Posted on June 3rd, 2014 4 comments
With MAD MEN coming to a series finale sometime in 2015, we’ve got plenty of time to speculate on how it might end. Will it end at 11:59 pm on December 31, 1969? Will there be another “watershed” moment like the passing of Burt Cooper? Or will the characters just go on with their lives, with the ending not really being an ending at all, but just another day that ends with a black frame in the middle of a senten…?
Just for fun I came up with five possible (but not very likely) endings to the final episode of MAD MEN. I say not very likely because I’m going to give the MAD MEN writers more credit than this article anticipates. These are just kind of silly, fun, just-for-the-hell of it ideas. I have a feeling the real finale is going to be incredible. Until then…
Let’s assume that Season 7-B kicks off not long after the final scene of the mid-season finale: SC&P has been purchased by McCann, Cutler is gone, Chaough is back, Buick is the newest big boy in town and things are running smoothly with Don at the creative helm while Roger learns what it’s like to actually lead a group of crazies.
Let’s also assume that although they are now millionaires, Pete and Joan stay on at the agency (seems practical).
1. Life Can Turn on a Dime
The episode starts out with the characters doing their usual bickering, lying, cheating, whining…and collaborating. There’s a huge pitch that will define the future of the agency…maybe IBM, or even NASA. Roger puts the whole thing together and gambles the entire company on this pitch…if they get it, they’re guaranteed 10 years of high-profile, high-income work. If they fail, for some reason or another they will lose Buick, and the company will not only destroy itself, it will cut McCann off at the knees.
Don, along with Peggy, is confident they have nothing to fear. The ideas are great, and they’ve got that cool new computer to help things along. Then, similar to the mid-season finale, death strikes at the last minute. This time it’s Roger, finally succumbing to too much booze and oysters. He has a heart attack on his way to the jet, and without him the deal is off. SC&P, embroiled in whatever scandal has been created, folds like a cheap suit, McCann loses its shirt, and everyone loses their jobs and respect in the industry. The partners are ok, because they’ve raked in all that cash from the sale, but people like Peggy and Harry are stuck with their bills, unable to get work anywhere in NYC because of the “scandal”. Don is also affected by this…he knows he’ll never work in advertising again, so, as he’s done in the past, he packs up, says screw you to every one around him, and reinvents himself.
Fast forward to 1975: Don sitting behind a desk, wearing a leisure suit and sporting long sideburns and a bushy mustache. Behind him is a blown-up cover of a men’s magazine (like, but not quite, Playboy; we can’t see the name). A voice sizzles across an intercom: “Mr. Whitman, there’s a Ms. Olson here to see you about the journalist position.”
He smiles. “Send her in,” he says in typical Don fashion, as the camera pans out to show his office is actually huge, with wall-to-ceiling windows overlooking The Valley, back in CAL.
2. Don Causes Yet Another Suicide – and the meaning of the introduction is revealed
Everyone knows Ted Chaough is not a happy man. Whether it was his involvement with Peggy, a mid-life crisis, or just plain boredom, Ted is ready to check out of advertising for good when he’s manhandled back into it by good ole’ Don Draper.
Wealthy but unhappy, and forced to work with Peggy once again, Ted begins to spiral way down while Don becomes more and more successful, more popular than ever, and the obvious choice as best creative director in the business. He forces Ted to do some dirty work on Buick, and even forces him to go on the pitch…but Ted has had enough. He misses the pitch, causing fires that Don has a hard time putting out. He tries to resume his affair with Peggy and gets caught by his wife; possibly the millions he made on the sale of the agency is squandered in bad investments. Penniless and alone, he goes to Don for help…to release him from the agency with a company loan, maybe the exact same amount Lane needed? But Don refuses…Don needs him to retain Buick, and tells Ted if doesn’t get in gear, he won’t see another penny. This is the “Don doesn’t learn” part of the episode.
Later, Don needs to go to his (Lane’s) old office to get something…sees the METS pennant and is reminded of what he’s done…but it’s too late. He rushes to Chaough’s office, only to find the window open with Ted perched on the edge…before Don can stop him he jumps, with briefcase in hand…down 30 stories. We follow him down, and as he falls the intro music swells and the background turns into the graphics from the introduction. It’s Ted that’s been falling all along, now finally for one last time. Cut to Don sitting in his office, smoking, arm draped over back of sofa, screams and sobs in the background. Cut to black.
