A blog about movies and filmmaking.

I’m in Advertising

In television on August 9, 2009 at 3:27 am

So, in about a week the new season of MAD MEN starts. Being that it’s one of my favorite shows – and possibly the best, currently running on television – I just recently watched the second season again. (Which, I actually won a copy of from the guys over at Ain’t It Cool News thanks, guys!) In case you don’t know, MAD MEN is the show about 1960’s advertising company Sterling Cooper, with it’s lead creative director (and star of the show) Don Draper. His secretary, turned copy-writer, Peggy Olson; and a whole slew of supporting characters that are no less interesting of captivating than the leads.

The show, created by Matthew Weiner (pronounced, Winer) – one of the many talented people behind the classic show THE SOPRANOS – revels in it’s period authenticity, it’s tough choices and the way it goes out of it’s way to not be a conventional television show. It’s one of – if not the first – cable television shows to be nominated (and win) numerous Emmy awards, as well as a flurry of others. And I have to say that I believe they’ve earned any and all acclaim that they’ve been given.

The show, which as mentioned, presents us with a 60’s time-period that is so authentic – and honestly up until the 80’s life was generally like this, which is part of why I can relate to so many things in the show – that there are moments that are startling in how different today’s society is. Sure, there ‘s the obvious things like the drinking and smoking at work, the blatant sexual harassment and sexism (everywhere); but then there are the smaller things, like little kids jumping all over the car – as opposed to being safely buckled up and still. There’s a scene where a family (our lead characters, no less) are picnicking in a park, and when they’re ready to go, they throw their beer cans as far as possible and just dump all their garbage off their blanket and head to the car – leaving the mess. The more positive things like the costumes and set design are amazing and really help to set the show apart.

Then there are the larger issues that the show deals with. Mainly relationships and how – especially in the second season – we take for granted the person we think someone is, and are disillusioned to see them as someone else. There’s also seeing how most of these people are grown-ups only in appearance, but are actually still little children, and don’t know how to handle things in life like marriage, peer influence and the events of the world. Which is another thing. For a period show, where they could easily throw in numerous – and try to wedge our characters into historical moments – we’re really only given glimpses into those events. We see Jackie O’s tour of the White House on Valentine’s Day, where all the women are intrigued and the men just want their night of passion. The first season gave us election night, when Kennedy beats Richard Nixon; and the second season even works in the Cuban Missile crisis. And while these events have effects on our characters, it feels real – like how all the women in the office all mourn the death of a certain infamous starlet.

Then there are the two main character’s stories. One is Don Draper – played magnificently by Jon Hamm – a man with a mysterious past and a rough childhood, who we slowly learn a little more and more about as the seasons go on. He’s a man who wanted to change his life from what his father was, and when the opportunity came to do so; he grabbed it. The show is his story in dealing with it, as he’s become more successful and his family grows up, it’s harder to keep up the facade of his life. He spends most of his nights with women other than his wife, and when he does go home to her; it’s mostly to see how she can’t handle being an adult (which, sounds wrong and mean, but her character has it’s own complexity and like Don – and pretty much all of the characters, and people in real life, honestly – goes back and forth between being a sympathetic and dislikable character.) He tends to surround his extra-marital affairs with women who are strong and independent and like him, are willing to go to just about any length to get what they want. And above it all, we see that Don Draper just wants to be a good man.

The other main character is Peggy Olson – again played by the amazing Elisabeth Moss – who is a pretty plain girl who is originally hired to be Don’s secretary, but she shows aptitude in the writing department and eventually is risen through the ranks, to be one of the first women “Ad Men” in, probably, New York or history. Breaking through this barrier isn’t as wonderful as it may seem, as she’s still looked at by most everyone as still a secretary – or in many cases, having slept her way to her new position.  She develops a fondness – if not infatuation – with an accounts director in the office and they have a fling; which leads to a story line that is amazing and continues in minor ways.

She’s a strong woman, who doesn’t know that she is. She dresses mostly in little girl dresses and always with a pony-tail. In the second season, we spend a lot more time with her and her family – who we mostly see in relation to their going to church, and their Sunday dinners. But, by the end of the second season, she’s grown up and is steadily showing everyone in the office that she’s as much an equal as any of the other guys. (Not that they’ll make it any easier.)

The rest of the supporting cast, is just as magnificent. Whether it’s the office den-mother, Joan Holloway (played by the magnetic Christina Hendricks), who flaunts her sexuality through the office and lets all the other women know she’s in charge. There’s the firm’s owners Roger Sterling (John Slattery, who is hilarious) and Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse), who are both eccentric older men – Roger less so, but his silver hair adds a few years. We see a lot more of Roger, and his philandering, smart-ass ways a lot more than the odd-ball Cooper – who requires everyone to remove their shoes before entering his office. The bullpen is a group of young men, all are equally hilarious and are fully fledged, just in the small glimpses we get into their lives. Then there’s the women in Don’s life. His wife, Betty (January Jones); his significant other other’s, Midge (Rosemarie Dewitt), a beatnik artist , Rachel Menkin (Maggie Siff), a Jewish store-owner that is one of Don’s clients, and in the second season, Bobbie Barret (Melinda McGraw), the wife of a comedian that works for one of Sterling Cooper’s clients.

The show is fantastic, and that goes from the stylish, and abstract opening credit sequence, to the wonderful – and usually meaningful ending song. I highly recommend watching the show, getting the previous two seasons and watching some satisfying television!

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