Last Night's TV: Mad Men/BBC4
The North on a Plate/BBC4

Who is Don Draper?" That question – with a few supplementaries thrown in – has already sustained three fine series of Mad Men and it was the very first thing you heard in episode one of series four, as if to bring fans back to basics after the recess. The question was asked, in this instance, by a reporter for Advertising Age, prompted to do a small feature on Don and his new agency by a Glo-Coat Floor Wax commercial that has "caused a bit of a squeal". Don, though, was not in any mood to sell himself. "I'm from the Midwest," he replied. "We were taught that it's not polite to talk about ourselves." To give him his due – he has a lot on his mind right now. His new agency is up and running, but the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are having to lie about the scale of their operation, referring offhandedly to a "second floor" that doesn't actually exist. There's no guarantee that they'll get enough new accounts to keep the firm going, and some of the accounts they do have are proving tricky. With Thanksgiving looming, Sugarberry Ham has sent just one tin of the product into the office – a slight that Pete reads as a sign of imminent defection to another agency – and Don is struggling with the Jantzen account, a self-styled "family-firm", which is attempting to hold back the advancing tide of bikini miniaturisation.

When the Advertising Age piece appears it is not flattering, something of a blow to Don's colleagues, who were hoping he might unbend and try a bit of ingratiation, given the fledgling company's need for good publicity. Ingratiation isn't something that Don does, though, nor Mad Men come to that, a series that often seems preoccupied with its own concerns and to only occasionally remember that we're sitting at home paying the bills. That isn't a criticism, incidentally. It's praise, because one of the things that makes Mad Men distinctive as television is the unhurried pace of its storylines, and the fact that some episodes pass without a great deal happening at all. A less confident drama might also have fretted about the fact that we hadn't seen the ground-breaking Glo-Coat Floor Wax commercial, and so wouldn't be aware of how Don had advanced the art of advertising. Mad Men moved on to something else as if it wasn't intending to enlighten us, and then dropped it in later almost as an afterthought.

A year on from where the last series left us finds Don divorced and living in a bachelor apartment, where the only female visitors appear to be his maid and a brusque hooker, who he pays to slap him about a bit. Betty is now living with her new husband, enduring the open contempt of her new mother-in-law, for whom a divorcée counts as another man's dirt. This is, we are reminded elsewhere, a time when chicken kiev is still a fashionable novelty and divorce carries a moral stain. The young actress who Don meets on a blind date isn't entirely sure she should be seeing him at all, and she certainly isn't going to invite him in for coffee. Frustrations of various kinds fed into the explosion that concluded the episode, when Don threw the Jantzen executives out of his office infuriated by their prudish response to his creative work. To make good the damage he'd done, he submitted to another interview with the Wall Street Journal, this time pitching himself as hard as he usually pitches his ideas. It is not enough to make great ads about polish, he belatedly seems to have realised. You have to be prepared to put a layer of Glo-Coat on yourself.

In The North on a Plate, a cultural historian called Andrew Hussey – born Liverpool, now resident in France – set out to import the untranslatable French notion of terroir – the way that the spirit of a place is infused into its foodstuffs – back to England. He wasn't a foodie, he confessed, just someone interested in the intersection of food, history and politics. He began in his home town, visiting a local café to sample their version of lobscouse, a meat and potato stew of Scandinavian origin that proved so popular with Liverpool's residents that its name eventually became theirs, too. I'm not convinced that a dish that can be made in a hundred different ways – and originally came from somewhere else altogether – does really demonstrate the quality of terroir, but then the specific taste and quality of the foods discussed here didn't seem to matter to Hussey as much as their backstory. He also visited a chippy in Blackpool, a pie shop in Wigan and potato fields in Ormskirk, part of whose terroir derives from their enrichment with night soil from Liverpool. "A long time ago," added the potato farmer hastily, when this was mentioned, clearly anxious that his current customers might think twice about eating scouser-fertilised spuds. Then he went to investigate tripe, a dish whose limited visual charm was not enhanced by footage of a tripe-dressing works in action. The smell of tripe being processed, we were told, has been likened to a "cross between hot cowpat, petrol and earwax". It doesn't taste anything like that bad once it's been cooked, though, and it seemed rather feeble of Hussey to refuse to sample a slice of honeycomb tripe, drizzled with vinegar. Not terroir, I think, so much as terror.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin