'Mad Men''s Premiere: The Fog Comes In On Little Cat's Feet...

Mad Men Season 3And, wait a minute -- are those really Don's unsheathed dogs on the kitchen linoleum floor in the opening scene? Don creeps in to heat a little milk on some Fred Flintstone-esque puppies.

Of course, "Out of Town," the premiere episode, is all about managing exposure -- from (condomless) tip to wayward toes. You've got your not-quite-Jesus-like birth story of "cut-off-his" Dick and boil it (poor guy) to the more Moses-like stripping of the foreskin off the top of the boiled milk, and this all in the first three minutes! And the layered analogies between "sheaths" and London Fog raincoats was especially clever. Meanwhile, on the blue side, there was the exploding pocket pen, hand job interruptus, and octo-lingus jokes, which we'll get to.

But first, my impression was that the episode wasn't so much enjoyable or entertaining as practical. Matthew Weiner did the hard work of "laying pipe," as they like to say in the writing biz. The flashbacks of Don's birth and early life are so devastating and Joad-family-ish that for the first time I understood why he changed identities. At the same time, I always have a hard time suspending disbelief as the visual blurs -- it seems so soap opera-ish. And I imagine that going into that dream sequence right in the beginning could be off-putting to new viewers. That's not Weiner's worry, and it fits right into the brilliant overall vibe, which is seeing things for what they really are. "London Fog" was never romantic, but just the opposite, a result of industrial toxins; a hotel fire , however hokey as a plot device, reveals the truth about Sal; and that the 1960s equivalent to the fog of Dickens' time is Don's business --- the smoke and mirrors of advertising. Wow!



This season moves us forward approximately six months -- to the spring of 1963. (Gulp!) Apparently, Roger married Jane of Jane Street and honeymooned in Greece, Joan is still engaged, and Betty is still pregnant.

Mad Men Season 3 At home, Don seems to be toeing the line. And given that he's providing his own children a much improved ride in life, and seems to want to use his powers for good, (and Betty) I didn't get the need to boff the stewardess. (Self-pity about the birthday? Then he's more like Pete Campbell than he thinks!) The Betty look-alike made a point of not being seen smoking in uniform -- but the airlines have always had even stricter rules about not drinking in uniform, haven't they? Another thing that bothered me: that the stewardess called Don the name on his luggage. In those days, especially in first class, wasn't it all about the flight manifest -- and detailed notes about how the passenger likes his drink, etc?

I loved the whole idea of the business trip, though, and it obviously showed Don's genius-level fluidity for changing identity. It took Sal a while to get there -- and indeed, he never really got there. (That was a pen in his pocket that was happy to see the bellhop.)

Because of his own can't-make-this-stuff-up background, Don can be incredibly sensitive and nonjudgmental about other people's secrets. So he treated Sal the way he treated Peggy, acting like it never happened. "Limit Your Exposure" was a wise and generous line of advice for Sal, (and himself.) But really, an ad campaign showing a flasher on the subway is not exactly going to make Morris the client happy.

Mad Men Season 3 Speaking of unhappy campers, the Putnam, Powell and Lowe acquisition is done, and the Brits have fired a third of the Sterling Cooper work force, with more layoffs to come. Lane Pryce's idea of offering both Pete and Ken the job of "head of accounts" was dastardly, but made for some great TV. (Pete's manic dance? The Pinter-like play in the elevator when each thinks he's the other's boss? Priceless.)

Bad management also came in for some shearing. Though he did not contribute much to the episode, Roger Sterling's line was the funniest: ''I told him it was a stupid idea, but he didn't seem to get my inflection."

Don thought that it came from Cooper, along with his other weird Japanese ideas. Certainly, Bert's new piece of art, showing a graphic depiction of an octopus pleasuring a woman (tentacular!) was one of those great "Mad Men" moments. Bert says that he bought the objet d'Asian art for its "sensuality," but that it "also reminds me of our business." Ba-dum.

