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Passover TV: Mad Men Don Draper’s Seder

A lot of TV choices in North America as the third day of Pesaj began.

You could watch four-plus hours of The Ten Commandments on ABC, or the premiere of the final season of Mad Men on AMC. Or mash it up, as I did, flipping between the channels as the evening regressed.

In Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 technicolor film, The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and Anne Baxter play out a story of Moses and Ramses and the slavery and exodus of the Hebrews in Egypt. Edward G. “yeah, see” Robinson plays Dathan, a turncoat Hebrew who enables the continuing enslavement of the Israelites and embodies several aspects of Moses’ biblical nemesis, Korach. It is truly a Passover treat to hear Anne Baxter’s famous line: “moses, Moses, MOSES.” Finally near the film’s end, the Hebrews get some severance from Mitzrayim, carrying off some gold booty which can later be used to make a golden calf.

But the real Passover story was on AMC; the first episode of the final season of MAD MEN premiered: Episode 708.

Created and written by Matthew Weiner, Mad Men is the story of advertising men (and some women) on Mad(ison) Avenue (or in this case, the Time Life building in Rockefeller Center) in the years between the Korean War and Watergate. In last night’s episode, Don Draper does not have a seder, but he does drop by the Katz family’s shiva, volunteers to be the tenth man at a minyan (but couldn’t since he isn’t Jewish), and brings a cake in a pink box.

The premiere episode last evening was titled “SEVERANCE” and, to me, it was the Passover story of lives not fully lived in the freedom of the Sixties and Seventies.

Ken Cosgrove – an ad man – always wanted to write a novel and he might get his chance when he is fired by Roger Sterling and offered a severance package from Mccann. Will he choose to live a new life of freedom, and take a position where he can exact revenge against his agency taskmasters?

Peggy has enslaved herself to her career. Will she escape to freedom in Paris, or return to the fleshpots and mud-pits of agency slavery?

Don Draper, in the middle of his second divorce, has a dream, unlike those of our patriarch Joseph. It is a dream about an old girlfriend and he wonders what might have been had he married her. She was a powerful Jewish woman named Rachel Menken (Katz), who he dated while he was married to Betty, his first wife. Upon awakening, he learns that Rachel has succumbed to leukemia. Earlier, Don and Roger have a “seder” at a diner with three single gals. Don chats them up about his childhood in a brothel. He is acting more freely, sharing more of his enslaved past. Later, Don learns during a client casting session for furs that every man has three women. Was Rachel Menken one is his three? Don pays a shiva call to the Katz apartment and Rachel’s sister figures him out immediately and recognizes who he is and who he was. She tells a wounded Don, “I know who you are,” and sends him on his way. Did the pink cake box signify a plague, like that of blood? Don is not invited into the apartment, the waters surely will not part for him in the shiva house, and he must seek out his own Red Sea.

Thank you AMC for such nice Passover TV programming

Note: Also in Episode 708 is a scene about a client of Sterling Cooper that is trying to fight off the 1970 introduction of L’EGGS hosiery. It was marketing by Hanes and allowed women to be more FREE in their apparel selections. L’EGGS was later crushed by Non Nonsense pantyhose. L’EGGS was designed by former SVA teacher, Roger Ferriter, the son in law of the late Mildred (Kaufman Simon) Poland, who was active in Temple Emanu-el of Marblehead and several Jewish Federations.

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