Mad Men: Tea Leaves OR Oh Shit, Betty’s Back.

Now we know why Betty wasn’t on camera for the season premiere.

They needed to find a wide angle lens.

*ba dum bum*

(And before I get a bunch of angry comments from people who can’t believe my insensitivity about women’s body image issues, let me be clear. IT. WAS. A. JOKE.)

Here’s my spoiler-free review:

This about says it all. But I've got some good jokes later, so keep reading.







For the rest of you, a few thoughts.

Saying, “I don’t like Betty Draper” is no great controversial statement. She’s the easy target of the show, the Carrot Top-ian rip on crappy stand-up comedians.

But I’ve liked characters who were worse people than she was.

Sam Malone. Tony Soprano. Dexter.

Hell, Don Draper is a worse person than she is.

It’s taken me a while to figure out WHY I have such a visceral repulsion and been able to articulate something more than, “Ugh. I hate her.”

Sunday night did it. The woman finds out she has some kind of growth on her thyroid.

We watch her go to the doctor. Break down over lunch with a friend. Wait to hear the results. Cancer, we think, back when people really didn’t use that word.

My wife, another fan of the show, said, “Maybe this will soften her.”

It would make sense, a good bit of writerly trick. Make the bad person sympathetic.

But that didn’t happen. The woman finds out that her growth is benign and is upset because she has the kind of cancer that “makes her fat.”

That’s when the lightbulb went off.

Betty Draper has never met a situation she couldn’t pout and stomp her foot at. I hate that in people, fictional or otherwise.

Don tells Roger that she’s sick.

Roger: “She’s a fighter.”

Don: “Come on.”

I loved that. Two lines of dialog that show how good of friends they’ve become.

Roger getting out of his normal snideness to try and offer some comfort. Don recognizing it for what it was: well-intentioned bullshit.

I’m really getting worried about Don’s career.

He’s so outside the youth culture, made completely obvious when he and Harry, of all people, try to meet the Rolling Stones. To pitch them an idea. To record a jingle. About Heinz beans.

For one, no way in hell, right? (Remember, this is well before bands saw commercials and American Idol and Dancing with the Stars as viable promotional outlets.)

For another, as Roger put it, “That’s a client idea if I’ve ever heard one.”  (It was.)

Don used to bristle at the very idea of anyone telling him what an idea should be, much less a client. Remember that pitch where the team was in the office all weekend and he was there with them? Remember when he said words to the effect of, “You’ve asked for my expertise. You’ve chosen to ignore it to continue doing what you’re doing. I’m not interested. You understand.” and walked out of a meeting?

I miss that Don. He’s not trying to be good. He’s just trying to get paid.

For another, he should have hopped a plane back to California and tried to pitch it to The Doors. Morrison, if you found him high or drunk enough, probably would have found it funny enough to do.

I think the only reason the show even put Don in this situation was for us to see his conversation with the nameless teenager backstage. He’s still smart. Still seeking insight. But he was bored with her flirtations, where a couple of years ago, maybe he wouldn’t have been.

I get the sense that new copywriter Michael Ginsberg, a plaid coat wearing, motor mouth Jewish kid in the mold of an early Woody Allen, is going to either up Don’s game or make him realize he just doesn’t have a place in this business anymore.

Speaking of which, Michael’s place that he shares with his father reminded me of Jack Lemmon’s pad in The Apartment.

In the days when romantic comedies were both romantic and funny, they looked like this.

Peggy doesn’t seem the one to play his Shirley McClain, but it looks like they are setting the two of them up for a tryst.

As usual, I have no idea what is going to happen next week.

Thanks, trailers.

Sometimes I wonder if that is Matthew Weiner’s comment on advertising.

30 seconds of tease that make you want to buy more of what he is selling.

How meta.

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