Thursday, October 02, 2008

Weekend Preview: Mad Men, George Brett, Huskers Apathy & Cubs Misery


It's the top of the 7th inning of game 2 of the Dodgers/Cubs NLDS, the Cubs are down 6-0...and Carlos Zambrano is still pitching! And he's thrown 105 pitches. I'm sure Cub fan is calling for Lou Piniella's head right now, pinning what could be another collapse on someone. Sort of like Don Draper is doing with Duck Phillips on Mad Men. Or George Brett would on the crab legs at the Mirage.

After all that's gone on with Mad Men over the past several weeks, one of the biggest mysteries surrounds that of one Herman "Duck" Phillips, or at least how he is the antagonist regarding Don Draper's character. Duck is a tortured soul, albeit a talented one who in season two of the series is slowly building to someone Don can pin most of his problems on.

The big mystique surrounding Duck is why he was let go of a what Cooper called a very good gig at Young & Rubicam in London. It's been obvious since we first met Duck that he's had a battle with booze, which is what makes him such a fascinating character in the Sterling Cooper world. Victories and problems are met with a simple trip to the liquor cabinet, something Duck doesn't partake in. It's part of why he was so eager to cut Freddy loose, a statement that boozing on the clock is frowned upon. And the Don versus Duck battle has been brewing since this season's first episode, when Duck strongly suggests younger talent is needed for Martinson's Coffee. Duck's instincts are correct, as we see in the later episode "The Gold Violin", but Don is frustrated at bringing in new blood. "So, now that I've given you your babies and your Xerox machine," he says do Duck in the second season's first episode, "Should I throw in a couple of elephants? I don't want there to be an excuse when you can't bring in Martinson's Coffee."

The relationship is further tested in the very next episode, when American Airlines has the crash that ironically kills Pete's father. Duck knows an old friend at American Airlines, but not the true decision maker. Never mind the fact that Don has been trying to build Mohawk Airlines as the agency's "big" airline. Duck is so desperate to make an impact at Sterling Cooper that he uses his contact at American -- and then ultimately Pete's confused emotions over his father's death -- to impress Roger and Bertram into dumping Mohawk for a chance to land the American Airlines account. Don, for all of his flaws and secrets, knows better. Dumping Mohawk for a possible "foot hold" with American is the wrong business move. This is further confirmed when Duck makes the staff come in on a Sunday (during the "Three Sundays" episode) to get ready for a Good Friday pitch to American. Duck's contact is fired on the very day of the pitch to American, infuriating Don further.

The boiling point happens in the "Maidenform" episode, where we begin to learn more of what haunts Duck. We meet his ex-wife, two kids and family dog Chauncey. His ex-wife is going to re-marry, his kids have accepted their new life, and oh by the way, the new husband is allergic to Chauncey. All the while, Duck has suggested to Don that Playtex wants new creative, as in creative similar to the material the Maidenform folks are doing. As much as we, the audience, know about Don, we also understand he's extremely smart when it comes to the Sterling Cooper clients. Yes, Don Draper is an unfaithful husband and an uninterested father, but he knows the advertising game. Playtex is kicking ass sales wise, and there's no reason to fix what isn't broke.

But Duck is adamant on presenting a "Maidenform" campaign to the Playtex folks. "You've been pitching the clients ideas to me more than you have ours to them" is what Don tells Duck in one of the series more telling moments. Roger had sensed the growing tension between Don and Duck, demanding they schedule a lunch to call a "truce". Since Don is too busy nailing Bobbie Barrett and going to the movies, a simple meeting in Duck's office will do. The two reach an understanding regarding the American Airlines/Mohawk fiasco, while Paul Kinsey presents a rather clever idea for Playtex (the Jackie/Marilyn campaign). The Playtex brass are impressed with the new idea, but they're more comfortable with what's working and pass on Paul's idea.

Which of course leads to one of the more talked about scenes of the season. It's another wasted chance for Duck to impress, and his immediate reaction is to find the nearest bottle of the hard stuff (something very easy to find at SC). But as an attention-starved Chauncey stares at him, Duck refuses the drink. He walks Chauncey out of the building, and throws him out on the New York streets. Chauncey's too much of a reminder of the past he's thrown away, and he can't even accept the loving admiration of a dog that he wishes his kids would keep to remind them of their father.

