powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


Mad Men's Season 4 makes some new sales pitches. Sold!

The first words out of Season 4's mouth are certainly to the point.

"Who is Don Draper?" a New York reporter asks Mad Men's enigmatic, dual identity leading man during a lunchtime interview.

Draper (Jon Hamm) fails to make the sale, though, eventually prompting a newspaper description of him as "a handsome cypher." So he's flunked the test of bringing a little buzz to the hard-pressed, still fledgling Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency, formed from scratch after Draper's old employer started imploding from within.

In a rare show of kneejerk emotion, Draper kicks an office chair and protests that he's an in-house creative man, not a personality for public consumption.

"Turning creative success into business is your work," patriarch Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) scolds. "And you failed."

Returning on Sunday, July 25th (9 p.m. central on AMC), Mad Men's latest curtain-raiser shows no signs of languishing creatively. This is a sharp-edged, tightly written re-starter kit, replete with lines that both state the obvious but somehow manage to say it all.

Many are directed at Draper, who's living in a rather joyless apartment while estranged wife Betty (January Jones) still occupies the old Draper homestead with their three kids (including a newborn babe) and her boyfriend, Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley). Sunday night's brief Don-Betty encounters are thoroughly frosty, prompting him to reconsider his reluctance to make her move out as agreed upon.

Back at the workplace, colleagues strive to pump him up.

"Creatively, (rival ad firm) Y&R is not capable of living in this neighborhood," adman Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) tells Draper. "You know why? Because you don't work there."

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) also sees her boss's darkened moods as a temporary inconvenience. "You know something? We are all here because of you," she says. "All we want to do is please you."

Draper also embarks on a date set up by longtime saddlemate Roger Sterling (John Slattery). Later comes an apartment quickie that in at least two ways is a flat-out stunner. There's also the challenge of trying to win over the chaste manufacturers of "wholesome" bathing suits.

"A bikini is underwear that you wear to the beach," says a company rep intent on launching a new ad campaign. "We make a two-piece bathing suit."

To which Draper rejoins: "Do you want want women who want bikinis to buy your two-piece, or do you just want to make sure women who want a two-piece don't suddenly buy a bikini?"

Pause, reflect, regroup. "My Lord," says the potential client. "That question just tied a knot in my brain."

The latter exchange comes in the early minutes of an altogether splendid hour. Mad Men then closes the night's books -- but not this particular sale -- with Draper's full-circle come-around. More than ever he's a cocksure advertising man. Except he now has a story to tell. What a great, great drama this is.