“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 Problem With “MAD MEN” Finale

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A PROBLEM WITH THE “MAD MEN” SERIES FINALE

I had a problem with the “MAD MEN” series finale, (7.14) “Person to Person”. Ironically, it had a lot to do with the characters of Don Draper and his first ex-wife, Betty Francis. And this problem first manifested in the series’ penultimate episode, (7.13) “The Milk and Honey Route”.

Betty Francis’ sudden development an advanced case of cancer did not work for me. It seemed to come out of no where. I never understood why Weiner had saddled her with such a quickie death . . . yet, at the same time, allowed Roger Sterling to survive the end of the series. Yes . . . I am speaking of the same Roger Sterling who had suffered two massive heart attacks in the Season One episode, (1.10) “Long Weekend”. His heart problem never became a major issue again, despite his continuing drinking, whoring and occasional forays into drug use. I find that rather odd.

Then again, this is the same Matthew Weiner who had told television journalists that Betty’s main reason for divorcing Don in the Season Three finale, (3.13) “Shut the Door. Have a Seat”, had to do with class bigotry. I never understood his comment. Betty had been aware of Don’s working-class origins throughout their marriage. She made that clear in (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”. When Roger had expressed his suspicions about Don’s class origins in (1.07) “Red in the Face”, Betty seemed more interested in the idea of learning more about Don than concern over the possibility that he might be working-class. She certainly seemed satisfied by Don’s revelation to her and their kids about his past on a poor farm, during a picnic in Season Two’s (2.07) “The Gold Violin”. She seemed thrilled over the idea that she was learning more about him. So . . . Weiner’s claim that class bigotry was one of the major reasons behind Betty’s decision to get a divorce never worked for me.

Between these comments about the Draper divorce and his decision to saddle Betty with an advanced stage of cancer makes me wonder if Weiner ever liked her in the first place. Is it possible that he saw Betty as a reminder of any mother issues he might possess? Some fans have claimed that Betty’s cancer finally gave her a chance to develop as a character. This is another argument I find difficult to accept. From the moment Betty had learned about Don’s affair with Bobbie Barrett in “The Gold Violin”, and kicked him out of the house in (2.08) “A Night to Remember”, I believe her character had been developing. Yes, she had setbacks. After all, she was supposed to be human. Did the audience and critics really expect instant character growth from Betty? I certainly did not. And it was easy to see that she been slowly developing as a character over the years.

If we are truly supposed to believe that Don finally achieved character growth during his “Kumbaya” moment in “Person to Person”, then one could easily say that his development seemed . . . “instant”. I mean it came out of no where. The speed in which Don allegedly achieved final character development left me shaking my head in disbelief. I could have bought it if Weiner had allowed Don’s character to develop with the same pace as Betty’s – slow and over a long period of time, with the occasional setbacks. Instead, audiences were treated to a “Kumbaya” moment for Don at a California yogi retreat, followed by the famous 1971 Coca-Cola commercial.

Exactly what was Weiner trying to say with that last shot of Don? That the latter had created the commercial? Or was someone else responsible? Why leave the show on an ambiguous note for Don? Weiner could have ended Don’s personal story on a more final note . . . and still hint that he had ended one stage in his life and was about to embark upon another. Or . . . he could have killed Don off. I would have been happy with that scenario.

Do not get me wrong. I liked “MAD MEN” very much. After all, I had stuck with it for seven seasons. But there have been times over the years when I found myself wondering if this series may have been a little overrated. I certainly felt that way when I watched the series’ finale.

“The Worship of Sally Draper”

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“THE WORSHIP OF SALLY DRAPER”

The following words regarding a certain character on the AMC series, “MAD MEN” is bound to result in me receiving a good deal of hostile responses … or none at all. I am so sick to death of fans putting Sally Draper on a pedestal.

I am sick of it. Ever since Season Three, when show creator Matthew Weiner made her a more prominent characters, fans have been putting a character that aged from nine to sixteen on a pedestal. Why, I have no idea . To me, there is nothing special about Sally. She has always struck me as a typical kid who will probably grow up with her own set of virtues and bullshit . . . just like her parents, her siblings, and nearly every other character on this show.

After the last episode, (7.10) “The Forecast” aired, I managed to encounter two articles that waxed lyrical over Sally. In one of them, “MAD MEN: Viva la Sally Draper”, author Julianne Escobedo Shepherd claimed that Sally will be forced to spend the rest of her life overcoming her parents’ personalities. Now, I realize that neither Don Draper aka Dick Whitman or Betty Draper Francis are perfect. In fact, they are far from perfect . . . like every other character on this damn show. Including one Sally Draper. Unfortunately, this is something that many fans of the show, including Ms. Shepherd, always fail to realize.

Watching Sally in “The Forecast” made me realize how ridiculous are those claims that Sally is more mature than her parents. Do not make me laugh. I saw that Sally was unable or unwilling to cast any blame on her old friend, Glen Bishop, after she witnessed his reunion with Betty. Ten years earlier, Glen commenced upon an infatuation for Sally’s mother that apparently has yet to abate. But instead of commenting on Glen’s obvious attempt to flirt with Betty, Sally went into a tailspin over Betty’s friendly response to Glen. Later in the episode, Sally had dinner with Don and her friends at a restaurant, in which one of her friends began flirting with Don. Who responded with a good deal of friendliness without making a scene. In the end, it was Sally who made a scene by blaming Don for the exchange and ignoring her friend’s attempt at flirtation. The fact that Sally was unwilling to blame her friends for what happened between them and her parents, only tell me that not only is she still immature, but also a world-class scapegoater.

In The Washington Post article called “MAD MEN: Is Sally Draper Our Last Hope For Change?”, author Soraya Nadia McDonald speculates on whether the character will become some symbol of change on the show. Duh! Sally is the youngest major character on this damn show. By 2015, she will be at least 61 years old. Of course she is the future for a show in which the setting ends in 1970. However, this also means that whatever Sally manages to achieve with her life, she will still have to deal with her frustrations, disappointments and especially her own personal flaws. These personal flaws may or may not affect others. They will certainly affect her. And those flaws will be with Sally until the day she dies or when “MAD MEN” goes off the air.

I have notice in this latest article on how McDonald went out of her way to insult both Don and Betty . . . and at the same time, put Sally on a pedestal. I swear . . . both the media and the fans seemed to regard Sally in the same manner in which Mildred Pierce regarded her daughter Veda. Through rose colored glasses. These same fans have a penchant for ignoring Sally’s penchant for scapegoating. I first became aware of this problem back in Season Four, when she solely blamed Betty for the end of the Drapers’ marriage. Sally possesses other flaws – namely her penchant for bullying – especially her younger brother Bobby; her “sass”, which makes her a world-class needler in my eyes; and her slightly cruel sense of humor. Sally reminds me of certain classmates from my younger years in elementary and high school, whom I heartily disliked or I had regarded with a good deal of wariness. But if there is one person whom Sally reminds me of . . . it is her paternal grandfather, Archie Whitman.

This is the character who is supposed to be the series’ “Great White Female Hope”? Sally Draper? A character, whose flaws are constantly ignored by the “MAD MEN” fandom? There are some who are talking about a spin-off featuring Sally as an adult. Honestly? That is one show I will never watch. How can I drum up the interest to watch a series about a character I have never harbored a high opinion of in the first place? What I am trying to say is that in the end, I am getting sick and tired of the “Glorification of Sally Draper”. The sooner “MAD MEN” is off the air, the less chance I have of encountering this phenomenon. God, I hope so.

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.