Monday, July 23, 2007

Review: Mad Men

"Mad Men"

A term coined in the late 1950's to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue.

They Coined it.

Thus began the premier episode of "Mad Men," a program I watched on Thursday evening (I couldn't find it on-line but here is the encore schedule or you can buy it on I-tunes for $1.99) with an acquaintance (my mother, hereafter, Mombo), who has very different sensibilities than I do. During each commercial break she and I discussed the program. As I became more and more interested, Mombo became more and more disinterested. Her primary complaint was that there were not any characters that she particularly cared for.

I found this assessment to be fair, as many of the characters seem to be morally flexible (particularly with regards to their sexual behavior) and virtually all of them have a world-view that extends only as far as their self-interests. It is for these reasons that I really enjoyed the program.

In a moment of drunken clarity last Wednesday evening, I wrote about Bob Dylan's fraudulent persona and asked how many of the rest of us would stand up to the scrutiny of an in-depth examination of our own personalities (or rather those that we display to the world).

I don't know the answer to this question, but I suspect an airing of the entirety of an individual's personality would do well to upset/disgust many of his/her friends and family.

It is for this reason that I find programs like The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men compelling. These shows are not concerned with making its audience "like" their characters and as such they needn't compromise the authenticity of their decisions and actions.

The program is also very interesting because it allows the viewer to editorialize on the advances and missteps our society has made since the 1960's. The show provides a fair amount of commentary of its own but it's cloaked in the words and actions of the characters and can be seen by those looking for a validation of their assumptions. (Their's a gay character that makes several remarks that might be missed by those who do not assume homosexuality, although I suspect this will be a more major plot theme going forward).

I did a bit of research on the shows creator and was not surprised to find he had produced and/or written numerous Sopranos episodes (including, unfortunately the Johnny Cakes episode, which was the opposite of good - a more apt description than bad). He's a real talent and I'll be interested to see where he takes Mad Men from here.

Premier episode grade: A-

A couple links; This months Vanity Fair has a very thorough article on Barbaro, that reads more like Sea Biscuit than an obit. Also interesting from that issue is David Halberstam's final article on the incompetency of the Bush administration.

I tend to agree with Halberstam's analysis but I'm not here to tell you what to think so here is a WaPo article about how Bush's administration will be seen as a success. Interesting. Yfbfb reports, you decide.

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I watched only because I love the period covered.t's nicely lit and shot, acting is very good. First episode was brilliant, writing was razor sharp and well observed.
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