After watching the “Mad Men” premiere, I thought about it all night. I got up the next day, and I was still thinking about it. Here’s what grabbed me the most about “One Little Kiss,” the first episode in Season Five of the show’s much anticipated return.
I did not like the many, many commercials. By the second or third break, I was already counting the actual time the story played on screen and it was something like 10 minutes, compared with the first four seasons without commercials.
Now having them definitely breaks up the narrative.
I mean, “Homeland” doesn’t have any commercials and that unfolds perfectly. Even though I’ve become pretty proficient in fast forwarding, this was not pretty. Didn’t care for it at all.
The year is 1966, the week surrounding Memorial Day and the civil rights movement is in full swing. The two-hour presentation opened with employees at rival Y&R (Young & Rubicam) bombing black protesters from above with water-filled paper bags.
“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner has been pretty regularly lambasted for not having any blacks at all on the show. But to finally show some minorities in this manner wasn’t pretty at all.
When the show flashed to Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) going into father Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) bedroom, and catching him in the act with his new bride Megan Draper’s, née Calvet, (Jessica Paré) backside in the air, I knew we we’re off to another dazzling season.
I don’t know whether it was the 17-or-so month layoff, but as we greeted each character one-by-one, the pacing was languid and the plot meandered. I’ve never encountered that before on “Mad Men.” Even as Don dropped his kids off at Betty Draper’s, (January Jones) well, he just seemed bugged.
Creator Weiner whom I first met on the set of HBO’s smash “The Sopranos” is one crafty cat. Negotiating this and that, lambasting the media, and all the while creating one of the best scripted shows ever; he continues to confound.
He always said that the clues to the season finale are all addressed in the season’s first show. If that’s so–and, I’m sure it is-then the fact that Don has just turned 40 and feels every inch of it will be the undoing of his current familial peace.
My favorite episodes of the show always seemed to have to do with Don doing the unexpected; be it taking off for L.A. with a bunch of fellow wayward souls or further exploring taboo areas like a dalliance with his son’s teacher or his true identity as Dick Whitman.
Hamm is utterly sublime as Draper; weaving an irresistible web of intrigue. As John Slattery said “What is there too feel bad about.”
In fact, I’ve never seen the corporate offices so happy and, yet, so boring. It’s almost as if everyone’s waiting for a fire to ignite them all, and I’m sure it will.
In one of three brilliant set-pieces, Don’s wife Megan throws him a 40th birthday party, even though he tells her that was weeks ago. She replies that it was Dick Whitman’s birthday, revealing that she does know some of his secrets!
For her gift she sings a dazzling version of the French song, “Zou Bisou Bisou,” Both Gillian Hills and Sophia Loren had popularized the tune in films around 1960. It was an astonishing performance with a bit of burlesque thrown in.
Don’s expression was priceless and the moment was forever burned into Mad Men memories. Amazing, it was the show’s most-watched episode ever! It’s a terrific piece of continuing work for sure.
For those who haven’t watched the first four seasons, catch up; this show is that good.
Names in the News
Tom Silverman, Robert Funaro, Race Taylor, Tony Noto, Mark and June Alpert, Rebecca Bruder, Bill Schill, Curtis Urbina, Jerry Lembo, Cory Robbins, Manny Bella, Freddy Bastone, Dayme, Drew Pizzo, Steve Walters, Peter Abraham, Chip