"This is no dream! This is really happening!"
— Rosemary Woodhouse, Rosemary's Baby, 1968
Speed is no joke. I should know, I get spracked on green tea and Coca-Cola every Sunday night to stay up and write these recaps until dawn. Sometimes I find myself staring in the mirror at my sweaty reflection, unable to recognize my own face, muttering to myself "Who is Dick Whitman anyway? Why is he such a controlling pervert? Does Ken Cosgrove know how to tap dance? How dangerous is it exactly to play William Tell with X-Acto knives?" Lately I've been fantasizing about setting Don up with Julia Louis-Dreyfus's Veep character, Selina Meyer. It would be a fair fight. We now know that Don's fetish for loudmouth brunettes who put him in his place was probably implanted in his cortex by the hooker with a heart of gold who relieved him of his virginity without his consent at The House of the Rising Backstory.
“Is growin' up always miserable?" Sonny asked. "Nobody seems to enjoy it much."
"Oh, it ain't necessarily miserable," Sam replied. "About 80 percent of the time, I guess."
— Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show
Everyone is mysterious when you're first getting to know them. You have to peel back layer after layer of false front before you hit any oil. Social personalities are mostly misdirection. It takes forever to find out what anyone's really all about. You learn to differentiate between what someone says they believe and their actual beliefs; between what they say they're going to do and what they do. We are often mysterious to ourselves. Every human being is steered by several stars. Inside each person are a naive sailor, a seasoned captain, a scientist, the girl next door, a foxy redhead, a millionaire, and his wife. We contain multitudes.
Margarine will never be butter. But it can only really be compared to butter, and butter will always win.
"Sky pilot, how high can you fly? You'll never, never, never reach the sky." —Eric Burdon & the Animals ("Sky Pilot," spring of 1968)
I know it can be annoying to see GIFs loop during a post, but it's impossible to get tired of watching Pete Campbell fall down the stairs. Do you like when his butt hits the step and then scoots him down one more step, like a final apple bonking him on the head before rolling into a pig's open mouth? This is a really well-executed pratfall; it almost looks like a real accident. Pete has reason to be all pent-up. Trudy insists on pretending to the world that the Campbells' marriage is fine, but she won't do the horizontal Charleston with him anymore. Pete is actively keeping the secret that the company is about to go public, and he doesn't understand that an honest compliment about Joan's flawless paperwork skills is much more important to her than some dude she would never touch wanting to bone her. It crosses the mind that Pete and Joan are both technically single and could hook up, but Joan wisely passes on that final nightcap. Like Pete could ever handle that little red Corvette. He barely knows how to drive!
"The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago." — Dr. Zaius, Planet of the Apes
In the wake of a horrible tragedy, traditional comforts don't always work. Things that usually make you feel better might make you feel bad or, worse, entirely disconnected. Television shows that were comfortingly absurd are suddenly jarringly unreal. All food becomes tasteless. Awards become meaningless. The usual Marxist bullshit can no longer blunt emotions about how terrible the world really is. Disasters tear open the screens put in place to protect us from horror and fear. All the other hungers and lusts are replaced with just one need: more information. After an unjust death, there can be no true satisfaction or closure. Just new facts, and an agonizing desire for more of them.
"We deplore the encouragement of an American myth that oppresses men as well as women: the win-or-you're-worthless competitive disease. The 'beauty contest' creates only one winner to be 'used' and forty-nine losers who are 'useless.'" — Robin Morgan ("No More Miss America," August 1968)
H.J. Heinz is the largest manufacturer of ketchup on the planet, so popular that its bottle has been the sauce's genericized trademark for over a century, but that doesn't mean the company is infallible. No company is. Remember the "Blastin' Green" and "Funky Purple" EZ Squirt disaster of '00? Somebody once stood in a room and pitched Heinz crazy-colored ketchup as the future of food, and Heinz listened to them. The squeeze bottle was even specifically designed with a narrow nozzle, all the better to draw pseudoplastic ketchup squiggles likes the ones Don rhapsodizes about to Stan. In a 2001 press release, Heinz's VP of marketing promised purple ketchup's success, claiming "Just look at kids' entertainment, and you'll find everything from purple computers to Harry Potter purple lightning bolts. Purple is a bold, fun color that brings a hint of mystery and magic to kids' condiment creations." Although the novelty sold well initially, Heinz's colored ketchups were quickly considered a huge flop, a failed attempt at forward-thinking rebranding on the level of New Coke or Crystal Pepsi. By 2006 they'd been shelved.