3. The Late 1960s-Style Everything Sucks Ending
The final show is filmed very much in the style of “The Midnight Cowboy”. Very gritty, dark, realistic. Lots of outdoor shots of NYC at the time. Trash everywhere. Dirty cabs. Hookers. Grime. Something during the last half of the season has brought Don to a bad part of life and a bad part of town. He’s alone, as he has lost all contact with Megan, his kids, pretty much anyone who ever meant anything to him. He’s walkin’ here…it’s winter, hands stuffed in overcoat pockets, shoulders shrugged up to warm his face. He enters an abandoned building. Ginsburg is there, huddled over a can of Sterno, heating up some soup. He’s dirty, shaking, obviously insane. “I know you. How did you find me?” Ginsburg asks. “A friend of Peggy,” is Don’s only answer. Don tells him he wants to help him. If he wants work, he’ll give him work. If he needs to go to a hospital, Don will pay. He convinces Ginsburg to come with him. He wants to help him…to save him, because there’s no one else in his life that wants his charity.
They go out on the street together; Ginsburg sees an ad for an IBM computer on a bus stop, and hallucinates Don is a robot about to laser him. He screams, pulls a knife, stabs Don in the chest. Don looks surprised and confused, but not angry. As he falls to the ground with the knife (ironically a Korean war-era military knife), he sees a billboard that he designed: Puffy white clouds, a man with a harp, the slogan: “Florsheim Shoes: One Step Closer To Heaven”. Fade to white.
4. The Disappearing Act, Take One
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1970. There are a lot of clocks in the episode, for, you know, symbolism. There is a feeling of some kind of “count down” other than just the obvious. Things are going great for Don, for the agency. Peggy has actually surpassed him in terms of gaining new business and coming up with award-winning ideas. He is proud of her.
At some point he is reminded of Burt’s farewell song, “The Best Things in Life are Free”. Now a multi-millionaire, and knowing he is becoming outdated in this modern world, he decides a major change is needed. He talks with Roger only, tells him to promote Peggy to Creative Director and partner, and says goodbye. Roger is the only one who knows what he is doing.
As the countdown to midnight begins, we see Don meet up with a stranger.
“We got the fifty thousand,” the stranger says. “It’s good to know my wife and kids will be set for life, thanks again.”
“Just two people helping each other,” Don says, and they drive off together in the Cadillac. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“The cancer will take me in a few months anyway. It’s better for my family this way.”
In a rural area of upstate New York, the stranger swallows a bottle of sleeping pills and downs them with whiskey. After he passes out, Don puts him in the driver’s seat, puts his own wallet in his pocket, soaks him down with the rest of the liquor and pushes the car off the side of a mountain. Flames…and Don Draper is, for all purposes, dead, burned beyond recognition. Don walks along the deserted road until he comes to a roadside diner. He orders a coffee. The waitress asks his name. “Dick,” he says then looks straight at the camera, “Dick Whitman.”
5. The Disappearing Act, Take Two
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1970. There are a lot of clocks in the episode, for, you know, symbolism. There is a feeling of some kind of “count down” other than just the obvious. Things have fallen apart very quickly for Don. Megan decides she wants everything he has, and he is about to lose almost everything in the divorce. He has run out of creative ideas and is being trampled by people who McCann has inserted into the company. Roger has lost all interest, and all control of the company, deciding to live out his days as a playboy. Ted is threatening to sue, because he was harassed into staying on for five years; Don starts drinking again, disgusting Peggy, his only real friend left. On top of that, the agency has become the laughing stock of the industry for attempting to push Don’s 10-year-old, outdated and lackluster ad campaigns, as opposed to using the more modern and interesting campaigns that Peggy and Ted wanted to use.
Don knows it’s over. The agency is about to crash and burn. His talents are outdated, no matter how hard he tries. He is farther than ever from his kids, and he’s about to hand over millions to Megan, who has become vindictive and mean.
Then Megan (you’re going to love this) is murdered while at a party in an actress’ house in LA (Had to throw that in), by what appears to be a hippy cult that includes Roger’s daughter Margaret, and Dick Whitman’s niece, Stephanie. When caught, Margaret (AKA Marigold) starts rambling in a heroin-induced rant that Don and her father told them to carry out the murders. Don is momentarily implicated, and it looks like he may be arrested at any moment.
He’s had enough. On his lunch hour he goes to the bank and withdrawals his entire fortune…let’s say, ten million? In cash…puts it in a briefcase, gets in his 1969 Cadillac Eldorado, and just takes off. No good byes, no explanations. From the back, we watch the Cadillac driving out of New York, through fields of corn and wheat, over mountains, through California. Then we see the back of an airplane over the Pacific in the same way.
