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  • MAD MEN Season Six Finale – A little disappointed

    Posted on June 24th, 2013 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments
    Mad Men  - What the hell???

    Mad Men - What the hell???

    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.

  • MAD MEN: Don Draper’s Record Collection

    Posted on June 4th, 2013 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 9 comments
    1950's Admiral Hi-Fi. I owned this exact model from aroun 1985 to 2000. Miss it.

    1950's Admiral Hi-Fi. I owned this exact model from aroun 1985 to 2000. Miss it.

    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.
    mantovani-candelight
    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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • The Old Fashioned: This Week’s Retro Cocktail Recipe

    Posted on May 17th, 2013 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    old-fashioned-cocktailWith Season Six of MAD MEN in full swing, I thought I’d (finally) feature the favorite cocktail of Creative Director Don Draper,

    The Old Fashioned

    Truly old fashioned, this drink has roots that go back to the early 1800s when, according to some historians, the “cock tail” was a drink made with liquor, water, sugar and a few drops of bitters. It’s been said that the addition of citrus came during prohibition, to hide the taste of cheap booze.

    The version that Don drinks was the cocktail that dominated swanky lounges and corner bars alike, a cool combination of rye whiskey, bitters and soda with citrus. This is the Old Fashioned that we’ve come to expect, and love. If you want an older version of the Old Fashioned, leave out the citrus and the soda.

    Ingredients

    1 sugar cube
    3 dashes of bitters
    2 teaspoons water
    1 strip lemon zest
    1 small wedge orange
    2 maraschino cherries
    Ice, as needed
    2 ounces rye (or Bourbon. Bourbon is a little sweeter. Canadian Club has a lot of rye, and works very well)
    Club soda
    Cherry for garnish

    Don Draper pondering his favorite booze

    Don Draper pondering his favorite booze

    Add the sugar cube to the bottom of an old fashioned glass, then add the water and bitters to it. Place the lemon zest, orange wedge and one cherry in the glass. Use a bar spoon to gently muddle the cube into the liquids so the sugar will begin to dissolve. (Note: Some people prefer to leave out the cherry). Use the back of the spoon to coat the bottom sides of the glass with the mixture. Throw a couple of cubes in the glass and top with bourbon and club soda and stir well. Top with a cherry and an orange slide on the rim.

    There are tons of variations on the Old Fashioned. In fact, you can use any booze you want, with varying degrees of success. Of course, there even more modern Old Fashioneds…Recently on a trip to Sonoma, I had one made with “local Bourbon” (which isn’t really Bourbon if it’s made in California), and no cherry. It was very good, and the bartender took pride in making it.

    So if you want to impress your vintage-diggin’ pals, or show a skirt that you know how to order a cocktail with plenty of pizzaz, memorize this recipe and make yourself an expert at throwing one together. You’ll have the chicks (or kats, whatever’s your thing) eating out of your hand.

    -Tiki Chris P, Reporting from the Tiki Bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the interwebs’ favorite B-lounge for retro fun stuff and Tiki Talk.

  • MAD MEN Season 6 Premiers Tonight, April 6

    Posted on April 7th, 2013 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    Are you ready for MAD MEN?

    mad-men-season-6-poster

    Wow…we’ve been waiting and waiting, and finally it’s here: MAD MEN Season six, where we (may or may not) find out whether Don has been faithful to Megan, where Peggy ends up, and how the agency goes on in the wake of Lane’s departure.

    But what we’re really looking at is this poster.

    Man, does this thing WREAK of late 60s-into=the=70s style or what? I feel this is an omen…actually a blatant sign that the MAD MEN that we’ve loved for the last several years is done. We’re in a new era, moving away from thin ties and bachelor pad music and easy chicks who waited on men as pretty servants, to the era of social unrest, acid rock, outrageous fashion and liberated women.

    Assuming this season kicks off in 1967 (or possible 68), we’ll probably see longer hair on the men, shorter hair on the women and the widening of ties and lapels that will eventually look like men are wearing paisley bibs. This is a different part of American pop history and culture…innocence gone, tailfins on cars gone, jazz and big bands gone. It’s the era where “good” music is defined as music that sounds good when you’re high, when putting curse words in movies makes them “hip”, and when teenagers lived like there was no tomorrow because, it was factual, with the draft and the Vietnam war, there very well might not have been.

