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#1 Darrel Manson

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 07:56 PM

Did we never have a topic on this? I haven't found one, feel free to ahem me and point me to it.

My wife and I watched a few episodes, then let it slip away. But all the awards buzz for it got us interested before the new season starts, so this weekend is a Mad Men Marathon at Chez Manson. Set in 1960 with Camelot just around the corner, it brings back a time that many may think of as a golden age. But the nostalgia carries a lot of negativity. Ubiquitous smoking and drinking (before the smoke/cancer link was let out of the bag, or the alcohol and pregnancy problems were identified). Women are expected to be subservient and always treated as less than competent compared to men. Women's role is to look good, take care of the house, be good in bed. They are sexual objects and use that to get their own kind of reward. The morality reflected in all this is terrible by today's standards, but perhaps much more acceptable at the time (as long, that is, that you kept your affairs well hidden).

It takes place in the world advertising and Madison Avenue. As one minor character notes, the advertiser's job is to promote lies. This world is filled with lies. The lies they sell, of course, but also the lies they live. Especially Don Draper, who we see bits of his past from time to time -- but not as Don Draper. He has created a whole new life and discarded his earlier one.

Don't know why we gave up on it first time through. Well done piece of storytelling.

#2 smith_chip

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 07:54 PM

I started watching Mad Men during the writer's strike, when AMC replayed the first season late at night. Like many people, there were times when the negative aspects of the nostalgia (the smoking and drinking while pregnant, the misogyny, the fear of the divorcee, etc.) brought me out of the story. I don't know if this was the writer's rubbing our nose in all of the bad things about the good old days, or if our culture has changed so much that an honest depiction of New York in the 1950's must be shocking. I loved the characters, though. Jon Hamm as Draper was excellent. The questions about just how naive Betty really is. Peggie navigating the challenge of being a talented woman in that office.

Did you watch the premier of season 2 last night? The story picks up about 15 months from where season 1 left off. Little happens in this episode from a plot standpoint, but there are a lot of moments that show what has (or has not) changed in the characters. There are still a lot of lies being lived, but it seems that at least a few of the characters are shown being slightly more honest with themselves, if not to the world. If this episode sets the tone for season 2, then there won't be any sophomore slump for Mad Men.

#3 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 11:05 AM

We've just started watching this--added season one to the Netflix queue. Other than not liking any one character, we're very intrigued. I'm fascinated by the advertising stuff--seeing Gillette and P&G mentioned as clients brings a bit of fun to it for me. I'm not sure if I buy the premise that the lies that the characters live are analogous to their work in advertising. But its an interesting premise--we're only five or six episodes in, but waiting for a big train wreck anytime. Draper's web of deceit and growing incompetence at his job seem destined to bring a calamity.

#4 Andy Whitman

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 03:06 PM

So ... no commentary for almost a year. Anybody still watching?

I still find this show to be a fascinatingly well written and well acted train wreck of soap opera cliches. But every time I'm ready to write it off as a show that somehow escaped the Monday - Friday afternoon cavalcade of crap, the complexity of the characters pulls me in again. Last night's episode is a prime example. The portrayal of the Kennedy assassination, and its impact on the main characters, was extraordinarily well done.

I remember the Kennedy assassination well. Part of that is because I and my eight-year-old friends wandered the neighborhood, knocking on random doors, trying to track down the killer in Gahanna, Ohio. Hey, we were eight, and we were stupid. But the reactions we encountered -- horror, disbelief, anger -- are indelibly imprinted in my mind. Those were the same reactions I saw on Mad Men last night. I also thought the way the news was disseminated was pitch-perfect. This was a time when the news was sporadic and far from instantaneous, when one actually stood around a television or radio waiting for the latest bulletin. The show got it exactly right.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 02 November 2009 - 03:07 PM.


#5 Russ

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 09:16 PM

Yeah, I'm still watching. How'd you like that finale? I suppose, like any workplace-centered show, the surest way to reset things is to pick up shop and move it elsewhere with the bare essentials.

#6 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 09:06 AM

We've just finished season 2 on DVD. For every moment that I'm convinced this is nothing more than a glossy soap opera (Betty leaving her riding partner alone for the lunch date with the bumbling guy at the stable), the show then goes after some hard nosed riff on office politics and societal structures (Cosgrove's dinner at Sal's comes to mind.) Plus, the business/office stuff is a treat for me--esp working in the environment I'm in, its cool to see the workplace get mined so thoroughly in contemporary entertainment (from the Office to Mad Men, you should wonder how any company makes money).