Cut to Don, sitting on the lanai of a beach house in Hawaii, a little older, a little wiser. He is alone, sipping a cocktail and looking out over the ocean. A large carved Tiki stands next to him. Bee Gees music plays faintly in the background. A beautiful young blonde with a deep tan and a very skimpy bikini comes up behind him, hugs him. “I’m going for a swim baby, want to come?” “Maybe later,” he replies, “I’ve got an idea for something.” She laughs. “For a retired millionaire, you sure do spend a lot of time “working” (yes, she uses air quotes). The camera follows her as she runs down to the beach, loses the top and jumps in the ocean, then pans down to Don’s lap, where he has a sketch pad and pencil. On it is a quick sketch of the beach, and a pair of sandals. “Your Jumping Off Point” is scrawled across the top. Suddenly Don jumps up, runs to the water, tosses off his shirt and shoes and jumps in with the beautiful girl. A disco version of “The Best Things In Life Are Free” comes up, and we see Don and his new “Betty” frolicking in the waves as the credits run.
Well, those are a few ways it might end. It might also end with the entire cast doing “I Believe in You” from “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”. Who knows. We do know this: However it ends, Mathew Weiner will make sure it’s great.
Posted on April 13th, 2014 No comments
Tonight starts a bittersweet journey through the final 12 episodes of MAD MEN, arguably one of the best dramas ever to be transmitted over the airwaves. Sweet, because we get to enjoy another season of Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. Bitter, because it’s the last time we’ll get to enjoy Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. And to make it a little more bitter, AMC has decided to split the season in half: Six episodes will be aired this year, with the remaining six to be aired sometime next year. (Era-appropriate note: Cold war era audiences would not stand for such nonsense, as it was never a given that there would be a “next year”.)
Matthew Weiner has given us a tiny glimpse into the very end. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “What has really been the pressure this year, no matter what happens, is that these people are going to end this season frozen in time. That’s the last time we see them.”
But let’s not dwell on the impeding end. Let’s talk about how we can celebrate this fantastic piece of yesteryear, right now, in the present. So here are some Tiki Lounge Talk suggestions on how to make tonight’s premier a little more fun, and a little more exciting.
Cocktails (of course): Martinis, Manhattan, Screw Drivers…the most popular drinks of the 1950s were also very popular at the end of the ’60s, but there are a few new ones that you can add to your menu, including…
The Emma Peel
The tough honey from The Avengers TV series earned her own cocktail. Just add a cherry to a champagne flute, mix 1 oz chilled cherry brandy and 1 oz chilled pineapple juice and top with champagne.
Southern Comfort Manhattan
Two oz So Co, one oz sweet vermouth and three cherries, on the rocks.
The Hippie Cocktail
1 oz. Gin, 1 oz. Peach schnapps, 0.5 oz. dry vermouth, 1 tbs. Grenadine, 3 oz. Ginger ale
Put a half lemon wheel, half lime wheel, half orange wheel in a large old fashioned glass, and half fill with ice. Mix it up so the fruit is suspended in the ice. In a shaker add all ingredients except the ginger ale, with ice. Shake and strain into the glass, top with ginger ale. Garnish with a daisy.
Dinner: TV dinners were as popular as ever in the late 1960s…possibly even more popular than the ’50s, as more people watched the tube and had less time to cook. I wonder if any of these still come in tinfoil trays?
Attire: This is a big event, so you should be dressed for the occasion. Resist the temptation to throw on ripped jeans and a tie-died t-shirt. Believe it or not, people were still dressing up in the late 1960s. Most restaurants wouldn’t allow gentleman to dine without a jacket and tie, and many frowned upon pantsuits for the ladies. Business attire still meant black, blue or gray conservative suits for the men (even if they could get away with some colorful, double-breasted, wide-lapeled beauties at the track) and long dresses or skirts for women. Of course this was also the heyday of the Mod era, so if you’ve still got that Austin Powers costume you bought in 1998, break it out!
Snacks: After the TV dinner, you’re going to want some ’60s style snacks to get you through the rest of the hour. If you want to be era-accurate, you just have to stick with the traditional things: Plain potato chips, corn chips, mixed nuts, homemade onion dip, melted Velveeta and salsa dip, Doritos (invented in 1964) and pretzels. Stay away from anything too modern like Bugels, or things that promise “extreme” flavors…although it was an era of extremes, they never called it that.
For more reading, there’s a good, non-spoiler article on the Mad Men Season 7 Premier at The Hollywood Reporter.
-Tiki Chris Pinto, reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar
Posted on March 26th, 2014 No comments
“Happy Days” first aired in 1974. It took place in the mid 1950s, about 20 years earlier. The nostalgia centered around the “good old days” when big fins, Rock n Roll, drive in diners and poodle skirts defined America. It was an homage to a happy-go-lucky time in America’s history (if you ignore Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and segregation), a time best remembered for pink and black motifs, big fast cars, cool dudes and hot chicks. It was also the era of modern architecture, cool jazz and cocktails, but those elements rarely made it into this mainstream-pop TV show.
