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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Monday
Aug312009

« In Which I'm Peggy Olson And I Want To Smoke Some Marijuana »

Mad Men: The Musical

by MOLLY LAMBERT

 

Great episode. The viewers at home breathe a sigh of relief as Mad Men hits its stride in the third inning after two wobbly-kneed and tedious first attempts. All the gears are finally whirring. Everyone (Joan!) has shown up. Characters are mixed up and re-matched in new social settings. And so many GIF opportunities.

 

So Many GIF Opportunities:

Roger in blackface

Peggy getting high

Don Draper hopping over the bar

Sterling's wife v. Joan

Pete and Trudy's dance routine

Joan playing the accordion

Sally Draper stealing from grandpa

The Tigertones reunion

 

So many chances for things to go horribly wrong, and yet for the most part it went alright. Matthew Weiner clearly thrives on the narrative tension of awkward situations, and yet he does not go straight for the banana peel every time. Jane's alcohol induced collapsed was not followed up with one of Mad Men's trademarked "vomiting in public embarrassment" sequences.

 

Pete & Trudy's Charleston: America's Next Best White Dance Crew?

Are they setting the characters up to be happy just to twist the knife later? Joan's husband's lack of medical prowess being revealed with the suggestion that patients die on his table seems pretty ominous. As does the whole "Grandpa Gene" situation. Or is it possible that after two seasons of turgid misery the Mad Men ensemble's lives will finally achieve that "freeness" the sixties is so often associated with. Probably not.

the other contender: Monica and Ross's "Routine" from Friends

There were some overly long poetic monologues. That Sam Elliott type (Chelcie Ross) in the empty bar served no purpose other than to make me laugh with his rambling about "taking a johnboat down past the old mansion." Peggy's overly mothering secretary who won't go home was neither here nor there.

"IT'S MOHAIR!!! HE'S LIKE A TOTALLY IMPORTANT DESIGNER!!!!!"

But the Breakfast Club bit with Peggy and the other creatives holed up smoking reefer at Sterling-Cooper on a Saturday was delightful. Christina Hendricks may not be a real redhead, but she really plays the accordion. How she fits it comfortably over her massive (real) breasts is a mystery for the ages.

 

"I'm so hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii"

The cut from Peggy smoking the joint to the hallucinatory nightmare of Roger singing "My Old Kentucky Home" was one of many such touches that made this episode feel like the show is the Sopranos successor it ought to be. At its finest, Mad Men is a slow-paced and richly rewarding character drama (like The Wire). At its worst it's a campy soap (like True Blood).

I see you Patrick Bateman, hitting on my Peggy Olson, don't even think about it man!

Here's hoping the season continues in this fashion. I'll admit the first two episodes left me a little cold compared to this one, which I loved. Mad Men — like The Sopranos — theoretically follows one antihero while remaining an ensemble show at heart. Don Draper is cool, but he is just one of the eight million reasons we love this show.

 

In the end, it's really Pete Campbell's show. We're just watching it.

 

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She tumbls & twitters. You can find her review of last week's Mad Men here.

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"Soil, Soil (demo)" — Tegan & Sara (mp3)

"Burn Your Life Down (demo)" — Tegan & Sara (mp3)

"Call It Off (demo)" — Tegan & Sara (mp3)

 

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Reader Comments (42)

Oh my. I nearly keeled over during the Pete and Trudy routine. It was so sinfully embarrassing and amazing I had to delicately shield my eyes for some moments.

SO, high Peggy. Baller

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTati

Did you find all these gifs on ONTD?

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjw

I'm glad I wasn't the only one that had the epiphany that it was Miles Fisher as Paul's drug dealer. It was one of those moments where I to momentarily pause the DVR to prevent my brain from completely melting.

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbenjamin

Pretty much all from ontd. http://community.livejournal.com/ohnotheydidnt/38735069.html?page=4#commentsa

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlo

"In the end, it's really Pete Campbell's show. We're just watching it."

This. It's really the Pete Campbell and Peggy Olson show. Don Draper who?

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjoolia

So good!

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlambo

I thought the second episode was the best so far, the first was broad and lacked nuance, this one had some great moments particularly the last two shots.

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbrendan

Pete is everyone I ever wanted to punch all in one. I'd like some Cosgrove development and we're in for some more shindigs with the little Miss Draper.

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHugh

14 more reasons to hate whitey. Need more?

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterslick jefferson

Did anyone else think it odd or interesting that three cast members sang in this episode?

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