There were some other good, translating-from-the-British jokes between Joan and John "I-am-not-a-secretary-in-the-American sense!" Hooker. By the way, we see Don doing his own typing in this episode, something Moneypenny would never deign to do. Moneypenney was the assistant to M, James Bond's boss, but the name sounds pretty Dickensian to me. (More fog!) And we see Joan subtly putting one over on Mr. Penney.

Mad Men Season 3 Meanwhile, capitalism is king. The fired Head Of Accounts guy suddenly turns socialist, getting on his soap box to lecture his "comrades in mediocrity." Joan knows how to unruffle feathers, whereas Peggy is all about the ruffling. She's turned into an autocratic boss, complaining about getting good help, although she and her secretary are dressed alike, both in high-necked dresses, and she comes off as the mousier one.

Harry Crane is figuring out his tax bracket and complaining, like a real fat cat. (Hey, that's what loopholes are for!) And in the most visually poignant moment, Pete C.'s wife (who is extremely supportive these days and wears great hats, to boot) presents him with a "Buck Stops here!" pen set.

Of course, the buck is passed. The unctuous Hooker complains that the office is a "gynocracy," which gets to the heart of whether MM is good for women. Betty maintains she's having a baby girl. The opening flashback was about losing a baby girl. And as Betty tells Sally, (her little "lesbian") about the day of her birth, her words are drowned out by the mordant music that accompanies the opening dream sequence -- the aural equivalent of coal dust.

20 comments about "'Mad Men''s Premiere: The Fog Comes In On Little Cat's Feet...".
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  1. Richard Brayer from Car-X, August 18, 2009 at 4:15 p.m.

    damn Brits ruin everything, don't they?

  2. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, August 18, 2009 at 4:26 p.m.

    No "In" or the possesive.
    Even poets get their copy changed.
    The Brit invasion seems a little early but--what the heck--who's quibbling when there is poetry to quibble about.

  3. Nancy Haynes from Collins, Haynes & Lully, Inc., August 18, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.

    I thought the "foreskin" you mentioned was placenta.

  4. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, August 18, 2009 at 4:31 p.m.

    Great review, though, Dotty. Enjoyed it more than the show.
    By the way, what is wrong with Entourage.

  5. Randall Hoffner from ABC, Inc., August 18, 2009 at 5:02 p.m.

    Yeah, I thought that subway flasher ad was pretty strange. But nothing is done for nothing in this show, right? Interesting how Pete's wife has apparently turned from pursuading him to adopt to steering his career. She didn't seem to have it in her previously. Roger Sterling continues to be the only character in the show with a sense of humor.

  6. Randall Hoffner from ABC, Inc., August 18, 2009 at 5:07 p.m.

    By the way, how many TV shows recently have contained quotes from Dylan Thomas and Balzac?

  7. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV, August 18, 2009 at 10:26 p.m.

    THIS REVIEW is truly better than the show. They should have opened with a two hour show.
    But limit your exposure inspired by the baltimore trip wasn't bad.

  8. Maddy Mud from McMarketing, August 19, 2009 at 2:18 a.m.

    The flashbacks seemed turgid. Agreed. Especially Don's mom going "I'm cold" before dying. Will Farrell has already parodied this line into retirement. The "little lesbian" joke seemed a lot more 2009 then back in the day, given who Betty is. And yet, the business trip and the double account manager thing got me back on board. I was hoping we'd see Freddie Rumson in Baltimore (didn't he list that as a possible option at his firing?). I loved Ken trying to talk Pete off the ledge, and Pete enjoying his rage too much. And that Pete behing able to use Burt's first name was enough to warrant a heavy sigh and drink from the big boss man.

