MAD MEN, SEASON FIVE PREMIERE: A BLAH TIME WAS HAD BY ALL

by Claire Moshenberg on March 31, 2012

Time to stockpile your martini recipes and 60s chic duds, because as of last Sunday, Mad Men mania is back. Unfortunately, “A Little Kiss” was a disappointing, sloppy return for a show that is often so dense that multiple viewings feel less like a chore and more like a necessity, especially if maintaining any level of superfandom is on your radar. If you haven’t seen it yet, skip it. Lets hope the next episode is better, and less than two hours long.

It’s been almost a week since episode 1, and I’m going to assume you know the basics, and that Zou Bisou Bisou still hasn’t left your head (fighting that ear bug deserves a post of it’s own). So even though you probably have the gist of new Mad Men down, here’s a spoiler alert…

SPOILER ALERT: This post will reveal Matthew Weiner’s true feelings about pants. Stay tuned.

Elder Man Child, Roger Sterling
Remember when Roger, in the same vein as our beloved Don, was a lovable terrible person? A silver-haired charmer with a gift for vodka-soaked gab? An acceptable sex partner for bright-eyed buxom deity Joan Holloway Harris? I know he cheated on his wife, often undermined Don, and ran off with vapid secretary Jane from Jane street. But for a couple seasons, he was the twinkly eyed king of quips and one liners.

Current Roger is a carnival of cringe. He bungles Don’s birthday party by standing by the front door and ruining the surprise, then gives one of the weirdest speeches in Mad Men history mid-party when he not so subtly reveals his endless attraction towards Mrs. Draper (Really? Because in the last episode when Don said they were engaged, Roger’s response to her name was “Who?”) and jealousy towards Don (Happy Birthday, buddy!).

While no one can blame him for being jealous of Don (Please start more episodes with Jon Hamm walking around topless. Seriously AMC), Roger’s new found jealousy of Pete is the final nail in his cringe coffin. Stalking Pete’s meetings, reading his appointment book, falling for his pranks– Roger is chasing the coattails of a man child, cementing Roger’s position as elder man child. The final proof is when he challenges Pete to a physical fight when Pete asks to switch offices with him, like they’re a couple of schoolboys in a playground power struggle.

Howard: Excitable boy, they all said
Pete has a friend named Howard. Here’s what we know about him: His wife doesn’t understand him, he sleeps at motels to be alone with his thoughts, and he hopes to be dead by Christmas. Place your bets, cause here’s mine: If this guy shows up in this week’s episode, he’s killing himself or someone else by the end of the season.

Peggy Short-Sleeves
My beloved Peggy is not making a great Season 5 impression. She’s passive aggressive towards Megan and Don, unhappy about her mentor’s new found happiness, and clad for most of the episode in an outfit that seems so uncomfortably opposite of Mad Men’s tailored aesthetic that I have to wonder if her used car salesman blouse is symbolic of what’s to come.

We’ve seen Peggy get drunk and fun a few times over the years: her snarky comebacks to a new found makeout buddy in Season 2 at Paul’s party, her wicked down-to-the-ground Twist in Season 1, her upbeat champagne loving in the face of Don’s sour puss at the infamous Season 3 office party. So what’s with the snippy drunken babble and hunched over dancing at Don’s birthday? And haven’t we seen Peggy date enough losers? Please get rid of political writer boyfriend. Every time he opened his mouth, his pretentious malarkey was enough to make me change the channel.

Skinny Harry
I’ve always had a soft spot for Harry. Once upon a time, he was the good guy: the hardworking, resourceful, mostly faithful husband. And now…do we need another lecherous stock character? That scene in the office kitchen where he talked about dirty Mrs. Draper’s french burlesque, as she stood behind him was like a scene out of a Three’s Company porn-spoof. You’re saying how much you want to bang her…and she’s right behind you? WHOMP WHOMP.

White carpet wives
At the end of the episode, Don and Megan have sort of violent makeup sex on their post-party destroyed white carpet. She says they’ll have to replace it. He says it was impractical. She says “It’s BEAUTIFUL.” He says he wants her to have it because she should have whatever she wants. And because a three minute scene about carpeting is never really a three minute scene about carpeting, I think this topless dialogue was about Megan Draper and Jane Sterling.

It’s hard to escape the “Haven’t we done this before, sort of?” feeling that Don’s new relationship evokes. Tall beautiful brunette secretary starts clandestine relationship with her power player boss and marries him. The marriage results in a new mod 60s space (Roger’s office last season, Don’s apartment this season), a decreased interest in work, and a deeply inappropriate performance at a party.

Though they appear to be wildly different characters, Megan and Jane are like that much discussed carpet: Beautiful, impractical, treated like a decadent gift, and trashed by everyone else from the Sterling/Cooper/Draper/Price family.

The Return of Petulant Pete
Pete has always been a hard character to like. But when he got pulled into the Sterling/Cooper/Draper/Price fold and accepted by the other characters, he seemed to change. Last season he was less conniving and child like, more secure and business savvy.

So why is Petulant Pete back and what has he done with Season 4 Pete? This iteration of Pete seems worse than ever: Since when would he need to get paid over time to go to a party? Why is he screaming at all the secretaries? And why wouldn’t he use Roger’s relationship with Mohawk to his advantage, instead of glaring and shooing him out of the meeting?

Pete’s insistence that he meet with Don immediately, even after he has been shooed away, and his partners meeting, where he whines about his office and demands an office switch that he know he won’t get, were sad. It was all tired Pete antics from a few seasons ago, down to his sniffling, “What’s that smell?” facial expressions.

Everybody has a love baby
When Peggy and Pete end up holding Roger and Joan’s baby? Priceless.

People Talk About Taking Their Pants Off
Don’s secretary shows up the morning after his birthday, proffering a big lettucey plant and proclaiming “I feel like I got caught with my pants down.” Peggy’s boyfriend thinks a generic “How gorgeous is this apartment?” comment from Trudy warrants a “I want to take my pants off and slide my ass on the carpet” response.

Matthew Weiner hates pants.

Zou Bisou Bisou
Lets take a minute and remember the original Mad Men French songstress: Joan Harris on the accordion. Mais c’est magnifique.

Claire Moshenberg is a San Francisco based author, activist, and new media consultant. She is co-proprietor of the web site Charm City Jukebox.

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