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Mad Men: "Signal 30" OAD 4/15/12 **SPOILERS**

Discussion in 'TV Show Talk' started by Stuart Sweet, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. Stuart Sweet

    Stuart Sweet The Shadow Knows!

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    This review in no way takes the place of the excellent work done by phrelin. Just so happens I thought about the episode all night and couldn't wait to write about it.

    Signal 30, it turns out, is the name of the Driver's Ed film Pete Campbell is watching at the beginning of the episode. I remembered watching the film, or one like it, back in neanderthal times when I learned to drive. I didn't remember the name. More proof that everything's on youtube:

    [youtube]1O9bYM9BrYU[/youtube]

    This week's episode was particularly noteworthy given last week's treatise on the empowerment of women. This week was where we, the viewers, get to see the car crashes that will happen to the male gender as a whole through Peter Campbell.

    One almost feels sorry for Pete. Not bad enough that he's losing his hair and hiding it badly. He's unable to captain his own dinner party and relies on "superhero" Don Draper to fix his sink. He can't control dinner party conversation, can't land an account, and relies on a paid courtesan's compliments to puff up his ego. He can't even seduce a 16-year-old girl (although why he wanted to is another whole treatise.) In the end he's brought down, physically, by an older man who, until that moment, had been the epitome of milquetoast civility. He can't even slink out of the office without seeing the man who did all of it right, Don Draper, standing in the elevator.

    Pete is the living embodiment of the male gender in 1966. We men may still have run the world in 1966 but the days of stepping on women, pushing them aside or using them for pleasure were coming to a rude and abrupt end. Pete sees the car crash film and yet doesn't see the oncoming threat to his own way of life; he doesn't see that the road he's taken will end with a semi hitting him head on.

    So it must have been to be a suburbanite in one's 30s in 1966. Viewed through the lens of fifty years of history, we see Pete's got it all coming to him. He deserves every punch, every embarrassment, not simply for disrespecting both Pryce and Sterling, but for the way he's always denigrated others for his own enjoyment. But, back then it was easier to imagine that things would always be as they had been, that one's wife would always defer and that women of all ages would fall prey to a successful man from Manhattan.

    Not that it was really ever like that of course, but certainly more men thought it was.

    I enjoyed so much of the humor of this episode, without which it would have been as gruesome as watching a car crash. The whole subplot with Lane's British compatriot was well played and the chewing gum... priceless. (no pun intended. Although, had Pryce actually been there...) I applaud Cosgrove for continuing to write, and for moving from sci-fi (then thought to be children's fiction) to far more insightful works. Ironic that he may get his greatest acclaim for a work about his one-time friend and now semi-nemesis Campbell. Sad though that he doesn't stick to sci-fi though, as so many of the sci-fi authors of the 60s are worshiped today.

    Lane Pryce, oh dear Lane. He's the only one who feels remorse for his impulsiveness, and is therefore the only one rewarded by the very classy treatment given to him by Joan Harris. Even his folly, stealing a kiss when she is there to take care of him, is met with discretion. There's your lesson, gents: own up to your shortfalls. Women respect that.

    A couple of notes: It's true, you cannot stop a washerless Delta faucet from dripping by turning up the supply. On the other hand, I sincerely doubt a Delta would have been in such bad repair in 1966 that water pressure would cause it to blow. They were still fairly new. According to Wikipedia they'd only been in production 12 years.

    Oh, and not terribly surprising that Don would be keenly aware of Charles Whitman's name. The real Mr. Whitman killed several students at the University of Texas that summer.

    Phrelin, I've covered the facts... please let me know what I've left out.
     
  2. Laxguy

    Laxguy Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.

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    Winters,...
    Holy cow! You and Phrelin do have interesting additional career choices. Great reviews, gents!

    I loved last night's ep.! Chewing gum indeed! (Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight??)

    Pete's comeuppance was a thing to behold. Pryce's challenge was priceless, [oooomph], and I initially expected him to whip Campbell thoroughly with out taking much back. English school lads are often taught boxing, unlike US schools.

    Speculation time: Will Pete evolve? Why is he on a path of self destruction? He has, arguably, the most agreeable wife, however ambitious she may be. Is Don maturing into a kinder gentler man?

    A chill went down my spine when the Whitman name (Charles) came up. I'd forgotten long ago about that psycho, and I can't imagine that the name wasn't chosen long ago with him in mind. We'll see, though, if further references come along in the next few eps.
     
