Watching ‘Mad Men’……………

……or no longer watching ‘Mad Men’, to be strictly accurate as Series 3 of the best thing on British TV has just come to a jaw-dropping finale, with the Draper marriage and Sterling Cooper Advertising both falling apart. 

I am considerably relieved to discover that there will be a Series 4, with the principals  from SCA now operating out of a hotel suite and Don Draper moving back into the city as his wife files for a quickie divorce.  The narrative possibilities for the future are considerable as the mid-60’s, Beatlemania, Vietnam. flower power and men walking on the moon are  imminent.  All are likely to form part of the constantly scrolling diorama of ‘current events’ that acts as a backdrop to the parish pump affairs of the Sterling Cooper crew and their significant others. 

Betsy & Don Draper….the dream is malfunctioning

‘Mad Men’  is the work of the same people who came up with ‘The Sopranos’ .  To be honest, I wasn’t a ‘Sopranos‘ aficionado – by the time the word reached me  about what I was missing, I had missed too much of it to make jumping aboard a real possibility.  Same with ‘The Wire’….

But ‘Mad Men’ struck a chord with me even before it started.  Given that advertising was one of the benchmarks of the 20th Century’s ‘mass media’, I could never quite understand how there had never been any notable movies or tv shows about it before.  The only ‘Mad Men’ I could remember from the movies were Robert Webber’s portrayal of a brash,but shallow Madison Avenue ad-man in Sydney Lumet’s 1957 adaptation of  the jury-room drama ‘Twelve Angry Men’  (“Let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!”) and Cary Grant’s  turn as the equally lightweight Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock’s ‘North by Northwest’ from 1959( “In the world of advertising, there’s no such thing as a lie. There’s only expedient exaggeration.” ) – and neither movie was actually about advertising at all.

Don Draper might look a bit like Webber and Grant with his sharp suits and saturnine good looks, but there is little that is shallow about him.  He is a dark and complex character and it’s sometimes possible to both admire and despise him within the same episode.  To all intents and purposes, Draper and his uptight blonde WASP-ish wife – plus three kids – are living the American dream out in Westchester County.  The intriguingly-named January Jones plays Betsy Draper with just the right amount of repressed  ‘preppy’ angst, but really starts to come into her own in Series 3.  Similarly, Don, who stalks Manhattan like a a feral Casanova in the first two series, is about to get his come-uppance from his wife, though not for the reasons that you might expect.  Series 3 is very much about the disintegration of the Draper marriage, whilst also following the increasingly byzantine goings-on at Sterling Cooper.  Having been snaffled up by a bigger (and British) fish in PPL, the busy boys & girls of the Sterling Cooper offices are about to find out that there are yet larger denizens of the deep.

Many people have remarked on how ‘well-dressed’ ‘Mad Men’ is.  The first series was notable for the fact that everyone seemed to be smoking, and pretty much all the time as well.  Now everyone talks about the fantastic clothes that are on show – particularly by the women characters.  The voluptuous Joanie, as played by Christina Hendricks,  is one of the clothes horses of the series and makes a welcome return to the fold at the end of Series 3.

Joanie knows best…..

Being ‘well-dressed’ is well and good, but the real strengths of ‘Mad Men’ are in the depth of the characterisation of its cast and the basis of that lies in its splendid scripts.  Quite simply, the quality of the writing in ‘Mad Men’ has just got better and better.  New viewers have about 6 months to catch up via the DVD Box Sets……

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2 responses to “Watching ‘Mad Men’……………

  1. Don’s wife is named Betty or Elizabeth, not Betsy.

  2. Thanks Lee…I love a stickler for accuracy. FYI, Don quite often refers to her as ‘Bets’, but hey, let’s not get picky, hmm?

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