#7 Nick Alexander

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 09:46 AM

My husband and I really got into this series, on Netflix. Finished watching season 2 a couple nights ago. Problem is, when I went to order the third season, it said “release date unknown” – does anyone have inside information on when it will come out on DVD? I guess there are places on line where you can pay to watch the final episodes – might resort to that, if it’s going to be a long wait.

I just saw the Season 3 box art, so it should be arriving within the next few weeks or so.

In the meantime, you may want to check your cable company's free-on-demand service. It might be there.

Having gotten into this series this year, watching the entire run up through Season 3, I'll say this: you will not be disappointed. The S3 finale is alternately perfectly heartbreaking and painfully funny, all at once.

Nick

#8 Darren H

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 08:18 AM

phlox, I think you mean AMC.

#9 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 08:37 AM

Just got the Season 3 first disc from Netflix. For all the wonderful production values, I'm constantly forced to face the fact that this show is 95% soap opera, 5% office/domestic drama.

#10 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 10:04 AM

Great article on Mad Men and creator Matt Weiner, in anticipation of Season Four, by Natasha Simons at National Review. Here's a few excerpts, or you can just read the whole article here.

... Weiner, consciously or unconsciously, is demonstrating the ways in which America’s Old Guard is leading the ’50s generation to its end by stubbornly refusing to go forward. Weiner has remarked of that generation of people, “[They were saying,] ‘We don’t want to be that way. We’d rather fail.’” Clearly, Don Draper is the starring figure of this collapse. He is the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, an Ayn Rand–ian allegory of a stoic firmly in the past. He is the prototype ’50s representative male, confident in his role without, and in turmoil within. Don is member of a dying breed who wants to play by the old business rules, and he can barely conceive of the ways in which advertising is inexorably moving (unlike, say, fellow ad man Pete Campbell). He is a relic waiting to be phased out.

But Weiner’s flaw is that he loves Don Draper too much to make him that relic, as intended — he is clearly not going to leave Don in the past, if season-four promotional posters are any indication. So the show attempts to imbue him with the sympathy of the audience, despite his stodgy ’50s limits — which leads to all sorts of annoying contradictions ...

Which brings us again to the main political schism for viewers of this show: Conservatives and liberals cannot see the inevitability of the ’60s the same way. The hedonism, the “licentious fury” set up in these soldiers of such terrible, soul-destroying consumerism, is about to give way to the tortured emoting of Frank O’Hara and reggae-inspired coffee commercials, both of which have been featured in the past few seasons. But conservatives understand that the hedonism is only just beginning. The Me Generation is about to swing into full effect, after which we lose both the unrepentant ambition and charming earnestness of the American Dream — a phrase never to be uttered without a small smirk again ...

Weiner’s chosen narrative posits that our present is much better than the ’50s zeitgeist he portrays, but the essential paradox is that he portrays it with so much love and tenderness that it is sometimes impossible to pull out the theme of generational decay. The audience is caught between a mislaid nostalgia for the often sexist and bigoted environment and an equally mislaid moral desire to see it all disappear. As Benjamin Schwarz pointed out in the Atlantic, the show invites us to “indulge in a most unlovely — because wholly unearned — smugness.”

Mad Men has lost its way a bit; Weiner, wrapped up in adoring his main character and the intricacies of a period he wants to evaporate, has fallen into a quicksand trap, not wanting to move on, despite his obvious political loyalties to the ’60s generation. Critics remarked that the pace of Mad Men has recently slowed to a ponderous crawl, perhaps to allow Weiner time to languish a while. But he is definitely plunging forward now, having commented in an interview that “It’s got to be something different. . . . Life is change.” Here’s hoping that the fourth season marks that change with the same ambivalence we’ve seen prior, which would prove Weiner is interested in portraying history with a fair hand. Falling into a rote ’60s nostalgia would be wholly unwelcome for a show that has come to be known for its nuance.




#11 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 10:37 AM

whoa, and I just discovered quite the interesting discussion/debate over at National Review's The Corner over Simons' essay on the show - First, read Daniel Foster's response. I have to say I agree with him more than I do with Simons.

