Mad Men Thread: My Funny Valentine


I know some people who think Mad Men is as serious, somber, and depressing as a Bergman film. It can be all of those things, but it can also be very, very funny, more like Fanny and Alexander than The Seventh Seal. A Day’s Work is one of the funniest episodes ever: while still making serious points about racial and gender politics in 1969 and at SCP. The episode is set on Valentine’s Day, 1969 and has some elements of classic farce with all the mistaken identity shtick going down from Shirley’s flowers to Sally finding Lou (It’s Not My Problem) Avery in Don’s office to Cooper’s consternation at seeing a black face at reception to all the white folks confusing Shirley with Dawn. Shirley is the one with the mini-fro and mini-skirt and Dawn is the prim one who dresses like a church lady, y’all.

Time for some odd (probably very odd) random and discursive comments:

P is for Petulant: Both Pete Campbell and Peggy Olsen pitch hissy fits. We’ve seen it all before from Pete, who is the Daffy Duck of SCP. Ted Chaough is now cast in the role of Bugs Bunny and is the one Pete considers despicable. Absent is more like it. I think Ted is depressed because LA weather means that he cannot wear sweaters half the year and that cramps his style. Pete’s account idea was kinda sorta shot down but unlike the Pegster, he has a new love interest.

When Peggy arrives and sees a dozen red roses on Shirley’s desk, she assumes that they’re hers. She is wrong, which she could have figured out if she’d listened to Stan’s jab: “Hard to believe your cat has the money.” Peggy proceeds to make a complete fool out of herself: initially assuming Ted had sent them, getting mad, and then being embarrassed when Shirley finally admits they came from her fiancée. The Pegster is so flustered that she banishes poor Shirley. I hope she will be able to find her Laverne…

It’s Not My Problem: We all thought Lou Avery had taken on Don’s job as creative director. It seems, however, that he’s SCP’s resident I don’t give a shitologist. Anything that Lou finds slightly irksome, burdensome or any other kind of some he deals with in the same way: Not my problem. Lou was even inordinately rude to young Sally Draper when she wandered into the office in search of her wayward parental unit. Lou’s response: not my problem. Instead, he blames Dawn. Hey, at least he doesn’t call her Shirley…

B is for Bigot: When Not My Problem Lou insists on Dawn’s banishment, Joan reassigns her to the reception desk. Dawn is obviously too sharp for that job but Bert Cooper wants her moved. Why? He’s SCP resident right wing bigot. I recall his opposition to the Civil Rights Act and Pete’s attempt to tap into the “colored market.” At least, Bert is consistent. Consistently wrong but consistent.

Jim Cutler Superstar: Even though he’s still listed as a guest star, Harry Hamlin has been rocking the Mad Men universe this season while Rich (Harry Crane) Summer has been MIA thus far. Cutler is suave, dapper, and surprisingly ethical. When Pete tries to pull an end run around Chevy when he signs up some SoCal car dealers, Cutler keeps his eye on the big picture and insists on full disclosure.

This arcane dispute may foreshadow a struggle with Roger over the account side of the agency. My money is on Jimbo, he’s even lined up our Joan as a potential ally, having noticed that her, uh, potential is being wasted shuffling secretaries and shit. Roger may be in love with Joan, but he’ll always think of her as an office manager with spectacular tatas.

When Don’s name comes up at the endless conference call meeting, Cutler is wittily dismissive, “Don who? Our collective ex-wife who still receives alimony?” It looks bleak for Don at SCP, y’all.

Don, Sally, and the roadside Patty Melt: Sally is back, looking and sounding more like Lauren Bacall than Betty Francis. Even without Weird Glenn at her side, Sally is the mistress of mischief. This time she uses a funeral as an excuse to escape boarding school for a day in the Village.

Unfortunately, she misplaces her purse, which leads her to Daddy’s office where she is, of course, not Lou’s problem. She lands at the Draper penthouse where she fences with dear old, secretive dad. Don learns from Dawn, not Shirley, about Sally’s close encounter with the master of I don’t give a shitology, and eventually levels with the kiddo. Sally is the only one who can tell Don to “just tell the truth” and hear it.

The episode concludes on a rare sweet note with Sally telling Don that she loves him. Don is the only one who gets any kind of loving on Valentine’s Day except for Pete and it will surely-not Shirley-backfire with him as it always does.

It’s a shame that this Clapton classic dates from 1970 and couldn’t be used in the episode but I can, and will, use it:

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