There’s no pointing in pretending like Mad Men is some kind of underground show no one has ever heard of and that by selecting it for this week’s For Your Consideration I’m lifting the wool from over your eyes. But, just because people have heard of it doesn’t mean people are actually watching it. So if you’ve heard the praise but have either been on the fence about watching it or have simply never gotten around to it, let this be the nudge that pushes you over the edge.
Oh, and did I mention that yesterday the first four seasons of Mad Men became available on Netflix Watch Instantly? Man, that’s convenient timing...
Who Made It: Mad Men was envisioned by Matthew Weiner way back in 2002, but neither HBO or Showtime thought it was good enough (Who cares about advertising in the ‘60s?) to greenlight. His script, however, turned enough heads to earn Weiner a writing and producing gig on The Sopranos. HBO’s incredibly popular mafia show happened to be ending right when AMC was looking to create its first ever original series, and so he took the show over there. HBO has been no doubt kicking themselves ever since.
Who’s In It: Jon Hamm (The Town), Elisabeth Moss (Get Him to the Greek), Vincent Kartheiser (Masterminds), January Jones (X-Men: First Class), Christina Hendricks (Firefly), John Slattery (The Adjustment Bureau) and a whole lot more.
What’s It About: Where to begin? On the surface, Mad Men is about the world of 1960s advertising told through the vantage point of John Hamm as Don Draper, Manhattan’s most talked about advertising man. He’s the creative director at Sterling Cooper, an ad agency that, despite Draper’s presence, isn’t the top game in town.
Below the surface, however, Mad Men is about life in the ‘00s as filtered through the suit-wearing, whiskey-drinking, tobacco-smoking, “This is how my parents were?”-closeted world prism of the ‘60s that seems both antiquated and yet oddly pressing contrasted to life today.
Why You Should Watch It: Well, for starters you should watch Mad Men simply because you should see what the big deal is. I realize that peer pressure isn’t exactly the first reason you should ever do anything, but there’s still time to get in on this conversation. Thanks to Netflix you never again have to say, “Oh, yeah, Mad Men, I’ve heard such great things...” You can say, “Oh, yeah, Mad Men, it’s ______.”
And I’ll lay down good money, or at least whatever treasure is in my jean’s pocket, that you’ll fill in that blank with something along the lines of, “one of the most interesting, unique and transportive shows I’ve ever seen on television.” Mad Men’s not about blowing the lid off of the advertising industry in 1960’s America. Mad Men’s not about peeling the curtain back on dishonest family relationships in the 1960’s. Mad Men is about painting a sexy and yet not very flattering portrait of a time when the things people said and believed in seem positively stone age by today’s standards.
But unlike a lot of period pieces, particularly ones set in the ‘60s, the show’s not about gawking at these sharp-dressed, pig-headed cave men. Mad Men aims to remind that this world that seems like a backwards doppelganger to our own existed only a scant 40-odd years ago. Spotlighting that today’s generation will no doubt become a curiosity to our children’s children. Realizing that the world and our lives, for all their carefully cultivated appearances, are always on the precipice of becoming antiquated and that the only way to stop ourselves from falling irredeemably into a shortsighted pit is to be more like Don Draper. Not the scumbag, sleeping around husband Draper, but the one that everyone else idolizes; the one that can look at his parent’s generation and realize the future must hold a better reality than that and it’s his job to reach forward into that abstract world and see that it gets realized.
Basically, Mad Men is a helluva show.