was no longer competent at his job. However, three episodes later in (2.07) “The Gold Violin”, Duck proved to be right about hiring the much younger Smith and Kurt as copywriters for the Martinson Coffee account. Their efforts led to a new client for the Sterling Cooper agency.

But despite the success and failures of both men, Don and Duck continued to duke it out over the heart and soul of Sterling Cooper. Only once, in (2.08) “A Night to Remember”, did both men seemed capable of working seamlessly as a partnership, when their efforts led to Sterling Cooper landing the Heineken Beer account. But this ability to work as a pair failed to last very long. One, both men seemed adamant that their particular expertise in the advertising business – whether it was Creative or Accounts – only mattered. Two, Don received most of the praise from Cooper and Roger for the success of the Martinson Coffee account in“The Gold Violin”. Granted, Don tried to give some of the praise to Duck (who mainly deserved it), but he really did not try hard enough. And finally, Duck became so resentful of his failure to acquire a partnership in the firm that he maneuvered a takeover of Sterling Cooper by the old British advertising firm that he used to work for. The main conflicts between Don and Duck seemed to be twofold – Don’s preference to take the nostalgia route over the future in his advertising campaigns (unless forced to) over Duck’s willingness to look into the future of advertising (television ad spots and younger employees, for example); and each man’s belief that their respective expertise in the advertising field is the only one that matters.

Most viewers seemed to view Don as the hero of the conflict between the two men and label Duck as the villain. This preference for Don even extended to his belief that Creative was the backbone of the advertising industry. Personally . . . I disagree. Not only do I disagree with Don and many of the viewers, I would probably disagree with Duck’s view that advertising needed to solely rely upon images – especially television spots. Frankly, I am surprised that no one had ever considered that both Don and Duck’s views on the future of advertising are equally important. Don and other copywriters might create the message or jingo to attract the public. But it is Duck’s (and Pete’s) job to not only snag the client, but provide the client with the opportunity to sell his/her wares. Even if that means using television spots – definitely the wave of the future in the early 1960s.

But many fans seemed to be blinded by their own preference for Don over Duck. And both characters seemed to believe that their ideas of what the advertising business should be were the only ways. The problem with both Don and Duck was that business wise, they needed each other. Look at how well they had worked together in mid-Season Two over the Martinson Coffee and Heineken accounts. Duck needed Don’s creative talent. Don needed Duck’s business acumen and ability to foresee the future in advertising. Unfortunately, both remained stupidly resentful of each other.

In the end, Don’s career managed to survive, despite the failures of two marriage and the near failure of his career, due to personal problems, heavy drinking and shirking. Duck, a former alcoholic who resumed his old habit in later years, was simply plagued with bad luck. Sterling Cooper’s British owners fired him after he had indulged in a brief temper tantrum. He worked at an advertising firm called Grey for a few years, before being reduced to a corporate recruiter. Copywriter Peggy Olson and Accounts executive Pete Campbell learned to maintain a balance between Creatives and Accounts whenever they worked on an account together. Yet, every now and then, I find myself wondering what would have happened if Don and Duck had managed to achieve the same.

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Top Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season Four (2010) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Four (2010) of “MAD MEN”. Created by Matthew Weiner, the series stars Jon Hamm:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON FOUR (2010) EPISODES

1 - 4.07 The Suitcase

1. (4.07) “The Suitcase” – In this acclaimed episode, an impending deadline regarding the Samsonite ad leads Don Draper to force Peggy Olson to stay late to work and miss a birthday dinner with her boyfriend. He receives a call from Anna’ Draper’s niece, which confirms his fears about her health.

 

2 - 4.09 The Beautiful Girls

2. (4.09) “Beautiful Girls” – Peggy is forced to face some unpleasant facts about a client’s discriminatory business practices. Don and girlfriend Faye Miller’s burgeoning relationship is tested when his daughter Sally runs away from home and turns up at the office. Roger Sterling tries to rekindle his affair with former mistress Joan Harris.

 

3 - 4.12 Blowing Smoke

3. (4.12) “Blowing Smoke” – Don encounters his former mistress Midge Daniels and discovers she is married and has become a heroin addict. This leads him to run an ad declaring that SCDP will no longer represent tobacco firms. Sally is upset to learn that her mother and stepfather – Betty and Henry Francis – plan to move.