  3. Stuart Sweet

    Stuart Sweet The Shadow Knows!

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    One more note: Way back when, Matthew Weiner said that the names in Mad Men were chosen quite carefully. Don means "gentleman" in Italian, and so it is his gentility that "Drapes" a the average "Whit(e) Man" underneath. Roger Sterling, the Silver man, always comes in second, and is defined by whom he is, ahem, "rogering."

    Peter Campbell's name has always left me wondering. "Peter" means "rock" as old-school Catholics no doubt are aware, and a camp bell would be that old dinner bell rung just before chowtime. What's the sound of a rock hitting a camp bell? A dull thud, and that's just what Peter Campbell is turning out to be.
     
  4. yosoyellobo

    yosoyellobo Icon

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    Nice review. I could not help wondering who writer Cosgrove might have been. The only name that pop up was Phillip K Dick even thru I know it could not have been him.
     
  5. Laxguy

    Laxguy Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.

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    Winters,...
    Some one who lived in Cos Cob, CT?? :sure: They played on that a bit, and I need to go back for more comprehension. Dunno if there's a connection, but certainly could be.
     
  6. phrelin

    phrelin Hall Of Fame DBSTalk Club

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    Northern...
    Good review Stuart. You don't leave anything out. Like the generations and races and genders represented in this show, we sometimes see things from a different perspective. It's one of those factors that makes "Mad Men" so great.

    From The Man with the Miniature Orchestra by Dave Algonquin:
    The simile between staring at a car wreck and watching Pete crash emphasizes just how significant by the mid-1960's the discrepancy was becoming between reality and the 1950's American "nuclear" family image - which even then was an image, not reality.

    Within the story arc of this episode, we had this image of Joan and Peggy as they were eavesdropping on the boxing match between Pete and Lane as spellbound as any two people watch two cars crash into each other:

    [​IMG]

    Show creator Matthew Weiner who co-wrote this episode does not give us a clear picture of the effect of this incident on Joan and Peggy. Obviously, it's disturbing to them as compared to the guys in the conference room who were amusingly intrigued that this was going to happen.

    But this show was about the guys, really about the guys. I think it's time to reference a Weiner quote about "Mad Men" elicited in an interview on NPR back in 2007:
    I'm not sure how many reach that point and subsequently get to write a critically acclaimed show about it. Some find other outlets, like Charles Whitman (how clever they inserted the name reference to Dick Whitman - our Don before he assumed Don Draper's identity).

    Charles Whitman, a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a former Marine, killed 16 people and wounded 32 others during a shooting rampage on and around the university's campus on August 1, 1966. Most remember that he was up in a tower with a rifle. But, in fact, he had killed his mother and his wife earlier that day. (There's a detailed article in Wikipedia.)

    I don't know what Weiner intends as he presents the metaphorical emasculation of Pete Campbell. I'm sure Weiner knows that serial killers have always been with us in roughly the same ratio to the population size. What seems new to me in recent times is the increasing number of men who kill their children, spouse (or ex-spouse), and random family members or friends before killing themselves.

    Whatever Weiner thinks he's doing, he is emphasizing the Angry Man Syndrome while presenting the perceived sociological shift away from the fantasy 1950's gender roles, the roles represented and reinforced by "Leave It to Beaver", "The Donna Reed Show", "Father Knows Best", "The Life of Riley", and "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet".

    In his own internal thoughts we have Weiner saying:
    In other words, he doesn't know what is wrong, but it's disturbing. And so we have seen Don and, now, Pete struggling with similar thoughts.

    Ken Cosgrove was the guy who is offered to us as a guy on a different track from Don and Pete, perhaps because he has an alternative outlet for his mental twists and turns, his writing. But the one short story we hear described by his wife (what was her name again?) at the suburban get-together dinner table is as meaningfully disturbing in its own way as anything else we've seen - "The Punishment of X4."

    "There's this bridge between these two planets and thousands of humans travel on it every day, and there's this robot who does maintenance on the bridge. One day he removes a bolt, the bridge collapses, and everyone dies."

    "There's more to it than that," Cosgrove explains to a stunned group. Don asks why the robot destroys the bridge.