[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don despoils Lindsay Weir ... Peggy gives the copywriters a meatball sub ... Beards and sideburns ... Betty goes brunette ... Roger's mom really loved him.]
1. Don Draper (Last week: 1)
"That was the deftest self-immolation I've ever seen," Roger told Don after he doused himself in gasoline, lit a match, and gave a vigorous bear hug to Herb Rennet's plan to carjack Jaguar's national ad budget for his local dealership. But as entertainingly flame-engulfed as Don's sabotage was — he did everything to steer the campaign fatally down-market but pitch a buy-one-get-one-free offer for northern New Jersey's most upwardly mobile sanitation engineers — it couldn't hold a flickering Zippo's worth of heat to Draper's torching of his personal life. The situation with Sylvia has gotten so irresponsibly combustible that we're probably just a week away from the two of them stumbling into the Draper living room in a furniture-torching bout of extramarital passion and asking Megan if she wouldn't mind fetching them an asbestos blanket. (You know how Don feels about dirtying up a pristine carpet.)
"Someday someone who loves you / Will make you cry / Though he loves you he'll hurt you / Till you feel you could die / But if he says forgive me / Forgive if you can / For you are his woman / And he is your man" — Vicki Carr ("The Lesson," 1968)
In his 1964 book Understanding Media, Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase "the medium is the message" — theorizing, roughly, that the way an idea is presented is almost as important as the idea itself. By 1967, McLuhan had incorporated his own theory into the work and released The Medium Is the Massage, a slim, 160-page volume that restated his major points about the effects of mixing media formats by pairing them with attention-grabbing artwork from graphic designer Quentin Fiore. Fiore's style incorporated text and visually arresting images with collage, turning McLuhan's conjectures into slogans, helping the writer along as he suggests that mass media can be used to disperse profound ideas. The book — which practiced what it preached down to the title pun — was a bestseller and became influential in the developing field of media theory. While McLuhan's work briefly fell out of favor in the ’70s, it was critically revived with the arrival of in-home Internet.
You know how the "next week on Mad Men" promos are always hopelessly, comically vague? Well, there's a perfectly good reason: Matthew Weiner wants them like that! (OK, maybe it's not so much a "perfectly good" reason as it is a "reason.") Speaking with CNN, Weiner explained that he doesn't "even want those scenes from next week ... they could put a promotion for some other AMC show in there if they wanted to."
"If your limbs begin dissolving in the water that you tread, all surroundings are evolving in the stream that clears your head" —The 13th Floor Elevators ("Slip Inside This House," winter of 1967)
The ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was a resort town famed for its natural hot springs and thermal spas. Doctors prescribed trips to the Hierapolis baths for their sick patients, and the geothermal waters were believed to have sacred healing powers. The city's great Roman baths were a series of giant hot tubs in a warm setting, which also made it a popular retirement destination. Earlier this month a team of archaeologists announced that they had found the legendary Greco-Roman "gate to hell" in Turkey known as "Pluto's Gate" at the former site of Hierapolis. It was a shrine to Pluto, the god of the underworld, built on top of a cave belching toxic fumes. Plutonian priests once provided birds for visitors to toss into the cave's opening and watch as they died in flight. The cave itself was only big enough for one person to descend the stairs, leading them into an alcove with suffocating carbon dioxide streaming out from a crevice. Death set in as the lungs filled up.
Matthew Weiner talked to The New York Times this morning, and let some bare-bones details go as to Mad Men’s return. The nuts-and-bolts: The first episode of the sixth and second-to-last season airs April 7, and that episode is two hours long. But it's not a two-hour episode; it's a mf'ing movie!
What's the difference? I don't really know. But Weiner's calling it a movie, and that's good enough for me: "The network requested it this time whereas last time" (season 5’s premiere was two hours, too) "it was my idea to come back with a splash. It worked well last year and they wanted to try it again. For me, I was like, well, I don't have the same set of problems, but I do have a way to start the story with a movie. It has some cliffhanger elements to it, it does propel you into the rest of the season — it does foreshadow a lot what the season is about. But I was like, I want to write a movie here, that we can create the atmosphere and vibe of the season."
