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The terrific wisdom of a putz

Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell in <i>Mad Men</i>.

Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell in Mad Men.

Peter Campbell is the surprise alpha male of Mad Men, series five. Can you believe it? The very same waxen-skinned child of privilege, the douchebag sissy you detested from series one to four has suddenly emerged, in 1966, as the pivotal character in the show.

After a year in contractual hibernation, we discover our favourite Mad man Don Draper has fallen in step behind his almost-teen bride, the faboosh junior copywriter Megan, and Roger Sterling has faded into irrelevance at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price.

Are you with me?

If you're on the coalface of illegal downloads you'll already be seven episodes in. High five!

Did you know that just one hour after Mad Men airs in America every Sunday night (Monday afternoon, here), you can slip into your favourite bit torrent browser and steal it out of thin air, from the hundreds of thousands of community-minded TV viewers who upload each ep for absolutely no reward? Who fear no government regulator nor furiously litigious studio? It's the most modern thing ever!

But, on the presumption that you're a good Australian citizen who dutifully awaits his masters to dole out the gruel on his cable or free-to-air, I believe you're three eps in, with number four to show on Foxtel on Thursday night.

Therefore, spoiler alert! I come to talk with you about episode five, Signal 30, where in the 47 minutes or so of webs spun by 86-year-old Academy Award winning writer Frank Pierson (remember Dog Day Afternoon? Cool Hand Luke?), we're treated to the accidental, but terrific, wisdom of Peter Campbell.

Here's what you'll learn next Thursday.

1. In the game of sales, the only thing that matters are figures: There isn't a soul in the agency that feels anything close to warmth for Peter Campbell (especially the wretched Peggy who aborted his kid). But, the ambitious kid scoops up eight mill in biz and rises to the most powerful position in the company.

2. Women love men: The man's man, the guy who can, like, fix a faucet will always trump the intellectual or the studious with no manual skills. Peter invites Don Draper to his home for dinner and when a tap blows it's Don, in a see-through white T-shirt, who fixes it while three wives melt into puddles on the floor. A knife is driven into Pete's heart when Don offhandedly denigrates Pete's earlier, accidental repair.

3. Doing business in brothels sucks. Men in the sales biz often enjoy a little bonding over prostitution. It's the primary reason why brothels pockmark every city. But, it sucks, and it always has, because there's always one man who, in a fit of guilt or carelessness, will blow it for everyone afterward. In this ep, a bolt of chewing gum on a penis causes the loss of the prestigious Jaguar account.

4. If you're going to shoot your mouth, be prepared to wear a punch: When straight-laced CFO Lane Pryce loses it at Pete for taking the Jaguar account to a brothel, Pete, who is swollen with hubris because of the point one, responds with a shot at Lane's relevance and suggests he might be gay. Lane challenges Pete to a fight and soon explodes Campbell's nose. Lane even gets to kiss the bosomed Joan afterward! Fighting is right!

5. The hot guy always get the gal: At his drivers education course, Peter falls under the spell of a cute gal and is on his way to closing the deal on an illicit meeting when a stupidly hot guy joins the class and, by the show's end, is locked at third base, a digital invasion that doesn't involve bit torrents. Meanwhile, Peter watches forlornly, a dripping faucet dripping symbolically in the background.

The show ends with Pete crying his eyes out in the elevator. Tough lessons. But timeless lessons we must all learn.

4 comments so far

  • There is a small error in point 1. Peggy gave Pete's kid up. She didn't realise she was pregnant until she was in labour. It is also implied she had no choice, but was forced to give the kid up.

    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 1:22PM


      … I guess it just felt kinda abortion-y at the time.

      I'm so thrilled the lil bastard survived!

      Derek Rielly
      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 1:53PM
  • Pete is so snooty that it infuriates me to the point of physical pain. But, your points are all valid, Tiger. Who would've thought? Forget 1966! In 2012, Pete Campbell still exists in every Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth high-rise, leaving hair grease on his superior's door as he sidles into his office to gush praise. He climbs the company milieu like a stubborn weed. But you know what? He'll be your boss soon.

    Windows '95
    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 2:44PM
    • All of these points of wisdom were also nicely punctuated with Beethoven's ode to joy over the closing credits! How perfect!

      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 10:15PM

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