How To Pitch Manischewitz
John Swansburg chats with readers about Mad Men and kosher wine.
Photograph courtesy AMC.
Mad Men TV Club regular John Swansburg was on Slate’s Facebook page on Monday to chat with readers about the latest episode of Mad Men. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click on this link.
John Swansburg: I am just polishing off my morning crab rangoon (why not, they have cream cheese) and am eager to discuss last night's episode with you all!
Nicole Hall: Sally is quickly becoming the most interesting person on the show. I thought Don's honesty and obvious respect for Anna made me love him more.
John Swansburg: That was a sweet moment for Don, in an episode when he was rather unlikable at the office. What in particular did you find interesting about Sally last night? I'm thinking of writing about her relationship with Megan in my post, and I'm curious what folks think of their scenes together.
Nicole Hall: Sally is just so smart. She realized Betty was trying to hurt Don and didn't fall for her game.
Marc Naimark: Not that smart, because she understood after overhearing Megan and Don fighting. Another scene of her learning stuff while wandering the halls of the Park Avenue apartment in her PJs.
Samantha Regina: Yeah, I think Sally has shown that she is capable of learning things, which might help her rise above some of the backward logic that her mother has instilled in her. Who knows, though? There have been lots of "hints" with Sally and food surrounding the adult women in her life including Betty, Megan, and Mrs. Francis.
Noelle Bowman Schuck: The mother-daughter-stepmother triangle among Sally, Betty, and Megan is realistic, and even though I loved the way Sally handled her mother at the end of the show, I thought her words were a bit unrealistic even for a precocious character like Sally.
John Swansburg: I had a similar feeling. Sometimes Sally sounds a bit too grown-up, IMHO. "Go ahead, dig yourself deeper" sounded like an adult's words to me, though Sally has a keen ear for the way adults talk, so I suppose you could say she's just deploying a phrase she's overheard before.
Samantha Regina: Megan and Sally's relationship is an interesting one. It has always seemed to me that Sally was unfortunately destined to carry the torch of body-image issues that seems to have been passed from her grandmother to her mother and so on. Megan is clearly a much more psychologically healthy person than Betty, but I'm not entirely sure that her presence will undo the burden of Betty's influence.
Kathy English: I think Betty showed a softer side. I know how awful she was to put Sally in the middle of trying to screw up Don's new marriage, but for Betty she still seemed nice in several scenes. Kind to Henry and the children, for her.
Juliana Scorsese: I love how Don and Megan's relationship is maturing and growing stronger. They bring out the best in each other.
John Swansburg: I agree. We saw yet another great example of Megan having the greater emotional intelligence than Don, and convincing him that he was wrong. She saw right through Betty's ploy, in a way Don couldn't in his anger. She's wise beyond her years.
John Swansburg: In their posts, Julia and Patrick both expressed shock that Don left Ginsberg's work in the cab. Were you guys similarly surprised? Or is this the kind of thing you'd expect from an aging talent who has always had a balky moral compass?
Kate Andrews: Don's leaving Ginsberg's pitch in the taxi reminded me of his plagiarizing a tagline last season from, who was it, Jane's cousin, or something? Of course, that was because Don was drinking heavily, so why is Don resorting to unfair measures now?
John Swansburg: Good point! I'd forgotten about that. He stole the line from Jane's cousin. He was drunk at the time, as you say, but in vino veritas.
Marc Naimark: I was convinced he was going to leave his own work! Very disappointed in Don.
John Swansburg: You had more faith in him than I did!
Allen Strickland Williams: I don't think Don was maliciously trying to screw over the young talent. I don't think Don is really all that envious of Ginsberg's skills. After all, he has most of them. But he no longer has them at his fingertips. He's rusty. He was compelled to stay in over the weekend because he realized how little work he's done recently, and he forgot how much he genuinely enjoys it. He left the pitch in the cab not to kick Ginsberg in the dirt for no reason, but to get in the dirt himself.
John Swansburg: That's a very interesting interpretation. I can see Don thinking to himself: "I want to see if my idea carries the day" (as opposed to "I want to put that comer Ginsberg in his place").
Marc Naimark: Don has always had to paddle hard to keep up with his life. As long as he had a secret to hide, he was constantly observing, inventing, and remaining dynamic and fast on his feet. Now that he's got job security and no secrets from his wife and most of his partners (Pete, Cooper, anyone else?), he's lost his edge. Maybe it was poor Dick who had it, not Don.
Latrice Davis: Interesting that you see Ginsberg as a younger version of Don, given that no one seems to like him. I sense that while Ginsberg has some talent, he's not as good as he thinks he is.
John Swansburg: Ginsberg is raw talent. Very raw! He clearly has a knack for coming up with clever campaigns. But can he sell the way Draper sells? That's always been part of the Draper mystique: He's good at ideas, and he's good at romancing the client. Ginsberg thinks his ideas are genius, and gets very irritated when that isn't recognized right away.
Latrice Davis: Ginsberg also has a tendency to shoot himself in the foot, as was the case when Don nearly fired him a few weeks ago. Yes, he has raw talent—with arrogance to spare!
Marc Naimark: Let's compare Ginsberg waltzing into SCDP with his fabulous portfolio and younger Don meeting Roger at the fur shop. Don has always had to work hard, and did it so well that he came to give off an aura of inevitability. But I disagree about Ginsberg not having Don's ability to sell: the Cinderella rape pitch was very effective.
Holly Allen: When Don was flipping through his portfolio pages seeing nothing but Ginsberg's name on the bottom, I was worried for Peggy. It never even crossed my mind to be worried for Ginsberg.
June Thomas: I loved that crab rangoon line. To me it was an indication of Roger's intelligence, which usually comes out in his jokes. He starts off with the cheesy lines about the Jewish community and beautiful Jewish women, but when Jane flirts with Bernie, he brings up her love of trayf. A burn and a laugh line in one fell swoop.
John Swansburg: I do love a trayf-based burn! Did you also think it was odd how strong Bernie was coming on though? Who would moon like that at a client dinner, even if you're the client?
Marc Naimark: I don't think the crab rangoon was such a dig. A small one, but these are assimilated Jews (the boat), eating in a nonkosher restaurant.
John Swansburg: I thought it was interesting that Roger turned to Ginsberg for the Manischewitz pitch because he's Jewish. The idea he gets back isn't particularly Jewish, but it is perfectly pitched to a Jewish client who came over in steerage and wants to assimilate his product. The ad shows their wine appealing to the great melting pot that is the bus.
Sheli Walker Saltsman: Sometimes I enjoy your recaps as much as the show. Here's your thank you.
John Swansburg: That's terrific to hear! Thanks for reading; it's so nice to hear folks enjoy them.
John Swansburg: OK guys, my "Shit I Gotta Do" folder is spilling over. Thanks as always for coming out to chat. Talk to you next week!