Last year, one of my favorite TV shows was “Mad Men” on AMC. The attention to detail in the period show and the acting was absolutely top notch. I have really been looking forward to this season and there are some plot elements that make me hopeful for where the show is going. Don Draper has been showing some signs of remorse over his philandering ways.
Unfortunately there is one plot element that has had me scratching my head a few weeks ago and now has me wondering if I will continue with the show.
A week or two ago they showed Peggy, a former secretary who has moved up the corporate ladder to become a junior ad person, at mass. Last season, after having an affair with a married man, became unknowingly pregnant giving birth at the end of last season. The showed her refusing to hold her baby indicating that she would give the child up for adoption. This season, we found out that Peggy’s baby is being raised by her mother and sister. (The details of custody are fuzzy).
Peggy’s mother and sister are practicing Catholics trying to get Peggy to reform her hard living ways, albeit in an occasionally heavy handed manner. So a few weeks ago they showed her at mass (the pre-conciliar form as the show is set in the early 60’s). Now, as I mentioned, the show is known for getting the details right. Most of the time.
They showed the priest turn to the faithful with communion and say “Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbum, et sanabitur anima mea.” Once, twice, and three times. Right on, thought I. Then a fourth time. Oops. Five. Six. Sev… What is going on here?
Apparently, somebody thought that this prayer is the only thing a Catholic priest said in 1962. So much for the legendary attention to detail. This mistake, however, was only a small gaffe that elicited a chuckle from my Mother and I. This week a new development involving a young Jesuit seems more insidious. Fr. James Martin does a good job setting the scene.
Last night I was surprised to see Colin Hanks (son of Tom) stride confidently onto the scene in a Roman collar… On last night’s show, Peggy, hungover and slipping out of a Sunday Mass, meets a visiting priest, the young Father Gill, who mentions that he’ll be dining at her sister’s home. The family fawns over the young priest who tells them of his time in Rome, and being in the Vatican at the same time the pope is in residence. To hammer home their adulation of the priest, the family is shown snapping photos of the young cleric.
At the end of the meal, Father Gill somewhat too eagerly offers Peggy a ride to the subway, and looks, as screenwriters say, “meaningfully” in her direction after she gives him some tips on his homilies. (Keep it simple and make eye contact, she says sensibly.) Father is clearly entranced by Peggy, and expresses dismay when, on another visit, he’s told that she’s not at the family home.
Later, Peggy’s sister tells the priest in the confessional about Peggy’s child. And at the end of the episode, at an Easter Egg roll, the priest hands Peggy an Easter Egg, while staring at her child, and says to her, “For the little one.”
First of all, what is it with these Hanks men taking these anti-Catholic roles? Find something else to do please? The scenes of leering and inappropriate glances followed by breaking the seal of the confessional seems pretty over the top, even for a Jesuit. This episode leave Fr. Martin asking, “Given the vagaries of television I suppose we should be grateful that he’s not a pedophile. But is the only way that television can make a priest interesting is by making him not a very good one?” Well, is it?
Given the quality of last season, I will give the show a temporary benefit of the doubt. However, if it takes the easy and banal route of showing this priest in some further inappropriate behavior or some other clichéd anti-Catholic plot development, the show will have lived up to its name. I will then be a mad man.
I will let you know how it turns out.