November 2007

Salon has just issued their second annual Sexiest Man Living. Started a year ago to contrast the predictability of People’s Sexiest Man Alive, each man is accompanied by several paragraphs of elegantly-written prose extolling the erotic and personal virtues of the hotness hero.

And this year’s #1? None other than our own John Hamm, about whom writer Joan Walsh says “We’re awarding Sexiest Man of the Year honors to Jon Hamm but we have to acknowledge: It might be Don Draper who’s won our hearts.”

Here’s some more choice excerpts:

Watching AMC’s “Mad Men” is a sensual feast. Matthew Weiner’s devotion to getting 1960 right means we feel Joan’s girdle and Peggy’s scratchy dresses, taste the rye and the steak and the oysters, glory in the pastels of Betty’s peignoirs; our eyes water at the end of every episode from all that cigarette smoke. The sexual politics are remarkable; the sex is even more interesting, and the hot center of it all is Jon Hamm, who plays Sterling Cooper creative director Don Draper, haunted, predatory, at the top of his game, miserable.

Hamm has glossy movie star good looks, great bones and a killer smile, made riveting by Draper’s pain and artifice. He’s the unhappy adman selling happiness. He’s in on the big con, and yet he’s not, entirely; in fact, he’s dying to believe in what he’s selling. He’s the misfit Organization Man, an elitist egalitarian; he makes conformity seem sort of brave and sexy.

And here’s a contender for best quote of the week:

God, I’m going on about this plot. Maybe it’s Matt Weiner who’s America’s sexiest man…

“What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.” (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes)

“Fear stimulates my imagination.” (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes)

I love these, they say so much about who Don is; terrified and alone.

“Sterling Cooper has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich.” (New Amsterdam)

And this one speaks of a sharp mind, the ability to create flowing language that has made him successful, and a perceptive grasp of what’s going on around him.

It’s not airing tonight.

I can’t even talk about it.

We all know that there are some actors who are bad in many things, but sometimes great. Was Halle Berry the “best actress” of 2001? Not possible while people like Streep are alive and working. Did she give the best performance that year, in Monster’s Ball? Arguably yes.

Some actors are limited, and some are just uneven, but sometimes the director or the script brings something forth in that actor that had maybe been less visible. Those are inferior actors; if you need a good director to be good, isn’t that like, say, needing glasses to see? Isn’t your vision, by definition, inferior to those who don’t need the appliance?

Why do I bring this up? Two words: Vincent Kartheiser.

He was hateful and awful in Angel. He was the Wesley Crusher of that show. And now, as Pete Campbell, he’s kind of amazing. Now, maybe it’s that playing a petulant, pain-in-the-ass teenager is inherently less compelling than playing a petulant, pain-in-the-ass married adult. Or maybe the scripts here serve him better. Joss Whedon is known for bringing great performances out of so-so actors (not. naming. names.) but maybe in this case he fell down.

Or maybe Kartheiser is a bad actor in the right role.

Don Draper keeps a drawer full of clean, white, fresh-from-the-dry-cleaner shirts at work. And a couple of ties as well.

I’m thinking of this today because I don’t keep such a drawer. And I am coated in wet, pungent, won ton soup. Not a few dribbles, mind, but a full coating. A layer, if you will, over my formerly cream-colored blouse.

The Freakonomics guys love Mad Men (look for “Stuff We Weren’t Paid to Endorse”).

I noticed in the blog software that someone got here by searching for “Don Draper Quotes.”

I’d personally be willing to set up a “Favorite Quotes” page on the blog if people want that. Contribute your own favorites and we’ll get it going.

(I’ll repost this when we have a larger readership, believe me.)

Upon rewatching Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (DVR, Roberta, it’s awesome here in the 21st Century), I have the following observations:

  • Don’s fear; his panic that he might get caught, his sense of improv in every crucial moment of life, is present in every scene. You cannot look at Don and not know he’s afraid. And that “Larry Tate” scene? It’s not the bad writing, the cheesy depiction of advertising, it has been so roundly criticized for; it’s a metaphor for who Don is. The tobacco “It’s Toasted” scene is Don Draper.
  • Pete says to Peggy “I had to see you.” Then he says it again. But he never looks at her. He had to “see” her, but he looks past her.
  • Don worships the idea of the family he has. He tells Rachel that love is a crock, then he holds his kids; holds his whole family in his hands, and he’s stunned and awestruck.
  • When Don gets off the train, the sign says “Ossining.” It took me like ten episodes to figure out where Don lives, and it was there in the pilot!
  • The signs in the train station; the red M and the text, look very modern to me. Somebody check me on this but I think it’s an anachronism.
  • And, just for fun, Pete says to his bride-to-be that his friends will probably be taking him to see My Fair Lady for his bachelor party. The episode ends with a song from My Fair Lady.

Boy, were we ever right to start a blog about this show!

Last night I was all looking forward to watching the second episode… taping it, scrutinizing it, and getting back to you on it.

‘Cept for how they aired the fourth.  :  |

I have been, one viewer at a time, recruiting future Mad Men fans. One watched the pilot last week, and one missed it, but I assured her that if she joined us at the second episode, (Ladies Room), she would be just fine.

But the fourth? New Amsterdam? Betty babysits for Glen? Too soon! Too soon, I say!

Stop fucking with us. Just… stop it.

Okay, the other day I criticized an article for thinking the show’s about fashion, and Roberta rightly called me on it.

We love the fashion. Love it. And totally, I adore men who do the dapper thing. I love a man in a suit; always have. Even when I was the hardest of hardcore hippies, I would readily admit to finding Brooks Brothers way sexy.

And here’s an article suggesting that MM is having an influence on men’s fashion. I’m not sure it’s MM’s influence so much; the show is more a cult fave than a real hit, but I think it’s tapping the zeitgeist; I think men in particular want to spruce up.

While the first season has just ended, we already miss the show, in part for its attention to visual nuance and fashion. At the Sterling Cooper Agency, men arrive every morning as sleek as dolphins, with their pomaded coifs, clean-shaven cheeks and shiny wingtips.

The women look great, too, although their pencil skirts, sweater sets and tight-as-fists chignons feel more like the contents of a sartorial time capsule. (Never mind the fact that the blatant sexism they endure as secretaries dates them as much as their conical bras. ) And while the men may reek of chauvinism — not to mention Scotch and cigarettes — they also manage to look amazingly modern.

In fact, Draper could do for the three-button glen plaid suit what Paulie Walnuts did for the zip-up velour tracksuit. GQ just ran an article on how to cop the Mad Men style, and retail research firm NPD Group reports that sales of suits and blazers are up more than 50 percent for men ages 18 to 24.

“As sleek as dolphins” is my quote of the week!

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