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September 15, 2008 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Mad Men

There is an undeniable theatre to the 1960s: the flowing suburban dresses, the sharp pinstriped lines of the suits, even the typewriter has its own overcoat. This kind of idiosyncratic design is shown in full bloom in Mad Men, former Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner’s take on the cutthroat world of advertising. Its aesthetic beauty is symptomatic of the appearance-conscious setting and fits faultlessly into this world. Mad Men’s greatest asset (besides its acting) is its attention to the minutiae.

The references to the work of PR godfather Edward Bernays — whose tactics are seen in the firm’s tobacco advertising and use of ‘third party authorities’ — highlights this incredible depth of authenticity.

The insinuation of a slowly changing world is ever-present. The female characters show an unease at their ‘natural’ place in society. Betty, the wife of default lead character (though the show is an ensemble drama) Don, is on the surface a picture-perfect fifties style housewife. But underneath the surface, there is a sense of longing and anxiety, never shown more clearly than in her washing machine fantasy about a travelling air-conditioner salesmen who she at first refused to let into the house for fear of her husband’s reaction to this minor disturbance of a social norm.

The acting is pitch perfect, from the aforementioned hemmedin house wife Betty (January Jones), to husband/protagonist Don Draper (Jon Hamm), whose level head and talent hide a complicated past, to the naïve but driven Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), whose ability is handicapped by her sex and the times.

Man Men is far above anything else on Prime or any other channel, and shows us just how great television can be while also highlighting how pathetic the rest of it currently is.


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