Mad Men and the City: The New Girl
Newly engaged Joan Holloway helps out Don's latest secretery -- The New Girl" of the episode's name -- on her first day on the job. The boys are soon all over her. (Via AMC).
Welcome to our second edition of Mad Men and the City, Urbanite's weekly look at AMC's "Mad Men" as seen through the prism of New York and American history and culture. As always, spoilers lurk below, so proceed with care. And please share your observations in the comments:
* Lenox Hill -- As Pete Campbell and his wife, Trudy, discuss with a doctor their inability to have a child, Trudy enthusiastically mentions the wonders of Lenox Hill Hospital. Her theory that Pete is the reason there are no little ones running around their posh Upper East Side apartment is deflated later in the episode, when a test finds his sperm to be quite motile. (Of course, the viewer -- and Peggy -- know this already!) As you might imagine, their fragile relationship takes a blow, and Pete unsurprisingly is remarkably insensitive to Trudy's pain. As he lashes out at her, she's the one running around saying I'm sorry. (Sorry Pete, taking her out to dinner won't quite make things right.) Our take: Smart, casually inserted mention of Lenox Hill, a New York institution which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.
* Sardi's -- Bobbie Barrett telephones Don Draper from Theater District institution Sardi's, and asks him to come over and celebrate. The pilot for "Grin and Barrett," which she pitched in last week's episode, has been sold. As usual, Bobbie gets what Bobbie wants, and Don is soon at Sardi's, where she orders him an Old Fashioned and suggests a trip out to her place on Long Island. Don, of course, obliges. Our take: Sardi's is one of our favorite places in the city, largely for its history and its ties to a vanishing world, which "Mad Men" is very much a part of. While nothing would replace actually shooting at Sardi's, the scene is well handled. The camera captures just enough of the Sardi's-style celebrity caricatures that paper the restaurant's walls to establish that we are indeed at Sardi's. And that's enough for us.Whenever we go to Sardi's before a Broadway show, we amuse ourselves with a game of decipher the celebrity caricature (or more often than not, figure out who this once-famous person was.) The scene there was nicely handled.* Grey -- Could the Rachel Mencken story line still have some legs? It appears so. While at Sardi's, Don has an incredibly awkward run-in with his old flame, who was so damaged by their affair's end that she had to leave the country to recover. Flash forward two years, and he finds out the hard way that she's no longer Ms. Mencken, she's MRS. Katz, and Mr. Katz is their to underline the point. We find out that the Mencken Department Store account is now being handled by Grey when Don drops this gem: "How are things at Grey? Are they still taking credit for everything we did?" Zing! Our take: Effortless name drop of Grey Advertising, now called the Grey Group, which has a commanding presence at 777 Third Ave, a building where Sterling and Cooper would feel right at home. By the early 1960s, Grey was heavily involved in work for big-fish advertisers such as Proctor and Gamble, but we'll assume it was conceivable the company would take an interest in reviving a tired Fifth Avenue department store.
* Stony Brook -- So the Barretts have a place in that Long Island community, and that's where Don and Bobbie are headed when he gets into a boozy wreck that leaves him in the drunk tank, needing $150 to avoid a night in the slammer. He calls Peggy Olson, who becomes this episode's Ms. Fix It: She helps him make bail, takes in the injured Bobbie in her cramped Brooklyn apartment, and all around shows a fierce loyalty to Don. Of course, we already know that Don has helped propel her career. But now we learn much more about their relationship during a crucial flashback sequence to a visit he pays her at St. Mary's, where she is hospitalized after giving birth. He tells her: "Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much this never happened." That's Don's credo, and in the same episode, Bobbie shares her credo with Peggy: Use your feminine wiles and treat a man like an equal. Powerful stuff. But back to Stony Brook, we like this reference for many reasons. Chief among them: it reminds us of one our favorite movies, "North by Northwest," a film whose DNA "Mad Men" taps. That movie also features a boozy drive on the Island's North Shore, with Cary Grant at the wheel. There's also a stop at a Long Island police station, and the need to call New York for help. Here, Peggy Olson replaces Roger Thornhill's "mother," played brilliantly by Jessie Royce Landis. Our take: No quibbles here: The Stony Brook reference helped give life to an interesting plot twist.
* Marilyn, John, and breathy birthday wishes at Madison Square Garden -- We know it's now May 1962, because we hear a casual reference to Saturday's big event: Marilyn Monroe will be at President John F. Kennedy's fund-raising birthday bash at Madison Square Garden. The matter comes up in conversation between Bobbie and Peggy. "Most people would love to have her problems," Peggy says. They wouldn't feel that way three months later, when Marilyn died. Our take: Just a great line; these little carefully selected treats are among the reasons we love this show so much. Of course, we're still talking about the show Marilyn put on for JFK that night at MSG, which back in those days was still at 50th Street and Eighth Avenue.
* Idlewild -- JFK keeps coming up in this episode. Well, quite indirectly here, but Idlewild will eventually be renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in honor of the slain president. Kennedy's death is still a year and a half away at this point in the series. The airport's name comes up when discussing where Don might be able to rent a car after he wrecks his own out on Long Island. Our take: It's one of those nuggets that New Yorkers with a taste for history love to share: JFK was once called Idlewild Airport, the name of a golf course where the airfield was built in the 1940s. Its name is immortalized in the theme song to "Car 54, Where Are You?", which is from the "Mad Men" era. (Khrushchev's due at Idlewild!) Our take: Idlewild is a word that represents a clear and emotional demarcation in the nation's life, and the casual use of it here is powerful and noticeable.
* St. Mary's -- Peggy is hospitalized here when she gives birth. The only St. Mary's we know of in Brooklyn closed in 2005. It was the last Catholic hospital in that borough, which would make it a logical place for Peggy to be a patient. Our take: The real St. Mary's was in Bed-Stuy. Not sure if this would have the closest or most logical hospital for Peggy to attend. But we're simply not sure if our quibble here holds water.
Odds and Ends
* Utz -- Utz potato chips make a return appearance when a grateful Jimmy Barrett makes a personal visit to thank Don for his role in talking Utz into sponsoring his show. Oh, little does Jimmy know the back story that involves Bobbie and Don, but we can only imagine what will happen if (or when) he finds out.
* Western Electric 500 phone -- Last week we knocked the show for using a make of phone that would not have been available for customers in Ossining, the Drapers' hometown. Peggy's home phone, a yellow 500 rotary set, is spot on. The cords are hardwired, and the one going to the wall is a matching color. And by the way, nice going Peggy on the apartment! The roommate is gone and she has her own pad, a hard-fought milestone for the character.
* Fuzzy TV images -- Back in the day, crystal clear reception in the big city was no guarantee, and Peggy's TV is testament to that. (Fuzzy TV reception was amply used in the episode when the Sterling and Cooper staff awaits the televised results of the Nixon-Kennedy election, back in season one.)
-- Rolando Pujol
Must-read "Mad Men" blogs:
Basket of Kisses
Television Without Pity forum
Scenes from the episode:
A drive to Long Island