Public Relations (Mad Men)
|Mad Men episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Phil Abraham|
|Written by||Matthew Weiner|
|Featured music||"Tobacco Road"
by The Nashville Teens
|Original air date||July 25, 2010|
"Public Relations" is the season premiere of the fourth season of the American television drama series Mad Men, and the 40th overall episode of the series. It was written by series creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner, and directed by Phil Abraham. It originally aired on AMC in the United States on July 25, 2010. The episode takes place in November 1964, as the advertisement agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has just started up, and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is struggling with his divorce. The agency partners are concerned about the narrow breadth of their client base, which is not helped by Don coming across as less than sympathetic in an interview with a trade magazine. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) attempts a viral marketing stunt to bring back a disgruntled client, with unexpected repercussions. Meanwhile, Don's ex-wife Betty (January Jones) is struggling to fit in with her new family, and Don encounters problems in his romantic life.
"Public Relations" was heavily promoted in the weeks leading up to its airing, with an endorsement by President Obama and product tie-in by Mattel toys helping with publicity. Weiner expressed displeasure with what he considered a media revelation of plot details, though other journalists called his objections unwarranted. "Public Relations" was critically acclaimed by television critics, who expressed that the series returned to form. Upon airing, the episode was viewed by 2.92 million viewers and attained a 0.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic, according to Nielsen ratings.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is being interviewed by a reporter from Advertising Age and declines to speak about his personal life. As a result, he comes across as arrogant and a cipher in the published story, a fact that senior partners Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) lament, as they had hoped the interview would act as advertising for the company. The effects of the bad publicity is brought home just after Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) has sold a Jai Alai special to ABC, but it must be pulled because the client, Pete Campbell's (Vincent Kartheiser) college friend, Horace Cook Jr., nicknamed "Ho Ho", fires the agency because Draper did not mention the client in his interview. Because of the agency's narrow client base, the loss is financially detrimental. Bert suggests Don do an interview with The Wall Street Journal to make amends, but Don demurs. Meanwhile, Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) comes up with an idea to regain the Sugarberry Ham account. She hires two actresses to fight over a ham in a grocery store. The plan goes awry when the fight turns real and one of the women presses charges against the other for assault, and Peggy has to ask Don for bail and hush money. Don disapproves of the stunt (which was carried out behind his back), but Peggy points out that they did retain the account. Also new part-time member of the creative team has been added: Joey, who Peggy has a friendly relationship with.
Don settles in as a bachelor after last season's divorce from his wife Betty (January Jones). Roger sets him up on a date with Bethany, a friend of his wife Jane, who is a petite blonde, like Betty. After the date, Bethany (Anna Camp) expresses interest in seeing Don again, but rejects his sexual advances. On Thanksgiving Day, Don spends time with a prostitute, and Betty has problems fitting in with the family of her new husband Henry (Christopher Stanley). At Thanksgiving dinner with his family, Betty's daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) complains about the food. The childish action blows up into a scene when Betty yells at Sally, treats her brusquely, and causes problems by forcing food into Sally's mouth. Henry's mother later privately expresses displeasure with her son's new wife, observing that her children are clearly scared of her. However, in bed, Henry and Betty get along. The next day, Don picks up his two oldest children for an overnight visit, and Don is disappointed he can't see baby Gene, whom Betty sent to Carla's. Betty curtly tells Don to have the kids back by 9. When he returns the next evening, the house is empty and he has to wait for Betty and Henry to come back. When they return, at 10:30 pm, an argument ensues about the house; Don, at his lawyer's instigation, angrily reminds them they were supposed to be out a month ago, and he demands they either buy him out, pay him rent, or leave. A minor argument later sparks between Henry and Betty when Henry agrees with Don's point. Betty stubbornly reiterates that they will leave on her timeline, not Don's.
A different client, Jantzen swimwear, asks for help to maintain a family-friendly image in a field where bikinis are becoming more common and more revealing. They insist they do not sell bikinis, which they call underwear you wear to the beach; they sell two-piece bathing suits. Don Draper tries to sell a pitch wherein the model's breasts are obscured by the slogan, "So well built, we can't show you the second floor". The Jantzen representatives reject the ad as overly risqué, and Draper - exasperated by the clients' refusal to acknowledge a changing culture and the realities of their business - ends up throwing the men out of the meeting room. As they leave, he finally agrees to do the interview with The Wall Street Journal. As the episode ends, Don is seen telling the journalist the swashbuckling story of how he instigated the formation of SCDP by having Lane Pryce fire them.
