Mad Men, Season 4

Week 1: Design Tips From Edward Hopper
Talking television.
July 27 2010 1:35 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 1: Design Tips From Edward Hopper

Gentlemen, it's so nice to have you back around the absent conference table. Just pretend it's your own living room. And it's great to see our commenters pulling up chairs as well. (One of last year's sharpest commenters, lawyer and former acting solicitor general Walter Dellinger, is now heading up a Mad Men conversation at the Wall Street Journal, which just goes to show that our readers are so smart they get hired away!)

Michael, reader Brian Hamilton points out that you nailed that Edward Hopper reference: Matthew Weiner cited Hopper when describing Don's new digs to Terry Grossthis week. When Gross called the apartment "drab," Weiner defended it, saying "I do think for a man, I don't think that apartment is as depressing as—a lot of women keep saying to me how depressing it is. … There's comfortable furniture. The television is there. There's a kitchen. It looks like it was decorated by Edward Hopper." That "decorated by Edward Hopper" is not synonymous with "depressing" for Weiner may tell us more about this show than anything we've heard yet.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast

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I, too, enjoyed the new and more tentative Henry Francis, the one who's a bit neutered by domestic life, too "full" to respond to Betty's sexual advances (elaborate negligee notwithstanding). But reader Tyler Probst is astute about the couple's rendezvous in the garage: "Francis ravages Betty in the car after an icy exchange between Don, Betty, and Francis. It appeared to be sex between two paramours rather than a married couple." Probst speculates that what excited Francis about Betty was "the forbidden nature of the relationship" and predicts an eventual split: Now that she's no longer off limits, she's less interesting.

Advertising Age had a funny piece this week from a reporter who worked there during the Mad Men era, and who trashed the scene's authenticity: "No. 1, we never did interviews over lunch; No. 2, we didn't take notes in shorthand; No. 3 we didn't ask cute-ass questions; and No. 4, our pictures were never bigger than our stories."

Despite these inaccuracies, it's worth commenting on the prosthetic limb of the reporter from Advertising Age. On Fresh Air, Weiner said the image was meant as a metaphor for Draper's amputated life: "What's left of his life is a phantom limb." But I also read it as a reminder of Korea, the war in which the real Don Draper died, and the war in which Dick Whitman assumed his new identity. In Season 1, Don's identity was revealed to his boss Bert Cooper, who accepted it. In Season 3, it was revealed to his wife, who decidedly did not. In Season 4, as Don becomes the face of SCDP and thus a public persona, the world of people who may care about his secret past is growing exponentially. Perhaps a reporter who saw real action in Korea might be interested in an ad man who stole credit for a Purple Heart?

More sweet potatoes please,
Julia

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