Review of "Mad Men" From The TV MegaSite
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"Mad Men" Review by Suzanne 5/21/08

Mad Men is a great show that premiered last year on the cable channel AMC, but I just got around to watching its first season. It was a great show. First of all, the writing is fabulous. Secondly, they did a great casting job and the actors are wonderful. And thirdly, the production values are flawless and accurate with the time period.

The show is set in the early 60's when it was still basically the 50's in most ways. It is about the men in an advertising firm in New York City, and their lives with women, minorities, etc. as well as their jobs. It's sort of a soap opera, but it's also pretty funny. The dialogue is very witty and often caused me to laugh out loud.

The main character is Don Draper, a real go-getter in advertising who comes up with great ideas and really sells the campaigns to the various companies that sell soap, cigarettes, and many other things. He is a very complex character. One might call him the leading man, but he's very flawed and really, when it comes down to it, not a very nice person. But he's not what one would call evil, either. He's a product of his very messed-up upbringing (what we would call dysfunctional today). He wants to do good but is haunted by his past, which he also hides from everyone (including his wife). Everyone on this show has some secrets, but he seems to have the most. One of the things that makes this show so fun to watch is finding out everyone's secrets. Don's wife, Betty, seems to have the perfect life, but like Don is not happy. She is unfulfilled and not taken seriously by anyone in her life. She is just a little "off" sometimes, which makes you think she might just lose it one day and either take off or shoot someone. Another of the main cast members is Peggy, who starts the show as Don's new secretary. She is very naive and wide-eyed, yet she is very smart and learns fast. Through her we see how all of the people act, especially all of the sexual harrassment that goes on in the office. Peggy is a very complex character. She seems just like a nice young woman but reveals layers as the show progresses. Another great character is Pete, who seems at first like just a bit of a weasel, yet he also has a kind of scary edge to him.

The best part of the show is seeing how things have changed since then in society. These characters drink and smoke a lot. People are not treated the same way as they are not because we are more "enlightened" and more polite. For instance, parents don't worry as much about their children's safety (no car seats, they don't care if they put plastic bags over their heads, they smoke around them, etc.). They ignore people of color, who are mostly there in subservient jobs as maids, bellhops, elevator operators, etc. Women are only treated slightly better and are viewed mostly as not-very-bright sex objects. Everyone was supposed to be happy in their roles in society, but few are in this show. However, even though there are many negative aspects portrayed in the show, it is not what I would call a depressing show. It has some moments of tragedy, but there are plenty of jokes and light-hearted moments to balance it out.

The characters are very well written and distinct. In the "Making of Mad Men", the creators of the show talk about how they wanted the show to be very real and not have characters that acted like, well, TV show characters. The way they act is unpredictable, just like in real life. They also went to great lengths to make sure all of the facts, figures, clothing, furniture, everything about that time period are accurate. Their attention to detail and good writing really shows.

There are so many good actors in the show that it's hard to list them all. Everyone does a stupendous job and it's clear they are all proud to do their best in such a well-written and entertaining show. All TV should be this good. I can't wait for the new season, nor for the DVD!

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Updated 5/22/08 


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