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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

MAD MEN: Season One (2007)

A critical & cult fave that’s finally gathering mainstream viewers, the addictive qualities of Matthew Weiner’s AMC cable series aren’t hard to spot. The ‘60s milieu of a Madison Avenue ad agency are both familiar & foreign: the politics & intrigues in suburban homes & at the office; the shark-like behavior of the execs; the strivers & the slackers; the waspish secretarial pool; the smokes, sex & sexism; the free-flowing booze & ethnic biases; white gloves for the ladies & blue suits for the men. For blindly nostalgic boomers it’s like heading off to work with The Beaver’s Dad. And for a younger crowd it’s a tempting map of a life with clearly drawn, if hardly fair, lines of social demarcation. Season One is a bit of a grab bag, with more dramatically convenient crises than you can shake a swizzle stick at. The actors play out their ‘humours’ with a vengeance, like characters in a Ben Jonson play: Malice, Avarice, Jealousy, Regret, Philosophy, Baby-Maker, Drunkenness; these are supporting roles to get your teeth into. But the Zeitgeist feels a bit modern, perhaps too ‘80s WALL STREET. Hell, even in an Eastside NYC atmosphere, wouldn’t a few of the girls hanker after Jackie Kennedy’s class, youth & allure? Where’s the sense of optimism as JFK’s ‘New Frontier’ pushed the WWI generation out for the vets of WWII? Ultimately, what really makes the show hum is it’s leading man, Jon Hamm. After a long preponderance of boyish male stars (Cruise, DiCaprio, Depp, Damon, Reeves, Wahlberg, Downey, Law, et al.), he’s a throwback to gravitas, to the tortured & tested world of Cooper, Holden, Peck & Mitchum. A grown up.

CONTEST: Everyone tries to spot anachronistic goofs in this series, here’s one from Episode 8: ‘The Hobo Code.’ When Don Draper takes a Polaroid of Midge, his artsy mistress. and one of her beatnik friends, he neither waits the 45 seconds needed for the photo image to develop nor does he pass the sealing wand over the print to keep the picture from quickly fading from exposure to direct light. Find your own gaffe (one that’s not already listed on some web bulletin board) and win our usual prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of the NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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