‘Mad Men’ Jewish recap: The Manischewitz mess

(AMC)

(AMC)

Our apologies–we were so busy despairing over “Princesses: Long Island” we completely ignored a show that does not herald the demise of television, culture, and the state of American Jewry.

Sunday night’s episode of “Mad Men” was packed with chaos, both in society at large and in the offices of Sterling Cooper and Partners (which, if you missed it, is now the agency’s official post-merger name). As rioters tear up the streets of Chicago, Don, Roger, and Harry travel to California where they lose business (everyone), respect (Roger), and consciousness (Don).

Meanwhile, back at the office, the crisis has a distinctly Jewish flavor. Or, an overly sweet, alcoholic flavor, you might say. See, while the Princesses were belting out lines like, “’Look what I have! MANISCHEWITZ!’,” our favorite ad men were scrambling to keep Manischewitz as a client.

Naturally Ginsberg, the only Jewish employee, is the copywriter assigned to the account. And naturally, because he’s Ginsberg, he is too debilated by his neurosis to prepare for the big meeting. Not because he doubts his abilities, but because he feels like his role in peddling products for corporations has rendered him a “thug” and a “pig.”

“They’re good people, they’re your people,” says new guy Bob, who’s been called in to soothe Ginsberg. “They sell wine for religious people of all faiths.”

To which our filterless, spectrumy hero replies: “Tell me the truth, Are you a homo?”

Long story short: Manischewitz has been unhappy with the work for a while (um, duh! Which other faiths would drink that stuff?) and they lose the account.

Coincidentally—or maybe not—the only other Jew ever employed by Sterling Cooper shows up in this episode, too. At a party in California Roger runs into Danny Siegel, cousin of his ex-wife Jane. Danny, formerly a very bad copywriter, has reinvented himself as a smooth-talking screenwriter with an over-the-top hippie costume and an out-of-his-league lady friend.

Watching Ginsberg freak out and Danny sleaze it up made us wonder if the portrayal of Jews on “Mad Men” falls closer than we thought to the dark side inhabited by the “Princesses.” These petite, hyper men, with their bushy facial hair, are just so… crazy and unlikeable.

But then we observed Don hallucinate and Roger get kicked where it counts (by Danny, actually) and Pete fly into a jealous rage and we realized that the really great thing about “Mad Men” is that all of the characters, regardless of background, are, at their cores, crazy and unlikeable. So there you have it: Equal opportunity negative portrayals.*

 

* There’s just one exception: Art Director Stan Rizzo. How awesome is that guy?

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