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Friday, July 18, 2008

Am I Missing Something?

posted by on July 18 at 13:00 PM

I’ve just recently watched the first two discs of the first season of Mad Men. That’s six episodes. I know that a lot of people are very excited about Mad Men, and critics that I generally trust are really into it, too. I think the show just got nominated for a bunch of Emmys. I really enjoyed the pilot, and especially the opening credits:

I really enjoyed the whole 1960-sure-was-different-from-2008 thing at first. Women are treated like children! The obviously gay guy keeps talking about how much he wants to bang chicks! They hit the kids! It was kind of funny.

But now I’m six episodes into a thirteen-episode run and I feel as though the entire series is all about how different 1960 is from 2008, and it’s kind of boring. I get that there’s infidelity, and some of the women are disappointed with their servile roles and all that, but so far, it’s just a soap opera, and not really an interesting one at that.

Some of the writing is great, but I’ve been waiting for something to happen for five hours now and I feel as though maybe twenty minutes of those five hours has actually advanced the plot. I can’t figure out whether to get the third disc or not; I’m just about ready to abandon the whole thing. So far, Mad Men has done nothing but disappointed me. I still like the credits, though.

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I think it's worth sticking with. Yes, it's a soap opera, like any ongoing drama, but I think it's going somewhere...and supposedly their plan is to skip around a bit and over 5 seasons (if they get renewed) end up with these characters at the end of the 60s. I don't think the theme is how different 1960 is so much as 1960 is the end of something - there are tons of changes hinting at the future, like the Reader's Digest smoking report, the Volkswagon "Think Small" campaign, and women moving into formerly male jobs...anyway, just my two cents. Plus, the women are SMOKIN'. Seriously.

Posted by greg | July 18, 2008 1:11 PM

That is almost exactly what I've been thinking as well. Wait until it gets to the beat/hipsters vs. yuppie admen episode, god that was stupid.

Posted by A | July 18, 2008 1:12 PM

Oh good, so it's not just me. I had an almost identical reaction when I watched it a couple months back... a big ol' Meh. I think I stopped about the same place too. Hearing about all the Emmy nods made me think about trying again, but then I remembered that those people have no taste.

Posted by FrantikGirl | July 18, 2008 1:12 PM

I watched the first three (four, maybe?) episodes and I was bored. I lost all interest whenever it cut away from the office setting. I don't know why, but the office and the characters that inhabit that specific setting were far more fascinating than January Jones' depression or the whole 'perfect' family image.

But then, maybe the only reason I prefered the office bits was because it reminded me slightly of The Apartment.

Posted by Dave | July 18, 2008 1:23 PM

I just watched the pilot the other night and while I found the aesthetic lovely and the storyline compelling...there were moments where it felt very, very heavy handed. I will probably watch the rest of the first season all the same.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | July 18, 2008 1:28 PM

I can vouch for the fact that they not only hit kids in the 60's, but the 70's as well:(

Anyway, I look forward to the stylized revisionism of Mad Men.

Posted by neo-realist | July 18, 2008 1:36 PM

Sounds like you'd be better off watching old episodes of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"

Posted by MarkyMark | July 18, 2008 2:02 PM

Thanks @2-4.

Despite greg@1's eloquent vote of confidence, I think I'm bouncing it from my Netflix queue. If it actually succeeds at everything greg says it does at the end of its run, I'll watch the whole thing all over again.

Posted by Paul Constant | July 18, 2008 2:05 PM

Paul, there are plot turns coming... Some characters are not who they pretend to be and inconvenient truths start to seep out.

But your right... It does move in a sort of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman haze. Which is one of the things I like about it. It makes later developments seem more menacing.

Have you dipped into "Damages" yet?...

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | July 18, 2008 2:13 PM

DO NOT STOP WATCHING IT NOW! It just gets better. Trust me. I have watched each episode more times than I would care to admit, and the first half of the season really sets up the greater second half. It's kind of like "A Tale of Two Cities". Remember the first, oh, book, when it was just that dude making a carriage ride? And you thought, oh god, how will I read this for sophomore english class? But then it gets so, so much better. Keep watching Mad Men, you will not be disappointed. It is not meh, it is nuanced, and it does not give everything away immediately, which is refreshing in our current tv culture.

Posted by Simone | July 18, 2008 2:18 PM

I forgot to mention before that I was losing interest halfway through also, and found it heavy-handed, ridiculous with the amount of smoking, etc...but found myself getting sucked in on disc 3, and actually ran down the street to Blockbuster to get disc 4 because I wanted to watch the last four episodes before next week.

Posted by greg | July 18, 2008 2:20 PM

Mary Hartman takes place in the 70's.

Posted by michael strangeways | July 18, 2008 2:30 PM

I remember David Simon- creator of HBO's "The Wire"- talking about his more novelistic approach to story-telling (while acknowledging that it might not be what most television viewers are used to). He said "Look at "Moby Dick"- you may have heard of the main story characters, but when you read the book, in those early chapters, you think "Where's the whale? Where's Ahab? Why am I in some boarding house with this guy Ishmael sharing a room with some guy with spears?"

It's about all about laying a foundation thicker and thicker and then you really start to know who these people are (including moreso the lead, Don Draper). But who knows- it just might not be your cup of tea. Some people still were bored by "The Wire".

Posted by brueso | July 18, 2008 2:48 PM

I had not really paid much attention to the credits prior, but I can really see how much they reveal about the show now.

Posted by some guy | July 18, 2008 2:57 PM

If you're thinking that the series is just about 1960s America, then yeah, it's fucking boring. Find a copy of Wittgenstein's Vienna and then you'll be cooking with gas.

Posted by bronkitis | July 18, 2008 3:15 PM

I'm with you. That show is vastly overrated.

It *looks* really cool. But I was bored.

Posted by abe | July 18, 2008 3:22 PM

I'm leery of most "period" shows...even the dark themed ones tend to be a bit twee and's all about the cute and kooky clothes and props.

The first "Tales of the City" miniseries was one of the few that didn't fuck it up.
(the other two were Canadian-fueled dreck)

I haven't seen the British "Life on Mars" (contemporary detective gets bonked on the head and wakes up in the 70's) but I've heard it was good...I'm a bit leery of the upcoming American remake but relieved the revolting David E Kelley is no longer involved.

Posted by michael strangeways | July 18, 2008 4:17 PM

@17, Life on Mars is excellent.

Paul, really. Do you half-read books and then put them down?

The show is about, among other things, the loss and search for identity during the most paradoxical time in American history. People were never more affluent (and suddenly so) but desperately unhappy. Everything was changing and nobody expected the changes. That kind of situation deserves exploration, but carefully.

Get to "The Hobo Code" and tell me what you think. It was the first episode where I had a true mindgasm, but not the last. And if you don't start to get it by that point, then you should stop watching, because you're unable to parse brilliance.

Posted by Emily | July 18, 2008 4:40 PM

Simone and Emily rule. I am smitten.

Posted by greg | July 18, 2008 5:19 PM

Paul, we usually disagree on everything, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I echo others here, the show kept getting better as it built on itself.

Posted by PopTart in Denver | July 18, 2008 5:22 PM

I like it, and not just because so many of the women on the show make me feel all... funny inside.

Yeah, it's a soap opera. Just a little dull/low-key at times. Until the last episode, which is a bit ridiculous for my tastes at times. Bits of the last episode reminded me of later, insane seasons of Melrose Place, compared to its first season.

Posted by CP | July 21, 2008 4:23 PM

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