Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Mad Men, season 1 (2007) ****

TV-14, 13 47-min. episodes
Creator: Matthew Weiner

Directors: Alan Taylor, Ed Bianchi, Tim Hunter, Leslie Linka Glatter, Andrew Bernstein, Phil Abraham, Paul Feig, Matthew Weiner

Writers: Matthew Weiner, Tom Palmer, Lisa Albert, André Jaquemetton, Maria Jaquemetton, Bridget Bedard, Chris Provenzano, Robin Veith

Starring: Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Maggie Siff, Bryan Batt, Michael Gladis, Aaron Staton, Rich Sommer, John Slattery, Robert Morse, Kiernan Shipka

Guest starring: Remy Auberjonois, Darren Pettie, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Cullum, Talia Balsam, Anne Dudek, Darby Stanchfield, Alison Brie, Christopher Allport, Jim Abele, Kate Norby, Ian Bohen, Paul Schulze, Nathan Anderson, Christa Flanagan, Ryan Cutrona, Allan Miller, Mark Moses, Troy Ruptash, Katherine Boecher

Yes, I’m just now jumping on the “Mad Men” bandwagon. My wife and I actually started watching these last fall. We took our time with them, but we enjoyed every minute. Compared to the twists and drugs of “Breaking Bad”, or the blood and gore of “The Walking Dead”, or the terrors of “American Horror Story”, or the sex of “The Americans”, “Mad Men” seems downright tame these days. But, it’s juicy.

The first season doesn’t go through most of the growing pains seen by most series. Perhaps that’s because the show is so confident in the compelling nature of its three leads—the confident but mysterious Don Draper, the weasely ladder climber Pete Campbell, and the smart and sad Peggy Olson. Of the three, Peggy Olson is the most compelling. She’s the most normal of the bunch, not all caught up in the advertizing world that consumes the Mad Men’s lives. She’s overweight. Not the most physically attractive of women. And therefore has the most potential for change. I’m sure of the three, her arc will see the most dramatic change of character. She’s so likeable now, that I don’t know if I want to see where she’ll end up.

Pete is such a little shit. Yet there’s something about him you can empathize with. You can almost see someone in there so injured that his pesky outer shell makes perfect sense. I have no doubt that Pete will eventually wield all the power he craves. Then, watch out. He’ll no longer be a snake in the grass; he’ll be a cobra.

It Draper’s show though, and the writers know it. He’s so well written in this first season. He seems like such an icon of the age and the advertizing profession, but his arc takes us through some amazing secrets in his past. They give us just enough not to be turned off by his womanizing and adultery, and somehow he comes out of most of it looking like the most morally up righteous of the group. Well, of the advertizing men anyway.

His wife, Betty, is another story. Probably qualifying as the fourth lead, she gives us the real social insight into the early 60s. The country was just on the cusp of changing everything from the ground floor up in terms of social and civil upheaval. Betty is a dying breed—the stay at home trophy wife. Today such people exist by choice. She represents the last generation that was there because that’s where they were “supposed” to be. I imagine great changes for her by the end of this series as well. I know many of you already know where these people will end up. I can only sit back and take them in until I catch up. I’ll relish it.

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