 

4 - 4.06 Waldorf Stories

4. (4.06) “Waldorf Stories” – A drunken Don receives a Clio Award for an ad; Peggy is forced to work with new art director Stan Rizzo at a hotel room; Accounts man Pete Campbell is upset over the arrival of former rival Ken Cosgrove; and Roger recalls his first meeting with Don and the early days of his affair with Joan.

 

5 - 4.05 The Chrysatheum and the Sword

5. (4.05) “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” – Sally’s erratic behavior leads Betty and Henry to seek counseling for her, over Don’s objections. Pete enters SCDP into a competition to win the Honda account, to the displeasure of Roger, who tries to undermine the firm’s efforts, due to his anti-Japanese sentiments from World War II.

Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season Three (2009) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Three (2009) of “MAD MEN”. Created by Matthew Weiner, the series stars Jon Hamm:

FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON THREE (2009) Episodes

1 - 3.11 The Gypsy and the Hobo

1. (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo” – Don’s past finally catches up with him when Betty confronts him about his identity theft. Roger Sterling meets a former client/lover who wishes to rekindle their affair. And Joan discovers that her husband, Greg Harris, has joined the Army after failing to start a medical career in New York.

2 - 3.12 The Grown Ups

2. (3.12) “The Grown Ups” – The assassination of President John Kennedy serves as the backdrop of the wedding for Roger’s daughter and the final breakup of the Draper marriage.

3 - 3.07 Seven Twenty-Three

3. (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three” – Don’s attempts to land the Conrad Hilton account leads to him being blackmailed by Bert Cooper to sign a three-year contract with Sterling Cooper. Peggy begins an affair with former Sterling-Cooper Accounts Head, Duck Phillips. And Betty expresses interest in the Governor’s aide, Henry Francis, when she becomes involved in civic politics.

4 - 3.06 Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency

4. (3.06) “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency” – A visit by the British owners of the Sterling Cooper agency and an account involving a motorized lawn motor results in mishap and bloodshed.

5 - 3.09 Wee Small Hours

5. (3.09) “Wee Small Hours” – An executive from Sterling Cooper’s client, Lucky Strikes, demands that the agency fire art director Sal Romano after the latter rejects the executive’s sexual advances. Betty grows closer to Henry Francis and Don begins an affair with Sally’s teacher, Suzanne Farrell.

A Letter to Matthew Weiner

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A LETTER TO MATTHEW WEINER

Dear Matthew Weiner,

I just watched the latest episode of “MAD MEN”, (7.13) “The Milk and Honey Route”, and discovered that Betty Francis was doomed for a quickie death from lung cancer. And all I can say is . . .

FUCK YOU.

Fuck you for this piece of contrived writing that came out of the blue, due to your neverending desire to surprise the viewers. It’s bad enough that you wasted Betty’s nearly decade-long character development with impending death. But you decided to kill her off in the same manner as Don’s former mistress, Rachel Katz. How unoriginal can you be?

This whole story arc disgusted me, because it seemed as if you had pulled it out of his ass and dumped it on the viewers without warning. I guess a quick death by lung cancer was your idea of Betty “developing” into a mature character. I should have known better, considering you are a man who found it realistic that a 21 year-old secretary with no college education can be promoted to a junior copywriter after EIGHT MONTHS of work experience, but found the idea of a black copywriter or accounts exec in the 1960s unrealistic . . . despite the fact that such people actually existed. This was a supreme example of your inability to create complex minority characters. And your idea of a FBI background investigation (in Season Four) was so ridiculous that I am still shaking my head in disgust.

After the contrived writing that surrounded Peggy Olson’s original job promotion in (1.13) “The Wheel”, the dumb ass FBI “investigation” of Don Draper in Season Four and your inability to create and write complex minority characters, I realized that I had enough. So again . . .

FUCK YOU.

Top Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season Two (2008) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five favorite Season Two episodes of AMC’s “MAD MEN”:

 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON TWO (2008) Episodes

1 - 2.08 A Night to Remember

1. (2.08) “A Night to Remember” – During this game-changing episode, copywriter Peggy Olson agrees to help a friendly priest named Father Gill create a promotion for a Church-sponsored dance. Office manager Joan Holloway helps Television Advertiser Harry Crane read new television scripts and discovers that she likes the job. Still reeling from comedian Jimmy Barrett’s revelation of Don Draper’s infidelity, Betty Draper helps her husband with an important business dinner, before she later confronts him about his affair with Bobbie Barrett.

 

2 - 2.05 The New Girl

2. (2.05) “The New Girl” – Don and Bobbie heads out of the city for a night together, before getting into a traffic accident. Don recruits Peggy to help him cover up the incident. Meanwhile, a new Sterling-Cooper secretary named Jane Siegel begins working for Don.

