Dun dun…dun dun…dun dun….dun dun…cartoon silhouette of a man falling out of a window combined with violin music.
Hard drinking, chain smoking 1960s advertising men and Christina Hendricks’s jumbotrons = a compelling historical drama.
BQB here with a review of Mad Men.
3.5 readers, I like to consider myself an educated person. I read books and shit after all.
But few shows brought to life for me the women’s rights struggles as this show did.
Ironically, that’s not what the show is about but it is what I’ll probably always remember it for.
The set-up – Don Draper (Jon Hamm) lives the life of a free wheeling, perpetually fornicating Madison Avenue advertising executive (aka he is a “Mad Man.”)
Because its the 1960s, he’s pretty much free to boink any babe he wants and just tell his wife he had to stay late at work if she asks any questions.
In fact, his comrades at the firm pretty much do the same thing. His boss, Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and his underling Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) rival Don in their hard drinking, smoking, and extramarital affairs.
We often look to the past as simpler, more innocent times yet this show does put on display things that were commonplace in the past that would turn a head today, the most glaring example that everyone at the firm has their own fully stocked bar in their office and walking around the office with a cocktail in one hand and a smoke in the other happened all the time.
Good luck trying that today.
The formula is pretty standard:
- Don cheats on his wife because he was once a poor bum who never thought he’d amount to anything and now that he is on top and the world is his oyster he feels this driving need to drink, smoke and boink as much as possible before his life is over.
- Extramarital boinking is fun for five minutes but then he realizes family is the real deal, that one night stands will never bring him the long lasting happiness that being a family man will.
- Don decides to straighten up only to start boinking again. In his defense, women just throw themselves at him so it is hard to avoid the boinking. It is easy for me to say that I’m not an evil boinker since no one is offering to boink me.
- Don’s colleagues at the firm all experience the “be faithful to your spouse vs. boink while you can” conundrum.
- Along the way, we learn a lot about the history of commercial advertising, how some of the advertising campaigns that fool us into buying crap we don’t need got started and continue today.
There are times when the show seems tedious, like it is going nowhere. I get the main premise, i.e. love the one that’s loyal to you because the side action will never be as loyal.
If I didn’t bear a striking resemblance to a gargoyle, I would take this to heart and tell the side action to take a hike. Alas, I am too hideous to attract side action.
But maybe I’m the lucky one. Maybe Don would have been better off if he weren’t so damn handsome and having so many women throwing themselves at him, demanding that he be unfaithful.
I mentioned the women’s rights movement earlier. So, what I noticed is that Betty (January Jones) who is super hot and frankly, would be enough for me (I’d be racing home from the office to get all up in that) basically has to put up with Don’s bullshit.
She’s a housewife. No money. No career. No job prospects. If you’re a 1960s housewife and your husband cheats on you, your choices are a) put up with it and lose your dignity or b) leave and be poor because the best job you’ll be able to find is waitressing if you’re lucky and also you’ll lose the kids because your husband has the money to hire a lawyer and you don’t.
So thanks a lot, Don, you big time douche. Dudes like you who had no idea how good you had it created a world where women had to take charge and alas, I don’t have January Jones waiting for me when I come home now.
Aside from the man drama, you also have Joan (Hendricks) and her enormous sweater cannons, which are basically characters in and of themselves and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) paving the way for women in business, showing what working women had to go through.
Throughout the series, we see Peggy go from mousey secretary to female Don Draper while Joan must navigate her way through a sea of perverts who want access to her sweater cannons on her quest to be taken seriously as a businesswoman.
All seven seasons available on Netflix. Set your TV to widescreen mode so you can take in Joan’s chest rockets in their entirety.
Seriously, its like watching a movie when you the theater is packed and you have to sit in that damn row that’s right up against the screen. You have to look to the left to see the left boob then crane your neck to the right just to see the right boob.