This! Is! Mad Men! – Public Relations

[This! Is! Mad Men! recaps the newest developments of Don Draper and his ragtag group of cohorts. In the spirit of the show, it will often be sexist and drunk. Apologies ahead of time.]

Season four of Mad Men has finally arrived! Thank the Maker! I thought this day would never dawn (or is that, Don?), but alas, here we are!

Okay, time for a minor confession — I’ve only recently gotten into AMC’s hit. And by recently, I mean that I watched the first three seasons in a span of about three weeks.   The exploits of Madison Avenue’s finest have captivated me in a way that no show has for about five years. And by captivated, I mean that I’ve spent hours in front of my glowing televisor-box, jamming cereal into my face and drooling over Jon Hamm.

Hey mister, don’t pass that judgment-crud on me! As a teacher, it’s my goddamn right to enjoy the summer any way that I see fit. In a month’s time, I’ll be back to raising your kids for you and weeping. So for the present, I read the books I’m actually interested in and I watch DVDs.

Anyways, the fourth season’s premiere pushes the narrative forward about a year. This time has been quite eventful for Mr. Draper, with long-lasting consequences burrowing their way into all facets of his life.

Professionally, Don has helped launch the new agency (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce — doesn’t that just sound fantastic?!) into a realm of legitimacy, getting them out of a hotel room and into actual offices. The environment isn’t quite as splendid as it was in years past, but there is a sense that work is being done for the right reasons.

For example, the episode sees Don trying to satisfy the desires of a client whose primary business is two-piece bathing suits. I’m paraphrasing, but the eventual pitch goes something like this:

Don: Hey yo, check it — sex sells. If you cleverly suggest that your bathing suit is revealing, without actually showing anything even remotely inappropriate , you will make a ton of cash. Like, boatloads.

Client: Ah, yeah….See, we’re a family-friendly company. Although our products are skimpy bathing suits, we don’t want that to be mentioned or referred to at all.

Don: Oh, I see. You can feel free to get the fugg out of my office.

Draper clearly has the foresight to understand that sexual intimation is going to sell. In fact, it’s going to be the way of the future. By not caving into the ineptitude of his client, the man is able to stand his ground in defense of a marketing campaign he thinks will be successful. And when this campaign is scoffed at, he sends the client packing.

Yes, he’s working in the morally grey field of marketing — but within that field, Don Draper is fighting for business integrity. The creative ideas that will actually work.

Moreover, Don also does his best to right a wrong for the betterment of his agency. After rocking his typical mysterio act with a reporter, Draper is dismayed to find an unfavorable article written about him in an advertising magazine. Never one to sit around and pout, the leading man takes it upon himself to delivery a stellar performance to a representative of the Wall Street Journal. He declares, “Last year, our agency was being swallowed whole. I realized I had two choices: I could die of boredom or holster up my guns.”

Goddamn. He’s so cool.

In terms of his personal life, however, `ole Dick Whitman could be doing better. He and Betty are divorced – a result of his ex-wife’s lusting for Henry Francis during season three. He goes on a date at the behest of Roger Sterling, finds himself interested in the girl, but is unable to seal the deal. He spends Thanksgiving with a prostitute who honored his request to repeatedly slap him during sex (kinky even by Draper’s standards). And most heartbreakingly, when Don wants to spend time with his children, he has to pick them up from his old house, the place that his ex-wife and her new man call home.


But even with all the aforementioned excitement, my favorite parts of this episode revolved around the supporting cast. Pete, despite his often malicious disposition, seems earnest and excited. Perhaps being invited to the new agency has finally pushed him into good guy territory (or perhaps I’m overly optimistic). Peggy cooks up a scheme that involves hiring actresses to fight over a ham in a supermarket, thereby garnering attention for the client that produces said pork-product. There’s new guy Joey! He seems like kind of a doofus, but is just happy to be there! He and Peggy seem like good chums, riffing back and forth on an old Stan Freberg bit.

Maybe this is the stuff I really love about Mad Men. And maybe that’s why last night’s episode left me wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, I love the context that has been created and appreciate that we’ve been given glimpses into the lives of many characters. But I’m ready to see the full picture. How’s Sterling’s marriage going? How about Joan’s? Is Cooper still ill? What about Pryce, how is he settling into the role of partner? Does Sally want to bitch-slap Betty? Is Henry Francis really a sleaze or does he sympathize with Don on some level?

And what about all the characters whose fate we’re currently unsure of – you know, all the people that got left behind at Sterling Cooper? How did Kinsey make out — is he still working in advertising or has he finally started writing and smoking Mary Jane full time? What about Cosgrove? Hell, who’s looking after the Xerox machine?

I have so many questions, but then again, that’s probably by design. I suppose if you walk away from a season premiere knowing everything, then it’s probably a good indication that a writer is going to be fired. But the overture has sounded and I’m ready. Dim the lights, find your seat, and get ready for sonic beauty.

Or, in this case, television at its absolute finest.