Monday, October 22, 2007

"Mad" About AMC

The best new show of 2007 just wrapped up its first season last week.

Yes, that's right. And given the stats, it's more than likely you weren't watching it. But you should have been.

I'm talking about AMC's original series (yep, you read that right), "Mad Men," about a group of men and women employed at a fictional New York advertising agency circa 1960. What's the big deal? Well, first and most obviously, it captures the flavor and look of the period down to the smallest detail, from the super-slicked hair of the men to the dress curvatures of the women to the ubiquitous cigarettes and martinis in the hands of both. Everything looks crisper than crisp, exquisitely stylized and at the same time vibrantly alive. Yet it keeps nostalgia in check by depicting with equal sharpness the less attractive aspects of a world on the verge of massive and still-unanticipated social changes - a world where sexual harassment and condescending treatment of women were de rigueur, minorities were invisible, homosexuality deeply closeted, the Surgeon General's warning a distant prospect, and children allowed to put plastic bags over their heads and left unattended in cars while their parents ran errands.

Perhaps more importantly, "Mad Men" (created by Matthew Weiner, a writer and executive producer for "The Sopranoes") creates characters who are flawed, often unlikable, yet intriguing, multilayered, and recognizably human, and weaves their storylines seamlessly into the historical and cultural backdrop of their times. (Among other things, season 1 spins some fascinating variations on themes from Ayn Rand and the Nixon-Kennedy election runoff, giving them a subtle and thought-provoking resonance with the character arcs of the ad men.) The show's writers aren't afraid to give us entire episodes that are rather quiet, perhaps even a little inert in terms of plot, but teeming with unspoken undercurrents and character development just beneath the surface. And for every "slow" episode, there's at least one that crackles or even explodes; I've yet to see a finer hour of TV this year than the penultimate episode of season 1, "Nixon Versus Kennedy."

So first chance you get - I believe season 1 begins re-airing on AMC in November - you should eat this one up, before it's time to tune in next summer for season 2. If you're not hooked right away, give it time; this is definitely a series that creeps up on you.

In other news

...never thought I'd ever write this, but I'm a little sad that the Red Sox are headed for the World Series. My loyalties were divided from the start of the ALCS, as I was born in Boston, raised near Cleveland, then returned to Beantown for college and, later, for law school. But ten happy childhood years living by the "Mistake on the Lake" had their impact, and all other things being equal, I tend to root for the underdog. So deep down I was pulling for the Tribe, politically incorrect mascot and all.

Still, now that it's a done deal, I can resume cheering for Curt Schilling and crew. Sorry, Colorado, yours is an inspiring tale, but my heart beats for the Bosox. Except when they're playing the Indians.


Blogger EC said...

I've been going through such Mad Men withdraw since last Thursday.

8:03 AM  

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