Closing the Book on “Mad Men”

Closing the Book on “Mad Men”
Sterling Headshot
“Remember, when God closes a door, he opens a dress.” God bless you, Roger Sterling. (PopSugar)

Tonight, it ends.

The story of a guy named Don Draper and the life surrounding an advertising agency in New York’s 1960’s. But, this story doesn’t begin with a script written by Matthew Weiner. It actually began, innocently enough, with a group performing in Des Moines one night. Critically acclaimed group “RJD2” performed at Vaudeville Mews. Popular for the tune “1976” and “Ghostwriter”, little did anyone, or even the group, would know that that another tune “A Beautiful Mine” would be selected by Weiner to be the opening theme to “Mad Men.”

Yes, Des Moines, you had a small part of television history, besides being the home of January Jones (Betty Draper Francis).

We tend to easily toss the banter of “greatest show ever” at anything we just watched (“The Sopranos” and “MAS*H” for examples), but there is something about television series that pulls us in like a black hole. But, there is validity to what The Sopranos and Mad Men mean to today’s television. It was unique, it had interesting characters that resembled the people we’re around these days.  I dare you to tell me you didn’t run across an Uncle Junior, Paulie Walnuts, or a Roger Sterling in your daily lives? Or wait, we wished we would run across people like that…

Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1?  My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)
Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1? My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

Anyway, I have always been fascinated in how we watch television: how we view it, how we expect it to end and the reaction to it when it ends in the way that we did not anticipated it.

Do Colonel Henry Blake and Rosalind Shays come to mind?

As I wrote back in 2010 about the ending of The Sopranos, the idea that we want a perfect ending to a show is only wishful thinking. Shows should challenge our thinking and attitudes on what we think our perceptions are and to get us to view it a different way.

Larry Gelbart nailed it when how he described on MAS*H killing off Henry Blake. The viewers were upset that the writers would create such a killjoy in adding in Blake’s death, but the writers’ had another angle for viewers to understand: MASH wasn’t just a sitcom…it was a sitcom/drama about the reality of war.

So, as AMC closes the book on “Mad Men” this evening, don’t be surprised if the ending you expect isn’t the one you want.

Mind you, Weiner did work on The Sopranos. Anything can happen…just don’t expect it to live up to your own unrealistic expectations.

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Catching Up

Liz Lidgett...a rising star in the Des Moines community, and a valued friend. (Rodney White/Des Moines Register)

A few days ago, several friends were interviewed for a cover story about Millennials and the perception of their generation

They shot down the notion that their generation are selfish and disconnected.  I agree with them.  Maybe because we live here in Iowa, but I’ve seen more Millennials active in organizations, being creative, starting their own companies, and doing other things that I wouldn’t imagine nearly 15 years ago when I left campus life, Des Moines-bound, with a Bachelor’s Degree in tow.  

I’m a late bloomer. 

I was late to the young professional movement in Des Moines, late to the tech startup movement, pretty much late to anything.  I couldn’t help but to think to myself while sitting during the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 event on Tuesday, just how lost, or behind, this Generation X-er feels.  

I’m trying to catch up.

When you grow up in an environment where the script is “finish high school, don’t knock any girls up, go to college, get a job (any job), get married, have kids…”, it is drilled into you not to deviate from that list.  So, imagine how behind I was when I finally joined a young professional organization, elected to a non-profit board, and writing up agendas and minutes for another organization…at age 29. 

Today, at age 36, I feel somewhat conflicted…and missing in action.  Just as people are starting to see and take notice of what I’m doing in the community as an Xer, I feel that I started too late.  Generation X‘s time in the spotlight is dimming and Millennials are now the new superstars.  Don’t get me wrong, I received two community service awards last year.  I’m appreciative of both awards, but I don’t spend time doing the “glory days” circuit, reminding people of my past accomplishments. 

Millennials are trending and they are, rightfully so, receiving the attention.   

Mad Men opening montage. (Courtesy of TV Worth Watching)

The maddening part is that the more I try to catch up with the Joneses (Boomers and Millennials), the further behind I fall.  If I’m not creating a startup, working as an executive VP at a bank, or cajoling a business executive to have coffee with me and invite him or her to be my mentor, I’m falling from the sky, like the figure in the opening of “Mad Men.”  

I was taught to keep my mouth shut, figure it out yourself, and grind for everything.  Deconstructing that mindset has been the most difficult.  People tell you how great you are as an individual and volunteer, but internally you feel that there’s no one to throw you a life-preserver when you’re drowning inside. 

Especially when it comes to a career or work.  If you haven’t achieved something in the business or work world, then the perception is that no one will give you the time of day, unless you do something phenomenal or rise up the ladder. 

That lack of achievement and accomplishment in the business world is what might be holding me back from being fully accepted and welcomed in the business community, especially in Des Moines. 

This despite being a rockstar in community service. 

I don’t feel “washed up” at 36, but as someone who is between Millennials and Baby Boomers, being lost in the shuffle is pretty common.

I’m still catching up to get to that place.  If I finally get there, as a late bloomer, will anyone notice? 

Sunday Sports Leisure Reading – March 25, 2012

If college football resembled "Mad Men"... (courtesy of No 2-Minute Warning)

I haven’t done one of these for awhile, but there’s plenty of stuff going on that’s flying under the radar.

