Archive for July 18th, 2009

Mad Men

Having missed it on TV I have recently seen the first season and the first few episodes of the second season of Mad Men on DVD.  Set in the early 60’s it is based around Sterling Cooper a prestigious (fictional) New York ad agency.  It has been praised for its historical authenticity in both the look and the attitudes of the characters.  It also chronicles many changes in attitudes and ideas of the time.  The production design is brilliant with amazing attention to detail in the sets, costumes and hair styles. 

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The thing that makes the program stand out is the characters; they are varied, well developed and perfectly cast.  Don Draper is the creative director of the agency.  He is married to Elizabeth “Betty” Draper, played by the fantastic January Jones, not satisfied with married life he has many affairs.  During season one there is an interesting revelation regarding Don’s past.  Peggy Olsen began as Don’s naïve new secretary.  She has the largest story arc in the first series both personally and professionally being promoted to copywriter and having a surprise in her personal life at the end of season one.  Joan Holloway plays the office manager who rules the roost over the office secretaries.  During season one it is revealed that she has being having an affair with Roger Sterling, one of the senior partners.  There is also supporting cast of characters including: the eccentric other senior partner; a young, ambitious but self conscious account executive; a pompous and bourgeois copywriter; an account executive who is also an aspiring author and the companies art director who is a closeted gay man.  The characters are stenotypes but that doesn’t matter as they are so well constructed and varied characters.  This is important as it is very much a character driven program.  Although we see parts of the creative process of the ad business this is not a program about advertising, it is all about people and relationships.  It is a real grown-up drama that is happy to make its characters fallible and flawed.  We knew from the start the type of characters we would be dealing with when the pilot episode started with a quote on the screen.  I can not remember the exact wording (or find it online) but it is something like:

“Mad Men” was a slang term coined in the 1950s by advertisers working on Madison Avenue

They coined it themselves!

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With the end of Battlestar Galactica, House beginning to lose its way, 24 lost its way a long time ago and Lost only having one season to run Mad Men the best program around at the moment.

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