Monday, July 28, 2008

Exeunt Bandwagon: The Mad Men

As of this writing, I believe there are still a handful of slots remaining on the bandwagon for The Mad Men, the tee-vee series on AMC that appeared about this time last year and drew approximately seventeen viewers. Fortunately, most of those seventeen were professional tee-vee reviewers on the job, and they rightly noticed how good a series it is. The bandwagon to which I refer is the one from which one can crow "I liked the show before it became a big hit." Season one is available on DVD; season two premieres tonight.

The show follows the men and women of a Manhattan advertising agency in 1960, and from the first moments of the first episode it's clear we're looking at a lost world: everyone smokes constantly, drinks constantly, and says almost nothing that wouldn't raise the hackles of a modern-day Human Resources director, especially when it comes to gender. Edit out the scenes with male-female interactions that skirt the borders of sexual harrassment, if not bulldoze them, and the first season of thirteen hour-long episodes could probably be compressed to about half an hour.

Through its detailed, possibly over-the-top immersion in the world of 1960 -- and I would be keenly interested to learn how people who were around at the time assess its realism -- it continuously confronts the viewer with the theme of change and continuity: what has changed between that world and this? And what is still the same? What are the trade-offs? There is much to mine there.

An enterprising film student would also do well to note the many references to The Godfather trilogy in cinematography, lighting, themes, and so on.

It's quite good.

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