Mad Men and the City: "Three Sundays"
That's Don Draper wearing casual clothes during a rare Sunday in the office in a scene from the "Three Sundays" episode of "Man Men." (Via AMC)
For us at Urbanite, Sunday night at 10 is the magic hour, when our rapturous gaze is devoted squarely on the object of our affection: the latest installment of "Mad Men" on AMC.
As part of a new feature, "Mad Men and the City," we'll be writing about how period details involving New York City and its suburbs are treated in the scripts. After all, the show is so fastidious about getting every little thing right that it raises the bar on properly capturing New York as it was in the early 1960s.
Now, we have all of season one and several episodes of season two to contend with -- and we plan to blog them in due time -- but we begin with Sunday night's episode, called "Three Sundays." Spoilers lurk below, so proceed with caution. And please share your observations:
* Green-Wood Cemetery: A guest announces as she arrives for Sunday lunch with Peggy's family: "I went by Green-wood to visit my son." To which the obliging Father Gill, a new character, responds by expressing a desire to meet the son, completely oblivious to the fact that Green-Wood is a cemetery in Brooklyn. During lunch, Father Gill takes a shine to Peggy. Our take: Smooth insertion of a city landmark into everyday conversation. Nicely played by the writers.
* Fourth Avenue BMT/Brooklyn streetscape: When Peggy makes her excuses to leave the Sunday lunch, she says she has to catch the "Fourth Avenue BMT." Father Gill, sensing an opportunity to spend some alone time with Peggy, offers to drive her there. While parked outside of a Brooklyn streetscape, featuring a neon pizza sign, a shop called O'Mara News and a stationery store, Father Gill asks for Peggy's advice on delivering his big Palm Sunday sermon. That monsignor is a tough cookie, after all, so the young priest needs all the help he can get from a sharp Madison Avenue copywriter. Our take: Good use of the term BMT for Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corp. We do wonder whether she'd really say the name of the line, or merely the name of the station she had to go to. [Clarification: We know the terms IRT, IND and BMT were universally used, and still are by some, but something about its use here struck as forced.]
The Brooklyn streetscape tries hard to look of the period, and largely succeeds. The neon pizza sign is a little too self-conscious, and looks kind of '80s.
* Lutece: It's April of 1962, and the Mad Men crowd's place to eat and be seen is Lutece. The French standby opened in 1961 -- only the year before -- and people are still talking about whether "you've eaten there yet." Roger Sterling takes his latest extramarital conquest -- one he shelled out cash for -- to Lutece in a bid to impress, extend their date, and convince her to skip her next appointment. It's not the first time the restaurant has figured in the show. For the record, Lutece shuttered in 2004. Our take: This place became one of the "it" restaurants for celebs and the ladies who lunch crowd, so the obsession with Lutece so soon after it opened rings true.
* Church of the Holy Innocents: Through parish bulletins that mark the progress of the "Three Sundays" of the episode's title (Passion, Palm and Easter), we see that Peggy and family are parishioners of the Church of the Holy Innocents in Brooklyn (presumably in Flatbush). The actual church, by the way, now arranges the words differently: Holy Innocents Roman Catholic Church. Click here for more on the church. Our take: Pretty cool detail. And the bulletins are a clever device to mark time, but cover wording of church bulletins is rarely changed from week to week, at least in our experience.
The Pierre: The Fifth Avenue hotel where Roger Sterling and his wife, Mona, have their dream wedding. Well, her dream wedding. At dinner with his daughter and her fiance, Roger ratchets up the pressure for engagement to translate into marriage, and Mona reminisces on her own wedding. Our take: Good use of the Pierre, the place for debutante balls and other high-society affairs. One can't help but sympathize for Mona as she recalls her wedding ... Roger, after all, hasn't taken those vows too seriously.
Odds and ends:
* Duck and cover: A joke whose entirety we do not hear ends with the phrase "Duck and Cover," the old atomic-age campaign that urged kids to protect themselves from nuclear armageddon by hiding under their school desks. (Duck is also a character who tries -- tries -- to reel in the game-changing American Airlines account in the aftermath of Flight One's death plunge into Jamaica Bay on March 1, 1962.
* Princess-style phone flub: In their bedroom, the Drapers have a phone similar to the recently introduced Western Electric Princess. The ad campaign for it went: "It's Little, It's Lovely, It Lights!" (A campaign conceived by a real-life Peggy?) But alas, it's not a Princess phone, but a slightly different knock-off, most likely the Automatic Electric Starlite. The Ossining of 1962 was New York Telephone country, and the phone company would have installed a Princess phone.
* 18 bucks: That's what it costs to fix the phonograph Don's son broke.
* Candid Camera: The take-no-prisoners wife/manager of insult comedian Jimmy Barrett visits Don's office uninvited, with sex on the mind and an idea for a "Candid Camera" style show for Jimmy, called "Grin and Barrett." It's noted that ABC is reeling from losing the rights to "Candid," but the show was airing on CBS during this period. [See comments for an amplification on "Candid Camera."]
* Gorton's: A character is introduced who works for Gorton's frozen fish food company. Will the "Mad Men" crew work on the "Trust the Gorton's Fisherman" campaign? Hmm ...
-- Rolando Pujol