Mad Men – For Those Who Think Young

by Lisa McGarry

The sexy, stylised, provocative and multi award-winning drama makes a welcome return to BBC Four this week and continues to delve into the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Sixties advertising agency Sterling Cooper – a place where power struggles, hard drinking and clandestine sexual exploits define the workplace and close the deals.

It is 1962, two years since the end of the last series, which is created by Emmy Award-winning executive producer Matthew Weiner. Set against the backdrop of the Kennedys’ White House tour, the series begins with Don Draper undergoing an insurance medical. “You live too hard,” chides his doctor.

At first glance, not much has changed in the lives of the employees of the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Don Draper is still a man at the top of his game. However, in his marriage to Betty, things are far from harmonious. Don is trying to be a better husband and father and he even makes a romantic gesture for Valentine’s Day – dinner and a night at the Savoy Hotel. But, as their evening slowly descends into disaster, the unspoken problems in their marriage remain. “I wish you would just tell me what to do,” laments Betty.

Pete and Trudy Campbell have worked out their problems and now have what seems to be a supportive marriage, although Trudy’s failure to conceive a baby is upsetting her.

Peggy Olson has returned, newly slim, to her copy-writer’s job at Sterling Cooper. There’s much speculation among the men in the office as to Peggy’s obvious weight loss. Pete thinks she has been to a “fat farm”, others speculate that she has had Don’s baby – what else could explain Peggy’s meteoric rise up the corporate ladder?

As the advertising world wakes up to the power of the youth market, Sterling Cooper needs to up its game. Duck Phillips tells agency head Roger Sterling that the creative team needs younger people to reinforce Sterling Cooper as a hip, modern company with hip, modern ideas. Against his better judgement, Don interviews two young “creatives” and, as the word spreads around the team, worries begin to set in – especially as they are having trouble with creating a new campaign for Mohawk Airlines.

At home that night, Don reads Frank O’Hara’s poem Meditations In An Emergency: “Now I am waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.” He writes: “Made me think of you – D” on the title page and walks down the street to mail the book to an unknown recipient.

Jon Hamm is Don Draper, January Jones is Betty Draper, Vincent Kartheiser is Pete Campbell, Alison Brie is Trudy Campbell, Elisabeth Moss is Peggy, Mark Moses is Herman “Duck” Phillips and John Slattery is Roger Sterling.

Tuesday 10 February
10.00-10.50pm BBC FOUR

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