Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mad Men: What happened to Saturday, Clio?

It seems almost as if a certain synergy is involved when you know that the main story arc of this Sunday's episode of "Mad Men" is about Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce - well, really Don Draper -  receiving a Clio award.

For on Sunday night, the show won its third consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.

(One has to note that if you don't watch much cable - particularly "Mad Men" on AMC, "Breaking Bad" on AMC, along with the usual high quality mini-series and movie offerings on HBO - you can't really know what's going on at the Emmy's. Except for "Modern Family" on ABC.)

This week, Don wins a Clio for the Glo-Coat ad, then loses the statue and the entire day of Saturday. Some bender! The drinking forces him to hire Roger's wife's cousin Danny Siegel, a guy that Roger doesn't even particularly like. Things don't seem to bode well for Don.

But, hey, we learn that it was Roger's drinking that forced him to hire Don. We learn this in a series of flashbacks - flashbacks that had a peculiar style in that there was no fade or any break of any kind indicating we are going back in time. Don's confused about time. So was I for a moment or two.

This episode focused heavily on the alcholic "foibles" of 1965 Don Draper/Dick Whitman. How did the Dick Whitman identity get in the picture again when there was nothing about the West Coast?  Apparently he identified himself to Doris as Dick. Like we viewers, Don is puzzling over who is Doris?

In fact, he begins drinking heavily on Friday before the award ceremony, makes some stupid mistakes, takes one woman home from the ceremony, wakes up Sunday to an angry phone call from his ex-wife and notices another woman in his bed - that's Doris - apparently he lost Saturday altogether.

But did he earn the award? Peggy says that adding the kid in the ad was her idea, noting that Don added the western theme with a snide comment expressing a view that it wasn't so important an idea.

In fact, we've seen the commercial and the Clint Eastwood -Spaghetti Western theme was the creative touch that made it different. I don't know that the theme will sell Glo-Coat, but it's an ad I'd probably watch once while I was skipping through commercials - if I could have skipped through commercials back then.

Nonetheless the self-involved Don/Dick didn't acknowledge Peggy's contribution or Roger's role in his career. They were both miffed.

The funniest line of the night: “I only changed one little thing.” It came from Peggy who is getting stronger as she battles her way through the sexist male legions that controlled the business community. Drunk Don orders her to work the weekend locked in a hotel room with Stan, a new art director. Stan is everything you could possibly roll up into a sexist character. And Peggy successfully challenges him where it hurts most - his one little thing. But it results in what likely will be a successful Vicks cough drop campaign and a happy client.

At a personal level, Peggy also is starting to aggressively challenge Don's fumbling and stumbling that's risking the business. We had the pathetic scene of the Life cereal people not liking the catch phrase and "celebrating Don" throwing out phrases as Pete and Peggy try to caution him. But the Life folks love the phrase “The cure for the common ... cereal."

The only problem is that phrase “The cure for the common (fill in here)" came from Roger's cousin-in-law Danny Siegel who neither Don or Peggy wanted to hire and who they dismissed with a "you'll hear from us" interview ending. When confronted by Peggy, Don doesn't even remember saying it, but complies with her demand to fix things with Danny. Danny is played by Danny Strong ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"and "Gilmore Girls") who Don towers over. But the Danny-of-questionable-creative-talent knows when he has Don by the "short hairs." Danny gets hired.

So here we are at SCDP-creative this season. The mentor genius Don/Dick is losing it. Peggy is stepping up to keep things in order. These are two people who know each other - not yet equals, but almost family in the sense that you know which uncles have a drinking problem.

Pete was also asserting himself this week as it appears that Ken Cosgrove may be coming back to the series and into SCDP. Pete isn't going to let Ken come into the new firm until Pete's primacy as a partner is acknowledged.

As usual there is far more than one can cover, as in all episodes. But about that missing Clio. It turns out Roger picked it up for Don. And after Don apologized for not acknowledging Roger's role in his success, Roger gave it to him. I guess Roger regain a little position this week.

As I noted two episodes ago, the show could end with Don dying of lung cancer from smoking. But right now Don's career success is in jeopardy because of drinking.

It was sad when he ruminated “You finish something and you find out everyone loves it, right around the time you feel someone else did it.” On the one hand, that reinforced the idea that Don isn't acknowledging the contributions of others. But it also let's us know that Don is beginning to understand the adage: "Be careful of what you wish for."

Who is this guy? He wins the only award given in his field in the year of the startup of the firm he created. The fledgling company is surviving financially. He has everything he told Roger he wanted. Except of course, a real identity. He is the guy who needs to learn that other adage, that no one on their deathbed laments "if only I had spent more time working." Don has lost his family. Dick is losing Anna. And Don/Dick is, or should it be "are," now losing days.

Matthew Weiner's award winning creation is a traditional Greek tragedy as this all-too-American human suffering gives us entertainment. Is it "Death of a Salesman" repackaged as a TV series and updated to "the death of an ad man?"

No comments: