Mad Men Live Blog: Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2 — “The Doorway”

8:40pm: Season 6 of Mad Men will almost certainly feature the ascent of Peggy Olson, the descent of Don Draper, and the improbable continuation of Roger Sterling's life. But with the death of Lane Pryce, the moral center (centre?) of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, to what levels of depravity will Don Draper fall? And yes, Lane was the moral center of the office, perhaps no more so than when he embezzled from the firm. And what of Megan and Betty and literally scores of other characters that do not matter? What of MICHAEL GINSBERG, the wittier, shorter version of Don? 

Introductions: My name is Mike Hall (@mrhall). In real life, I'm the head of digital for NESN. In my spare time, I watch Mad Men obsessively. Every single day. Therefore, I'm your best partner for tonight's two-hour extravagaza, in which Don Draper will probably walk through a doorway. I had written live blogs for Mad Men from my personal site. Ben Koo offered me the opportunity to write here at Awful Advertisements, and my promo of my personal site just sounded like an awful ad, so I think I'll fit right in!

Let's get down to it!

8:56pm: Mad Men is just moments away, and nothing gets me revved up more than watching Julia Roberts save the world. There's not much overlap between the world of Erin Brockovich and Don Draper, unless Matthew Weiner's done an amazing time shift.

9:01pm: Betty says "Ohmigod" or Megan says it, or something. Don then reads poetry by the beach. Such a hard-knock life.

9:03pm: Megan bought pot. I almost wrote "bot pot." Anyway, she and Don will get high and watch hula dancers in Hawaii because life is perfect

9:04pm: Megan says she wants to avoid getting too tan. Do people from Quebec even see sun? Her Quebecois accent is really strong this season.

9:05pm: Megan is apparently on some sort of TV show or soap opera, so her career is taking off while Don's (presumably) is slowing down. Also, the Hawaiian emcee hit on her pretty hardcore, so Don is very much a sad lei tonight.

9:08pm: Don has completed his husbandry of Megan, so he's proceeded down to the hotel bar. There are a bunch of apparently single men down there.

9:09pm: Don's bar friend (PFC Dinkins? Dingus?) is about to get married in order to extend his lifespan. Married men have longer lives! Unless they're about to ship back out to Vietnam, of course. Anyway, he wants Don to give away his bride, because Don is the perfect person to put with an emotionally vulnerable woman.

9:12pm: Thankfully, we're shifting back to the mainland. Betty is with Sally and Henry Francis' mother and some other rando girl. Betty got caught by the NY state cops, who do not respond well to Henry's NYC connections. As an aside — how does NYC allow a public official to live outside of the city? I believe that's a requirement in Boston.

9:14pm: Good news: Betty is no longer fat. Bad news: Betty is still boring.

9:15pm: The entire Francis household is boring. Rando girl is playing an awful violin solo, because that's how people partied in whatever year Matthew Weiner has decided this is.

9:16pm: Don and Megan are home and pale. Flashback upon arrival: Don's doorman fainted. He's fine now. This is how we get to a two-hour season opener.

9:18pm: Commercial break! Tom Cruise is starring in a sequel to Jack Reacher called Oblivion.

9:20pm: Commercial break, continued! It's the Dish Network ad involving the Hopper, or the device that would deprive Mad Men and Breaking Bad of much of their funding. 

9:22pm: And we're back! Betty just made a rape joke. Seriously.

9:23pm: When do we get to the office? Does Don work?

9:24pm: Betty and Rando Girl are at the Francis estate, eating a late-night snack in the kitchen. Rando Girl's name is Sandy, I think. Like the hurricane. Anyway, Rando Girl's mom died. And she didn't get into Juilliard. One hurts her more than the other. Guess which one.

9:26pm: I really which that Betty and Rando Girl would finish eating their crackers and go back to bed.

9:27pm: Peggy's back! And she's in a tiny apartment! New York is expensive, even for the most successful woman in advertising. She's talking with her superior on the phone, who's wearing a dirty undershirt and sitting in a small chair. New York is glamourous.

9:29pm: Don is finally going back to the office. Small talk with a rich, bald doctor. New York is glamourous.

9:30pm: Roger is back! He's in therapy with a guy that looks like Adam Schiff from Law and Order. Again, big time shift by Matthew Weiner. 

9:31pm: Roger is using the doorway analogy repeatedly with the therapist. I think he's comparing women to doors. 

9:33pm: Peggy is reporting to work in a wood-paneled conference room. The Vietnam War is intersecting with themes of some of Peggy's ads, which is very inconvenient for Peggy. One of the ads deals with the phrase "lend me your ears," which references the removal of ears by troops in the war. This and Betty's rape joke have set the stage for the season.

9:36pm: Commercial break! The Killing is back for a new season! I look forward to watching the final three minutes of each episode while waiting for a good show to come on AMC. All three minutes will feature rain and soft music.

