Mad Men: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (series premiere)
(S01E01) I think it's really appropriate that the Emmy Award nominations were announced on the same day this show premiered, because if there's any justice in this TV land, we'll be hearing a lot about Mad Men at this time next year.
The television landscape is filled with a lot of shows that are just the same as other shows on other networks. Even when we say "there's nothing else like this on TV right now," it's usually not true. There's usually something a bit (or a lot) like the show we're talking about. Mad Men is one show we can truly say is rather original. Of course, it's original by being retro. It's New York City, 1960. The world of Madison Avenue advertising men. And it is men, as most of the women are in the secretarial pool or gum chewing telephone operators.
But the women have power too, in ways the men don't see.
The setting is the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. New girl Peggy (Elizabeth Moss, The West Wing) starts the day as Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) new secretary. She's nervous, afraid of the new technology (electric typewriters!), but she also goes to the doctor to get birth control because she knows that sleeping her way to the top might be part of the job description. The other girls pretty much confirm that.
Draper is having trouble coming up with a new ad campaign for Lucky Strikes because medical professionals and Reader's Digest have begun examining the health effects of smoking. How can he come up with an ad slogan that will be successful in such a changing world? But Draper (Hamm, in a great performance that should make him a star) is actually the one who has the shades of a conscience (more than others anyway - all the other guys are drinking and cheating and pretty much those a-hole guys you and I know), even when he's trying to sell us cigarettes. He doesn't want anything to do with Peggy, even though she comes on to him, and he even apologizes to the female head of a company, a woman he insulted in a meeting. He knows the world is changing, and he's trying to adapt.
There are a couple of questions I have about the plot developments. Would Jews really be talked about that way in the business world of 1960 New York City?
This is the best new show of the year, and I'm just as surprised as you are that 1.) it's a summer show, and 2.) it's on AMC. But there is something so glorious and meaty about this show. It's for adults, and not in the same way that, say, Deadwood is for adults. This is glossy, old-fashioned entertainment, a show more about characters and social mores and the way the 1950s became the 1960s. You have to pay attention. And that worries me a bit. I can imagine people tuning into this, not knowing what to think, and finding it "slow going." There's nothing slam-bang about this show. It's all about the acting and the writing and the mood and the style and the look and feel of 1960 NYC.
Oh, the look. Is it possible to have an orgasm for the eyes? This show gets everything so beautifully right. The way everyone is smoking, the cut of the suits, the haircuts, the way the characters talk, the cars, the dresses. Even small touches, like clocks on a wall or curtains in a office and the new electric typewriters the girls use, it's all done so well that the sets are characters themselves (and not in that obviously kitschy way that modern movies usually depict the late 50s/early 60s - this is closer to L.A. Confidential than Happy Days). This isn't is a show you just "watch every week," it's a world you want to live in.
The cast is uniformly great, from Hamm to boss John Slattery (Desperate Housewives, Ed) to new secretary Moss to creepy suckup Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), who is getting married but still wants to dip his pen in company ink. This is juicy, intelligent soap opera stuff, and I mean that in the best way possible.
I usually hate saying that at a TV show is "just like a movie," because I think that it demeans TV a bit, as if TV is the younger brother who has to prove himself and "get better." But Mad Men is like a movie in the sense that it's just really well shot, like some glorious Technicolor flick of the 1950s, filling the screen with detail and life, and a respect for the audience you don't usually see on TV.
Anyway, check it out, because...well, as I said, there's nothing else like it on television.
|Wow, this is so great I think I'll take up smoking and drinking!||307 (69.3%)|
|It's pretty good, I'll give it another shot||115 (26.0%)|
|Eh, it's nothing special||21 (4.7%)|