Tag Archives: Mad Men

Five twist endings for current TV shows that need to happen

Twist ending for a popular TV show? That’s preposterous, is what you would say if you had never heard of St. Elsewhere. If a medical drama can end with the whole thing being the twisted fantasy of an autistic child, then certainly popular TV shows today can have twist endings as well. Here are my ideas.

The Venture Brothers

The Monarch kills Dr. Venture. The Venture Brothers die after being attacked by a giant spider, but this time without any clones and so are dead forever. The Alchemist dies of AIDS. Brock dies while attempting to protect David Bowie from a coup by Lady Gaga, who becomes the new Sovereign.

30 Rock

It turns out that the head writer for TGS was actually Aaron Sorkin the whole time! The last scene is Liz cursing out God a unitarian church.

Fringe

Walter and the Walternate find a way to save both universes by diverting the Fringe Event energy into two pocket dimensions they discover via a vortex in a rural Washington State town. Walter comments on the damn fine coffee and pie. Agent Boyles learns of FBI records describing a bald, pale man from another world helping an agent in Twin Peaks during the 1980s, and comes to the conclusion that this so-called “Giant” was actually an Observer.

Unfortunately, following both the town’s history of FBI agents going mad and her own history of being possessed (by both Fauxlivia’s memories and Dr. Bell), Olivia is taken over for a third time by an evil soul from one of the pocket dimensions. The last scene is Olivia brushing her teeth, laughing maniacally in a mirror “How’s Peter?!” How’s Peter?!”

Mad Men

Don Draper finally confronts the core of his problem with women: he is gay. After Sally is killed at Kent state, and Bobby dies in Vietnam, Don takes his own life. As revenge to the Advertising Industry that sucked his life dry, Draper leaves behind a time bomb revenge scheme in the form of his final advertising idea: Erin Esurance!

C-SPAN

C-SPAN concludes its decades of covering politics by revealing that the supposed politicians and representatives on camera were actually actors. In the wake of the Watergate scandal, the Supreme Court decided that American democracy simply was not sustainable and decided to seize control by fiat under the cover of this greatest hoax of all time. Led by head writer William Rehnquist, who would later be joined by David E. Kelley and Aaron Sorkin Michael Bay, C-SPAN capitalized on the idea of letting viewers choose which characters would be on each season, an idea which was later found greater success in the hit show, “American Idol.”

While C-SPAN has been critiqued for jumping the shark with some of its more ridiculous plots, such as Iran Contra, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bush v. Gore, and the shooting of Gabrielle Gifford (which was derided as a ripoff of season 8 of Dallas), the show’s longevity is a testament to its constant fan base.

In the last scene, President Beau Biden will finally push the mysterious “Red Button,” and the screen will cut to black mid-sentence, a la The Sopranos.

Mad Man, California, Don’s marriage, and joy

From post World War II until the 1990s, California was the future. America was moving West yet again. From entertainment to Disney, aerospace to education, California represented the bright and warm future that the US could look forward to… dude. And for Don Draper, California is his future as well.

In California, Don has a healthy break from his past of Dick Whitman, a new wife and complete family. This is the future he wants to make for himself. I just don’t think anyone expected it to come so soon. But then again, a sudden marriage proposal is just the thing to further the plot of Mad Men for another season. Because they certainly wouldn’t rush the plot to keep things interesting for the next season.

It really seems like Mad Men has been wedding after wedding after wedding. And next? Did somebody say long lost triplets? And a tiny green space alien named Ozmodiar that only Don can see!

But what his new fiance mean? First, she is French, and France is supposed to be the cultural center of the world at this time. Furthermore, she wants to be a wife, but also has expressed business aspirations. She is a mixed bag, a middle contradiction at this time of cultural shift. But in the end, I guess she is the future or some such.

On the other hand, Betty represents the past. She is married to a moderate Republican in the era of Goldwater and Nixon. She is a child masquerading as an adult, merely wanting to be cared for and unable to deal with conflict. She only has the option of domestic life for her personal joy.

In contrast, it seems like Peggy can only get it from work. Joan claims that she “learned long ago not to get all my satisfaction from this job.” On which Peggy accurately claims “bullshit.”

Not that Joan can’t get joy from domestic life. It is just not her domestic life. She wanted to be the perfect housewife — one who wouldn’t have to work — and has failed to achieve that. Even her child, the future little bundle of joy, is not from her planned domestic partner, but from her office mate. Indeed, the deepest joy she’ll get in life, that of a child as the cliche goes, originates from her office.

