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Monday, June 14, 2010:
What I'm watching: Mad Men - season 1

Matthew Weiner, a writer and executive producer for THE SOPRANOS, may have set this series in the picture-perfect 1960s, but his characters are just as scheming as the mobsters on his last show. MAD MEN begins in 1960 on Manhattan's Madison Avenue at the fictional ad agency of Sterling Cooper.

Creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm) rules the halls of his company and the hearts of every woman he meets, while his wife, Betty (January Jones), struggles to be the perfect mate and mother in a suburb upstate. But just as in the world of advertising, Don may not be all that he appears.

In MAD MEN, the glass ceiling is dangerously low, and sexism reigns in a way that may shock modern viewers. But this isn't the prim '60s of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW; Weiner's characters seduce, smoke, and swig with abandon--often within the walls of Sterling Cooper. MAD MEN takes equal parts substance and style to create an addictive cocktail that fully earned its freshman season wins at the Golden Globes for Best Dramatic Series and Best Actor in a Drama.

I've heard about this show for ages, but it didn't really make a real blip on my radar until probably within the last 6 months. I'd hear rumblings about the incredibly sexy Jon Hamm, or see interviews with the gorgeous Christina Hendricks (Joan), and be really curious about the show. Eventually it ended up in the Q.

So guess what I did this weekend? Spent the majority of it watching season 1 of Mad Men. And I loved it. Yes, there's drama, intrigue, sexiness, and lots of fun. But hidden underneath all that, not too far below the surface, is despair, desperation, longing, and lots of secrets. This is the era my parents grew up in, and I could picture my mother especially fitting into this world. She'd probably be a cross between Joan and Peggy LOL.

It's interesting to see Don Draper trying to have the domestic life with his wife and children yet not finding that enough so he looks outside his marriage. Of course we know he's got major secrets driving him, so part of his drive to lose himself in whatever comes his way may be his guilt over those secrets. And as a woman in the 21st century, watching his wife Betty pretty much turn a blind eye and keep quiet so she doesn't rock her precarious position is extremely frustrating. However she doesn't have a lot of options, and the one divorced woman in the neighborhood is pretty much looked upon as a pariah or a man-eating whore. Stigmas are alive and well in 1960's suburbia life.

Yet at the same time, I find myself empathizing with the characters, and seeing the restrictions they have to abide by every single day. Everyone must appear buttoned-up and polished, though drinking and smoking throughout the workday is not only accepted, it's encouraged. It's okay for the girls to have fun, but if she gets into trouble, everyone turns their back. So it's a twisted concept, yet that's how things are back then. Not to say that every household was like that, but I'm sure way more than we imagined there to be.

The one thing that drove me nuts though was that the Special Features option on the DVD tended to give spoilers. There were features on each disc, so I'd find out things that were going to happen later in the season, and it was irritating. Of course I could have waited to watch them, but, well, I didn't. Well, it's too late now. Anyway, I'm seriously anxious for season 2!

Are you a fan of Mad Men?

If not, you should be!



  1. I watched season 1 on DVD and then spent a whole weekend watching season 2 on On Demand.

    I so think that Mad Men may possibly be the best written television show ever.

    July 25th is all begins again!

  2. Never heard of Mad Men. Sounds like I'm missing out on something good. :)

  3. I'll have to see if I can borrow this series from the library. I've not seen it yet and not sure if I can On Demand from the first episode.

  4. I've been watching this on Netflix. I love the drama and pathos of these characters. It's so sad, underneath. But i LOVE IT!! And the clothes, too!

    I'm a bit older than you, but still, this is my parent's generation, too, and isn't it amazing that this is really just a generation away from us? It feels like another world. Especially the sexism and racism! The last episode of season 1 I thought was totally inspired.

    Also, YES, don't you hate it when the extra features give spoilers??? WTF!!

  5. I haven't watched it, but it is screened here.

    Currently I'm working my way through Season 2 of Criminal Minds, the seocnd half of Season 1 of Glee and Season 1 of Stargate Universe. No rest for the wicked :)

  6. This is a fabulous series. But as much as I loved the characters and their storylines, seeing the items and listening to them discuss how to best advertise it was fascinating. My favorite(2nd season episode) was when
    Peggy uses an exercise belt and discovers that stimulation does more than help you shed pounds. Her abilty to put this across in an ad campaign was priceless.

    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

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