Deadspin this week profiled two former Drake Basketball greats in their series, “Tell Me When It’s Over”.  Willie Wise and current Drake color analyst Dolph Pulliam recalled their run to the Final Four and facing UCLA, and more importantly, their lives post-basketball.  This is a must-read for Bulldogs fans around the world.

Ty Duffy of The Big Lead pens an opinion that I agree with wholeheartedly with regards to the punishment handed down by Roger Goodell to New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, General Manager Mickey Loomis, and assistant coach Joe Vitt for their involvement in Bounty-“gate”.  Duffy reminds everyone that the criticism towards Goodell is not only shortsighted, but unwarranted for the most part.

Could Mizzou's Kim English have himself a budding career in being a college hoops analyst?

Greg Hall, popular Kansas City sports media blogger has quotes from Missouri basketball star Kim English during his appearance on KCSP 610-AM with sports talk show host Nick Wright.  English, who has struggled with speech disfluency (stuttering, for which I know very well from my experience), had a lot to say, including his opinions on several college basketball analysts.

Duffy also reports that John Infante, the college compliance officer behind the well-informative and insightful “Bylaw Blog” is shutting down the blog, effective April 7th.  “Bylaw” is a look into NCAA regulations and decisions.  Namely, what does the NCAA do, why do they do it, and the effects of it.  I will miss this site a lot.  I hope Infante, or someone else, down the road will either bring it back or create a new site that helps fans understand the inside look at NCAA rules.

The Wigwam, home of the Anderson Indians.

Craig Fuhrman of the NY Times writes this great story about an end of an era in Indiana.  The Wigwam was the home of Anderson (IN) High School for many years when basketball was king.  This recently past basketball season is the first that the Wigwam did not host a game.  The economic conditions and the shift of popularity from prep basketball to prep football in Indiana has put the game of basketball at a larger crossroads.

It’s time to get your martini, whiskey sour, or Old Fashioned on:  Mad Men makes its return after a 17-month hiatus with its long-anticipated 5th season.  Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times interviews Mad Men director Matthew Weiner about the return of Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and company, as well as Weiner’s need to keep things under wraps about what this season will bring.

Aaron Wernimont

Some somber news over the past few weeks that deserves to be mentioned by me.  Whereas everyone across the country is talking about a certain story in Florida (I don’t need to tell you what it is), there are several individuals whose lives were tragically cut short.  I chose to mention them here because they are part of my extended families (hometown, high school, and college) that are near and dear to me.

It’s easy to follow the current cause celebre, and that’s fine to do that, but personally for me, the deaths of the following hits closer to home for me.  Please take the time to read these stories.

Mollie Enwright

Aaron Werinmont

Preston Bradford

Lindsay Nichols

The Era of “Cool” Music

Don Draper: the new "Mr. Cool"?

Cool is defined as an aesthetic of attitude, behavior, comportment, appearance and style. Cool is interpreted differently by everyone.  There is no doubt that if you walk down the street, or watching television, you can see “cool” from a mile away.

Mad Men, which begins it’s 4th season Sunday night (AMC, 9:00 pm CST), can be considered the “new” cool.  Why is that?  To me, it’s the theme music done by RJD2 and the selection of the music and songs that help paint the picture of the early 60’s as America was about to go through a historical evolution.

As a connoisseur of television history, I love rediscovering things that I remembered watching as a kid and linking it to something we’re talking about, seeing, or listening to.

Thanks to YouTube, I found some stuff that puts “Mad Men” in a category of cool as it relates to the 1960’s.

The great Henry Mancini was one of the giants in an era of great 20th Century music composers.  He composed the popular “Baby Elephant Walk” and “The Pink Panther.”  Here is one of his early hits, “Mr. Lucky” that was used as the theme to the CBS series of the same name:

Imagine walking down Broadway in New York City, in the rain, puffing on a Lucky Strike cigarette, seeing the flashing neon lights as it reflects off the wet sidewalks.

Mancini also crafted this second classic which was the theme to hit crime drama “Peter Gunn.” “Peter Gunn” is one of my personal favorites because my junior high band played it and I remembered watching several episodes of the series in college.

The great jazz legend Count Basie cooked up this hard-driving theme for “M Squad” starring Lee Marvin that ran on NBC from 1957-1960.

Lalo Schifrin, similar to Mancini, is a giant in composing music for movies.  While he continues performing, his resume includes the Dirty Harry series, Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon,” “Mission:  Impossible,” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”  In 1968, he composed the music for the action movie “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset.  The opening credits of “Bullitt” is one of the best in my book and give the movie a “cool” presence.  Not too mention the greatest car chase scene in movie history at that time.

Just for kicks, here is an updated version, done by a group called Noke:

The last one comes from British composer Neil Richardson.  His piece “The Riveria Affair” was used by WOR-TV as the theme to “The 4 O’Clock Movie” and in Warner Brothers paid homage by using it in the opening credits before the start of “Oceans 13” featuring George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

Below is a collage of openings from various NYC television stations with their own “Saturday Afternoon Movie”, “Sunday Morning Movie”, or “The 4:30 Movie” with “The Riveria Affair” being played.