Jun 012015

Probably every Mad Men fan has seen this wish list by now:

So, here’s the plan. Every Monday for a while will be Wish List Discussion Group Monday. I will pick one or two topics from the list, and we’ll focus our discussion on them. Discussion can be: What do we think Matthew Weiner would have done if he had the time? Are we surprised/pleased/shocked/disappointed to find this on the list? What would we do with this topic?

Because we’ve longed for it so often, I’m going to start with Sal–what happened to him?

And our second topic will be Ho-Ho. Do we think this would have been comic relief, a drama about fathers and sons, or what?


  44 Responses to “Matthew Weiner’s Wish List Discussion Group”

  1. Thanks for posting. I had not seen this. I’m wracking my brain trying to remember who Catherine was.

  2. Ginsburg is taken away. He’s mentioned one other time after that. Never again. What became of him? Committed for life or able to be treated?

  3. I imagine Sal continued working in advertising art. Divorced. Eventually settled down again because he’s the comfortable home type. There wouldn’t have been much drama. Sal seemed a decent person who wasn’t going to turn slutty or revolutionary. It’s good he was spared the painful MM middle years where almost everyone was acting out of character. I’m satisfied his story was not continued as it would have most likely been contrived to fit tawdry and unlikely scenarios.

    Ginsburg. That was a character I wish had been fleshed out a bit more, but hindsight consideration for where his arc ended I understand why he was written shallow.

    Bob Benson. Is there a way to erase a character? I never understood what the point of him was and nothing about his position in the agency made sense.

    I wish that all main characters were treated with more respect in the show’s middle years. Development was actively avoided in seasons three through five in favor of a big-dramatic-moment for the week. Attempting to convince my husband to watch during those years was usually a lost cause. He would sit through half an hour and leave in disgust, “why would X do that after what happened last week” and I couldn’t disagree.

    It was only season six when characters became consistent in their behavior and focus centered on the agency that MM again reached the excellence it had in seasons one and two. (Husband started watching again and enjoyed the show – this is a guy who only likes action movies and crime dramas.) His comment during the final episode “I can’t believe they’re not continuing this. These people are interesting now”.

    • Bob Benson probably started as an accounts version of a secretary – there to provide grease for the major players – pretty much as important as Alison, Dawn, and the Queen of Perversions (who died to create one of the more comic moments in the series).

      Early on, I’d guess that he was “promoted” to cause grief for Pete (and make an oblique, deniable pass at him), love for his mother (while it lasted), and an interesting mirror for Joan’s single-motherhood (with that “pleasing face”). And don’t forget, his Buick offer helped set the table for the McCann deal.

      ON the larger question about “development vs. weekly-dramatic-moments” I’d say you’re pretty tough. Can you name other, better, dramas? Perhaps you’re only speaking about MM S1-3 vs. MM S4-7 – which IS a very tough standard

      • I read some where or maybe it was on the DVD commentaries that Matt saw Bob as a “type” like Don who faked his way into advertising. When he saw how the audience reacted to Bob he was taken back.

        • How did “the audience” react to Bob? ( I wasn’t paying attention)

          Around here there was some suspicion – mostly due to the mystery of his background (until Duck outed him to Pete). There was also some reaction to his (confirmed) gay-vibe.

          Did Weiner address Benson in the S7.1 set? The S6 set was said to have no commentaries.

      • Well, yes. Perhaps I was a bit tough. But with the bar set so high those first two seasons I wanted more of the same! In fairness even when character development was arbitrary MM was amazing to watch for its overall production quality and top notch cast of players. I feel the first two and last three seasons were unparalleled compared to anything else out there.

        • Mad Men’s first three seasons and season seven were the writer’s best work. The reason I watched Mad Men was for the character development which was superb in the first three seasons. I found Sal, Freddie Rumsen and Hildy among others, far more interesting than any of the character developed during seasons five and six. Hildy and Harry on election night was one of my favorite scenes in Mad Men. In seasons five and six Mad Men bottomed out. I found Bob Benson both unbelievable and totally boring. Mad Men’s writers re-discovered their mojo in season seven.

  4. When Joan got the job from Kenny to make the industrial film, I thought “that’s how they’ll bring Sal back” even though Bryan Batt had publicly stated he hadn’t come back to the show. Even a line from Joan to Peggy, like “and you’ll never guess who I got to direct it? Remember Sal Romano? He’s got a ‘friend’ now”

    • I thought the same thing! I wish they could have at least written a line about him :-)

  5. I think Sal got married, and had a job where he could travel, and likely had a long-term significant other in another country. I hope he had kids, and if divorced, would likely be on good terms with his ex-wife.

