Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Mad Men"? More like "Makes-Me-Question-All-Meaning Men"...

I’ve come out of retirement to talk about a show that should rightfully only be watched by retired folks: “Mad Men.” A slow-burning dissection of an early 1960s advertising agency doesn’t scream youth like the sex-puffed “Gossip Girl,” but damn if protagonist Don Draper (a dapper Jon Hamm) doesn’t get me hot. Years of serial drama consumption has added gripping characters to my list of sure-fire get-offs, even if Don’s beyond my gender-of-choice (he's the puzzled one on the right).

But here’s a rallying cry for all those who were scared away from the show by its antiquity or are afraid to admit their fandom. After all, this is the era that our grandparents thrived within — and envisioning them as hot, young-ish, sexually repressed baby boomers is not exactly life goal #1. Like any good TV, however, Mad Men succeeds because it seamlessly streams the viewers’ lives through its characters. Insert the pre-election frenzy of Kennedy vs. Nixon, the birth of the culture wars and all sorts of relationship fail (you think marriage is bad now? Try 1960! The infidelity is beautiful!) and you get a perfect mirror of contemporary life in the guise of the golden oldies.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to crack the second season of the critics hit — though it’s hovering around my computer like a seductive wasp. In the first, Don is success — beyond a high-paying, creative, respectable job, a damn fine wife, tons of off-the-record job perks, and the responsibility of effectively shaping American media culture, what do you need? The downfall, of course, is Don’s soul-crushing past and murky future: ah, yes, this man of manliness and mystery is actually enveloped in the worst identity crisis probably ever, fighting against his own destructive tendencies, the trials of an assumed persona, and total sadness. I won’t give any more away – but this stuff is dark dark dark. The first-season-finale marks only the second time a TV show made me cry (props go to #1, “Six Feet Under”), and these were tears of emptiness. Sounds emo. Probs is emo. But absolutely no eye makeup involved.

Of course, all this is structured and colored much better than this sad return to blog writing. Apologies for the ramble. I’ll practice the whole journalism thing again and get back to you. As always, keep the peace.

~Paul Sorenson

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