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  • MAD MEN Season Five Premier Review: Times are Changing

    Posted on March 28th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 7 comments

    mad-men-season-3-donFor those of us who dig the mid-century theme and have been watching MAD MEN since it began in 2007, we knew the day would come when the show would leave the golden era of cocktails and pocket squares and move into the turmoil of acid rock and civil rights. Well, Season Five has begun in 1966, and without a doubt, the show is there.

    Some critics will talk about how even in two hours there wasn’t much drama; they’ll complain that the show moved at a slow pace, trying to make up for the last year-and-a-half on the shelf, doing little more than reintroducing characters and playing “catch up”. Those who love the show will attribute the slow pace as a device to build tension, culminating in two major events at the end: Don Draper is once again seen taking what he wants, when he wants; and the very powerful and thought-provoking scene where, for the first time ever, black applicants are allowed…in fact, invited…to apply for a position on Madison Avenue.

    Personally, I dug the show immensely. It was exactly what I expected: An open window on the drastically changing America of the mid-1960s, paralleled with the drastically changing lives of the characters.

    Several important points are made during this episode. Some are obvious and stated right out, like Pete’s assertion that he’s bringing in the most valuable clients (and therefore is a more valuable asset than Roger Stirling). We’re also reminded that Joan’s husband is in Vietnam while her baby is Roger’s, both Pete and Roger aren’t exactly happy with their home lives, SCDP is still struggling financially although “stable”, and although Burt Cooper still has a presence, it’s really Don who is running the show.

    But there are several unsaid, more subtle changes that can be seen throughout the show. For instance, when did Harry become a complete jerk? Seems he lost a little weight, and became completely unprofessional and downright obnoxious. We’re talking about a character who broke down in tears during a client meeting after cheating on his wife, now crassly displaying what he would do with Don’s wife given the chance. I don’t see it…seems those lines should have gone to the cad in the creative department.

    We see Pete, a little older, a little heavier, and a lot more in control. He’s gone from being whiny to being demanding…and although he doesn’t get exactly what he feels he’s entitled to, his assertion does get him ahead. It will be interesting to see where his character goes this year, as I have a feeling he will be moving up…and possibly over Roger Stirling. But not without a fight, of course, as it looks like Roger is eager to regain his status as top grossing account man…and he’ll do anything to achieve it, including swooping in ahead of Campbell at his own client meetings. But does Stirling still have what it takes to bring in the big accounts? Time, as they say, will tell…

    MAD MEN Season Five Promo Poster

    MAD MEN Season Five Promo Poster

    Take a good look at the photo above. The people who market MAD MEN don’t do anything by chance. This photo was very carefully merchandised. Notice the Life magazine. More importantly, look at the faces, postures and placements of the characters. This is probably the first time we’ve seen Don Draper shown in a lower position than the others, even though he is still the focal point of the image. Note the stern look on Peggy’s face, Don’s relaxed posture, and Roger’s benign, almost confused gaze. Roger is even sitting in a red chair, the only red image in the photo – could it suggest he is in the hot seat? Look at how close Joan is to Roger with a sexy pose, while Peggy is very close to Don but in a very professional arrangement. Coop is basically alone but looking very serious about his position, while Price is furthest back, but centered and looking very much in control. Also note who is dead center in the photo, and the only one looking ‘up’…Pete Campbell, who I feel is going to become a much bigger deal at SCDP.

    We see Don is still affluent enough to afford a brand new 1965 or ’66 Cadillac Coupe DeVille* (with power windows, back when that was an option), as he drops off three seemingly happy kids. He refers to Betty and Henry as “Morticia and Lurch”, a reference to The Addams Family that is probably lost on many younger viewers. No matter; Betty’s name or image doesn’t come up anywhere in the episode, making her nearly a non-entity, until Don’s new wife Megan asks if Betty every threw him a birthday party. His response is that he forbid it. The “up yours” look on Megan’s face is enough to show us that this is the scene where the old Don, the Don who could snap his fingers and get what he wanted, was gone, and as he turns 40 he will have to fight to take what he wants or thinks he deserves.

