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Mad Men: "Tea Leaves" OAD 4/1/2012 ***spoilers***

2850 Views 5 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  lucky13

When's everything going to go back to normal?

Roger's question to Don is really more of a plea.

Both Roger and Don know the answer is "never." This is epitomized by the two additions to the cast:
  • Teyonah Parris as Don's Secretary Dawn, the black person they hired because of last episode's joke exchange with Young and Rubicam and
  • Ben Feldman as Michael Ginsberg, the Jewish socially-stunted-but-talented copywriter who lives with his father.
Another "addition" to the cast, of sorts, was the 40 pounds gained by Betty. "Fat Betty" was, of course, a tool show creator Matt Weiner used to take advantage of the fact that January Jones was pregnant during the shooting. Jones was not that heavy during the time, but the makeup and costume folks effectively added more pounds.

The episode IMHO emphasized the encroaching generation gap of the 1960's. We see 40-year-old Don struggling with having a 25-year-old wife, dealing with the worldly teen Bonnie played by the talented Hayley McFarland ("Lie to Me"), and then coping with the possibility that ex-wife Betty might have thyroid cancer.

Part of theme is the relationship between age and the truths that "life goes on" and "everyone can be replaced." While Roger is feeling replaced, Betty imagines life going on without her and Don struggles with how that could happen.

Peggy, on the other hand, represents the generation that doesn't see that fear of the future. She has no problem recruiting a talented copywriter despite Stan's warnings about the competition. But then she was thrown a bit about Ginsberg's surprising skill at becoming someone else in the final interview with Don.

Megan also represents the generation that embraces its future. But the "Betty has cancer" phone calls discussion confuses her view of things by hinting that Don's "baggage" could become quite heavy. And she has to lose her "I'm working here" mindset at dinner with the older Heinz couple by tactfully agreeing with the wife that work talk is boring.

Then we have The Rolling Stones, except we don't.

Don looks and acts like "The Man." In Don's interaction with Bonnie we clearly see him shift to a Sally-Draper's-father mindset. Bonnie defines the generation gap from her point of view, "None of you want any of us to have a good time because you never did." Don, the parent, simply says, "No, we're worried about you."

Don and Harry were there to get The Stones to be the music for a Heinz beans commercial. Harry unknowingly ends up having hired the warmup act because neither of them have ever seen The Stones.

And The Stones lyrics we're getting here insists "Time is on my side, yes it is, yes it is."

In the end, the very end, the truth is time isn't on anyone's side.

Note: Talk about how things were with the invisible minorities, I couldn't find one picture of Teyonah Parris as Don's Secretary.
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I was going to ignore the character Henry Francis in this week's episode. But apparently the press, or talking heads, won't let me.

When Betty first married Henry, he was what we describe today as a "political operative" working for New York Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

This included 1964 when Senator Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination for President. Goldwater was, of course, regarded then as an extreme right wing candidate. Much interpersonal controversy occurred during the primaries. During the June 1964 National Governors' Conference, 13 of 16 Republican governors present were opposed to Goldwater. Their leaders among others included Nelson Rockefeller of New York (whose primary campaign got bogged down in a divorce and remarriage scandal) and George Romney of Michigan.

George Romney was very different from his son Mitt. George was known to be headstrong, impulsive and idealistic. He marched out of the 1964 Republic Convention over his party's refusal to adopt a civil-rights plank. From one article:
The most notorious example of George's impulsiveness came a year after this "Mad Men" episode, his declaration that he had earlier supported the Vietnam War because he had had "the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get" from American generals during a tour of Vietnam. The remark seems fairly harmless in retrospect, but it amplified the notion that Romney was somewhat less than fully grounded, and effectively ended his short-lived campaign for the 1968 presidential nomination. As Kranish and Helman write, "The Detroit News, once a reliable supporter, blasted Romney's 'blurt and retreat habits' and urged him to get out of the race." Gene McCarthy, running for the Democratic nomination, famously followed up the brainwashing remark by joking that in Romney's case, "a little light rinse would have been sufficient."
For me, it was no surprise nor a big deal that Henry Francis - now in 1966 working for the very liberal Republican New York City Mayor John Lindsay - said on the phone to an unidentified person: "Well tell Jim his honor's not going to Michigan. Romney's a clown, and I don't want him standing next to him."