"Public Relations" was heavily advertised in the weeks prior to its broadcasting. Producers of the series' entered into a cross-promotional deal with Banana Republic, and Janie Bryant, the show's costume designer, collaborated with QVC to design a clothing line inspired by mod subculture. President Barack Obama, a fan of Mad Men, had sent series creator Matthew Weiner a letter to express his admiration. Attention was further boosted by the release of a series of Barbie dolls based on characters from the show by toy manufacturer Mattel. A week prior to the premiere of the episode, recurring cast member Crista Flanagan (who plays Lois Sadler) posed nude for Playboy.
Screenings for the episode was shown in Los Angeles, California on July 21, 2010, and again five days later at Duffy Square in New York City an hour before it was televised nationwide. An estimated 10,000 people appeared at the screening in New York City. The designs of costumes were altered, according to Bryant, to reflect the general fashion development and changes in mainstream pop culture during the 1960s. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she teased: "My characters are in an office environment in New York; it's very different from what was going on in London at the time. But there will be some progression in their costumes, just like in real life.
The press were given advanced copies of the episode. Matthew Weiner pronounced himself shocked by what he considered spoilers in the review. Weiner criticized the episode's review by Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times, expressing that the publication revealed too much information. He continued: "I'm kind of powerless. It's the bargain you make. I wanted to have press, and it was nice to get that kind of space with those pictures. The alternative is not to share these things with the press any more – but how can you expect journalists to write about the show if you don’t? It was all very disappointing to me.
"Public Relations" features several references to media, music, film, and other pop culture phenomena. Peggy and a coworker engage in a humorous conversation, in which they subsequently refer to "A Dear John and Marsha Letter" by Stan Freberg. The episode depicts the growing acceptance of the bikini in mainstream popular culture in the United States during the 1960s.
"Public Relations" first aired in the United States on July 25, 2010 on AMC. It was watched by 2.92 million viewers, and attained a 0.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic, according to Nielsen ratings. Total viewership increased 5% from the previous season premiere, "Out of Town", which was viewed by 2.76 million viewers. In contrast, ratings for "Public Relations" were constant to that of "Out of Town". Likewise, total viewership were significantly up from the previous episode, "Shut the Door. Have a Seat", which attained 2.32 million viewers.
The episode was critically acclaimed by television critics. Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times opined, "Those cues also hold out the promise that the coming season will once again pivot the story on the workplace. It’s where Mad Men started and where it was best. A fresh start at the rat race is just what the series needs." Eric Goldman of IGN gave the episode a nine out of ten, signifying an "amazing" rating. Goldman felt that it start of the season on a strong note, writing, "It's a clever beat to start out with, leading into a strong premiere that quickly drops us into what can be described as Mad Men 2.0." Praise was also directed to the musical selection of the episode, which Goldman described as excellent. In concurrence, Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' grade, praising the character development of Don Draper and Peggy Olson. Expressing that she had more confidence, Phipps said of Peggy: "[She's] the person who's changed most notably over the last year. She drinks at work like the boys and [...] goes into a Don-like trance as she searches for inspiration. She bosses Joey around and tells him when he’s gone too far. And she’s not afraid to get creative to sell ham and wants credit for her idea, even if it encounters a minor disaster along the way. Most significantly, she’s standing up to Don at every turn now. He bullies her in front of her fiancé but hears about it later. And she provides a devastating mixture of admiration and chiding when she reminds Don that everyone at SCDP is there because of him and out of a desire to make him happy." Similarly, James Poniewozik of Time praised the performance of Elisabeth Moss, exclaiming that "she has come a long way."
TV Fanatic's Dan Forcella felt that "Public Relations" was an fantastic episode, and asserted: "All in all it was a great start to the fourth season of Mad Men." In conclusion, Forcella gave the episode a 4.5 out of 5 stars. The Wall Street Journal journalist Cheryl Berman opined that the episode had a "little bit of everything we love about Mad Men." William Bradley wrote in The Huffington Post that the series got off to "a cracking start" with "Public Relations". Similarly, Scott D. Pierce of the Deseret News found it to be "a very good episode and a very promising restart", after what he considered a disappointing third season.
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Meanwhile, Peggy Olson and Pete Campbell are in cahoots, launching a viral marketing campaign for canned ham
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- "Public Relations" at AMC
- "Public Relations" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Public Relations" at TV.com