    Hollywood Sign, late 1960s. Yes, this really happened.

    Hollywood Sign, late 1960s. Yes, this really happened.

    Boo hoo. It’s a drag, but the show has to progress. It’s how it’s always been, jumping a year or two each season. Hell, it started in 1959…the figurative “beginning of the end” of the mid-century pop era. But we’ll watch, and we’ll love it, even if Don sports a mustache, sideburns and a green velour sport jacket. Remember, this is the era where “Midnight Cowboy” one best picture, even with an X rating. The era when Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy where gunned down. The era when Nixon became president, and Jimmy Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner on his electric guitar. Frank Sinatra and Elvis both made “comebacks”. Crime in New York was at an all time high, poverty was crushing our cities, Fort Lauderdale was known for Spring Break arrests and Miami was mainly a retirement community. The “Hollywood” sign was in grave decay, and no one cared. And we were only a few years away from Disco.

    Ah, what a time.

    Oh, and about that poster: Doesn’t it remind you of some of the old TV Guide covers from 40+ years ago? It should, it’s been created by 75-year-old illustrator Brian Sanders, who created a lot of advertising artwork from the era.

    MAD MEN season six premiers tonight, April 7, 9pm/8 c. on AMC.

    -Tiki Chris reporting from the Television viewing room at Tiki Lounge Talk

  • MAD MEN Season Five Finale – Why it was fantastic

    Posted on June 12th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    mad-men-s5-finale-jon-hammOk, this is a long post, but I think you’ll find it an interesting one. There are a few insights I came up with that I haven’t seen picked up on in most of the reviews and posts on the season finale. For fans of the era, and retro and Tiki and Mid Century Modern and great film making, this should have been one of your favorites…read on, kats…

    I’ve heard a lot of people refer to the Season 5 Finale of MAD MEN as underwhelming. Certainly it didn’t have the emotional bang of the last two episodes, but there’s one thing it did have that sets this episode apart from any other: The ending.

    From the moment when Don views Megan’s demo reel until the second the credits roll, this few minutes of cinematic magic is absolutely some of the best I’ve ever seen on TV.

    Dig it through my eyes, and you’ll see what I mean…

    Don, after flat-out telling Megan he couldn’t help her with the commercial, decides to view her reel. We see the shot from behind Don, the classic Don “drape” shadowed as seen in the opening sequence, with Megan in artsy black and white on the screen. At least at first it’s Megan; slowly, she loses her identity and becomes an actress, a woman on the screen desperately showing her deepest emotions, her soul. She is a star, and she elicits an emotional response from Don – who, as you know, believes that the power behind advertising is its ability to elicit an emotional response.

    Something changes in Don; he not only sees Megan as the woman he loves, but as a truly talented performer. He decides to give her what she wants. This scares the hell out of him, but considering how using “tough love” against his brother and Lane turned out, he realizes it’s probably the best decision for both of them. He wants to keep her to himself, wants to be close to her and knows that giving her this break may break them further apart. But he knows evem more strongly that not giving her this chance will absolutely break them apart.

    (By the way: EXCELLENT job in making Megan’s reel look authentic, 1960s. Reminded me of the similar scene in Nine)madmen-all25-pm

    This moodily lit, almost completely black and white scene gently fades into the highly contrasted scene of Joan wearing a bright red dress and carrying a can of red spray paint through a brightly lit empty office, the partners filing in behind her as they check out the new office space. There is no music, only the sound of their footfalls on the carpet floor. Joan marks a “X” where the staircase will be…She is doing much more than that, of course, she is marking her territory, actually, asserting herself fully as a new partner. Only Don seems to notice this assertion for what it is…Campbell, in his own world, makes the comment that he will have the same view as Don. Again, the powerless Pete tries like hell to push his way to the top. With one word, Don puts him in his place…a sort of, but not quite sarcastically said, “Congratulations,” all the while not taking his eyes off of the person he has much more respect and admiration for, Joan.

