The most recent episode of Mad Men reminded Steve Jaeger of what it was like in America when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.
Last night’s episode of Mad Men centered around the assassination of Martin Luther King. As in every episode, I was blown away by Matt Weiner’s attention to detail. From the wood paneling of the ballrooms in the old New York hotels to Don Draper driving with all three of his children crammed together in the front seat of his car. Having grown up in the era I am always struck with the eerie time warp I enter into as I watch the show.
The first time I watched Mad Men I said to someone, “I wonder where they got my parents old kitchen from?” With every episode, I am back in 1960’s New York where my father would ride the LIRR into the city every morning (often driven to the station by my mother who was still in her nightgown and robe) and come home every evening smelling of the cigarettes smoked by his fellow commuters. We all watched Walter Cronkite together, especially in troubled times and the images of him and Dan Schorr reporting the horrible news evokes visceral memories.
In last night’s episode at the Advertising Club of New York Dinner where Peggy has been nominated for an award, guest speaker Paul Newman is interrupted with the news that Martin Luther King has been shot and killed. The ballroom erupts and people rush for the pay phones in the lobby. The people are in shock and many are weeping and embracing each other. My own memories of that time were of fear. My parents were terrified for my brother and his family who were living just outside of DC. My mother was terrified that the relatively few black people who lived in our town would riot, and I was chased through a school courtyard by an angry black student wielding a large tree branch he’d picked up somewhere.
In truth, my mother was always terrified that someone would riot and was always leery of anyone who was not white, Catholic and of northern European descent. My world at that time was the North Shore of Long Island and we had very little contact with “colored” people, the term that now seems so wrong. The world we lived in then is gone forever and no matter how sweet my childhood memories are, I’m glad it is.
I should also point out one fact that is directed more at AMC than at Mad Men. Years back, AMC decided to go commercial. No more uninterrupted, uncut movies as it had shown since the channel was founded. I was furious and turned my back on them and did not watch anything on the network until the debut of Mad Men. I’m also a fan of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead but the way AMC interrupts shows with more frequent and longer commercial breaks as the shows progress really sticks in my craw. Even as they closed out last night’s show playing “Love is Blue”, the monster radio hit from 1968, promos for other AMC shows were popping up. They obviously have a cash cow in Mad Men—and Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce would obviously be all in favor of the overload of advertising—but I’m not.
What did you think of last night’s episode of Mad Men? Did it seem an accurate portrayal of the week that Dr. King was shot? Does Mad Men‘s commentary about history seem to have a message for today, too?
Also read Season 6’s Mad Men episode recaps.