  6. I wondered if Sal could have eventually landed at McCann. Since their New York office is so huge, he’d likely be able to hide in plain sight. It would be a real kick if, after he had left SCDP, he worked as a freelance director of commercials and industrial films, getting his foot in the door at McCann that way, then went on to direct the Hilltop Coke ad.

    Another scenario for Sal would be that he hooked up with an accounts person and a copy person who opened a boutique ad agency in San Francisco in the late 60s.

  7. Any idea why “Hildy” is on this list? I can think of at least two dozen minor characters (including Guy Mackendrick) that I would have considerably more interest in than she.

    • My best guess is that Hildy was on the list because Harry (when he was sort of sweet and dorky) hooked up with her after the election night office party.

      If we were going to see a former secretary then I think it should have been either Allison (what if Don bumped into Allison on the street and had an opportunity to apologize?) or Lois, who I would like to think eventually was hired as a test driver for John Deere riding lawmowers.

  8. The inclusion of Smitty is even more mysterious than that of Ho Ho; who cares? Still, the story of Jai Alai in the 60s beckoned. What would the discovery that Cooper had lost family on the Lusitania have added?

    • I like Smitty!!!! I have my own thoughts on his storyline and what else could have been done but will save that for a future post.

      I don’t think “Who cares” is applicable; obviously a lot of this is subjective and some of us will care more or be more invested in certain characters than in others.

    • I think the thing with this list, is that it’s really just Weiner throwing out the question to his writers and whittling down a shortlist of potential story ideas. It’s the start of a very long process basically, and naturally contains a lot of disposable stuff.

  9. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time we saw Sal he was at a very seedy ‘beat’ (in Central Park?)

    We could assume that his homosexuality became a burden and frequented these “beats” often?

    He certainly enjoyed his time with the bell hop…

    • Yes I think you’re correct in where Sal was when last noticed. Taking into account his earlier conservative behavior I can’t imagine him guttering about in that scene for long. He truly wished and tried for a solid monogamous relationship. I think he would continue to do so once becoming better illuminated to his desires.

  10. Sal was a virgin (with men) until the bellhop. He knew about his gay feelings before, but resisted them (Eliot). But now? Now he’s had this awakening, I don’t think it’s possible to go back to pretending that he’s satisfied with Kitty.

    Unless Kitty instigates divorce proceedings, though, I imagine Sal is not someone who flies his freak flag. He stays married, cruising for men on the side.

    Here’s the wrinkle, though. He’ll certainly find a way to stay in advertising or some other venture that uses his talents, making commercials and so on. In that industry, he’ll meet more and more “out” gay men. He wants to “limit his exposure” and keep his gay affairs far away from work, so that the double life isn’t compromised and so that he’s never again in the kind of position Lee Garner Jr. put him into.

    But he will be filming and working with beautiful men, and he could easily fall in love with such a man.

    • Poor Kitty.

      Unless she’s conservative too (or merely obedient – are they both Catholic?) she’s leaving for a man who desires her as a lover. Agreed that he’s staying in the closet (much as the Beau Bridges/Provost Scully figure in Masters of Sex).

      I have wondered whether Sal continued as a commercial film producer (or was it “director”?) – surely Don was decent enough to give him a glowing recommendation to go with that thin film portfolio. The Bye Bye Birdie adaptation did not make it to TV.

      His fallback, of course, is as a Stan-type Art Director (or minion).

    • Sal reminds me of some of the men I worked for (at that time, I was an artist who was temping to support myself) at Sotheby’s Realty in the mid-late 70s and at a university gallery – oh and my shrink, too! – conservative appearing, married, with at least one child perhaps, very smooth, stylish, impeccably dressed, professionals – the equivalent today of a ‘straight gay man/couple” (that’s John Waters, not me!). Seeing men on the side and possibly falling in love with one of them who wanted a monogamous relationship. And on those conditions he would leave his wife. Definitely Not the type, as you’ve said Roberta, to let his freak flag fly, but slowly coming out of the closet as times changed….providing he survived AIDS. I knew some of those men who didn’t, and it was tragic.

  11. Actually, I’ve never seen this list, thanks!

  12. Because we’ve longed for it so often, I’m going to start with Sal–what happened to him?

    I’ve often thought about this. I think that Sal went through a few hard years after he got fired from Sterling Cooper. He got some work but really struggled to find his place in life. He knew who he wanted to be but couldn’t find a way to do it.

    My theory is that a few years later—not sure “which” year it happened, but at some point in the late sixties or afterwards (Sal left Sterling Cooper in 1963) he found the courage to really “come out.” Sure maybe he still had to be careful for a long time, because rules were different then and discrimination was much more rampant than it is legally allowed to be today. But I like to think that at some point, Sal found a boyfriend and felt comfortable enough to tell his friends “This is who I’m seeing.” And of course if that happened, I’d think that he and Kitty parted ways before that happened. I think once his homosexuality was confronted head-on (by both of them) she would be relieved – disappointed of course, maybe even heartbroken – but she’d realize that it wasn’t her and it would leave her free to live her own life and find a man who could truly love her the way she deserved to be loved.