9:38pm: Commercial break, continued! In Boston, we're seeing ads for the special U.S. Senate race to fill John Kerry's old seat. One ad mentions that women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Mad Men's themes may be more transcendent than I realized.

9:40pm: Commerical break, even more! Bank of America had a great ad about a couple's evolution as shown through photos. Unfortunately, the commercial seemed like an ad for cameras.

9:41pm: We're back. There's a Wharton MBA on Don Draper's team, and he's kissing Don's behind in the elevator. Figuratively.

9:42pm: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce still has the "Pryce" in the name. MICHAEL GINSBERG is back and with a  mustache. Stan Rizzo is wearing a full beard. And there's a less attractive version of Peggy on the team now!

9:43pm: Peter Campbell has side burns and a smug attitude. He's balding more, too. Some of this hits too close to home. I've always seen more of my mannerisms in Pete than in any other character. 

9:45pm: Don is in his huge New York office, hearing the sounds of the Hawaiian beach in his head.

9:47pm: Peggy looks like she got her teeth bleached in the offseason. Maybe it's because everyone else in her office is an old white man with yellow teeth.

9:48pm: Commercial break! Again! It's an apparently national ad for CSX, which is a natural fit for AMC's core audience. Seriously, the quality of Mad Men advertisers (if not advertisements) has been well-known. Mad Men fans are affluent decision-makers, both in the office and at home. I feel my 401K gaining value as I watch.

9:52pm: Where are all the Mad Men-style ads this season? I guess it's hard to do a vintage ad for a tablet computer, but still.

9:53pm: And we're back, finally. Don is drawing in pinks and greens, because his head is full o' Hawaii.

9:54pm: The doctor has come to SCDP to collect his free camera. This camera would have been perfect for the real Bank of America ad earlier. 

9:56pm: There's a weird vibe between the Don and the doctor, which seems to be because they share a building. This is me not remembering the doc from the doorman's collapse earlier tonight. Megan's Quebecois accent makes me tune out.

9:57pm: Roger's mother died, and Roger's secretary is just overwhelmed with sadness. Roger is quite alright with it.

9:58pm: Peggy's trying to get in touch with Ted Chaough, who seems to be with a pastor for some reason. Peggy grew up Catholic, which we already knew. Again, this is how we get to a two-hour episode.

10:00pm: Don is taking a publicity photo and smoking. Perhaps the time shift wasn't nearly as dramatic as I thought. Anyway, he sees that he's taken the lighter from PFC Dinkins earlier and he gets all sorts of Dick Whitman sad about it. End scene for hour one.

10:03pm: Commercial break! It's the Gillette manscaping ad, featuring a model named Genesis. MICHAEL GINSBERG opposes manscaping. (As background, I refer to Michael Ginsberg as MICHAEL GINSBERG because that's how Michael Ginsberg would say his name.)

10:05pm: Long, long commercial break! 

10:05pm: Spoke too soon. We're back on for hour two of Mad Men.

10:06pm: Megan wakes up Don and tells him that she needs to miss Roger's mother's funeral. I'm guessing that Roger would also like to miss the funeral.

10:07pm: Good gracious. We are back again at the Francis estate. Why, why are we back here? Anyway, Rando Girl tells Sally that she "went to Juilliard," which we know isn't true because she didn't get into Juilliard because she is not so good at the whole music thing. A girl from my high school went to Juilliard and now stars on Community. With this blog, I join her in the entertainment elite.

10:09pm: Jane, the most recent child bride of Roger Sterling, is at the funeral of Roger's mother, and she's looking a delightful shade of orange.

10:10pm: Ken Cosgrove lost a ton of weight. He looks like he's 19 years old.

10:11pm: Roger's crazy aunt is reading a eulogy, which appears to have made Don vomit.

10:13pm: Roger gets upset about the presence of a man who appears to be his first wife's new husband. He attempts to shut down the funeral, but surprisingly, people don't feel like rushing out of a funeral.

10:14pm: Betty's in a dangerous part of New York looking for Rando Girl. Because Betty needs to do something.

10:15pm: Don is sloppy drunk right now during the daytime, and he's being taken home by Ken and Pete. He says something about dying and the sounds of the sea to the doorman, but he's drunk and I was eating a sandwich, so anyway, Don has an alcohol problem. 

10:17pm: Betty is in the abandoned building that she believes Rando Girl lives in now. The building is full of drug users, vagrants, men urinating in buckets, and Rando Girl's violin.

10:19pm: One of the vagrants squatting in the abandoned building is hiding paprika in his waistband.

10:20pm: Commercial break! It's local ad time, so if anyone outside of Boston is interested in learning more about Cambridge Trust Company, let me know. It's a bank.

10:24pm: Back to Mad Men. Roger is talking with his daughter, who I thought at first was his most recent child bride. Roger's daughter misses her grandmother, but really misses her money, which she willed to the zoo. So, she's trying to get money for some scheme, and without her grandmother's money, she's going after Roger.

