Well, if you want something done right…
Here is my list of 2001: A Space Odyssey (referred to henceforth as “2001”) allusions in Mad Men. To fans of the film, many of them are pretty obvious. However, others are more obscure and certainly open to debate.
Field Trip (7.03):
The episode opens with Don watching Model Shop. The movie stars Gary Lockwood who also played astronaut Frank Poole in 2001.
The Monolith (7.04):
Don exits the elevator facing an elevator door situated on other side of the hall. It looks exactly like the infamous monolith from 2001 (see photo above).
Don enters SC&P to find it strangely empty. Confused, he wanders through the office to find out what is going on. At the end of 2001, astronaut Dave Bowman wanders through the empty environment aliens have set up to observe him in.
Roger remarks that Don has been locked up for three weeks in “a cave” and hasn’t “clubbed any apes on the head.” This is a reference to the “Dawn of Man” scenes in 2001 where cave dwelling apes with enhanced intelligence figure out how to use weapons to club rivals.
Outside of his office, Don overhears Harry Crane talking about Turn On, a variety show starring Tim Conway, that depicted computers using psychedelic lights. David Bowman is treated to a psychedelic light show when transported through the star gate in 2001’s third act.
Lloyd Hawley asks Don for a light because he’s forgotten to fill his own lighter. “Human error,” says Hawley. In 2001, HAL incorrectly predicts a failure of the “AE35” unit, an important component of the space ship’s communication system with Earth. When confronted about the mistake, HAL blames “human error.”
Realizing exactly how low a rung on the SC&P ladder he had fallen to, Don smashes his typewriter. Infused with alien induced intelligence, one of our prehistoric ancestors in 2001 is shown smashing hog skulls at the moment he realizes that a bone makes a good weapon. Later in the Mad Men episode, Don will use a typewriter as a weapon to keep his job.
Awaking on his couch, a point-of-view shot follows Don’s gaze up across the ceiling and backward to the wall behind him where he sees Lane Pryce’s NY Mets pennant while practically leaning upside down. One of the iconic shots in 2001 is of a Pan Am stewardess on a flight to the moon who walks upside down (on the ceiling) while entering the ship’s cockpit.
At the commune, Roger and Margret gaze up at the night sky through the roof of a barn. The shot of the moon and stars evokes imagery of the alignments of stars, planets, moons and objects which occurs often in 2001.
Deciding it’s time for his daughter to leave the commune and come home, Roger get into a physical altercation with Margret that ends with the two of them wrestling around in a huge mud puddle. In 2001, the group of alien altered apes who learn how to use weapons win a major victory over a group of less intelligent apes in a battle at a watering hole.
Obviously, the idea of a carousel has been used before on Mad Men. In the context of 2001, it can also refer to the memorable imagery of Poole running around in circles on the gravity inducing centrifuge of the spacecraft on its way to Jupiter or the space station orbiting Earth that balletically spins to the tune of “The Blue Danube.”
The Runaways (7.05):
At SC&P, Michael Ginsberg sees Lou Avery and Jim Cutler talking in the computer room and reads their lips. This panning shot between Avery and Cutler is set up exactly like the shot in 2001 where HAL reads Poole and Bowman’s lips. Both HAL and Ginsberg are mentally unstable.