Joining a long, proud TV-gimmickry tradition of having one-off specials set in America's island paradise — like that time The Brady Bunch went to Hawaii, or that time Sanford and Son went to Hawaii, and, of course, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style — is Mad Men?! Yep! Deadline reports:
It’s a neat trick to manage to be predictable even while surprising, but that’s just what the Emmys were able to pull off last night in Los Angeles. Smooth host Jimmy Kimmel attempted to punch up the proceedings — or at least get punched — but not even the prone, non-nunchaku-bearing corpus of Tracy Morgan could trip up the parade of familiar faces and well-telegraphed upsets. But I’m not here to point fingers — that’s best done inside the comfort of a mani-cam, anyway. After last year’sa cappella–induced atrocity, the 64th Emmy Awards were a competent, serviceable affair. Cable may be ascendant, but the three-hour ceremony — on the dot! — was a tribute to old-fashioned network professionalism, eschewing innovation for slick proficiency. And the unscripted moments mostly followed suit: Jon Cryer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus had never won in their respective categories for these roles before, but their victories certainly didn’t feel fresh. The calm competence of director Tim Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire) silenced the nervy genius of Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad). The best comic bits — Louis-Dreyfus swapping speeches with Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon tackling Jon Stewart, the way Kerry Washington said “David Strathairn” — felt DIY and fleeting. And when the diciest moment of a live broadcast is a puffy Tom Berenger scatting about raccoons and garden gnomes while soft jazz attempted to play him off, you’re doing something right behind the scenes, even if we’re fighting to stay awake in front of them. At one point, in a meta-twist the Emmy-less Community might appreciate, ceremony director Glenn Weiss won an Emmy while directing the Emmys. It was an appropriate symbol for a night that was all reward and very little risk.
With visions of Morena Baccarin's sternum still dancing in my head, here are my takeaways from a very long, very punctual evening:
Any Mad Men fan worth caring about has spent the past two months slumped in a chair, highball glass in hand and dried sick crusted on the front of a half-unbuttoned shirt, blasting "Tomorrow Never Knows" on the hi-fi while consumed with worry that Peggy Olson's post–Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce fate involves her de facto exit from the show. [Editorial shit-losing aside: How could she leave Don for Teddy Chaough? Who's going to roll her eyes when Stan Rizzo sketches a cartoon of Pete Campbell fellating a Jaguar tailpipe? How could she abandon *us*?! OK, we're done now.] But today finally brings some comforting news on the Peggy front: Series emperor Matthew Weiner assures TV Line that our irrational panic is unnecessary, even silly. Of course she's going to be back. Don't be insane:
These Power Rankings are entering uncharted territory. Never before has a non–Don Draper character occupied the top slot twice, and never before has Don been knocked from his perch more than once in a single season. Nothing makes sense. Up is down. Left is right, the sun is made of ice, and Girls is universally embraced as the uncontroversial reflection of a very specific kind of coming-of-age experience in New York. Pete Campbell wore a black suit, for the love of Showrunner. You get it by now, we know. We'll stop. But it was either this self-indulgent and, quite frankly, repetitive lead-off as we stalled to scrape off the bits of skull-shrapnel glued to the living room walls with bits of gray matter, or the word "NO" spelled with 500 O's. Perhaps we chose poorly. Cut us some slack; things are very touch-and-go right now.
When you watched Don Draper drop the needle on The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” during Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men, was your immediate reaction, “Holy crap, how much did that cost to license?” You were not alone. As you may recall, when Conan’s band played “Lovely Rita” on air during the last days of his Tonight Show run, a lot of people assumed it was a calculated budget-hit middle-finger to NBC. According to Questlove, who knows some stuff about playing walk-on music for late-night talk shows, the price tag for that blip of Beatles would be $500,000. He turned out to be wrong in that particular instance, because NBC had a blanket license with Apple Corps that made usage cheaper. But, obviously, getting The Beatles is never cheap. So what kind of cash are we talking about? Satiating inside-baseball curiosity, ArtsBeat dug around and got the numbers for Mad Men’s Beatles placement: For that bit of sitar magic, the show doled out a cool quarter of a million dollars. Nuts, right?