 

3 - 2.04 Three Sundays

3. (2.04) “Three Sundays” – Over the Easter holidays, Don and Betty clash over the discipline of their son Bobby. Peggy meets the new family priest, Father Gill. And Head of Advertising Duck Phillips recruits the agency in an effort to win over American Airlines as a new client.

 

4 - 2.07 The Gold Violin

4. (2.07) “The Gold Violin” – Art director Sal Romano develops a case of unrequited attraction for Accounts man Ken Cosgrove. Joan and Jane clash over an incident regarding a new painting in owner Bert Cooper’s office. And Betty learns about Don’s affair with Bobbie Barrett at a media party, thanks to her husband Jimmy.

 

5 - 2.09 Six Month Leave

5. (2.09) “Six Month Leave” – Owner Roger Sterling leaves his wife for Jane Siegel. Senior copy Freddie Rumsen’s alcoholism spirals out of control. And the death of Marilyn Monroe has an impact upon the firm’s female employees.

“MAD MEN”: “It’s Hard Being a Woman”



“MAD MEN”:  “IT’S HARD BEING A WOMAN”

The reactions to the recent “MAD MEN” episode, (7.03) “Field Trip” has left me feeling a little exhausted . . . and somewhat annoyed.  After reading comments on various blogs, I am beginning to wonder if fans of the show really harbor an enlightened attitude when it comes to the major female characters.  I an a little perturbed by the attitude toward Joan Harris, Peggy Olson and Betty Francis; I have encountered in other articles.

The fan reaction to Don Draper’s return.to Sterling, Cooper & Partners, after he was asked to go on “leave” in the Season Six finale, (6.13) “In Care Of”, has left me shaking my head.  In another Season Six episode called (6.06) “For Immediate Release”, Don had really pissed off Joan, when he got rid of the Jaguar account that had a great impact upon her career. I understood why Joan was upset.  Don had rendered her actions in (5.11) “The Other Woman” – namely sleeping with a Jaguar salesman in order to gain the acount for the firm – a waste of her time.  Don, who had failed to prevent her from sleeping with Jaguar salesman, tried to become her knight in shining armor again, when he got rid of the Jaguar account.  Not only did he rendered Joan’s actions useless, his decision ruined Joan, Pete Campbell and Bert Campbell’s attempt to make the company public.  And some of his other actions back in Season Six caused a good deal of upheaval for the firm, which included his emotional outburst about his lurid childhood during a meeting with Hershey’s executives.  His Season Six actions, along with her anger over the Jaguar account loss, made Joan wary about his return.  But I noticed that some fans – especially many male fans and critics – seemed hostile toward her reaction to Don.  Many had expressed this belief that she should be grateful to Don for getting rid of the Jaguar account and the presence of salesman Herb Rennet. They did not understand Joan’s anger or did not want to understand.  And now, they have expressed either hostility or confusion over her reluctance to be thrilled over Don’s return.

I also suspect that many believe that Peggy Olson should be eternally grateful to Don for taking her out of the secretarial pool and making her a copywriter in the Season One episode, (1.13) “The Wheel”.  They also want Peggy to be grateful for giving her emotional support after she had given birth to hers and Pete Campbell’s love child.  But once Peggy became a part of Don’s creative team, he not only started to take her for granted, but subject her to some harsh belittling – especially when she asked for a raise.  These same fans wanted Peggy to forget the crap that Don had subjected her from Seasons Three to Five. They want to forget that Peggy had a good reason to finally put Don behind her, when she resigned from the firm in “The Other Woman”.  They also want Peggy to forget Don’s actions in Season Six, regarding her relationship with another partner of the firm, Ted  Chaough.  I am not saying there was nothing wrong with Peggy’s affair with Ted.  There was.  But Don’s manner in delivering a blow to their relationship in (6.12) “The Quality of Mercy” came off as ham-fisted . . . and angered Peggy in the process.  Yes, she is still angry at Don.  And she is also angry at Ted for finally ending their affair.  But due to their own reasons, fans want . . . or demand that Peggy forget about all of the crap that Don had put her through in the last four seasons and welcome him back with open arms. Why?  Was it really that important Don to resume his role as Peggy’s Alpha Male?  These same fans also demand that Peggy return to the woman she used to be during Seasons One to Four or Five . . . especially after expressed anger at her secretary, 

