"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mad Men: For Those Who Think Young

It's no secret that I'm quite addicted to AMC's Mad Men! It's fresh and smart, with great writing and fantastic characters (and the fashion is awesome, and Don Draper is one of the dreamiest men to hit the television in a long while . . . ), and because there isn't a lot going on this Summer in TV-land, the show's return felt a little like Christmas in July.

Season one closed with just about every character in crisis on a depressing Thanksgiving 1960. Last night opened just over a year later, on Valentine's Day, 1962.

Don Draper: Last I saw the handsome creative director, his secret identity had nearly been exposed and his affair with his client Rachel Menken had ended. This season opens with Don at his doctor's office, basically being told he's getting old. Then, he heads to work only to be told that the firm needs young talent to stay relevant and keep clients happy. Don's also acting more his age at home: He's coming home at night to Betty and the kids and has seemingly halted all extramarital affairs. So the moral of last night's opener is that poor Don is feeling over the hill. Do I like this new and improved Don? I feel like I'm supposed to say "yes," but it wasn't as much fun to watch.

Betty Draper: January Jones must be thrilled, because Betty is becoming one of the most fascinating characters on the show. I know she knows that Don has had affairs — but did she confront him about it? Is that why he's shaping up? At the downtown hotel where the Drapers go for V-Day, they run into Betty's old roommate, who is now a high-priced call girl — or "party girl," as Don puts it. Later, when her car breaks down, she dabbles in bargaining with her sexuality with the mechanic fixing her car, only to catch herself and back down. Clearly she's hungry for male attention (that Don doesn't seem to be great at giving her) — maybe deep down she wants to be treated like a grown-up woman? An equal instead of someone who has to ask her husband for money and gets in trouble when the car breaks down? I wonder what is going on in Betty's head?

Peggy Olsen: So Peggy had a baby in the finale last season, and so far the only evidence is that she clearly lost all the weight. Then, the men in the office notice her weight loss and gossip behind her back that Don got her pregnant and then gave her a promotion. Pete guesses she went to the "fat farm." UGH. Poor Peggy endures the most awfulness in Mad Men, even as her influence in the office grows. She's clearly Don's favorite and is portrayed as more talented than all of those sexist ad-boys combined. She also makes Don's new secretary cry, displaying a new, hardened Peggy. Is the baby at home or did she give it up for adoption? Will Pete ever find out? Let's hope she's not still caring a torch for that guy.

A few more development thoughts:

Joan nabbed herself a doctor! She seems confidante she'll get a proposal soon, but I wonder if that's truly what she wants? I never thought of her as husband-hunting, so that was a change.

Pete is still slimy, and currently he's dealing with his wife's desperation to get pregnant. Something is being set up here, given that we know Peggy gave birth to Pete's child last season. This has to all blow up on him at some point.

Betty also flirts with a horseback rider guy, and I feel like a Betty Draper affair is just around the corner! Do two wrongs make a right? Probably not, but that is good stuff.

How great was that vintage Jackie Kennedy footage? It seemed like all the women were curious to see this classy new first lady while the men seemed casually dismissive of her and some even wondered why the president wasn't pictured.

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