    "Because he's a robot," Ken answers emboldened by Don's interest. "Those people tell him what to do and he doesn't have the power to make any decisions, except he can decide whether that bolt's on or off."

    During this episode Roger tells Cosgrove to stop the writing on the side. So we learn from Cosgrove about his pseudonym: “Ben Hargrove is dead.” This is, of course, meaningless as he takes up a new pseudonym, Dave Algonquin.

    At the end we see and then hear him creating "The Man With the Miniature Orchestra," which you recognize as a story of suburban angst hidden in a projection of Beethoven's feelings as he was writing the Ninth Symphony (his final complete symphony), offered as a voice-over while we watch the bruised face of Pete Campbell while he watches his new fixation, a high school senior, being fondled by a star athlete, better looking than Pete like Don and most certainly a more capable fighter than Lane.

    This sad scene gives way to an ironic rendition, heavy on dramatic bass, of the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, better known as "Ode to Joy," playing over the closing credits.

    More popularly known for its musical setting by Beethoven, "Ode to Joy" is a poem written in 1785 by the German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller, extolling the brotherhood man. Despite the lasting popularity of his lyric poem, Schiller regarded it as a failure later in his life, going so far as calling it "detached from reality." So much for joy....
     
  7. Maruuk

    Maruuk Hall Of Fame

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    We have Pete deeply upset over Peggy's discarding of his baby, and of him. We have seen him fondling the rifle while deeply depressed. We have now seen Pete's magic baby, the one he apparently couldn't have, as an object to him as his wife is. We have seen Pete rape a young girl. And his only desire now is to seduce a 17 year old high school girl.

    Pete hates the burbs, hates himself, hates his wife and kid, hates his fellow workers.

    And he's still got the rifle.

    The show keeps shoving mass murder references at us. Are they setting us up for Pete with the rifle? Is Pete heading for a kind of ritual healing by means of the rifle, a cauterizing of all his aching wounds all in a day of infamy?

    Since society won't put Pete out of his misery, perhaps Pete will have to do it himself. A guy whose self-generated subjective reality is increasingly and painfully out of step with objective reality. Not unlike Betty's, really.

    And Weiner doesn't give delusionals much shrift. They tend to get punished severely. Even those times that Don allowed himself a smug and warped sense of himself Weiner slapped him down hard (the teacher and Bobbi Barrett).

    Weiner rewards realists (Roger, Bert, Ken, Joan, etc including Don's "reality-based" relationship with Anna) and places deniers and frauds living lies in Mad Men Hell. That's where Sal is right now!
     
  8. trainman

    trainman Hall Of Fame

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    Sherman...
    Pete and Trudy live in Cos Cob. Ken and his wife live in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, as they mention during the party.

    I don't think Ken is specifically based on any particular science fiction writer -- I'm not aware of any who are notable for writing under a pseudonym while working as an advertising copywriter during the day.
     
  9. phrelin

    phrelin Hall Of Fame DBSTalk Club

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    Northern...
    The co-writer on this episode (and consulting producer on at least 17 other episodes) is Frank Pierson. In his IMDb trivia it is noted:
    My gut tells me he may be the source of the Ken Cosgrove story line.

    Pierson's bio on Wikipedia is both impressive and interesting. He's 86, and his first credits on IMDb are associate producer, producer, writer, and/or story editor for 69 episodes of "Have Gun, Will Travel", definitely my favorite western and among my all time favorite TV series.

    And while I'm posting here again, I have to note that when this scene appeared....

    [​IMG]

    ...my wife and I both started laughing. We both realized at one time I owned those three sports coats and worse - one that she and a friend of ours dubbed my Baskin-Robbins coat. She did not buy them for me. I had them when we met. I was lucky that she married me given my questionable taste in attire.:D
     
  10. Laxguy

    Laxguy Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.

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    Winters,...
    Heh. I blanched when I saw that Madras sport coat. I had several, (now blushing). Don looked uncomfortable and not as much in control in the scenes where he was wearing it. Maybe my projection, maybe not. Maybe on purpose by the Director; maybe not.

    Mr. Pierson, unfortunately for my theory, may never have set foot in Cos Cob.
     
  11. Laxguy

    Laxguy Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.

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    Winters,...
    After trying to talk Don into going with him on another trip, upstate.

    Yes, I know, this is a new ep. but I thought I'd not write anything intelligent or insightful to start a new one. We have experts for that!
     

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