And, coming back to the beginning, Don has found joy in his office as well. Then again, he met Betty when she was a model for a campaign. So who is to say that this will be any different.

And thus concludes my last Mad Men reflection of the season, though rather half-assed.

Burn Down Joan’s Abortions in Mad Men

On the most recent episode of Mad Men, (Season 4, episode 3: The Good News) we receive a short hint about Joan’s past. After all, how could a woman as beautiful and suave as Joan Holloway, erm, Harris, go this long without getting knocked up. Spoiler alert: She couldn’t.

Apparently, Joan has had two abortions: One from a doctor and the other via a “midwife.” This raises the question of whether either, or both, of her abortions were illegal.

Roe v. Wade was not decided until 1973. However, that does not guarantee that her abortion was illegal. Roe merely limited states’ abilities to restrict abortions. From the second season episode “The Mountain King,” we know that Joan has lived in New York City at least since 1953, given that in 1962 she told her husband that she had worked for Roger Sterling for 9 years.

During this time, abortion was considered homicide in New York State, unless the procedure was to save a woman’s life. Only in 1970 did New York expand rights to an abortion, and even then abortions after 24 weeks were still considered homicide if the woman’s life was not at risk. Given this timeline, it is not likely that Joan’s reference to an abortion from a physician means that she got one legally in New York. However, there are two ways in which one could hypothesize an abortion from a doctor to be a legal abortion.

1. Medical Justification

Joan could have gotten a legal abortion if she could have proved that it was medically necessary. She could have demonstrated that her life was physically put at risk by the pregnancy, allowing an abortion under New York State law. She also could have checked herself into a psychiatric ward and had two psychiatrists certify that she might commit suicide if she had to continue the pregnancy. This justification gives slight flashbacks to Peggy Olson’s own adventures in childbirth, not to be confused with quarantine for tuberculosis.

According to a hauntingly timely December 25, 1964 Time Magazine article titled “Medicine: Abortion, Legal & Illegal”: “some 8,000 [abortions]  are done by physicians in hospitals, with a semblance of legality.” 8,000 out of millions is not good odds. However, the article does explain that some hospitals hold the idea of medically necessity in much broader terms than others: “In some hospitals, doctors construe [saving the mother's life] liberally and do an abortion if the woman threatens suicide, especially if she is unmarried or has been raped.”

Given Joan and her doctor’s nonchalant attitude towards an abortion from a physician, perhaps she was one of the lucky 8,000.

2. Joan went to a different state

It is not very likely that Joan received a legal abortion in another state. After all, according to that Time Magazine article: “The law in virtually all 50 states declares that a therapeutic abortion is permissible only to save the mother’s life.” However, some places were still easier than others to acquire abortion services. For example. in Chicago between 1969 and 1973 there was a floating abortion clinic known as “Jane.” Women could call a number and be told where and when they could meet with “Jane.” While this time period does not match perfectly with the events in Mad Men, the contemplation of matching timelines does raise the question of why Mad Men’s creators would bring up abortion specifically in this episode. Perhaps that Time Magazine article is not coincidently timely with the show after all. Maybe the creators know their history all too well.

Time Magazine wrote an article in that last week of 1964 because, only the week before, the New York Academy Medicine had issued a report encouraging the legalization of therapeutic abortion.

“Last week the prestigious, 3,000-member New York Academy of Medicine reported in effect that New York State’s—and most of the nation’s—abortion laws are hypocritical, and would be a farce if they did not prove fatal to so many women. Most doctors, said the academy’s committee on public health, are so afraid of prosecution that safe abortions in hospitals have become fewer and fewer, while dangerous, illegal abortions have become ever more common.

The academy’s prescription: amend the law to permit “therapeutic abortion where there is a substantial risk that the continuance of pregnancy would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother, or that the child would be born with grave physical or mental defects.” As safeguards, the academy would require prior approval of an operation by a committee of hospital doctors, and the abortion would have to be done by a licensed physician under the usual safe, sterile conditions in a hospital.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,830977,00.html#ixzz0w55eq9J9

Perhaps while doing research for the show, the various historians on call, art directors, and whomever’s job it is to make sure that Mad Men reeks appropriately of vinyl and cigarettes came upon this article. After all, what a better way to do research than flip through the magazines of the era. “Hmm,” he said, looking at the date of the article. “Perhaps we should throw in an abortion reference to this episode. It would be timely and certainly add a little zazz to the plot.”

