My review: the Mad Men series on DVD

If you didn’t catch Mad Men while it was on TV, then it’s now out on DVD. Through my relationship with Stuart, the brains behind the film/DVD/games review site Screenjabber (he’s production editor on the Tech section..) I got to review Mad Men, the DVD set.

Me likee. A lot:

instead of wilfully confusing us (thanks, Lost), losing us in wonk-speak (that’s you, West Wing) or featuring superhumans whose origins are imponderable (hello, Heroes), Mad Men — the self-named advertising kings of Madison Avenue at the start of the 1960s— deals with a time that we already know about. Or think we do.

Unlike the people of Lost and Heroes, where we’re as confused as them, and the Sopranos, who are far more ruthless than any of us could ever be, we think we have power over the Mad Men: we know what will happen to them. But as Matt Weiner — a former writer with the Sopranos, who had the pilot episode sitting around for five years waiting to get it greenlighted — shows, though we know generality (Kennedy will win!) we don’t know what happens to individuals.

Some men, it’s reported, don’t understand Mad Men (no guns, no killing, no car chases); but take the time to immerse yourself in its subtleties — [Don] Draper, who creates the aspirations and slightly false realities of advertising is himself the product of aspiration and a false reality he has created; and our picture of him as the hero is shattered by his obvious infidelity. Nothing is what it seems.

That’s not to say there aren’t some things for the guys. Most of all, as we move through the series, the clothes that the office’s queen bee secretary Joan (Christina Hendricks) wear go from a iridiscent green dress that says “Kindly notice my bosom” to one with orange spirals that lead to her nipples — which could be subtitled “HAVE YOU SEEN MY BREASTS YET?” It is the most extraordinary outfit you’ll see on TV — until the next series, I guess.

The other thing that will be very interesting in the next series (does anyone have a date when it will start airing) is how they’ll play the Kennedy thing – given that some time around then, you’ll know the result of the new presidential election. Obama = Kennedy? Or will our modern “Nixon” triumph instead?

Fabulous series, though.

2 Comments

  1. Hear hear – it’s just amazing.

  2. As your full review correctly notes, Mad Men is set in 1960 rather than the 1960s. As I am too young to know, does that make it a reflection of the 1950s? It certainly feels that way. In my mind it had a lot in common with Far from Heaven and its progenitors, as well as The Apartment.

    One of the things that 1960’s presidential election did was to usher in an era that was as much a social and cultural change in the US as Labour’s landslide in the UK in 1945. For me, Mad Men encapsulates why that change happened. I am not sure that series 2 can pull off the same trick, especially if it simply drifts into 1961. Instead it would be more interesting if it jumped forward by a few years — October 1962, perhaps? Or November 1963?

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