    The camera cuts to the backs of the partners, and in the same way that Don is often shown, the same way that Lane was shown just before he committed suicide, they are shown in a long shot from behind. But this time they are all standing, and almost ceremoniously position themselves spaced equally apart, in what almost seems like a scene from a super hero comic. There they stand, proud and united…yet very, very far apart, alone.

    The best is yet to come…

    A quick cut brings us to another day where Megan has gotten the part in the commercial. She is in full fairy tail costume ready for rehearsal, thanking Don for getting her the part. She is referred to as “Miss Calvet”, not Mrs. Draper, and as she’s called to her place, she and Don smile at each other.

    Watch this scene again and pay close attention to what’s going on here. The camera individually shows Don smiling at Megan, then Megan smiling at Don. Then the long shot shows Megan to the left, getting hair and makeup, brightly lit in a technicolor red and yellow dress. She is now oblivious of Don as they prepare her for her new roll. Don, to the right, is wearing a dark suit and is cloaked in shadow. He gives her one last look, and with the Draper swagger that won the hearts of women throughout the 1950s and 60s, he turns and walks away from her, toward the camera. The camera pulls back as only the sounds of his heavy footsteps can be heard, and as he walks through the soundstage, he literally comes out of the show…leaving the set, leaving the fantasy of his life with Megan, essentially leaving the last five seasons of MAD MEN behind him, past the cameras and stage lights, alone.

    don-smoke-061112-lgThe opening (and instantly recognizable) notes to the 1967 James Bond “You Only Live Twice” theme begins to play as Don passes the prop movie cameras and director’s chair, and he continues past the sight of the rolling camera, disappearing from the scene to the right, and very possibly, from Megan and his old life.

    I don’t know about you, but to me that was one of the most powerful and telling pieces of cinema art I’ve ever seen, and it goes on…

    The next cut is to Don walking into a dark, smokey bar, the kind that would have been almost “kind of out of date” in the mod and rockin’ world of 1967, a bar strangely similar to the one we first saw Don in back in 1959. He sits at the bar, lights up a cigarette and orders an Old Fashioned, just like he did in that opening scene five seasons ago. Nancy Sinatra’s vocals overlap the scene with the iconic “You only live twice, or so it seems, one life for yourself, and one for your dreams”. Don is back, back to where he was in almost exactly the same scene as we first saw him.

    A quick cut to Peggy shows her happy on her first business trip, something that not even a couple of humping mutts (Lyric: “Tame”) in the parking lot could ruin. With a glass of wine in hand, she has arrived. We see Pete, alone, listening to his headphones as the lyric “And love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on”, fitting for Pete. Then Roger…apparently on LSD, alone, naked in front of the window; I was almost afraid he was going to take a nose dive out of it, until I realized the window was shut. The Lyric Nancy sings is “Don’t think of the danger, or the stranger is gone”.

    Then we’re back to Don in the bar, approached by a very pretty, very Mod blonde. She’s the 1967 version of what Bettie was in 1957, and the juxtaposition of her 1967 look against Don’s conservative 1959 look is fantastic. She’s hitting on Don, something that would have been pretty uncommon in 1959…and she’s not even asking for herself, she’s asking for her friend…and I think it’s safe to say it’s implied that Don could have them both, if he wanted. She asks, “Are you alone?” and Don contemplates his answer. Nancy sings, “This dream is for you, so pay the price, Make one dream come true, you only live twice.

    And it ends, with Don at the bar, smoking his cigarette, drinking his old fashioned, about to give the hot Mod chick his answer…which could go either way, and we won’t find out until next year.

    “And love is a stranger who`ll beckon you on, Don`t think of the danger or the stranger is gone, This dream is for you, so pay the price, Make one dream come true, you only live twice.”

    What a hell of an ending.

    For those of you who thought the episode was “disappointing”, go back now and watch it again. The first 55 minutes tied a few things up. The last 5 minutes were magic.

    Here’s the ending, don’t know how long this will be on YouTube, and it’s a little dark, but you get the idea…

    -Tiki Chris reporting from the Screening Room at Tiki Lounge Talk