The mystique regarding Duck's falling off the wagon has been one of the greatest parts of this season. We assume through further episodes and crafty editing that Don is back to to bottle, especially, in the next episode "The Gold Violin". Matinson's Coffee is now going by "Martinson", and the two new young creative sparks help land the account for Sterling Cooper. Duck is a more confident soul in knowing the young lings "who think young" can land the account, and this moment redeems Duck's status at the agency. The young Smith team impresses the Martinson folk enough to sign with SC, and Don finally recognizes Duck's "Good advance work" in getting those who think young to ink them. Duck suggests landing the account could now lead Sterling Cooper to get "Life Savers", but his brief moment in the sun is tempered as Cooper gives Don all of the credit, another opportunity for Duck to turn the bottle. Again, we never actually see falling off the wagon, but it's implied in his frustration with not getting the deserved credit that all is not right in his world. Don celebrates, as usual with a celebratory toast, even asking Duck if he'd like for him to bring in "something for him", but actor Mark Moses' acting suggests his pain is too great to resist temptation.

Duck plays his sobriety at the Draper dinner party perfectly, suggesting he'll have a drink with dinner while just drinking tomato juice while everyone else liquors up before the meal. We even get a close up of Duck drinking from an empty wine glass during a toast. But then there's the Freddy incident, dividing Don and Duck even further. Don's the one who gave Duck a chance at redemption by bringing him to Sterling Cooper when his career was wrapped around a tree and losing his plush gig in London. Now, as Freddy suffers an embarrassing drunken incident, it's Duck who demands the firing. The irony isn't lost on Don, and this is all going to lead to a big blow up over the next four weeks. (And special thanks to Nobody's Sweetheart for that great illustration above).

Since the start of the Missouri/Nebraska game is so late (8pm central time, believed to be the latest kick-off time ever at Memorial Stadium), the NLCS could be all set with the Phillies/Dodgers by then. Here's the state of Nebraska football right now: Everyone's so convinced Chase Daniel and company is going to come rolling into Lincoln to make a big statement that Husker fan seems to be content if the Huskers can just keep the game close. And Missouri hasn't won in Lincoln since 1978. Even CALLAHAN'S teams beat the Tigers in Lincoln, even though he was embarrassed both times in Columbia. But seriously, nobody's picking Nebraska to win on Saturday night. Kevin Kugler is suggesting a Missouri 56, Nebraska 26 final. If that's the case, the Pelini honeymoon is beyond over. Even after everything that's happened with the Husker Football program, shouldn't the element of playing at home -- in a night game no less -- offer some sort of advantage? Or has everyone just given up after the Virginia Tech loss?

The George Brett video has drawn a ton of interest for good reason. It's that good, and we don't think it's anything for him to be ashamed of. It's one of the greatest baseball stories ever. It doesn't diminish his legacy as perhaps the greatest third baseman ever. It's a great moment, granted one where he didn't realize there was a camera following his every move. But everything about it is such comedy gold. It's better than anything Ron Shelton could have put in Bull Durham. At times, it reminds one of Bill Murray's "Dali Lama" speech to the scared caddy in Caddyshack. Brett is and forever will be my favorite baseball player, and that video should actually serve as a sales piece in getting free agents to come to Kansas City to at least enjoy spring training.

But right now, it's Cub fans who are literally shitting their pants. And a Boston media what a World Series that would bring Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe would be like.

3 comments:

Juanita's Journal said...

"Now, as Freddy suffers an embarrassing drunken incident, it's Duck who demands the firing."


This feels wrong. Why would Roger cave in to Duck's demand that Freddie, who works under Don, be fired? Why didn't Roger consult Don over this matter?

Dirtylaundry said...

Roger got blindsided by the news from Duck & Pete, but he explained why he had to agree with Duck in firing Fredddy. The story was out, and once it got to Cooper, he himself would have freaked out big time. Don even asked Roger about something in his contract about him not being able to fire someone on his staff. Roger reminded him he didn't have a contract, and could fire anyone he wanted.

Juanita's Journal said...

But that does not excuse Roger's decision. I understand his reasons for firing Freddy. But why are most fans trying to place the blame on Duck and Pete? The whole matter was up to Roger. He was the one who decided to fire Freddy. And he decided to do so without consulting Don, Freddy's boss.


"The relationship is further tested in the very next episode, when American Airlines has the crash that ironically kills Pete's father. Duck knows an old friend at American Airlines, but not the true decision maker. Never mind the fact that Don has been trying to build Mohawk Airlines as the agency's "big" airline. Duck is so desperate to make an impact at Sterling Cooper that he uses his contact at American -- and then ultimately Pete's confused emotions over his father's death -- to impress Roger and Bertram into dumping Mohawk for a chance to land the American Airlines account. Don, for all of his flaws and secrets, knows better."


Don didn't know better. He was wrong about American Airlines. And Duck was right. Duck did the right thing, despite how it ended. Don is not much of a businessman if he was willing to maintain the status quo with Mowhawk Airlines, instead of making the attempt to acquire a better client like Amercian Airlines.

The problem with Don is that he does not like to negotiate. He doesn't really seem to like changes very much- especially when it comes to business.