Furthermore, 1964 marked the death of Gerri Santoro. Santoro died during an attempted self-induced abortion. The resulting police photograph became a rallying call for the pro-choice movement. Published in the April 1973 issue of Ms. magazine, the the one simple image forced the United States to face the horrors unsafe abortions.

Could this have been Joan?

Given that Joan admittedly received an abortion from someone she describes as “claimed to be a midwife” — a description that is not exactly a vote of confidence — one must think about how much distance there really is between Joan’s character and the fate that befell Santoro. Mad Men can’t exactly hit the viewer over the head with such blunt, liberal feel-good moralizing, while maintaining its status as a good how, but it is difficult to see these timely yet short plot points as mere coincidences.

Mad Men skipped much of 1964, and so we didn’t get to see the reactions to the big events of that year. However, the shockwaves are apparent in nearly every scene of the show, from Don smoking grass with some college girl, to ignoring the metaphorical cancer, to Joan’s appointment with her ob/gyn. Mad Men weaves a delicate web, and it does so most beautifully when the real message slips in with a subtle knife, rather than sticking its thumb in the viewer’s face, trying to hitch a ride.

Mad Men Font Secret Success?

After yesterday’s heated heated discussion in the blogospheres about the actual font used for Sterling Cooper Draper Price’s new logo (It is Akzidenz-Grotesk, damn it!) the question still remains about why they would not just go with Helvetica.

There is the question of whether Helvetica would be popular enough state-side by 1963-’64 to be used for major signage. Heck, maybe the rise of Helvetica would mark a subtle plot point in the fourth season. However, as @TheRevDoctor pointed out, Helvetica had already been used in the American Airlines advertising campaign from season 2.

Still, one campaign is not enough to mark a complete awareness. It is not like they had some huge sign in the office that was like: THIS IS HELVETICA AND IT IS AWESOME.

Oh wait they totally did!

Look at the circled poster to the far right side. You probably know a designer who owns that poster. If not, buy one and become that guy!

Thanks to Doc’s keen eye, we know that the designers at Sterling Cooper Draper Price were quite aware of the modernity-defining typeface that is Helvetica. But the question still stands of why they would go with Akzidenz-Grotesk for the company logo even if they were aware of its typeface design progeny.

Maybe there is some credence to the idea that it easier to get giant metal letters and other random branding paraphernalia set in well-established typefaces. But then again, with something as important as company branding, you probably go custom-made. Furthermore, as the poster and American Airlines advertising campaign demonstrate, the typeface was well known by then.

Perhaps instead, the newly founded company wanted to go with a typeface that, while connected to the new era, still communicated a sense of establishment and stability. Therefore, they went with the proto-grotesk that is Akzidenz-Grotesk.

Or maybe the creators knew very well that people scrutinize Mad Men to such an insane degree that they could build up Internet buzz about the show simply by choosing a typeface that looks at first glance like the reviled Arial, rather than Helvetica, but is actually something that would have been somewhat appropriate for a company to choose at the time.

But that’s crazy, right? Right?

In conclusion, Akzidenz-Grotesk is a typeface of contrast.

Mad Men Font Fail… or was it?

Tonight was the first episode of the fourth season of Mad Men. It was a bittersweet moment, in which we once again can revel in the mid-century modern adventures of the anti-hero Don Draper, but also mourn the approaching summer’s end.

One of the many enjoyable parts of the Mad Men viewing experience (besides laughing at the characters’ ignorance of upcoming historical events. Fools! Johnson was planning on sending more troops to Vietnam the whole time! And you will have Nixon to kick around anymore!) is watching in awe how the show flawlessly recreates the ’60s style down to pinpoint accuracy. Sure there are a few mistakes, but overall it is very impressive and does a better job at truly immersing the audience than almost any other show.

This is why typeface purists were shocked, shocked, to see the logo for the new Sterling Cooper Draper Price.

Behold! The high quality of taking a picture of a paused DVRd show with my iPhone.

Instantly, Twitter was a twitter with shock and disgust.

Is that…

Can it be…

Arial?!

For those who do not know, Arial is one the typefaces, behind comic sans and papyrus, most likely to get you in trouble with a font nerd. What makes it so repugnant is its obvious ripoff from, yet inferiority to, Helvetica (a typeface so wonderful it merits its own documentary). What is worse is that Arial was created by Microsoft as a stand-in for Helvetica simply so it would not have to pay for the superior original. Therefore, the ubiquity of the Microsoft software has ensured that Arial is used more often as a generic sans-serif than that pinnacle of the modern sans-serif that is Helvetica.

