I'm having a bit of a Mad Men fever recently. Maybe it's that I just watched The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, or maybe it's that certain television shows are just bred better than others. Mad Men is high class, top shelf television. Not that models forced to live in a model house in aim of censored nudity isn't making someone's life richer.
Either route it's perfect advertising.
Yet there's something missing from television all too often, just about as much as exposed nudity. That something is writing, and Mad Men has more than its share. Not just story editors either, but living, breathing writers! The episodes have plots, themes, arc, and there has been nary an autopsy or a hit-and-run. Only on AMC... the network that has whittled the namesake American Movie Classics down to include to include Pet Sematary Two. When did they get all respectable like? The executives at AMC must keep the office bar stocked. That's how they do it at Sterling Cooper.
The ladies look padded and perfect, the men talk big and fall far; the politics, well... they're a little outdated. Were the sixties really a better time? Don Draper says no, I assure you. He's fighting on and off the job, stealing namesakes... And his wife Betty certainly wouldn't contest. Lately she'd rather take out the neighborhood birds with a gun.
Points in the first season had Mad Men feeling a touch heavy in its footing, but lately the characters have settled and their depths have been reached with a subtlety I so greatly value. Beautiful production, an ace and eclectic cast, and more than enough subtext for a course on Women's Issues or Business Management. And I've said it before and I'll say it again, Jon Hamm can sell anything.
These are some of my favorite moments of recent Mad Men... Miss Holloway, hold my calls.
All along it was the Draper Family responsible for Global Warming. Their after-picnic littering would cause audible gasps nowadays. The family outing's postcard perfection is quickly crumpled and tossed over discussions of kids tinkling outside and sticky hands inside the car. Hysterical, sad, telling and topical; one of the best uses of the show's period-piece element.
A Night to Remember
ep. 8What is it about Joan Holloway? Played by Christina Hendricks she practically glows as she floats about the office; a seductive sizzle of red so easily capable of masking her torments. This episode featured a lovely and revealing moment when Joan removes her bra strap and caresses the indent beneath. There's so many layers under those so many layers. It sums up her character perfectly in a single image and it's shot like the heavens of Douglas Sirk.
Although it's called Mad Men it's actually the female roles stealing most of my attention. Set in the era of emerging women's rights, we follow Joan, Betty and Peggy's richly detailed struggle with matters of choice and power. Peggy's moving up the ladder of male dominance while Betty's moving out into the world, away from the home life that suffers.
On Janice Dickinson? Apparently the Russian girl hoards carrot cake.
The Jet Set
When TV shows hit their stride you get great episodes like The Jet Set. Oddly enough it's an episode where the lead character leaves his element and his usual setting, but in a way Don is forever outside his element, always selling and seeking something intangible. L.A. was fertile ground for Don's developing identity and I was surprised to approach the return flight with some hesitation...
No more poolside Don! But then I guess he isn't much different from the regular Don...
The episode also featured the show's third gay character, Kurt, whose office proclamation, "I'm homosexual. I make love with the men not the women," is so charming to me even still. Seriously classy.
It gives even more promise for future material, hopefully for Kurt as well as the closeted sadsack, Sal. Kurt just gave Peggy her Bravo-style gay makeover, meaning next season he could very well move into an L.A. model house. Even for a show set in the sixties, Mad Men is ahead of its time.