As I’ve mentioned several times, for the last few months we’ve been watching the AMC series Mad Men, which has proven to be of Breaking Bad-level addictivity for my wife; and so I thought it might be fun to subject her to another piece of fiction set largely in and around the world of advertising, namely, the old Tom Hanks/Jackie Gleason film Nothing in Common:
Surely she’ll like this movie, right? It’s got legendary actors Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason (in his final role); it’s got 80s music on the soundtrack; and the main character, David Basner, is a womanizing creative director at an advertising agency, a la Don Draper. Can’t miss!
Wife: “This is no Mad Men.”
I think she thought it was kind of sort of okay, at least until the scene where, while visiting the owner of Colonial Airlines at his ranch in the hopes of getting a pitch for his agency, David and the owner’s daughter, Cheryl—whom David has of course been sleeping with, because womanizer—go off to the Thoroughbred barn to watch let’s call it a “date” between one of the stallions and another breeder’s mares. This scene cuts back and forth between the horses doing let’s call it “foreplay” and David and Cheryl exchanging what I guess are supposed to be smoldering looks behind the back of the breeder, who is also in attendance, until finally David and Cheryl disappear to go make some whoopie under a willow tree.
My wife watched this scene with increasing consternation as it went along.
Wife: “This is so tacky.”
(a few seconds pass)
Wife: “Oh my God.”
(a few more seconds pass)
Wife: “What exactly do they think they’re conveying with this scene?”
Me: “Okay, yeah, this is a little cheesier than I remember.”
Wife: “A little???”
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’ll let the YouTube comments have the last word on that scene:
My wife was pretty much ready to bail on the movie after that equine spectacle, but I made her stick around a little bit longer so that she could see the actual pitch that David Basner ends up presenting to win the business of Colonial Airlines, which is of course the best scene in the entire movie:
Me: “So what do you think? That was a Don Draper-worthy pitch, wasn’t it?”
Wife: “Sure, in the sense that it was long.”
Me: “But it was a good pitch, though, right?”
Wife: “It was long.”
Me: “You didn’t like the concept?”
Wife: “The airline would have to pay for way too much air time to run that ad.”*
Me: “Well that’s because Tom Hanks was narrating things the ad would just show.” (beat) “I remember everything in this pitch from when I first saw this movie like 35 years ago.”
Me: “It’s a great pitch. From your home, to our home, to their home. Colonial Airlines: Your home in the sky.“
Wife: “Okay, that part was good, but it took too long to get there. Just like a typical airline!”
Nothing in Common put my wife to sleep in about 35 minutes when we started watching it; we didn’t get to the now-infamous horse scene or the commercial pitch until our second session a few days later. It’s unclear at this point if we’ll actually be finishing the movie or not.
Me: “Will you watch the rest of this movie or are you done with it after that horse scene?”
Wife: “What, there’s more after the pitch?”
Yes, of course there’s more! Because, in advertising, as in baseball, the pitch is just the beginning. But, spoiler alert: We did not, in fact, finish the movie; my wife completely lost interest after the fiasco of the scene in the barn, and I already saw it (35 years ago!!!), so I basically just went ahead and told her what happened in the rest of the movie.
Me: “So, see, it turns out David’s father has diabetes, and he develops all kinds of medical problems, and David ends up getting fired by Colonial Airlines because he won’t leave his father to go on some unnecessary trip for them, and Cheryl dumps him, but he ends up back with his high school sweetheart who was making everyone act like amoebas**. The second half is drama; only the first half is comedy.”
Wife (muttering): “Tries to be comedy.”
I suppose this means we won’t be watching Bojack Horseman any time soon …
* After nearly seven seasons of Mad Men you start considering such things.
** It makes sense in context.