The 7 Biggest Changes Across 7 Seasons of Mad Men
The 60s are about to be over for Don Draper. The second half of the final season of Mad Men, which will take place in 1969, premieres this Sunday, April 5. In anticipation of the finale, I’ve been binge watching the previous seasons, and it’s amazing to see how much has happened and what has changed across the years. As the end of an era approaches, let’s take a look about how far our favorite characters have come since 1960.
7. Don’s Revolving Door of Secretaries
Ever since Peggy was promoted, Don hasn’t been able to hold onto a good secretary for very long. After Peggy’s departure, Don’s desk was covered by the amazingly incompetent Lois Sadler, who cried easily and was fired for not being able to think a good excuse for why Don was playing hooky. Then came along Jane Siegel, who was really at the office to secure a “Mrs” in front of her name, so she was out the door once she landed a marriage proposal from Roger Sterling. After Jane’s departure, Joan temporarily covered his desk until Allison came along. Allison was good for Don — she kept his appointments in order, she was discreet, and she bought excellent Christmas presents for his children. And then he had to ruin it by sleeping with her and awkwardly offering her a $100 bonus to never talk about it again.
“My Secretary’s Day gift better be better than this.”
As a smart move on her part, Joan then assigned the hilarious elderly Ida Blankenship to his desk so Don wouldn’t be tempted to bang her. I mean, unless he was into that sort of thing. Unfortunately, Ida was called up by the Big Boss in the sky so Don promptly banged his next secretary, Megan, although, to his credit, he eventually married and divorced her like a real man should. (Wait, is that why Murphy Brown went through so many secretaries? Was she banging them all?) Next came Dawn, who once again left his desk once she was promoted, and his current secretary is Meredith, who seems to have formed a crush on him. Let’s hope she gets over it so Don can finally have a reliable person to take his messages.
“No way. I can’t have gone through this many secretaries.”
6. Don’s Revolving Door of Girlfriends/Wives
In 1960, Don Draper was married to a Princess Grace lookalike with two kids and sleeping with the free-spirited beatnik Midge Daniels. Fast forward to 1969, and Don Draper is twice divorced with three kids and his last affair was with a bored Catholic housewife. What the hell happened, Don? You were always a philandering cad, but you were a cad who slept with cool, interesting women like Rachel Menken, Bobbie Barrett, or Faye Miller who didn’t put up with your shit.
“Hey babe, what are you thinking about?”
“The way more interesting women I used to sleep with before you.”
Since Don is entering 1969 a single man, perhaps he can figure out what kind of woman he really wants in his life by a process of elimination. He’s done the bored housewife (Betty Hofstadt, Sylvia Rosen), the no-nonsense career woman (Rachel Menken, Bobbie Barrett, Faye Miller), and the free-spirited artist (Midge Daniels, Megan Calvet, Suzanne Farrell). Or maybe he should just go with the one thing that’s always been there for him and has yet to let him down: Old Fashioneds.
Although Don will probably eventually cheat on it with a Tom Collins.
5. RIP Pete’s Hairline
When Pete Campbell was a fresh-faced 26 year old in 1960, he had everything going for him: he was newly married, he had a good job at Sterling Cooper, and he had an excellent head of hair. Well, on the surface he looked like he had everything going for him. In reality, Peter was restless in his marriage and cheated on Trudy, most notably with Peggy Olson; he unhappily discovered that the only reason he was hired at Sterling Cooper was because of his family’s connections and was always outshone by his co-workers. Oh well, at least he still had that good head of hair.
Look at it in all of its Aqua Net glory.
However, as the years went by, whenever Pete’s life started to look up — his marriage improving, the birth of his daughter, moving up to becoming a senior partner — he had a tendency to sabotage himself or fall upon a string of just plain old bad luck. He cheated on his wife one time too many, causing their divorce, and his frustration at his middle management job allowed the charming Bob Benson to sneak in front of him. As if embarrassed by the turn of events in Pete’s life, his hairline receded further and further.
Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it disappears altogether in the second half of season 7.
4. Sally Draper Is All Grown Up
In the first season, Don Draper’s kids were barely seen. The focus was more on his work life and attempts to preserve the facade of a perfect marriage. Who would have predicted that Don Draper’s eldest daughter with a cute lisp and frilly dresses would have turned out to be such a mature, sassy young woman, especially one who would be integral to the story? Show creator Matthew Weiner struck gold with child actress Kiernan Shipka, who has developed to be such a fine actress that she can go toe to toe in any scene with Jon Hamm.
We wish the same could be said about Glenn Bishop. Or January Jones.
We’ve watched Sally Draper grow up right before our very eyes, and it’s hard to accept the fact that we won’t get to see her go off to college, experience disco music, and pretend to care about Watergate.
3. Peggy Olson Stops Dressing Like a Little Girl
Oh, Peggy Olson. As the saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Especially when you started off with a limp ponytail, horrible bangs, and a wardrobe that prompted Pete Campbell to ask you if you were “Amish or something.” Tom and Lorenzo did an excellent job of tracking the progress of Peggy’s fashion sense over the years, but if you really want to condense the timeline, Peggy was advised by Joan Holloway and Bobbie Barrett, two wiser and more stylish women than herself, to “stop dressing like a little girl” and “be a woman.” Also, like any other dorky woman in New York City, she got a makeover from a fabulous gay man.
“Okay…it might be a little messed up in the back.”
Now armed with a trendy haircut and dresses that actually–gasp!–go above the ankle, Peggy was ready to take the workplace by storm. And in the next episode, she develops the cojones to ask Roger for her own office. While Peggy will probably never look like she stepped out of the pages of Vogue magazine like the more glamourous Betty and Joan, she manages pretty fine. Each year, she got more and more sophisticated in her style and will most likely continue to do so in the future–
Aw crap, I forgot the 70s are coming.
2. Joan Holloway: Reluctant Turned Eager Career Gal
When we first met Joan Holloway in 1960, she made it clear to Peggy that she was biding her time at the offices of Sterling Cooper until her Prince Charming came along and whisked her away to an idealized life in the suburbs. It seemed like Joan got her wish when she married Dr. Greg Harris, but she quickly discovered that 1) her husband was a second rate doctor and horrible asshole and 2) she actually liked working. Despite teasing Peggy for being obsessed with her career, Joan couldn’t leave behind her job and even feared being replaced on her maternity leave.
“Surprise bitches! I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me.”
Although Joan secured her partnership under less than ideal circumstances (I will certainly never look at a Jaguar the same ever again), she quickly shed her secretarial duties in favor of securing accounts and acting like a real junior partner at an advertising firm. Plus, she turned down Roger’s offer to support their love child and Bob Benson’s proposal of a convenient marriage. If Joan Holloway of 1960 met her future self, she would have been shocked.
But she wouldn’t be shocked at how good she still looks, especially compared to Pete.
1. The Office Formerly Known As Sterling Cooper
First, it was Sterling Cooper. Then it merged with the British firm Putnam, Powell & Lowe. Then it became Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and after temporarily finding itself in a hotel suite, the firm moved to a much trendier, modern office location in the Time Life building. Then, it merged with Cutler, Gleason & Chaough, leading to the temporary name change/mouthful SCDPCGC. And then everyone agreed to condense it to SC&P, which stood for “Sterling Cooper & Partners,” and built a second floor along with creating a Los Angeles office. Now with the death of Burt Cooper, there might be another name change in the works, especially since the firm has been sold off to McCann Erickson.
“Just casually surveying our kingdom, no big deal.”
As much as Mad Men has been about Don Draper and his co-workers and their personal dramas, it has also been about the very office they do their work in. As much as characters have changed (or not changed), so has their office. And I can’t believe we’re going to say goodbye to all of it on April 5.
What about you? What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in Mad Men?