Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's a Mad Mad Mad Men World

I’d heard many positive things about Mad Men.

I talk to a lot of people about a lot of TV shows, and Mad Men kept coming up in the conversation. “It’s soooo good,” people would say. Or, “You have to watch it.”

So when I realized that the first four seasons are on Netflix Instant, I began the process that is embarking on a new show. And in a matter of a few weeks, I had completely swallowed those four seasons whole and barely come up for air.

I’m not picky, per say, about the shows I watch, but I know when it’s good and when it’s… not so good. For instance, I’m a fan of both The Wire and Dawson’s Creek. See what I’m saying?

So when I say that Mad Men is practically PERFECT television, I truly mean it.

In the very first episode, we are given a little background info on the title of the show:

Mad Men: A term coined in the late 1950s to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue.
They coined it.

So here we have a show about the lives and wives of the wealthy execs of advertisement agency Sterling-Cooper, set in 1960’s New York City. Our main character is a dashingly handsome and broody 30-something by the name of Donald Draper (Jon Hamm). We soon learn that everyone around him is equal parts afraid and respectful of Don, whether they like it or not. If Mad Men is a perfect show, then Don Draper is the perfect character. He is quiet and stern, charming and mysterious. Hamm’s portrayal is so compelling, so mesmerizing, that I find I can’t take my eyes off Don when he graces the screen.

As a show that begins in the early 1960’s and gradually progresses through the decade, there are glaringly obvious societal issues that Mad Men is not afraid to tackle head on. In the first few episodes, the constant sexism and sexual harassment towards women is almost too hard to bear. We are immediately given three main characters that represent three different types of women in that era.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), the awkward-but-determined young secretary starting her first day in the offices of Sterling-Cooper, is a girl who doesn’t quite know what she wants (yet) but at least knows she doesn’t want what all the other women her age seem to—marriage, 2.5 children, white picket-fence, etc.

Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), the gorgeous, busty red-headed secretary-in-charge that struts around the office in tight, bright-colored dresses barking orders to the other girls typing away at their desks, is a woman who, while content to remain a secretary and aspire to marry a wealthy man someday, is not afraid to use her looks and domineering attitude to get what she wants.

And last but not least, there is Betty (January Jones). Betty is perhaps one of the most tragic characters I’ve come across. Breathtakingly beautiful and seemingly the perfect woman, underneath her exquisite exterior lies a hopelessly lonely and depressed housewife. She claws desperately at some sort of meaning in her life while at the same time vying for attention from her emotionally unavailable husband and keeping her two small children in line.

Mad Men is filled with numerous and equally as alluring characters as these. A combo of everything from flawless writing/directing, stunning acting, and spot-on style and makeup make this show every bit worth watching.

I often say that every once and a while, a show comes along that possesses a few scenes where your breath is literally taken away from the sheer brilliance of just a few minutes.

Mad Men has dozens of these.

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