But certainly Mad Men’s art directors would know this, right? They wouldn’t use such an obvious Arial anachronism? So perhaps there are a few arguments that can save Mad Men from such a damning mistake in its first episode back.

1. It is not any typeface.

The logo isn’t on paper. It is not typed. It is not pre-fab lettering. It seems to be a stand-alone, one-time creation for the new company of Sterling Cooper Draper Price. Perhaps the craftsman who created it merely made up his own lettering and went from there, rather than adhering to an established font as a guide.

This would explain the similarity to Arial. The artist looked at whatever sans-serif he had around to get a sense of design and then just kind of deviated from the standard shape.

2. It is Akzidenz Grotesk

I took the super-duper high quality camera-phone picture of a paused TV show and tried putting into What The Font. However, the website had a problem with the shape, contrast, etc. So I fumbled around with the SCDP logo and came up with this:

If you turn up the contrast really high and make it black and white, its modern art!

When I put this into What The Font, its top answer seemed awfully close: Berthold Akzidenz-Grotesk.

Akizdenz-Grotesk would actually be a great typeface for the Mad Men art directors to have used. According to Wikipedia, it was created in 1898 and was the first sans-serif typeface to be widely used, and it ended up influencing many later neo-grotesk typefaces. Neo-grotesk typefaces like Neue Haas Grotesk, or as it was renamed in 1960: Helvetica.

So lets compare Akzidenz-Grotesk to Arial.

Akzidenz!

Arial!

The height of the C in Arial in comparison to Akidenz seems to be the most obvious difference, but is it notable enough to prove that the Sterling Cooper Draper Price slogan is not in Arial?

I have enough faith in the Mad Men art directors to believe that they would have gone with not the FAIL of Arial, and not the obvious choice of Helvetia, but instead would have chosen something old and classic for the ’60s. Lest we forget, Helvetica was just released in 1960, only a few years before tonight’s episode. Furthermore, one can imagine that it would be slightly difficult to get large metal letters in the shape of newly released typefaces. One would have to get letters in something that had been around for a while. Something that factories had been putting out for a while, making in bulk. Something like Akzidenz Grotesk.

Mad Men art directors, I will never doubt you again.

Burn Down Sterling Cooper

Last nights Mad Men was a pretty fantastic episode, kinda like one extended scene from Oceans 11 or the Magnificent 7 where they try to get together a team of wacky cutups, each with their own talents a skills. Pete finally came out of his weasel bubble and demonstrated in an oddly sexy interaction with his wife that he had talent beyond just whining.

Joan was brought back the most awesome way possible.

Peggy finally stands up to Don.

Sally is the voice of truth yet again: You say things and don’t mean them. Don is an ad man. A constant liar. Damn right he says things and doesn’t mean them.

But the historical context of the episode is the most interesting. Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price set out on it own on December 13, 1963, declaring independence from its British overlords, which only seemed to treat it as a financial resource, worrying only about the short term. It is only appropriate that this comes smack dab between Kenya’s independence from Britain on December 12 and Zanzibar’s independence from Britain on December 19.

There is no real reason why the men of Sterling Cooper needed to break away. They would have been paid. They would have worked until they were fired. But they needed to be their own men, masters of their own kingdom, to manage and work as they see right, not merely worrying about the bottom line or profit.

They did not want to be mined for natural resources until nothing was left.

But if the histories of Kenya and Zanzibar show anything, its that the sudden burst of elation and creativity after declaring independence will fall into power struggles and internal conflict.

Just be wary of defense pacts with Ethiopia.

Burn Down John Deere

This week’s Mad Men wasn’t that exciting. The historical references, my favorite part, seemed forced. A conversation about Vietnam? That was really wedged in there. Maybe its because not much was really happening around this time. Later in July, there is the Seven Day scuffle in Vietnam, but not much.

There were a few interesting moments.

When the men from Putman, Powell and Loeb show up, Peggy is standing with the women secretaries, rather than with the men copywriters.

Kinsey the guitar when the men show up.

Lane Price being described as a snake charmer, counterposed with Don using the metaphor of snakes that suffocate because they try to swallow too much.

Sally’s look of terror when she hears that the present is from Baby Gene.

