Couldn't agree with you more! The minute it started going into the Sal with the bellboy scene, i just lost it. i groaned--- OMG, another Brokeback Vito detour!!
i would have preferred it if they thought they had to go this route, then how about developing that relationship Sal had with the client from a previous season, where they actually had chemistry and some sort of genuine affection developing over their dinner date--, gay or not isn't the point. The bellboy scene had just a completely gratuitous feeling to it, to me.
And don't get me started on the stereotypical fling with a stewardess bit. Strange awkward dialogue at their dinner. Were people that fake and un-intellectual back then? (Not in our household, although i was just a babe of course!). Or maybe the fact that Weiner is young and imagining the sixties not so much from his own experience, but rather from what he fantasized it was. - Well- maybe that factor is really starting to show. Sure, the sets are perfect. But something was missing. Imo, this episode had to be the worst one ever.
The office firings had more a ring of truth to it, more believable. Those scenes were spot on to me,and i want to know more about what is happening to the characters. Its weird, i hated Pete at first in the first season. Then i came to feel a bit sorry for him and actually started to like him. Now after his tantrum with Ken, i'm back to disliking him intensley. At least for now! And i never did like his wife and her pretentious hats. Ew.
And what were the strange references to Sterling and Hong Kong? Wasn't quite following that.
And you are so right about the strange flashback to his birth- didn't have the effective use that flashbacks carried back in the Sopranos heyday. ANd that bit about the origin of Dick's name- just so cheesy and not believable at all. No one is that mean and cruel to name a child in that manner- again- seemed a bit gratuitous and over done.
There were some good moments to be sure, but overall, incredibly disappointing, and after this painful long wait for Season 3, i'm afraid they will have really lost their audience- especially newcomers. They needed a strong start, and this was a bellyflop.
However- the regular characters are still amazing and compelling, and of course i can hardly wait until next week, and i am about to go watch it again On Demand!! (so much for the thumbs down!)
p.s. here's an okay review: http://bluemoviereviews.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/review-mad-men-season-3-premiere/