I’ve heard non-stop praise and acclaim about Mad Men over the last two years. Having only seen promotional clips, I was skeptical about the hype. To me, it looked like a peek into a time when men acted as self-interested, arrogant and cut-throat possible; while women played subservient roles in traditional family households and dealt with unimaginable amounts of sexist behavior. Who needs to see more of that? But similar to my fortunate rendezvous with Showtime’s Dexter OnDemand, one lazy Sunday night I turned on AMC to find a series of Mad Men episodes. And so began my love affair with these mad men (and women)!
As par for the course, I was shocked by the treatment of women at home and the work place, the overt sexual and condescending comments by not one, but ALL of the ad men, and Don Draper’s constant infidelity. But slowly, Draper’s intense character, wrought with emotional turmoil, began to win me over. There’s no doubt he’s a genius in the boardroom and has a penchant for ad creations that play off public heart strings. His secret double life was an instant hook and kept me curious and watching. I had hoped for the reformation of Don’s private life after his oceanic baptism scene at the end of last season. Unfortunately, this first episode of season three put Don right back on the path of “disrespectful” behavior (as he so put it to his wife).
One of the highlights of the show for me is the evolution of female cast. You can see each of them struggle with their stifling roles at home and work. I was surprised by Betty Draper’s steadfast ability to kick Don out of the house after exposing his womanizing ways. Her character is sweet, pleasant, and seemingly vulnerable, but last season showed us her strength.
Joan Holloway is one of my favorite characters. She plays to her looks and is overly flirtatious with her male counterparts, but knows her limits. She’s coy and clever and has more responsibility that any other women in office. You can see her struggle with interest to do more at work (i.e. her brief script reading job and pitch), and quietly rage when an opportunity that should be hers is given to a new, young male. A bit older than the rest of the secretaries, she seems determined not to settle in her love life. I’m curious to see how she handles her engagement to Dr. Greg Harris. Personally, I hope she kicks him to the curb!
Lastly, Peggy Olson impresses me with her character’s range. Olson balances the corrupt vices of the advertising industry with the constant pull of her strict religious background. Sterling Cooper has an obvious, corrosive effect on her innocence, but she continues to recover with grace.
Plus, the efforts to recreate the bygone business age are fantastic. I feel directly transported into the 60’s, complete with alcohol filled workdays and highball hour. Have you ever seen so much drinking? In fact, a recent New York Times article detailed the accuracy of the cocktail consumption in the show. Mirroring the meticulous attention advertisers give to the subtle details that create a favorable impression of a service or product, the writers and production staff definitely do their cocktail homework. A lot of creative input goes into each character’s drink on account of the cultural importance of liquor as well as the efficiency of cocktail-fueled deals.
Next Sunday, you’ll find me watching Mad Men with an appropriately prepared vodka gimlet (now found on my Refreshing Summer Cocktails List) and a renewed appreciation for the height of the advertising industry.
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Mad Men is an American television drama series created and produced by Matthew Weiner. It is produced by Lionsgate Television and is broadcast on the cable network AMC. It premiered on July 19, 2007, and completed its second season on October 26, 2008. The third season is scheduled to begin August 2009.
Set in New York City, Mad Men begins in the early 1960s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on New York City's Madison Avenue. The show centers on Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a high-level advertising creative director, and the people in his life in and out of the office. It also depicts the changing social mores of 1960s America.
Mad Men has received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its historical authenticity and visual style, and has won numerous awards, including three Golden Globes, a BAFTA and six Emmys. It is the second cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series and the first basic cable series to do so.