    And our second topic will be Ho-Ho. Do we think this would have been comic relief, a drama about fathers and sons, or what?

    I don’t have many thoughts on him, unfortunately. I thought his storyline ended satisfactorily when the partners got word (in Season 4, iirc) that he was taking his account elsewhere.

    • Sarah Drew (Kitty) was terrific for the few brief scenes that we had with her. It was torturous…

    • Hard to believe but there are still 32 states where you can be fired or evicted just for being gay…even harder to believe, you can still be fired or evicted for being gay in 13 states where same-sex marriage is legal.

      • Yeah, Pennsylvania was the first where that happened, and it’s had repercussions–people getting fired after wedding announcements ran in the paper. We need civil rights for all Americans, and we can’t rest on our backsides just because federal same sex marriage seems like a sure thing.

  13. The most curious thing about this list is the idea that Pete’s mother may seek him out for advice. Clearly, this means this wish list was created before they contemplated having her die on the cruise ship. Since that happened in S6 this wish list is very old.

    Re: Sal and Bob Benson. I think Bob Benson was created to fill a “Sal void” on the show. That is, to have another closeted gay man working for the agency. Unlike Sal, Bob had to be less feminine than Sal because homosexuality, especially in New York, was becoming more commonplace.

    I would have liked to find out what happened to Sal and Kitty. My heart really broke for her when she realized her husband preferred men. The happy, not necessarily the best, ending would be that divorced and Sal found happiness in the emerging Gay community of NYC.

    My personal preference would be to learn what happened to either Hildy, Allison or Smitty before Horrace “Ho Ho” Son of the shipping magnate. Undoubtedly, he pissed away his trust trying to turn Jai Alai into a national sport, but I doubt he wound up destitute. Unless of course his father had a dramatic reversal of fortune a la The Magnificent Ambersands.

    Harry running into Hildy would have made a memorable scene. Pete, too. There was always a tension between Pete and his first secretary; she had his number and little patience for his boyish behavior.

    I would like to see Allison run into Don as a successful magazine editor. Smitty seemed like someone for Peggy to meet either accidently or intentionally.

  14. How about Carla? It would be nice for the kids if somehow she connected. She was as much or more of a mother to them as Betty. Also, Don never found out that Pete was the father of Peggy’s baby and nobody knows about Roger being the father of Joan’s baby–and as this point who would care? In light of Roger being sad that he doesn’t have a son to pass on his name to and the fact that Gregg really doesn’t care it would have been interesting if they were just open about it. Roger even said (about his relationship with Marie) “Nobody really cares.” The same could be true about Kevin. Also, did Peggy ever find out about Don’s double identity? The confession on the phone made it sound like she already knew but I don’t recall him ever telling her.

    • I don’t think Roger or Joan wanted Kevin to grow up with the stigma of being an illegitimate child. Joan said pretty convincingly that Kevin idealized Greg as his father and she wasn’t willing to upset that belief.

      I’m not sure what would be resolved if Don learned that Pete had fathered Peggy’s baby. Most likely he’d shrug.

      Re: Don’s phone call to Peggy. I don’t think she was comprehending all he was saying to her. She was more fearful of the despair she heard in his voice and what he might do. Poor Peggy has seen a few tragic endings: her father’s death, discovering Miss B’s death, nearly killing Abe, Ginzburg’s insanity…

      • Funny Joan saying Kevin “idealized Greg as his father.” If he did, it would have been Joan who fostered that idea.

        Kevin was barely a toddler when she threw Greg out, and Greg then left to go back to Vietnam. Seems to me Kevin hardly knew the man.

      • Abe, like that other kid, was not worthy of Peggy – except perhaps in his leaving her. That ending was fortuitous.

        Ginz’ new “valve” was a shocker (though foreshadowed somewhat). Hope that’s not really an ending.

        Joan said something to boyfriend about Ex-hubby-doctor-f#!khead and his twins – implying that he was distant and didn’t visit much – not much to idealize. Later in the 70s, we stopped blaming the child for his parents’ lack of nuptials – so that was a “legitimate” concern.

        Don might say “you didn’t have to tell me”. He might still say it if Peggy made a drunken confession – that will have to wait for the sequel (haha).

  15. My guess is that Sal got employment in the fields of advertising (the non-compete didn’t apply), design, film or commercial art. After a few years, perhaps, he came out or stopped being actively in the closet.

  16. […] since I posted this wish list of Matthew Weiner’s, we’ve had a weekly discussion group of items on this […]

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