Mad Men – Season 1 – ***

Posted: September 26, 2010 in Drama, TV series, USA, XXX

Seen on iTunes.

It took me a few days to finish season 1 of Mad Men. I finished it, which means I liked it, but unlike other top series like The Wire or Dexter this one missed that little extra that made me glued to my Mac. That said, I am anticipating the second season. Very much so.

This series deals about the men working for an advertising company on Madison Avenue in Manhattan in the year 1960, and their women. Doesn’t sound all that exciting, and it takes a few episodes to get into the story and the time period. But in the end, it’s worthwhile. I wonder how on earth the creators of the show could get a studio interested in producing it. But I’m glad they did. This is awesome flashback cinema!

The main character of the series is the year 1960. This is a year I know almost nothing about. I know more about 1789 and 1848 than about 1960. So in that sense, this show is awesome. I do have to specify that this is 1960 Manhattan and not 1960 Midwest or Europe. My parents’ experience of 1960 or that of other non-New Yorkers is probably very different.

It’s not so much that you learn a lot about what happened in that year, but much more how people interacted with each other. At work, in a relationship, in the local neighbourhood. How men and women looked at each other’s role in society with the starting doubts if and awareness that maybe men and women aren’t that different. It also shows the world without prominent people of color and where success and materialism seem more important than happiness and love. For that, the setting in an advertising company is well-chosen! Advertisers are selling lies. And they all live a lie as well.

The main male character has secrets from the past and secrets from the present, being married with children but having at least two mistresses. You can almost compare it with the series Big Love in which a Mormon is married to three different wifes. Here it’s all secretive, but each wife is a different kind of wife and they are all incredibly fascinating. His spouse is a Grace Kelly lookalike who seems content with her role as pretty housewife but secretly wants more lust, passion and craziness in her life. The one mistress is an artist who’s surrounded by a community that seem to be the predecessors of the hippie movement. And the third one is a confident succesful business owner who has a mind on her own. They are all three strong women, but living in a bad period for females.

At the company there’s other men with issues. One has to subdue his homosexuality in this macho straight get-as-many-girls-as-you-can world. The other is a spoiled youngster whose ambition is to be important and rich and hopes his schemes will make up for his lack of real talent. And then there’s the ugly secretary who seems to have a brain and just might be the first female copy writer of the company.

Apart from the great acting, it’s of course the writing that takes all the credits. This show proves again that without a good script and great dialogues actors are NOTHING. In the end, the characters (and the actors who portray them) you hate the most are actually the best! The nice thing with tv series is that you get to know characters in dept. And this show has several multi dimensional characters that you can’t get enough of. Even though you can’t stand them.

Another great feat of this show is the way it looks. The art direction is amazing. The period settings are incredible. And the soundtrack is good too. (not great). Every single detail is right.

So why only ***? Hm. It’s slow. Very slow. And the show makes you constantly feel annoyed. Part of you feels so happy that you live in 2010 and not in 1960 where society really seemed to be so incredibly fake. But after a while, the other part of you feels like nothing has changed. Or at least not that much. And that just is not a nice feeling. The first season also feels like a big long pilot for the next seasons.

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