Mad Men Returns And Swaps Nuance For Knockouts

It’s 1966 and the civil rights movement has hit Madison Avenue. Change is everywhere, except in the lives and psyches of the two main draws…
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It’s 1966 and the civil rights movement has hit Madison Avenue. Change is everywhere, except in the lives and psyches of the two main draws…

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The return of Mad Men is unlike that of any other TV series in that it makes life easy for the editors of magazines, colour supplements and TV guides. You couldn’t move over the weekend for Mad Men fashion specials, interviews with Matthew Weiner (no not this one, that one), and GQ commencing on a tantric Twitter wank that finally exploded the moment the opening credits rolled last night. That, of course, was all to be expected. It is the Muhammed Ali of TV, beloved by the liberals and conservatives alike. Returning after an extended hiatus to regain its crown at the expense of less-polished upstarts.

The brush strokes of this double-header were of societal change and Madison Avenue’s place within that change. What better way to show this than the young bucks of SCDP water-bombing an African-American protest? Yet this backdrop is, of course, just that, for the real draw of Mad Men is the lives of Don Draper and Joanie Holloway.

After giving thanks to the set designers and writers that Don had finally moved out of that brown and green monstrosity he was living in, the first note I made upon seeing Don basking in domesticity was ‘how long until he fucks this up?’ Honestly, I thought they’d give it at least four episodes, but this is Don Draper, the most contrary man in the world, a man so carefully thought out that he will not bow to any convention. A man who can be counted on to destroy everything he touches for more than a minute. Let’s get this right, Megan is going to spectacularly fall in this series. The only thing we don’t yet know is whether it will be off the balcony or into a speed pills and whisky nightmare when Don fucks a 45-year-old therapist with a mouth like a sewer and a nice line in the corsets his Mother might have worn when she wasn’t turning tricks with hillbillies.

As she sat on the couch, weeping and wailing while looking a million dollars, the camera focused entirely on her heaving breasts

Although the party was a visual delight that even Pete Campbell’s shit-eating grin and hideous jacket couldn’t ruin, I can’t be the only one who thinks that it was a bit telegraphed. Of course Don hates parties, his real name is Dick. Of course he will hate his chanteuse flashing her wares and simulating masturbation in front of the whole company. As Megan danced, shimmied and pouted, the Elephant in the room appeared in the form of Don’s embarrassment. And it wasn’t the only one.

The main reason a lot of men, and women, watch Mad Men is because of Joan Holloway. And similarly to the set-up with Don – ‘look folks, don’t worry, the old Don is still here’ – we were introduced to a post-baby Joan wearing some extra padding. Just in case anyone missed the fact that she was carrying a bit of timber, her Mother was there to spell it out. “You’re hardly at your fighting weight, are you?’ she said. So after four or five scenes of Joanie swaddled in dressing gowns and depression, she did what she did best. DO NOT PANIC, SHE CAN STILL WEAR A DRESS.

The scene between her and Lane Pryce – the excellent Jared Harris who again out-acted everyone – was bizarre for two massive reasons. As she sat on the couch, weeping and wailing while looking a million dollars, the camera focused entirely on her heaving breasts. With every breath and whimper they rose magnificently and told the world that, despite having her nipples chewed and possibly suffering from post-natal depression and guilt as to that of the child’s parentage, she is still the sexiest woman to walk the Earth. I thought at first that it was just me who noticed, but when my wife said, “Ok, we get it, she still has massive tits,” I felt less like a perv.

Despite my reservations about the speed of the set-ups – possibly brought on by the 18 month gap - and a realization that both Joan and Don will again go through the ringer like no-one else has before or since, there is still a lot to love about Mad Men. The key to this series will be how they deal lightly with the societal change while developing the lives of others. Pete Campbell can’t be far from a full on RP McMurphy, Roger might actually kill him, Peggy looks set to do something ridiculous and Harry Crane will continue to make people wonder why he was allowed to continue while Sal was pushed aside.

Much like Ali, Mad Men can again shake up the world. I’d just like to see the plot threads involving Don and Joan being given the old rope-a-dope tactics rather than delivered as intermittent attempts at knockout punches. Who knows, they might even fuck each other. Which would surely see the universe disappear so far up its own arse that the ideal child sought by parents would have ginger hair, a five-o-clock shadow and the ability to lose 30 pounds in 52 minutes.

Ding ding...

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