Following his return to Sterling, Cooper & Partners, many fans are chomping at the bit over the idea of Don eventually resuming his role as the Alpha Male in the advertising workplace.  This desire is so strong that they were willing to pay lip service to Don’s offhand dismissal of his former secretary and the firm’s new Office Manager, Dawn Chambers, after all she had done for him during his leave.  Regardless of Don’s mistakes, it seems more important to  many that he resumes his place back on top in the form of a “new and improved” Don.  Fans are so convinced that Don will stick to his new and improved path that all of the females that he had  interacted with in “Field Trip” – Joan, Peggy, Dawn and second wife Megan Draper – are being bashed by the fans, because they did not swoon at his feet.  In the case of Dawn, no one seemed to care about Don’s dismissal treatment of her, because .they believe they have a cause to celebrate – namely the potential return of Alpha Male Don Draper.

But the character I really feel sorry for is Betty Francis, Don’s first wife.  I feel sorry for her because as a character, she seemed to be in a conundrum.  Betty had been taught and has been expected to be a perfect mother and wife. This is her biggest demon. Fans of the show have criticized her for trying to be perfect. Yet, at the same, they continue to demand that she be perfect . . . especially as a mother.  This certainly happened when Betty coldly reacted to her discovery that son Bobby had exchanged the lunch she made for him, for a bag of candy in “Field Trip”.  This was the latest incident in which fans The only time Don has seriously been criticized as  a parent, was when daughter Sally caught him with Sylvia Rosen and he made an attempt to brush aside what she saw with a lie in Season Six’s(6.11) “Favors”.   by the fans to make one mistake in regard to her kids.  Not one.  She forever has to be a Mildred Pierce – a mother willing to coddle her children, despite their transgression – in order to be consistently loved by the fans.  I have been on the receiving end of a cold reaction like Bobby from my parents when I made a mistake.  It has not damaged by psyche.  And I have reacted to others, like Betty did.  I am a human being and I am capable of mistakes. But, due to her mistakes, Betty is the only character – other than Pete – who is consistently labeled as a “child”, when she makes a mistake.  Yet, other characters in the series, have also been consistently childish since the first season.  But I sometimes wonder if fans cannot make up their minds on what Betty should be. They criticize both her lack of maternal perfection (which does not exist in real life, by the way) . . . and at the same time, criticize her attempts at perfection. I feel sorry for her, because due to rules of our still patriarchal society – both in the series and in real life – she will never win.  Even when she expresses doubt about her skills as a mother, which she did by the end of“Field Trip”.

Poor Betty will never be accepted as the complex person that she is, because of this demand that she be the perfect mother. Many seem incapable of understanding Joan’s wariness at Don’s return. And many want Peggy to disregard her past anger at Don and his past behavior, so that she will be eternally grateful to him, again. Meanwhile, many cannot wait for Don to be his old self again – the creative Alpha Male that he was, seasons ago. We truly live in a paternalistic society.

Top Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season One (2007) Episodes

Below is a list of my top five favorite Season One episodes of AMC’s “MAD MEN”

 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON ONE (2007) Episodes

1 - 1.12 Nixon vs. Kennedy

1. (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy” – In this superb episode, Sterling-Cooper’s employees have an all-night party to watch the results of the 1960 Presidential Election. Also, Pete Campbell discovers that Don Draper’s real name is Dick Whitman, who had been officially declared dead during the Korean War.

2 - 1.10 The Long Weekend

2. (1.10) “The Long Weekend” – During the Labor Day weekend, Roger Sterling decides to cheer up Don over the loss of a client by arranging a double date with twins. During the date, he suffers a heart attack. Meanwhile, Joan Holloway has a double date with her roommate and two out-of-town businessmen.

3 - 1.05 5G

3. (1.05) “5G” – In this poignant episode, Don receives an unwelcome visitor in the form of his half-brother, Adam Whitman, whom he had not seen since the Korean War. And when Ken Cosgrove gets his short story published in a magazine, a jealous Pete asks wife Trudy to convince an old boyfriend to publish his story.

4 - 1.01 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

4. (1.01) “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – The series’ pilot episode introduces Manhattan advertisement executive Don Draper and his co-workers at the Sterling-Cooper agency, as he struggles to maintain Lucky Strike as a client for the agency.

5 - 1.09 Shoot

5. (1.09) “Shoot” – A larger ad agency tries to lure Don from Sterling-Cooper by hiring wife Betty Draper for a modeling job. Meanwhile, Pete devises a strategy to help the Nixon campaign.