Everybody*, it seems, loves Mad Men. And what’s not to love? Attractive people! Glamor! Smoking! Attractive people smoking glamorously! The only problem is, to get to all the pretty stuff, you have to go through big heaping piles of angst which, frankly, sucks a lot of the fun out of it. Therefore, I present to you Season 1 of Mad Men, de-angstified for your enjoyment.
(By the way, if you haven’t already, you really should check out the TLo Mad Style posts, for gorgeous screenshots and everything you didn’t know you didn’t know about costume design and sixties fashion.)
It’s a bright new day at the ad agency, where ad executive Don Draper has just learned that they will no longer be able to promote cigarettes as healthy, given the mounting data to the contrary. Everyone agrees that would be a horrible thing to do anyway. Young executive Pete gets off the phone with his fiancee, and everyone wishes him the best. New secretarial hire Peggy is given a tour around the office, where she is greeted with respect as a professional. Don meets with a female client and listens to her ideas with interest, then offers some helpful suggestions of his own.
After work, Pete goes out for a few drinks with his coworkers to celebrate his engagement, but they decide not to go to a strip club. On his way home, he stops at Peggy’s apartment to congratulate her on a good first day at work, then leaves.
At the end of the episode we meet Don’s wife, Betty, who he has not been cheating on at all.
The agency’s new client is Right Guard, the first aerosol deodorant. The ad execs all agree it feels kind of neat when you spray it on, and decide to market it based on the idea that it will keep you from smelling bad. However, sensing the horrors that this product could one day unleash on the world, they make a pact to never, ever let this lead to Axe Body Spray, and seal it in blood.
Upon learning that a recently divorced woman has just moved into the neighborhood, Betty and the other housewives go over with casseroles to welcome her and offer to help her unpack.
Don continues to not cheat on his wife, and leaves the office on his lunch break to take a healthful walk in the park.
In the office, no sexual harassment is taking place.
Betty develops a medical condition which everyone immediately takes very seriously. When no physical explanation presents itself, Betty goes to visit a psychiatrist, who helps her to non-judgmentally examine the sources of stress in her life and offers useful suggestions for dealing with them. Afterwards, he speaks with her husband, but at all times is respectful of the bounds of doctor-patient confidentiality.
Concerned over the groundbreaking new Volkswagon campaign, the execs at the ad agency wonder if they should be working with more products designed by Hitler. A line of tiny mustaches is briefly considered, then rejected. Later, they meet with their department store client and prove that they take her business very seriously by the careful and well-considered study they have made of the store’s operations.
Pete returns from his honeymoon and is subject to some good-natured pranks from his coworkers, none of which involve the racist dehumanization of poor immigrants.
After the meeting, Don does not hit on the female client. Instead, he shows her pictures of his kids and talks about how excited he is for his daughter’s upcoming birthday. The client agrees that they are adorable.
The next day, the Draper family is getting ready for Sally’s birthday party. All their friends and neighbors come over with their children, and everyone is delighted that new neighbor Helen was able to make it too. Sally opens her presents and is ecstatic over her new puppy and the playhouse her dad built for her. The music from The Barber of Seville plays in the background.
Unfortunately, the cake turns out to be a disaster, but Helen steps in and saves the day with a Sara Lee one she happened to have in the freezer. Everyone agrees that she is a great addition to the neighborhood and a great time is had by all.
*And by “everybody” I mean, “coastal white people who make more than $100k a year and magazine writers.”)