Mad Men, Season 4

Week 1: Is the SCDP Logo in Arial?
Talking television.
July 27 2010 4:14 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 1: Is the SCDP Logo in Arial?

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Don Draper (Jon Hamm), and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) in Mad Men. Click image to expand.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Don Draper (Jon Hamm), and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) in Mad Men

You can bet your Lucky Strike account that Don's past will be exposed (or at least threatened to be exposed) before Episode 6. Who is Don Draper, indeed. It's simply too tempting a plot point—the gun on the mantel. His past led last season to the exquisite scene in which Bert Cooper asks, "Would you say I know something about you, Don?" Perhaps the greatest checkmate in the show's history. One way to judge Season 4 is whether it can build to a similarly tense moment.

As you note, Julia, the press is having fun with its many cameos in the first show. The Wall Street Journal seems less miffed than Advertising Age: They produced a signature hedcut of Don, complete with cigarette. (One wag at Slate pointed out its resemblance to John Boehner.) But my favorite "controversy" zooming through the Interwebs is the one flagged by commenter "Evan" about the font used in the SCDP logo. At first glance, font nerds identified it as Arial, which—the horror!—is a bastard font that Microsoft designed so that it wouldn't have to pay for Helvetica. But, lo, upon further review, the font was deemed to be Akzidenz-Grotesk, a period-correct choice with a fine pedigree.

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I still don't know what to make of that prostitute. Perhaps she will have some advice to offer should Don land the Maidenform account? Or maybe she's an indication that Don's out-of-office life is about to diverge from the mainstream in new, more radical ways. I would love to see him travel through bohemia again, especially since he once challenged its cheap nihilism. One wildcard possibility: 1964 is the year that Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters showed up in New York in search of kicks.

This episode is aging well with me, mostly because of the ending, when Don holsters his guns. I thought the show was perceptive about how creative offices work. They need a star to revolve around, someone who fills the place with meaning and with fear. (Think Tina Brown at The New Yorker.) Don is stepping into that role for SCDP: Can the man without a past create a profitable cult of personality?

Topics still left on the table, if we had a table: Peggy's matronly clothes; will single-Dad Don win with the kids?; Sally Draper, who seems to have inherited Don's sangfroid when it comes to emotional confrontation; and Chicken Kiev.

Modestly,
Agger

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Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.

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