The Fonz was an icon, but also an enigma: A street-tough, greaser/biker who was into fast cars (and faster women), yet was also an intelligent, fairly well spoken and surprisingly respectful adult. Google how and why that character evolved, there are some interesting stories behind it.
Now to blow your minds…
- “Happy Days” premiered FORTY YEARS AGO. It’s theme song was “Rock Around The Clock”, then was changed to “Happy Days” later.
- If this show were to be made today, it would be reminiscing back to 60 years ago. Which means a 60-year-back nostalgia show at the time Happy Days premiered would have been about World War One.
Also if this show were made today:
- The Fonz would look like Kurt Cobain, Potsy and Ralph would be dressed in grunge, and Richie would dress like Chandler on Friends (Which, by the way, came out in 1994)
- Instead of jalopies, the kids would be driving 1980s Honda Civics Ford Tauruses.
- The jukebox would play Nirvana, Boyz II Men, Micheal Bolton and Snoop Doggy Dog,
- Instead of hanging out at the diner, they would be hanging out at a coffee shop.
- The Fonz would work at a Jiffy Lube.
- Richie’s dad wouldn’t own a hardware store, as it would have been put out of business by the big-box stores. He’d be an assistant manager at one of them, using a third of his paycheck to pay off his debts after being driven out of business. Richie would go to community college on a Pell grant.
- Joanie would have listened to Madonna and would have loved reruns of The Cosby Show.
- And last but not least, instead of singing “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” Richie would go around singing “Whoomp, There It Is!”
-Tiki Chris reporting from the TV room at Tiki Lounge Talk. If you dig the 1950s, check out one of my Detective Bill Riggins mystery books, all of which take place or flash back to the Decade of Pink Dreams.
Posted on June 24th, 2013 1 comment
Warning: Contains Spoilers.
Well, the sixth season of MAD MEN came to a close a couple of hours ago, and honestly, although I dug the season as a whole, I thought the finale was a bit of a let down.
Why, you ask? Why, when it was full of insane twists…Pete’s Mother missing at sea, Pete blowing the Chevy account because he couldn’t drive stick (and getting thrown under the bus…or the Camaro..by Bob), Don’s ousting, Peggy & Ted’s on-impulse affair…
Yeah, juicy stuff, for a mid-season episode. Places to come back from, or look ahead from.
But by no means did this season finale pack the creative and artistic wallop of last year’s closing. Remember, at the end of the episode, when Don literally walked off the set, out of Megan’s life, and into a bar where we pretty much new he was going to be up to his old tricks? Remember the music, “You Only Live Twice” swelling in time with his heavy footfalls as he walked past the cameras and set pieces?
Yeah, none of that.
Instead, we get a very flat, very dull ousting by the same people who have always supported Don, including Joan, who basically owed everything to him (well, a lot anyway) and Coop, who would have certainly had a 30-second heart to heart with Don quoting some Japanese culture or Ayne Rand book before even considering giving Don a leave, temporary or not. Then we cut to the same old tired scene of Roger trying to get back into Joan’s skirt, with Bob cutting the turkey like he lives at Joan’s, then Don acting like nothing ever happened, driving his kids, in his Cadillac, hours out of the way to whatever-the-hell small town in PA he lived in to show the dilapidated whorehouse to Sally and her brothers. It ends with that crappy Judy Collins song, “Both Sides Now”, which is so far out of the Mad Men/Don Draper spirit of things that it might as well have been (insert anything by Hendrix, Joplin or the Stones here).
Yep. No cool cinematography, no really extreme meltdown to cause the partners to vote Don out, no incredible revelation by Don that he’s done something awful. Nope. Just some luke-warm “I’m drinking too much” (again), a luke-warm argument with Megan when he tells her he screwed her career royally, a luke-warm response to him getting basically fired from the company he created, a luke-warm response to – of all people – Duck Phillips, ushering in who will probably be his replacement, and a luke-warm look at his old stomping grounds, the friendly neighborhood brothel.
Sorry guys, but I expected a lot more.
Maybe I didn’t really expect Megan to wind up murdered in a Sharon Tate-esque scenario (which is all the buzz now), although I thought there was another hint to that when Don decided to move them to LA. Maybe I didn’t think there would be some major scene where Don gives Chaw the ultimate screw-over by somehow outing his and Peggy’s affair.
