“Reach Out Of the Darkness”, Friend And Lover
Man With A Plan, Season 6 Episode 7
At the end of Man With A Plan, Bobby Kennedy has just been shot and killed at the apex of a frenzied, bloody year. Yet at the time, trite Summer of Love holdovers such as “Reach Out Of the Darkness” were still topping the charts. Many of the show’s music choices are from epochal, important bands and solo artists. But this selection elevates and enhances a song that had become a sort of tacky punchline of the era in modern culture.
The situational context of the track changes the refrain from dippy idealism to an exasperated plea. Its chiming folk rock guitar and chirping vocal harmonies seem to ring false, as well. There’s a bold stylistic mixing choice during the fadeout where the tune overlaps with the sound of a mournful TV news broadcast, making it harder to hear the uplifting melody.
There’s discord in the ad agency too. This episode focuses on the fallout of a big and messy merger, with Don and Ted butting heads over a position of control. Perhaps they represent the two friends the song mentions getting along despite differences and anomie. Pete fears becoming redundant in the new order of things, while the normally capable Joan falls ill, emphasizing the disarray. Don also regresses into the messiest of his sexual kinks, psychologically bullying his current mistress (the wife of his friendly neighbor) in a bid for some kind of command over his life and impulses. He knows this is a terrible idea, but she must urge him to stop in order for him to give up on their affair.
The dark irony of this closing track is not lost on director John Slattery, who proves his acumen here. As sirens and scuffles from the street reverberate in Don’s loveless apartment and the news is filled with dissent and sadness, Friend And Lover tries to move past the chaos with wishful thinking.
“Butchie’s Tune”, Commissions And Fees
This pick offers another weird mix of tragic and happy, used to heighten the poignance of a childish song. Functioning as a makeshift eulogy for Lane Pryce, the Lovin’ Spoonful’s rueful lament set to a very American country shuffle reflects the man quite well. His sympathies were divided, first between his employers and his coworkers, and then between his two countries of residence, causing him to become emotionally and financially desperate and leading to his downfall. Lane was capable of great cheer which masked a deep well of sorrow, and “Butchie’s Tune” plays him out with a similar genial atmosphere masking lyrics that are horrifying in context (“I’ll close the door so you won’t see me go”). But its mood of resignation and calm goodbyes offer some measure of grace and closure to the final moments of an anxious soul.