It’s 1965, and things are looking pretty grim at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP), the fictional advertising agency featured on Mad Men. Partner Pete Campbell has just sabotaged a lucrative new contract with North American Aviation in order to avoid a background check that would reveal secrets that might result in jail time for senior partner Don Draper. Even worse, they’re about to lose their largest client, Lucky Strike cigarettes. Can the agency survive? I think it can, with a little help from some of its contemporaries: this series of five crossover episodes with 1960s-era TV shows should put SCDP back on track.
Crossover #1: Lassie. Being Don Draper’s secretary must be the worst job at SCDP: one left the company after he slept with her and cast her aside, the next died on the job, and her replacement is feeling a bit stressed out. When office manager Joan overhears Don calling his current secretary a bitch, she gets an idea for a new cost-cutting measure: his next secretary is a well-trained collie named Lassie. Skeptical at first, Don is won over by Lassie’s intelligence, loyalty, and interpersonal skills. Although she lacks some of the more traditional administrative skills, Don is thrilled to finally have a secretary he can count on never to judge him or reveal any of his secrets.
Crossover #2: Sesame Street. Although the canine secretary program has resulted in some cost savings, the agency is still in serious financial trouble. In a last-ditch attempt to keep the Lucky Strike account, senior partner Roger Sterling arranges a product placement deal with Sesame Street. Two new Muppets are created: Oscar the Tobacconist, who runs Sesame Street’s tobacco shop, and Sid, who spends his time alternately buying Lucky Strikes from Oscar’s shop and smoking them in the background of every crowd scene. The Lucky Strike people are impressed and decide to stay with SCDP.
Crossover #3: Doctor Who. The Doctor and his companion travel to 1965 to investigate a time anomaly: episodes of Sesame Street are being broadcast four years before Sesame Street’s 1969 debut. The Doctor determines that it’s just a harmless side-effect of one of his earlier adventures, while his companion convinces Sesame Street’s producers to make the show a smoke-free zone. The Sesame Street Tobacco Shop closes down, and Oscar the Tobacconist loses his job, becomes homeless, and takes up residence inside a garbage can. When cigarettes become unavailable, Sid struggles with withdrawal symptoms and eventually comes up with an effective coping strategy: any time he feels like smoking, he eats a cookie instead.
Crossover #4: The Fugitive. When Sesame Street cancels the product placement agreement, Lucky Strike drops SCDP. With the agency facing bankruptcy, Pete tries to revive the deal with North American Aviation. Don, afraid that his history as an army deserter will come to light, goes on the run. While working as a short-order cook in a New Jersey diner, he runs into Dr. Richard Kimble, and the two men share tips on evading the police and assuming new identities. Meanwhile, SCDP remains in crisis — although it looks like they probably will get the North American Aviation contract eventually, the approval process could drag on for months.
Crossover #5: Bewitched. In a desperate attempt to keep SCDP afloat, senior partner Bert Cooper suggests the agency hire an account executive from another firm, hoping that the new man will bring his existing clients with him. After a hasty round of interviews, they hire Darrin Stevens. During an oddly eventful dinner party at the Stevens home, the SCDP partners reveal the truth about the agency’s financial situation. The next day, they discover that the North American Aviation contract has been finalized weeks ahead of schedule, as if by magic.
At this point, SCDP is able to move forward on its own. After a few weeks, Don realizes that his secrets have remained buried and makes his way back to the agency. The show’s next crossover happens in 1970, but even I can’t predict which Mad Men character will be the first to move in with The Odd Couple.