10:27pm: The pace of Episode 2 is much slower than that of Episode 1, and that episode included ten full minutes of Don sitting by the beach in Hawaii.

10:28pm: Back to Betty in the abandoned building, where the vagrants have whipped up a batch of hot ham water. It appears that Rando Girl has sold her violin to one of the vagrants, all in order to buy a ticket to California. The vagrant wants to learn how to play the violin.

10:31pm: Commercial break! AMC is attempting to link the themes of its successful shows (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead) to stuff like The Killing, which is a confusing, meandering show. At least when Mad Men meanders, the peope look good doing it.

10:34pm: Commercial break, continued! I've been surprised at how standard the ads in this Mad Men have been. With previous seasons, the ads were more original, compelling, and tied to the show.

10:37pm: Back to the show. Peggy's hit a wall with the headphones ad pitch, so she's using an old trick that Don taught her — write a letter to an imaginary friend about the product she's trying to sell. When I'm standing alone at a subway stop, i write letters to imaginary friends. Anyway, Peggy has yelled at her creative team for not being creative.

10:38pm: Betty is back from her trip to New York's underbelly. She says hello to Sally, who then promptly shuts the door in her face. Sally speaks for America.

10:39pm: Roger is back at the therapist's office, sharing his feelings about his rich, dead mother. The sum of his feelings about her (and death) is zero.

10:41pm: Ken yells at (I think) the Wharton MBA for sending a snack tray to Roger's mother's office. Hopefully, Wharton has trained its graduates to select better snacks.

10:45pm: Pre-pitch meeting! Don is in a meeting with Sheraton execs and some SCDP crew (Roger, Pete, Stan). Don's trip to Hawaii was bankrolled by Sheraton as a "research" venture, but since his research in Hawaii consisted mainly of sitting by the beach, he comes up with a bad idea that evokes suicide. The Sheraton guys would rather show, well, their hotel. Don keeps on pushing the suicide theme, which unsurprisingly irritates the Sheraton guys. 

10:46pm: Don to Stan, after the Sheraton guys leave: "Does this make you think about suicide?" Stan to Don: "Of course! That's what so great about it."

10:47pm: Roger to Don: "We sold death for 25 years [with Lucky Strike] … we ignored it." That's not an exact quote, but you get Roger's point.

10:48pm: Last commercial break of the night! Right? Has to be. There is nothing more romantic than a night spent at KFC.

10:49pm: And the second half of the KFC ad, which is for "Original Recipe Boneless" but does not explictly state the word "chicken." Your judgment.

10:50pm: Back to the show! It's the Francis estate yet again. Sally wants to go somewhere for her holiday party.

10:51pm: OMG BETTY DYED HER HAIR BLACK! Surprisingly, she's still boring.

10:52pm: Roger's shoe shiner died and left him his shine box. This makes Roger cry.

10:53pm: We're at Don's apartment for New Year's Eve. The doctor is with his wife and someone else is with his wife and Megan is with her fondue pots and everything is blissful. And then…she breaks out the slide show of their trip to Hawaii. Dead silence. 

10:55pm: Peggy is at work on New Year's Eve, because of course she is. Ted Chaough stops into the office to find out how they're coming on the headphone ad. Ted is pleased with Peggy, but wants her to let her people go home to celebrate. Peggy wants to stay and play at work all night long. I've been there. I've chosen work to parties on holidays (willingly). It can be oddly motivational.

10:57pm: Another AMC promo? Is this it for tonight's episode?

11:00pm: The TV guide says we're going to 11:08pm, which is past my bedtime. Oh well. Anything for Don Draper.

11:02pm: And our reward for going into overtime is…more of Megan and Don's party. The doctor was paged at Don's apartment, and despite having a few drinks, he's heading into the office — on skis.

11:03pm: Don paid $75,000 for his apartment, which is around $500,000 in current-day dollars. Is that right? That seems like too little. 

11:05pm: Don is having an affair with the doctor's wife, because he must hurt everyone that cares for him. The doctor's wife looks like she's 30, yet has a kid in college. More time-shifting from Matthew Weiner.


Final score: Betty -50 pounds, Megan +2 joints, Peggy +1 brownie point with Ted, and Don with an incredible apartment purchased at a fraction of real market value. We'll give the victory to Don, simply because this may be the last episode that a male character can win.
The men are starting to fade into the background, which is great in Peggy's storyline and horrible in Betty's. Don's pitch to Sheraton was a ridiculous defense of a suicidal advertisement, all while Megan's star keeps on rising. Roger is inconsequential and emotionally twisted. Pete's sideburns don't make up for his balding scalp, Ken has lost weight and moral authority, and even MICHAEL GINSBERG was silenced. How much of a time shift does Matthew Weiner need to make the men irrelevant? 
Thanks for joining me tonight! See you next week.