    *A side note: Remember the days when kids sat up in the front seat, without a car seat or seat belt?

    mad-men-season-4-cast-photoAnother thing: Anyone notice how much prettier and incredibly more likable Megan is this season? Not that she wasn’t attractive before, but suddenly she is sexier…much sexier…going beyond the “easy, gold-digging secretary” bit to a whole new level of sophistication and charm. (Plus there’s less going on with the whole teeth situation.) Finally, we know why Don asked her to marry him…she’s not just young, good with the kids and good in the bedroom, she’s a challenge, a complete departure from the submissive (to the point of being annoying) Betty. Maybe that’s something Don really needs in his life, without admitting it. Or maybe he just doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into yet. Whatever the case, I didn’t care for Megan’s character last season. Maybe that was intentional on the part of the producers. But this season she’s on fire, and I hope she keeps going in that direction.

    Joan shows us some very uncharacteristic weakness, both in dealing with her mother and confronted with the possibility of being shut out of SCDP. She blames her tears on the pregnancy…but we all know she’s going through a heap of problems that really have no way of coming out on the sunny side. If her husband survives Vietnam, he will surely figure out the baby isn’t his. If he dies, she’s stuck alone again with a baby to care for, with only Roger to turn to…who, as we know, can turn hot or cold on a dime. Bad scene, baby.

    We all dig MAD MEN and have from the very first episode when the mysterious Don Draper sat in a lounge, drinking an Old Fashioned and writing ideas down on a cocktail napkin. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” swung as back to 1960, a peak year during the golden age of Martinis and sharkskin suits. The only downfall to season five is that it’s started in 1966, which is pretty much the beginning of the end of the era we love so much and tuned in for, for the past five years. The styles change, the music changes, the world changes, some for the better, some not. It is these changes (and the changes in the characters as well) that will keep the show fresh and interesting, but we will miss the Madison Avenue of 1960.

    -Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto
    Creative Director, Engelhardt & Partners Advertising, Hollywood, FL

  • Have a MAD MEN Premier Party, 1960s Style!

    Posted on March 23rd, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments
    These cats know how to have a party.

    These cats know how to have a party.

    I know that everyone who reads this Blounge is excited about the new season of MAD MEN finally starting. Sunday, March 25th, 2012 marks the beginning of the 5th season of AMC’s hit show – and what better way to jump into the swing of things than with a retro-style cocktail party?

    There are fun, quick, easy tricks to throwing together a last minute party. As long as you have friends that can make it, planning a Premier Party is a snap.

    Invitations: This is an informal get-together, so a phone call (or that new-fangled email) is all you need. The show starts at 9pm, so start the party earlier. I’m starting mine at 7:30, so people will be able to have a light dinner before coming over, since I’ll only be serving hors d’oeuvres.

    The Theme: Make sure everyone knows this is a MAD MEN theme party. They must dress to impress, as close to 50s-60s as possible. Even if you don’t have actual retro or vintage clothing, this is easy to pull off…men wear a jacket and (thin) tie, pocket square, fedora if you have one. The women wear cocktail dresses, heels, hair up; the fun is in trying to mimic the look. Some of your friends will have era-appropriate garb, and that’s even better. Just remember – no jeans, no sweats, no t-shirts, and hell-no clothes with designers’ names on them. How gauche. Anyone shows up like that, throw them the hell out.

    Food: We’re going to keep it vintage style: Chips and dips, cheese cubes (I got Havarti, Gouda, Cheddar and Port Wine), crackers, Jello, pepperoni slices, some vegetables, black olives and mixed nuts. That’s plenty for a cocktail party like this, and it’s all easy to put together.

    Booze: Spend a few bucks and buy a couple of bottles of booze that still have the same labels they did 50+ years ago. Here are some suggestions:

    Displaying liquor that hasn't changed their labels in 50 years can really help set the mood, and show your friends how hip to the MCM vibe you really are.

    Displaying liquor that hasn't changed their labels in 50 years can really help set the mood, and show your friends how hip to the MCM vibe you really are.

    Stoli Vodka
    Johnny Walker Black Label

    J&B Scotch
    Seagram’s VO
    Seagram’s Seven
    Seagram’s Gin
    Bacardi Rum
    Appleton Estate Rum
    Meyers Rum
    Canadian Club
    Crown Royal
    Jose Cuervo Gold
    Cinzano Vermouth
    Jack Daniels (Green or Black Label)
    The Glenlivet Scotch

    All of these bottles look authentically mid-century, and will look great on the bar.

