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Mad Men: "The Strategy" OAD 5/18/14 ***SPOILERS***

Discussion in 'TV Show Talk' started by phrelin, May 20, 2014.

  1. phrelin

    phrelin Hall Of Fame DBSTalk Club

    Jan 18, 2007
    Good work Peggy and Don!


    They did get the commercial right. Yes, Burger Chef was a real fast food chain. For anyone interested, here's the complete Burger Chef commercial collection https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSfMPo6KWps.

    Last week I led with "He's back."

    This week I'll note that "It's back." The show I admire as a breakthrough series - meaning the TV version of the Great American Novel - was back.

    I knew something was going to be different when I saw the name Semi Challas in the writers' credits in the beginning credits. Not everyone will recognize her name or her picture...

    ...but Writers Guild of America award winner (for the episode "The Other Woman") , Gemini award winner, and four-time Emmy nominee (three for "Mad Men") Semi Challas brings a different voice, a different feel to the episodes she writes.

    And indeed, if you don't remember "The Other Woman" episode (see the thread), it was highly relevant to, and in many ways setting up, the emotional content of this episode which is why that thread itself consists of many posts involving a rather lengthy discussion.

    Anyway, there should be fewer fans discontented with this episode compared to the first four episodes of this season.

    Family values.

    Peggy offers up some doubt to Don: "Does this family exist anymore? Are there people who eat dinner and smile at people instead of watching TV?"

    But really, the question should be: "Did this family ever exist?" It certainly never existed, nor will it exist, for Don or Peggy. Everyone knew a family that was like that, didn't they? And for the few who were part of those families, didn't they have a life of eternal joy? Didn't they????

    There was the time of family values on TV - mostly the 1950's to the early 1960"s, "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet", "Father Knows Best", etc. Everyone experienced them in a post-war (that's post-WWII) family values cultural onslaught to get the women happily back in the home where they belonged. And all that goodness and light gradually went away to be replaced, not by Burger Chef family meals, but by real life as it has always existed. Or maybe it was replaced by American culture wars as the historically dehumanized Dawn's, marginalized Peggy's, and demonized Bob Benson's fought, and continue to have to fight, for their rights for respect and dignity as humans, the Supreme Court majority notwithstanding.

    Taken together, what are Don and Peggy, and Pete for that matter, except what we have come to know as a workplace family, a core family of a sort? Roger and Joan and the others are the cousins and friends. The workplace core family is in the center of this scene at the end of the show.


    But it isn't the people in the center of this scene that count, it is the members of traditional familes we see at the tables that the commercial must appeal to.

    Family values.

    In the 1969 American family there is no room for Bob Benson. In fact, when he makes his pitch for getting married to Joan - an inspiring “I am offering you more than anyone else ever will” - we hear from her an idealistic, though unrealistic, hope - “I want love, and I’d rather die hoping that happens then make some arrangement.” He needs a "beard" to have a decent chance at life and she dreams of a "Cinderella-happily-ever-after" life.

    The really difficult thing about watching the exchange is that we've learned that Bob's going to become a Detroit executive for Buick. Bob will likely not make many, if any, future appearances in the show. We know it's 1969, so you've got to wonder how Bob will fare over the next three decades. We know what happens in the 1980's. (And if you don't, you need to find a way watch The Normal Heart a week from Sunday on HBO.)

    Family values.

    Pete is still clueless as always. He drags Bonnie out to New York clearly to show her off. Of course, he has to chase her out of Don's office. And then he basically abandons her when he discovers his and Trudi's daughter being cared for by the help. He fumes trying to find a way to destroy Trudi's attempt to create a new life. Having lived with the guy, Trudi knows just how to get to the point: "You are not part of this family anymore." Ouch! So with Trudi out of sight, Pete plants a flag - a bottle of Rheingold in a cake. Good old Pete, always wanting his beer and his cake.

    Near the end of the show we see Megan and Bonnie on the same plane headed back to LA. And as the TWA stewardess closes the curtain on first class, both these career-focused, LA-based women seem slightly less dependent on Don and Pete in order to fly first class.

    See you in July, Megan, somewhere not LA or NY. Or will we?

    Living and not knowing.

