"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mad Men: Ladies Room

Is it possible to fall in love with a TV show? I don't mean a show that you really like and respect, I mean a show you actually can't wait until the next episode and count the days until it is on? Mad Men is that show for me. I'm even in love with the credits, a montage of black and white graphical images of buildings and people and subtle, sly music.

I also like how this show is set in 1960. It's firmly set in the attitudes of the 1950s but there are more than enough hints that the "60s" that I know is coming fast. And these people are trying to prepare for it (some a lot more than others, of course).

Betty seems unhappy, to the point of not only having her hands go numb (she almost wrecks the car with the kids in it) but also to the point of thinking of seeing a psychiatrist. But only "unhappy" saw shrinks in 1960 right? Don tries to talk her out of it.

At the office, everyone is still hitting on Peggy (what exactly is in the water at Sterling Cooper anyway?). Most of the guys are blunt and creepy, though Paul seems to have a little more depth to him (he seems to genuinely like Peggy as a person and even suggests she become a copywriter), even when he makes a pass at her in his office. He read her wrong. Of course, Peggy is waiting for Pete to come back from his Niagara Falls honeymoon (Roger's view: "Niagara Falls. It redefines 'lack of imagination.' ").

Don is working on the Right Guard account (a new space age deodorant in a can - how do you pitch that?), and it also looks like he's going to be handling Richard Nixon's campaign. This could be great fodder in a fun, historical sort of way, the 1960 campaign versus JFK, though I hope they don't go overboard and point out all these events with Nixon and Kennedy that I now know went a different way. It could tip into the "overly clever" realm, but I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it in future episodes.

Is it weird that while watching this I often forget that it's a 2007 show about 1960 and not some movie made in 1960. OK, I'm not crazy or anything (there's that shrink talk again), but it gets the mood and attitudes and music and style so right that it sucks you into the world. There's a funny scene with Betty and another wife talking in Betty's kitchen and one of her kids has a dry cleaner bag over her head. She tells her to come over, and we think that she's going to shake her finger at her and tell her she could suffocate in that bag, but she only warns the girl that her clothes better not be on the floor. This isn't bad parenting, this probably was just another thing they didn't quite worry about 47 years ago. Like when the kids aren't secured in Betty's car during the accident and all the smoking.

I'm curious as to where the writers are taking the Don/Betty relationship. Jon Hamm should be nominated for an Emmy for his performance - it's a no-brainer, actually, and I hope it comes true. He seems moral and a family man, even as he's screwing the pretty artist in some apartment any chance he gets. He's old-fashioned but open enough to the new world, just a bit. Is it possible to be the "nice guy" on the show but also a cheater?

Betty ends up seeing the psychiatrist (after a weird speech about her not being afraid that she almost killed the kids in the car accident but that it could have been even worse - her daughter could have gotten a scar on her face!) The episode ends with Don secretly calling the doctor to get a full report on her state of mind.

There's a scene where Paul tells Peggy that he'll kill himself if they cancel The Twilight Zone. Peggy has never watched it because she doesn't like science fiction. Mad Men reminds me of that show, the way Rod Serling used monsters and aliens and the supernatural to talk about the social problems of the day. Like creator Matthew Weiner says in a behind the scenes snippet after the show, they can talk about things on this show in a way they couldn't talk about them in a show set in 2007. That's interesting to me.

And like Paul, I'll be upset if my new favorite show is cancelled too.

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