It seems to me that the brilliance of Draper, and of Mad Men as a whole, is its ability to make people born in 1974 or 1983 or 1990 nostalgic for a world they never knew, except through a second-hand public school narrative that paints it in the gray flannel and sharkskin tones we've been trained to find so stultifying. Note, I'm not just talking about the Romanticism of a generation of liberals and feminists waiting pins-and-needles for the deliverance of the 60s. It's a bona fide sense that something was lost that we can't ever get back. Don't get me wrong, there is much that is contemptible in Draper and in the world of Mad Men. And as viewers we are repeatedly invited to wag our fingers at the show's characters. But if we didn't nevertheless feel some sympathy — hell, some empathy — for Draper and the misogynist scoundrels of his milieu; if we didn't see something in that time and place that was worth saving, or nevertheless something which loss was worth fretting about, then the show would be pure pulp. Sexed-up, dime-store genre fiction.

This is where the Natasha is wise. She sees that Mad Men is at its core a dialogue on whether the 60s were necessary or even advisable ... But she's only done half the job when she places that tension exclusively in the political preferences of the beholder, rather than in the very creative fabric of the show. And just as her confident claim that though Draper is "clearly. . .intended" to be a tragic relic (even if Weiner loves him too much to have the courage of his convictions) rings false ... Natasha's flaw is in attributing to a kind of formalistic mistake, a technical flaw in the construction of the show, what should rightly be read into ours and Weiner's very schizophrenia about the 60s, equality, consumerism, the American Dream — the whole kit and caboodle. Indeed, Weiner's schizophrenia is our schizophrenia is Natasha's schizophrenia. She hates Draper (trust me) and everything he stands for. But she loves Mad Men, and so she can't help trying to rationalize away the ugly bits (the show's creators, represented by Weiner, want to have the correct politics, but their pesky "love" for maintaining the integrity, and the appeal, of their work gets in the way.) ...

There's more, read the whole thing with some good comparisons to Tony Soprano

Jonah Goldberg just prefers Breaking Bad.

Mad Men is too self-indulgent, too pleased with itself, too quick to get audiences to look for inside jokes, winks, nods, and allusions. It's too ambitious and not grounded enough. It seeks to satisfy on too many levels and comes up not fully succeeding at any of them. It tries to make too many points. It is a modern allegory more reminiscent of Pilgrim's Progress than its creators are willing to admit. Each character is a type. The show works because we haven't seen many of these types portrayed so well, but their job too often is to represent a Very Important Trend or stand-in for Something Important that is Lost (for good or ill).

Then Natasha Simons responds here.

Edited by Persiflage, 20 July 2010 - 10:38 AM.


#12 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 09:38 PM

pretty damn good first episode of season 4

In the meantime, the smoking thread reminded me of my favorite Mad Men compilation -

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtMfzasLbu8&feature=player_embedded"]http://www.youtube.c...player_embedded[/url]

Edited by Persiflage, 26 July 2010 - 09:40 PM.


#13 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 07:16 AM

Just finished season 3. Great finale--so much urgent movement, and I'm amazed that it's such a tight yet expansive story that's pulled off in just 45 minutes. As always, I am surprised to find myself rooting for such a cad as Don Draper. My wife just wants to see him get his comeuppance--which indeed he may be getting.

It is such a soap opera though--classic tropes: marital shifts, divorce, adultery, office romances, conniving colleagues. All we needed in this season were mysterious illnesses (season 1) and sudden deaths (which I guess it kinda had, thank you John Deere).

I really liked the "blow it all up" ethos of the finale. I'm looking forward to hunkering down with season 4 to see where they go with it. I'm kinda surprised I liked it so much since on the one hand it seemed like such a showrunner choice. That is, I am aware in watching the show of what Weiner and Co. are up to--as opposed to its finer moments when there seems that there's no other options for it to go except for where it's going. In this case, its seams showed, yet I was totally enthralled.

#14 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 10:26 AM

FINALLY got caught up on the recent season 4 episodes. It's been pretty good, so far. It was interesting to see how (unceremoniously) Don got his job at Sterling-Cooper in the most recent episode, and I loved Jon Hamm playing a younger, "eager beaver" version of Don. It was a fascinating contrast to the stoic, arrogant Don we see after the award. (I find it humorous that this episode aired about the same time that Mad Men was winning its third consecutive Best Drama Series Emmy.)

Anyone else watching?

Edited by Gavin Breeden, 03 September 2010 - 10:35 AM.


