Top 10 Mad Men moments (Seasons 1 to 4)
Neil Brazier | On 01, Apr 2017Reading time: 8 mins
The world of advertising has never looked more glamorous than it does in Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men, typified by the Old Fashioned-drinking, chain-smoking Don Draper, played to perfection by Jon Hamm. He’s surrounded by a great cast – women who are starting to become more powerful and salesmen who ooze sleaze – and even greater period set design.
You can now watch all seven seasons of Mad Men on Netflix UK. They’re brimming with brilliant bits and snappy lines. To celebrate, we look back at our top 10 Mad Men moments from the show’s first half.
10. Lucky Strike (Season 1, Episode 1 – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes)
Why not start at the beginning? The opening scene of the first episode of Mad Men will tell you everything you need to know: this is going to be fuelled by alcohol and cigarettes. We meet Don Draper as he’s working, scribbling down on a napkin how to promote cigarettes after the Readers Digest has published the news that cigarettes will kill you.
It’s not often you see Don writing things down; instead, he uses his brilliant mind almost effortlessly to pitch ideas so that, even if they sound ridiculous, the client love them. Around him in the bar, everyone is following the Don Draper diet of smoking and drinking. This is a different time and this is a different man.
9. Office Secrets (Season 3, Episode 1 – Out of Town)
Secrets are dangerous, especially in the workplace. Salvator Romano is a well dressed Italian man, married and not without his share of office admirers. But Sal harbours a deeper secret, one that he exposes to Don while the pair are on a business trip. After the fire alarm is pulled in the hotel, Don passes by Sal’s window on the fire escape and witnesses Sal redressing after some light relief with the bellboy.
While we knew, his romp and the subsequent look on Don’s face is one that will be remembered for some time. Sal is later fired by Don for not indulging a male client’s pursuit – in Mad Men, secrets will always come back to bite you.
8. Inappropriate Workplace Behaviour (Season 2, Episode 12 – The Mountain King)
Throughout its history, Sterling Cooper has been home to many an inappropriate incident in the workplace, even for the 60s. Any trouble with the girls was always handled by Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) with great aplomb and usually a snide comment or two. Joan quickly became one of the favourite characters on the show and for more than just her… sizeable assets. That’s why we all felt decidedly uncomfortable when Joan was taken into Don’s office by her fiancé Greg and raped.
Greg felt belittled when Roger made a comment that was taken the wrong way; Joan and Roger have always had an electric chemistry and Greg was frightened by it. Wanting to remind his future bride that he is the only man she should care about, he forced himself onto her. Poor Joan’s usually bright eyes stared dead into the empty office. Afterwards, the flowers Greg brought her remained alone on the table.
7. Betty Bags Some Birds (Season 1, Episode 9 – Shoot)
The long suffering wife of Don, Betty (January Jones), puts up with an awful lot. It’s no wonder, then, that she goes a little off the rails from time to time. Having grown up in modelling, Betty only knows beautiful so when she finds out her latest gig was only to try and sway Don away from Sterling Cooper, she snaps. The victims of her wrath are her poor neighbours’ pigeons who fly overhead as Betty, cigarette hanging out of her mouth like Dirty Harry, takes aim.
6. Pete Campbell
Rather than select one particular moment, we put Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) in as one big memorable moment. He’s a smarmy, horrible and downright rude sales man for Sterling Cooper, yet he steals scenes as much as he deserves a punch in the face. In Season 1, his constant insulting of Peggy (despite sleeping with her) only helps to make her stronger. In Season 3, Pete and wife Trudy dance the Charleston at Roger Sterling’s party with his new wife and suddenly, all the hatred you had for Pete dances away.
Pete Campbell is truly an awful person, but every now and then, he shows a genuine sign of sweetness. In Season 4, he finds out he’s going to be a father and he couldn’t look happier. In that one moment, you forget everything else – only for him to go and ruin it all. He’s selfish, adulterous, a terrible dresser and sexist but damn, does he do it in style.
5. Sally Draper’s Self Discovery (Season 4, Episode 5 – The Chrysanthemum and the Sword)
Not everything happens at the office. Don’s absence from home has played havoc on his wife and children – none more so than his daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka). She has had many memorable moments throughout the series but the one that stands out the most is when she went crazy by chopping off her hair and then going on a journey of (ahem) self-discovery while at a friend’s slumber party.
If it wasn’t awkward enough having to hear Sally talk about sex – or, as she puts it, the man peeing inside the woman – watching a young girl explore herself really puts us off watching The Man From U.N.C.L.E again.
4. Powerful Peggy (Season 4, Episode 7 – The Briefcase)
While Mad Men might appear to be about Don Draper, behind every man is a powerful woman. Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) is just that. She’s made her share of mistakes (Pete Campbell for one) but she’s also grown as a woman in a world of men, starting right back in Season 1 when she creates the Bel Jolie pitch while other women are just trying on lipstick.
By Season 4, she is a fully fledged member of the creative department. In Episode 7, she chooses to work on her birthday, breaking up with her boyfriend who had planned a surprise party. As she and Don stay late in the office, their relationship evolves, starting (as it always has) with bickering and Don snapping, but after listening to a recording of Roger Sterling’s autobiography, the two come to an accord and realise they’re not that dissimilar.
The chemistry and dialogue between Peggy and Don is explosive, packing the punches like the Clay-Liston fight that backdrops this episode. While Don won’t admit it, she’s one of the most influential characters in the office – and the show.
3. SCDP (Season 3, Episode 13 – Shut The Door. Have a Seat)
With Putnum, Powell and Lowe being sold – and with it, Sterling Cooper – the office will never be the same. Don wants Burt to buy back his company but Burt says he won’t live long enough to earn his money back. Instead, an idea forms and, with the help of Lane Pryce, Don, Roger and Burt are fired on a Friday night.
Abusing the time difference between New York and London, the four of them set about raiding the company for files and staff as they prepare to set up their own company. As they desperately try to find the information they need, Joan walks back in having left the agency earlier in the season. Her appearance in the doorway was just what was needed and signalled the cusp of a new beginning for our Mad Men.
2. Sterling’s Gold (Season 1, Episode 7 – Red In The Face)
Much like Pete Campbell, Roger Sterling (John Slattery) has many memorable moments throughout the series. He undoubtedly has all the best lines too, which comes in handy as he has an answer to everything. By Season 4, he’s even written an autobiography and never has there been a more apt title for a book than “Sterling’s Gold”. But back in the first season, Don invites him over to dinner where the alcohol flows a little too freely and Roger ends up making a pass at Betty.
If that weren’t memorable enough, Don gets his own back by pulling a trick on Roger that sees him having to climb the 23 flights of stairs to the office after a rather large lunch. Executives for the Richard Nixon campaign are at Sterling Cooper for a meeting with Roger, but when he finally arrives, worn out and sweaty, instead of shaking hands he proceeds to vomit. It is a rare moment when someone gets the better of the silver fox.
1. The Drunken John Deere Incident (Season 3, Episode 6 – Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency)
Mad Men has had its share of completely out-of-character moments, but none more poignant than this. It comes as an absolute surprise and completely shifts the tone of Season 3’s Episode 6. As the office is preparing for a visit from their new British owners, Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Stanton) rides into the office on a John Deere Lawnmower, having just won their account. Later, as the office is celebrating Joan’s final day at Sterling Cooper, drinks flow and receptionist Lois decides to take the lawnmower for a joyride. She loses control, crashing it into an office and, in the process, runs over the foot of one of her new bosses.
“That’s life. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower.”
Mad Men: Season 1 to 7 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.