What I did expect was showmanship. “Just the kind of theater that makes their work so different”, as that new guy from Ted’s company who no one ever remembers his name said in the Hershey meeting. So what the hell happened?
First of all: Why did Don get ousted? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, he said some stupid things at the Hershey meeting. But Don is known for saying inappropriate things to clients and potential clients. If this were really an issue, he would have been fired in Season Two. So why now? Especially after doing something so nice for Ted. Wouldn’t Ted, in return for allowing him to go to LA, have nixed the idea of forcing Don out? He’s still a full partner, just like Don…which brings up another point: DON IS A FULL PARTNER. Seems he would have had a bit more of a say in the matter. Maybe not much, but more than just turning around and leaving.
And what about Peggy? Really, Peggy? Acting on her feelings for Ted, a married man with two kids? Parading around in an outfit that made her look like she was ready to jump out of a cake in 1956? Then sleeping with him? Then getting mad when he said, for the 80th time, that he loves his wife and the whole thing was a mistake? Just doesn’t seem very Peggy like. Just doesn’t.
Wow! This rant went on a lot longer than I expected. I guess I am more disappointed in this finale than I thought I’d be. It’s late, and I’m sure this is full of typos which I will fix in the morning. For now, here’s just one idea that they could have gone with, instead of the luke-warmy-ness that this season ended on:
• Sally does something much worse than buying beer. Maybe she and her friends get drunk and steal, and wreck a car. Sally’s ok, but in jail. This is a sign of Sally’s teen rebellion, brought on by the times, and of course Don’s award-winning parenting.
• Ted gets in much deeper with Peggy, to the point that we really feel his life will fall to pieces if he stays in town. Don is his only hope. Don refuses to help him at first…but realizes that he might have another suicide on his hands if he doesn’t change his mind quick, so he does. This gives Don a real, strong reason to stay in NYC, while completely screwing over Megan.
• Don does some specific things to piss off Roger, maybe Joan, maybe that other guy who no one ever remembers his name. Specifics, not blowing a meeting with Hershey, a company he never thought would advertise in the first place. Maybe he jeopardizes Chevy. Maybe there are further repercussions from Jaguar. Something strong that would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
• While trying to help Sally, help Ted and help Megan, he blows up everything…maybe Megan finds out about his affair (from Sally?); gives the partners (including Ted) that very good reason to give him a “leave of absence”; Sally blames his behavior for her problems; Megan tells him that she will live in LA anyway and that they are basically separated. The episode ends with the irony that Don is finally trying to fix the problems he’s created, only to be thrown aside by the same people he is (finally) trying to help. The final scenes are of each of these people forcing him out of their lives, until he finds himself in a dark bar, nursing an Old Fashioned. The camera flies in slowly from behind him, and we see he is writing new ideas…maybe for a knock-out ad campaign for Hershey…on a napkin. The music playing? “That’s Life” by Sinatra. Yeah.
Posted on June 4th, 2013 9 comments
Fans of MAD MEN know that music plays a fairly important role in the series, but when it comes to individual characters, music generally takes a backseat.
So, I was wondering what kind of albums the character of Don Draper might have on hand. We’ve heard him play classical music at a dinner party; we know he doesn’t dig the Beatles. But that’s about it.
So what kind of music does Don Draper dig?
I think, in order to answer that question, first we need to answer, “What kind of music does Don NOT like?”
Well, lets take a look at his past: He grew up in the 30s & 40s, when big bands played the most popular music in the country. There were swing bands and sweet bands, and they dominated the music scene. It’s safe to say that big band swing and jazz were probably what Don heard most as he was growing up, along with more “localized” music that probably included country/western and folk. Since he considers his childhood a complete bust, I’m going to lay my chips on big band, jazz vocals, folk and country/western as being the kind of music that Don Draper (well, Dick Whitman, actually) hates with a passion. Hell, he might even go into a cationic fit whenever he hears “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” for all we know.
It’s also a safe bet that Don wouldn’t be into Rock ‘n’ Roll. Let’s face it – Rock ‘n’ Roll was considered “kids music” back in the 1950s, and had a very small adult following. Don was already an adult (in his 20s) when he was in Korea (somewhere between 1951 and 1953), so like most men of the era, he probably dismissed RnR as kiddie pop.
Don has never showed us a side of him where he sits and listens to sophisticated music, whether it be jazz or classical, for the pleasure of it. He sits in front of the tube a lot, but we never see him play an album (except for the Beatles song, which he completely dismissed). So it’s probably safe to say that he has never really bought a record for the enjoyment of the music. Unlike Meghan, who’s life revolves around music and acting, for his character, it’s just not that big of a deal.