#15 Anna J

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 12:54 PM

Every time I get tired of steely-eyed Don, they throw in the younger version of him to put me all off balance. It really is remarkable how much Jon Hamm's face changes.

I just caught up last night. The audience has been wondering for years how Don originally went from retail salesman to ad exec, and now we know. Interesting parallel, when you see it happening again with Jane's cousin who had the "Common breakfast" idea. Although Don was much more sneaky. Heh.

I found myself thinking a lot during the episode about the dynamics between Peggy, Joan, & the rest of the guys. After all this time, after Peggy has proven herself again and again, and even worked on the winning ad, she doesn't even get an invite to the ceremony. They take Joan instead because "there might be new clients there" and, well, she's Joan. On the other hand, Joan is the glue that holds the entire agency together, but her position lacks the infinite possibilities and opportunities of Peggy's. So why not take her? She's almost like a fifth (sixth? I'm never sure about Pete) partner.

I would love to see more conversations between SCDP's two leading ladies, like there used to be.

#16 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 06:24 AM

Peggy is not a partner. She's an employee. Heh, I just thought of this. She is now in the plotline position that Peter was in at Sterling-Cooper. In addition, she's a woman who "is not supposed to be where she is". Our objections to the way she is handled are largely a product of how things have changed. Draper "undervalues" her because without him, she'd be a secretary. She seems to be figuring out how to overcome this, but slowly for those of us living in the present day. I think that the weekend working with the film guy genius is major step. She can't overcome being a woman. She'll get better at using her gender for office-political means, I think.

Joan certainly is a partner. Joan and Peter are the junior partners in the firm. If you remember the final show last year, enemies came together because of their indispensability. The hated Pryce came aboard (they had no money that he controlled) because he could fire the heart of the firm and commit professional suicide in exchange for partnership. I believe they called Joan at home after she had resigned and got her on board because she knew where everything was that was needed to do what they did. She became a partner in exchange for theft and fraud that could never be proven if done right.

After all of the above, I'm tempted to think that Joan will be the survivor who will have the power that Roger now has some 10 years hence because she has seen it all, has great instincts, and knows where the bodies are buried. She will make a substantive contribution down the road because of this, but I don't know if the story arc will go that far. I'd love to see it though. Early '70's is when I really came to analyse advertising.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 05 September 2010 - 06:28 AM.


#17 Anna J

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 01:53 PM

Is Joan really a junior partner? I missed that. I thought she was just head secretary again.

She became a partner in exchange for theft and fraud that could never be proven if done right.

Heh, and because no one knows how to tie his shoes without her. They're like Tony Stark x 5.

Joan has a conflict that Peggy doesn't have, which is a deep desire for a family. She even threw away all of her power once for Greg. And yet part of the reason she came back is that she knows she thrives on it. She'll be much better off than Roger, who is quickly becoming less and less useful.

#18 Darren H

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 09:55 PM

Joan isn't a partner. Pete is because he brought his father-in-law's business (Clearasil, I think) with him, but Joan is more of an office manager now.

I've been ambivalent about this show since the very first episode, but when episodes focus on Peggy or Peggy/Don, it can be so, so good. Last night's was one of the all-time greats.

#19 M. Leary

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:49 AM

I have skimmed the show, but the end of this most recent episode captured what struck me as interesting about Mad Men in the first place. The first episode I saw had this scene in which Don follows a conquest to some guy's apartment, wherein they smoke pot. It was very quiet and tense. Echoes of Updike. All the moral and personal tensions simmered gently beneath the smoky set piece.

Mad Men seems to work best in these minimalist sets. But it becomes a bit too Dallas for me in all the narrative effort it takes to get to these spots.

#20 Gavin Breeden

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 12:44 PM

I've had a strange relationship with Man Men since I started watching it earlier this year. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I'm bored with it and don't see what all the fuss is about. But season 4 (the first one I've watched during its initial run) has really been pulling me in. Especially this week's episode, "The Suitcase." Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss turned in two terrific performances. This was one of the best episodes of the series, in my opinion, and it brought my interest in the show to a new high. For me, the relationship between Don and Peggy has been the most interesting since season 1, so I was really happy to see an episode which reminds us that they really do know each other better than anyone else in the office. And Peggy got most of the Dick Whitman life story (which the exception of the name change) from a very comfortable (albeit, drunk) Don. I hope that next week's episode doesn't diminish my current Mad Men high.

Also, has anyone noticed this beautiful publicity photo from this episode that's circulating the web?

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