For Henry Francis in 1966, one of his homes is the Republican Party and the other is with Betty. To say that in this episode at the time of the phone call, from his point of view both of his homes were in danger of dying is not an overstatement.

It is an accurate representation of the stress in the life of this character. Some apparently don't like historical accuracy.

It should simply be interesting that we have another Romney trying to cope with a Party that is far more to the right than his historical politics.
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Excellent reviews of course. I'd like to add a little bit, if I may.

The meme this morning is that Betty's gained weight. There's even #fatbetty circulating on twitter. I for one am glad that Mr. Weiner decided to use Ms. Jones' pregnancy for more than a joke. Rather than try to hide it, Ms. Jones real-life weight gain became a way for the show to deal with a very real subject and it was done well.

Moving past that, it was once suggested to me that in the absence of a sure grip on what something means, go to one of the old standbys: "the duality of man" and "how we deal with death." Except, in this episode those old standbys fit perfectly.

Don and his generation are suddenly stuffy. Young Don (in 1960) had no problem smoking a joint. Today's (1966) Don is a different man. I think I speak for all men Don's age when I say I shifted uncomfortably in my seat when Don started to talk to a girl his daughter's age. After all, Megan's only a few years older. I was pleasantly surprised when he started acting like a parent.

At the same time, Pete Campbell completed his transformation from up-and-comer to king of the castle through his ritual slaying of the SCDP tribe's former sales leader, Roger Sterling. Of course what comes around goes around and it wouldn't be difficult to imagine Pete getting the same treatment by a baby boomer in 1975.

It's interesting to see the duality between Mrs. Draper II (Betty) and Mrs. Draper III (Megan). Remember of course, the original Mrs. Draper was Anna, husband to the "real" Don Draper. Betty worries incessantly that she's lost her looks while Megan doesn't seem to even notice that she's eye-catching in a bikini. Certainly the transposition of Betty and Megan, both showing ample skin, was done on purpose.

I didn't necessarily enjoy the subplot with Mr. Feldman as Michael Ginsburg; it seemed very flat and hokey. There was so much that didn't ring true. I wondered about his wardrobe; would he have worn jeans? Would he have even owned jeans? The New York accent seemed very fake as well. I hope they sharpen this character up or discard him.

And this brings me to the single glaring point of contention I have with this episode. Everyone laughs because Don's secretary is named Dawn. Believe me, in New York these two names sound completely different. In fact, when I came to Southern California I was surprised to find a woman named "Don" and it took me some time to realize her name was "Dawn." I was very surprised that this part made it into the script.

As good as Mad Men has been with sets, costumes, and historical accuracy, I've always forgiven the show for its poor portrayal of New York accents. While I wasn't there at the time, I imagine a real ad agency in 1960s New York would sound more like the writers' room at The Sid Caesar Show. If you're too young to know what I mean, imagine Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Selma Diamond, Larry Gelbart and Sid Caesar in the same room.

I know that authentic New York accents of the day would have drawn too much attention to the dialect and taken too much away from the dialogue, so I forgave it. Now, bringing in an actor who does a poor imitation of a NYC cabbie just makes everyone else seem out of place. I don't agree with the decision.
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Oh one more bit... where do the Francises live? Looking at that house I presumed it was one of the nice Victorians shown in Scorsese's Age of Innocence (and the book from which it is based. By the 1960s such homes would be right in the middle of Manhattan, not a big haul to go "into the city." A home in midtown would also make sense for Henry's position in the mayor's office.
I agree with you about the Michael Ginsberg character, Stuart. But I'm not sure where to put the blame. Jon Hamm directed this episode and I wasn't as comfortable as usual with the flow. Ginsberg was one element - maybe a bit too much of a Hamm? :D

Another piece of trivia I followed up on was the opening act for The Rolling Stones that night. It was the Trade Winds as Harry said. Never heard of them, but here they are singing New York's a Lonely Town (When You're the Only Surfer Boy):

Guess they wouldn't have been any good selling Heinz beans, but I know why they signed so easily.
I'm surprised not to have seen mention of what may have been the inspiration for the Rolling Stones-Heinz beans story: the Who's classic album, The Who Sell Out, which features several mock commericials, including one for Heinz Baked Beans. The cover album cover features Roger Daltrey awash in the product:

Muscle Font Drink Liquid Material property

The album was released in 1967, a year after the "pitch" was made to the Stones (or Tradewinds). Perhaps the Who will make an appearance later this season or next.


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