    Actual Cocktails: Sure, you can make any of the old-school recipes that were famous at the time. But if you want to keep your party simple, choose from this list of era-appropriate cocktails and offer them to your guests:

    Old Fashioned
    The Manhattan Cocktail. Old-style is served in a rocks glass.

    Bacardi Cocktail
    Cuba Libre
    Whiskey Sour
    Amaretto Sour
    Bloody Mary
    Rob Roy

    (A LITTLE MORE INVOLVED, and a lot more Tiki)
    Singapore Sling
    Mai Tai
    Navy Grog
    Dark n Stormy
    Jet Pilot

    Having vintage/retro glasses & decor can really add to the ambiance.

    Having vintage/retro glasses & decor can really add to the ambiance.

    Drink Recipes for all of these cocktails can be found on the Tiki Lounge Drinks Page, or at the AMC MAD MEN Cocktail Guide. Make sure you have lots of olives, cocktail onions, lemons, limes and other garnishes on hand.

    Decor: If your home is furnished in mid-century modern decor, you won’t have to do a thing. If not, thing subterfuge. If you can keep your party to one or two main rooms, try to remove or hide any modern electronics, digital clocks, photos, paintings, etc. Spend a few clams and buy some 50s-era style lamps, clocks, album covers, anything to set the mood (You’d be surprised how many inexpensive, MCM style things you can get at places like Target and Ikea, in a pinch). Or go to the local party store and get some streamers, cut-outs and balloons to transform your party space. Colored bulbs – red, green, blue – can do wonders to make a space feel partyish in a 50s way. Print-outs of old ads, and of pix of the MAD MEN show can also spice things up. Serve your food in vintage (if you have it) or retro-style dishes, use umbrellas and swords in your drinks, stick frilly toothpicks in your cheeses and you’re on your way.

    j-b-scotch-adMusic: Before the show starts, you’re going to want some era-correct music playing in the background. I would suggest the albums Getz/Gilberto, Music from Peter Gunn, Birth of The Cool, and anything from The Ultra Lounge series. There’s also a new collection of cool vintage tunes called “This is Vintage Now”, available for download.

    Games: A good drinking game is to take a drink every time someone on the show takes a drink. Or every time Draper makes a face. Or both. Either way you’ll be plastered by the fourth commercial. Another game is to do a sort of MAD MEN themed Charades. Each person picks a character out of a hat, then mimics that character – but without speaking. First person to guess right gets to take the hot secretary into the other room for five minutes…

    The Show: Don’t forget, the point of the party is to watch the show. Make sure everyone’s drinks are filled and the hors d’oeuvres are finished being served before 9pm, and also make sure there are enough seats for all your guests. Finally, dim the lights before starting the program. From what I hear, people always used to dim the lights before watching TV in the old days.

    Have fun, party people!

    -Tiki Chris P. reporting from the Party Room at Tiki Lounge Talk

    For more tips, see my post on having an Atomic Cocktail Party.

  • 1950’s Car Commercials…The Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

    Posted on August 26th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 4 comments

    A lot of you kats and kittens are big on the MAD MEN series. But are you hip to the ad jazz they were laying down? Here are a few Automobile TV commercials and print ads from the golden era of Advertising.

    I currently have a 1953 Chevy in my garage. Have had it for 20 years.

    This bat-winged beauty was marketed toward big business presidents and tycoons. It cost more than a Cadillac.

    There are few cars more elegant, beautiful and powerful as the 1963 Pontiac. Always wanted one. This commercial makes me want one even more!

    For fans of the “little” Fords…I love how they point out “no dog leg”. That’s a reference to the wrap-around windshields popular on GM models (esp Cadillac) through the early 1960’s.

    Ah, one of my favorite all-time rides, the 1958 Cadillac. We had one (already vintage) when I was a kid. I will have one again someday.

    An here’s some old print ads from ’50s and ’60s magazines (click on each to enlarge):

    Hope you kids dug this little trip down memory lane to the days when cars were made of steel and chrome and horsepower meant everything. My my how times have changed. Sorry kids, but after looking at ads like this, how could anyone ever get excited about a Honda Accord? bleh.

    -Tiki Chris reporting from the showroom floor of the Imperial dealership down the block from Tiki Lounge Talk.