The real story of the episode was about Joan. While she seems to take everything in life with such grace and charm, we see her have a rare breakdown during her going away party. Her husband fails to become a surgeon. He’s not good at it. Her promised life fails to come forth as she is told that she needs to keep working. Because like many good shows on Tv today, Mad Men is about failure. The failed promise of the new future. And Joan suddenly realizes her own failed future.

Product placements: Ritz crackers, Dr. Pepper soda, Hilton Hotels, John Deere

Of course, the big bang of the episode was John Deere running over the new Guy’s foot. Apparently, the inability to play golf means that he’s out of the ad business forever. But having the blood spray everywhere? Was the scene directed by Tarantino?

However, maybe his loss is everyone else’s gain. Taking down the new guy at the top means everyone else goes up. And Joan jumping in as leader to save his life, though not his foot, may be a good excuse to rehire her.

The Hilton scene was interesting, but I can’t help but think that there is the whole underlying “Oh, if only these schmucks knew what the future had in store” sense that really permeates the show. His great-granddaughter is going to be Paris Hilton. Now there is top notch advertising right there.

According to Wikipedia, the in the next ep., Betty tries her hand at politics. And then two eps after that, she hosts a fundraiser. Will Betty get involved in the Goldwater campaign? She certainly seems like that sort of cold, overly protective housewife who fears the terrible Other. I’m worried about Law and Order! Inner city instigators are causing all the riots! Other Herblock cartoons

Burn Down Monks

Betty Draper’s dad died on June 11, 1963. This date is 8 days after the death of Pope John XXIII, upon which Peggy’s mom commented, and the date on which Thich Quang Duc burned himself to protest the Ngo Dinh Diem administration’s treatment of Buddhist monks.

One Catholic leader died, while another continues to slide the path towards his own.

Slate’s review (http://www.slate.com/id/2225274/entry/2227536/) complains about the “heavy-handed” death scene, with the adults sitting around the table, condemning their daughter’s emotional outburst while scenes of Vietnam air on the television.

But I think the real message was from what little Sally yelled: “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s really really gone, and he’s never coming back.”

Because the world is gone. The world as they knew it is gone. And it is never coming back. June 11 marks the day upon which the conflict in Vietnam first entered American living rooms. It is also the day when Alabama Governor George Wallace blocked the door of the University of Alabama to protest integration. And I’m sure there is something subtle about Vatican II and the death of John XXIII. The world is changing.

Like Betty, and her insistence that she is her father’s little girl when he attempts to talk about his end of life planning, these characters want to be treated like children and remain oblivious to the fact that the world is not static. They want to hide because it bothers them.

However, it will take the younger generation to implore upon them that their previous world is gone, gone, and never coming back. The gap between the adults and Sally will come forth full scale with the Vietnam and Civil Rights marches, with youth riots, and the rise of youth culture. Perhaps it all could have been avoided if Betty had just hugged her daughter upon receiving the news of grandpa’s death, rather than marching inside and closing the door behind her.

The coming conflicts become all the more apparent when one goes back and watches the conversation between Bobby and grandpa about war.

“War is bad.”

“Yeah, but it makes a man out of you.”

Given his age, Bobby (or at least kids his age) will end up serving in Vietnam. While Grandpa Gene may relish in his World War I years, despite how violent and pointless the war was, for some reason he can take pride from it. The only Vietnam vets who seem to love their time there are politicians who want it on their resume. 

What is the difference? Is Bobby’s generation more self-aware? Are Grandpa Gene’s senility and constant strokes a metaphor for his generation? Or was Vietnam just a different war?

As part of this conversation, Gene tries to give Bobby a German soldier hat from WWI, one of those hilarious stereotypes with the spike on top. However, Don tries to stop him. Despite the obvious parenting conflict, which is a large message of this episode, this scene has two interesting points. First, Don critiques the helmet as “a dead man’s hat.” As the Salon review says, Don is the one actually wearing a dead man’s hat, living under the stolen name from a fallen peer in the Korean War. Second, Gene backtracks from his comment of “here’s where I shot him,” (or something like that) pointing to the bullet hole, to saying that there were a lot of people shooting at a lot of other people, and he doesn’t know whether he got him or not. War is not a battle between men. 

And maybe that is why Don is so uncomfortable with war. He knows people. He knows the stories we want in our lives, our hopes, dreams, etc. But that is not what war is, despite the glamour that media and commerce throws upon it.

Anyways, I was going to comment on the parenting throughout the episode, but I think I’ll end here.