    What we discover towards the end of the show is that the partners are making Harry Crane a partner. Whoa, that came out of the blue, we sure were "not knowing" about that.

    Season 1 of "Mad Men" started us in 1959. Print ads were still the dominant medium for creativity in advertising. This episode is set in 1969. And Harry Crane is the TV guy - he was assigned it because with great foresight he created the job nobody wanted, the guy who will handle the "upfront" buys, the guy who wanted the computer to do viewer market analysis, the guy who's career epitomizes "living and not knowing" for anyone alive today whose adult life began before 1970.

    Living and not knowing is a life lesson offered by Don.

    Don: Peggy, I'm here to help you do whatever you want to do.
    Peggy: Well, how do I know?
    Don: That's a tough one.
    Peggy: You love this.
    Don: Not really. I want you to feel good about whatever you're doing. That's just the job.
    Peggy: What's the job?
    Don: Living and not knowing.

    Matt Weiner describes Don as Peggy's mentor. But writer-producer Semi Challas clearly has infused this relationship with a lot more, as amplified by the actors. These two people have a knowledge of each other that goes beyond anything one uses to describe as a mentor-protege relationship. It is like family, certainly not like spouses as we see that relationship portrayed on "Mad Men" as based on defensive negotiations, maybe closer to siblings - the older brother who knows about her illegitimate child - you know, Pete's other child - and the sister who knows about Don's drinking, womanizing, and childhood. She cares about Don's opinion, in that sometimes angry and insecure but very close younger sister way. And he tells her: "I worry about a lot of things, but I don't worry about you."

    It was fascinating to watch Peggy and Don work on issues like mothers feeling guilty about not having time to prepare a complete dinner but requiring permission from their spouses to serve food from Burger Chef and its competition. At one point, Peggy suggests and Don rejects having the mom coming home from work.

    "What's her profession?" blurts out Don.

    "You are surrounded by all kinds of mothers who work," Peggy says pointing out the obvious.

    "It's too sad for an ad," Don tells her.

    And we get to: "What if there was a place where you could go and there was no TV and you could break bread and anyone you were sitting with was family?" It is part of an emotional scene, which is one I could write about but I cannot do it justice. So here it is:


    We could interpret that scene as based upon paternalistic mentoring but I see it as reflecting the disintegrated family scene, the family as experienced by the two characters. It is part of the "not knowing" of 1969. We have "The Chairman of the Board" Sinatra telling us about living life "my way" not "our way" (the emotion of this song is based upon facing "end of life" and "the final curtain" or finale (?), not love):

    Don: "Do you hear this?"
    Peggy: "I know. They're playing it all the time."
    Don: "Do you think that's a coincidence?"

    In 1969 the individual's needs and wants are becoming the focus, so no it's not a coincidence that the most sentimental song of the time is all about me doing it "my way". The family and community oriented self-sacrifice values that came out of The Great Depression and WWII are gone. But can you build a substitute for those family values based on this self-oriented song?

    And now, the end is here
    And so I face the final curtain
    My friend, I'll say it clear
    I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
    I've lived a life that's full
    I traveled each and ev'ry highway
    And more, much more than this, I did it my way

    Regrets, I've had a few
    But then again, too few to mention
    I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
    I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
    And more, much more than this, I did it my way

    Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
    When I bit off more than I could chew
    But through it all, when there was doubt
    I ate it up and spit it out
    I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way

    I've loved, I've laughed and cried
    I've had my fill, my share of losing
    And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
    To think I did all that
    And may I say, not in a shy way,
    "Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way"

    For what is a man, what has he got?
    If not himself, then he has naught
    To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
    The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

    Yes, it was my way.​
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  2. trainman

    trainman Hall Of Fame

    Jan 9, 2008
    My friend Mike, who's an editor at TV Guide, tracked down the location where the Burger Chef scenes were shot -- in a former Burger Chef on old Route 66 in Rialto, California.


    Mike's blog post about the location.
  3. Stuart Sweet

    Stuart Sweet The Shadow Knows!

    Jun 18, 2006
    Just a quick note... I've been very busy this past week and will write a bit in a day or so. Oh, and Jim, all you had to do was ask I know right where that burger place is.

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