  9. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, August 19, 2009 at 9:02 a.m.

    when you think about it or even when you don't think about it, why would anyone want to work for those brits? why would any client want to hire them?
    the only competent advertising people appear to be draper and the Catholic girl from Brooklyn.......
    i have only seen two instances of books or movies showing a really efficacious advertising person....The Advertising Man by Jack Dillon and this portrayal of Draper---wherever he gets his insights

  10. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., August 19, 2009 at 10:03 a.m.

    Great review, as usual. I miss "Duck", the mastermind behind the Brit invasion and hope his character will make a return. For a sly guy, Don was pretty sloppy with his fling-- although his daughter did earn her wings after rooting through the luggage.

  11. Henry Harteveldt from Forrester Research, August 19, 2009 at 1:30 p.m.

    I look forward to this blog as much as I look forward to the show itself. Thank you for your excellent synopsis and analysis each week.

    I used to work for TWA in its advertising/marketing dept. in the 1980s. This episode, as you can imagine, had a lot of TWA "alums" discussing those details. You're correct in that employees like pilots and flight attendants were never allowed to drink in public while in uniform (they weren't even supposed to go into an establishment serving alcohol when in uniform).

  12. Gail Adrian, August 19, 2009 at 2:58 p.m.

    The genius of mad men, like all great works of art (well, I think it is!) is the ability to add our own intellegence to the work. Your comments prove this further.

    I also found Don's ad to be completely inappropriate to London Fog's Owner. But then, Don or Peggy will tweak and court and we'll see how things turn out. Or maybe he'll throw it out completely now that he has delivered the subtext to Sal.

  13. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, August 19, 2009 at 3:48 p.m.

    Since we're quibbling, Don's mother would have been more accurate if she had said "fry" his dick in hog fat (lard) rather than "boil" it.

  14. Paige Pell from Just Marketing, August 19, 2009 at 3:56 p.m.

    by the way, Joan's necklace-like pen that was referenced in the previous post (or a good facsimile) is available through Fisher Space Pen. I've had one for years and it's awesome. :)

  15. Don Kowalewski from spunkybean, August 20, 2009 at 10:08 a.m.

    Love your weekly recaps. Another stellar job. I missed the toes - I just don't watch TV as well as other people do. Darn it.

    I Tweeted it. And speaking of, does Dorothy or MadBlog or Media Post have a Twitter acct to follow?

  16. Pamela Principe-golgolab from PNA Associates Inc., August 20, 2009 at 10:12 a.m.

    Yes, an awesome premiere and another fun review to read. But I felt the biggest clue for what's coming was Don's statement to the execs at London Fog that "it's always going to rain." How appropriate as it seems every character is being flooded with demons and emotions that are going to boil over! Can't wait!

  17. Gordon Plutsky from 21 Advisors, August 20, 2009 at 10:54 a.m.

    Great post as always. As someone who has worked for British owned companies - they got that part right. They are bankers with little heart. I also enjoyed the Pete/Ken face off and hope they develop it more.

  18. Maddy Mud from McMarketing, August 20, 2009 at 12:48 p.m.

    reply to Gordon Plutsky -- I too root for Pete and Ken to continue to battle -- my hope being that Ken will continue to not engage, which will make Pete even crazier!

  19. Frank Dangelo from Catalano,Lellos and Silverstein, August 23, 2009 at 8:08 p.m.

    Glad to have Mad Men back and the quality of the writing and re-creation of that era is eerily right on. This is just a nit,however I hope they don't continue to shoe horn these product placements into the episodes that are just sloppy; e.g. Stoli vodka being enjoyed in 1962 during the cold war ? Not going to happen...Also Pepsi didn't get it's US export agreement with Russia until 1972....I got the same feeling when they mentioned Dunkin Donuts as if DD was a marquee brand in '62. I would guess DD was only a couple hundred total franchisee large in '62....Just a nit but these miscues just breaks the magic for me....

  20. Margot Wallace from Columbia College Chicago, August 25, 2009 at 3:47 p.m.

    The opening scene skimming the milk skin off the top: I had always heard that layer called the "mother."

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