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· The Shadow Knows!
36,634 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
"Mad Men" has been called the best show you're not watching. AMC wisely offers season one on demand to DIRECTV subscribers (and probably others) so, having precisely 8 items on my To Do List and 97% free on my DVR, I thought I'd find out.

For those unaware, "Mad Men" tells the story of Madison Avenue advertising firm Sterling Cooper in the early 1960s, a world where everyone smoked and drank, where men did as they pleased and women were nothing more than a combination of a hat rack and a voice-mail system. In many ways it seems bizarre, but then again people are still people. They still have friends and families and crises and hopes and dreams.

While several characters are featured, clearly the series is seen through the eyes of Don Draper, who is what used to be called a "rainmaker"-- he takes impossible challenges and creates success. Of course in reality this success is easy for the writers to achieve... the ad campaigns that worked are matters of record. But it doesn't stop the viewer from enjoying the pursuit.

Don is a flawed hero, even by 1960s standards. He is a womanizer, an identity thief, an extremely cranky boss, a cold husband and unavailable father. He lets his own problems cloud his surroundings. Yet, somewhere in Don's troubled mind, he feels that he is on the right path. We feel the small victories when he actually shows up at home, listens to a coworker, or actually turns away an opportunity to cheat on his wife.

Don may be imperfect but he has a strong sense of duty, a strong moral compass (even if it points 30° off north) and he does fulfill his obligations. Someone once told me that the most heroic thing one can do sometimes is just to go home and not keep driving. Don recognizes this and even though he's not always the hero, he does want to be.

As we learn more about the men and women of Sterling Cooper, we realize they are not as different from us as they seemed at first. They may not have iPods or cellphones (or heck, even cassette tapes) but they have many of the same crises we do. Are we doing right by our families? How do we deal with our challenges? How can we stay relevant? What small part can we play in making the world better? The makers of "Mad Men" wisely put the focus on the characters after the first several episodes of season one, which put the smoking, drinking, misogyny, racism, and lack of copy machines at the forefront. People still smoke in season two, but they also dream and hope and cry.

Of course we know what Don, Peggy, Peter, and the rest of the characters do not. They are no more than six years from seeing the world torn apart by revolt and anger. Their world is secure, for even if by season two they're making a few accommodations to the younger folks, they remain firmly in charge of the world. We know that this won't last... they don't.

The writers of this show have taken an interesting tack. While season one took place in 1960, season two takes place in 1962. Many of the unanswered questions of season one are still unanswered (Did Betty ever confront Don about the psychiatrist?) and others are simply resolved (Did Roger come back?) and there's a chance for some growth and change in the characters. I don't know if this flash-forward technique is right for every show but it does seem to be all the rage now, doesn't it?

Much has been said about the set design and wardrobe. I will admit that the wardrobe seems dead on, although it's hard to believe anyone ever dressed so nicely for everyday tasks. The set design, though, I must take issue with. It does not quite work for me, and part of that is that the use of typography throughout is haphazard and anachronistic. A lot of what is shown is quite accurate, but a few pieces here or there belong in a later time.

In "Flight 1", the most recent episode, an American Airlines plane crashes, and the crew at Sterling Cooper all have to deal with it differently. Peter is affected personally, Don has to work though a crisis of ethics, and Duck has a chance to shine. But of course, the episode isn't about a plane crash, it's about unexpected change. "What would you do if?" is the question. What would you do if you thought the company was going the wrong way? What would you do if you lost someone you thought you knew? What would you do if you were betrayed?

If you have a chance, and you don't hate me for revealing a few spoilers here, make the investment in "Mad Men." Give it a few hours, and it will give you an interesting perspective.

· Guest
155 Posts
I DL the entire 1st season and watched it over the second half of last week/last weekend. All of the sudden I wish we had AMC in HD :D

I was able to watch a couple of episodes On Demand in HD at my parents (Comcast) ... come on DIRECTV! :grin:
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