Friday, July 12, 2024

Mad Men: Young & Rubicam Racism Was Even More Recent


“Mad Men” is back, and I’m elated. A two hour opening episode set on June 1, 1966 brought back everyone except Betty Draper–actress January Jones was on maternity leave. Its central kicker involved race. A bunch of young associates at Young & Rubicam dropped water “balloons” on black civil rights protesters on the sidewalk below them. There’s no ready anecdote of such a thing happening–maybe someone from Y&R will remember such a thing.

But in Peter Georgescu’s memoir, “The Source of Success,” he recalls firing a bunch of young associates for racism not in 1966 but more recently–for forwarding around a racist email. Georgescu, the long time head of Y&R, dismissed them reluctantly. “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner no doubt got inspiration for his scene opener from this story. And it’s a comment about how little things have changed on Madison Avenue from 1966 to the early 2000s. It also provided a subplot with a last minute kicker that worked like a charm.

Otherwise, “Mad Men” is back to business. Megan danced to Sophia Loren’s kitschy hit, “Zoo Bisou Bisou,” which was perfect. (It’s from the 1960 movie “The Millionairess”–the track was produced by a -pre-Beatles George Martin.) I loved Pete’s sadness at having to move to the suburbs. And what the heck is going on with Lane? Jared Harris is getting a meaty story–where is he spending all his money? A couple of things that don’t quite make sense: Roger sees Joan’s baby, but has little reaction to it. He knows he’s the father, doesn’t he? And the uncomfortable moment for Pete and Peggy with the baby in the room–it just seems odd that their history is never addressed.

Nevertheless, “Mad Men” is very welcome in its return. Having his secrets known doesn’t seem to make Don any more agreeable. And how long before Megan’s tensions at the office boil over into something more–like her exit? What verities we did get out of this episode: that a white carpet is hard to keep clean, a metaphor perhaps.

Anyway, “A Little Kiss” was a good way to bring everyone back after a long absence. There will be enough rough road ahead, I’m sure.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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