I'm always late to the party when it comes to Television. I'm not a tastemaker, or even an early adopter. I wait until enough people I know shout about it enough times, and I grab the entire series and either feel disappointed, or obsess over it. I don't watch many TV series either, so for something to grab my attention enough, it has to be pretty special.
Mad Men is probably one of the best things I've ever seen.
You've heard at least one person recommend it and try and explain it to you, so I'm not going to try. If you haven't already, I urge you to pick it up. It's just incredible. I'm up to about episode 8 of the first series, and I'm really savouring every minute.
Of course the 60's setting is fantastic, and the outfits and midday drinking all add to it, but what's stood out for me is the writing. Not since Deadwood have I been so excited about a show's themes and characters, and the way those characters develop.
I was talking to HopkinGreenFrog (Fellow GainBoy Dude) at a party last night, and we were discussing it. He said to me that "Mad Men is great, because when you think about it, it's a really good Soap Opera. It's not a drama, it's about the characters, and the way they develop, rather than the situation." And I couldn't agree more. It could be any office, the set up isn't particularly special. It's the characters that make it what it is: Unmissable.
I don't want to spoil, or to talk about every character and plot line, because that would quite frankly take all night, and I have a Superbowl to watch. But let's look at Pete Campbell, the young newly married Junior Executive. One of my favourite characters. So far, Pete has shown the writer's true strength.
This guy is deeply troubled. Just married, he's trying to do right by his wife, whilst trying to comply with a world which wants him to do just the opposite. Shades of Norman Bates creep in when he monologues about hunting animals, hinting at a deeper level of unrest, bubbling under an expensive suit. Pete then shifts gears into straight-up devious, playing the women in his life against themselves, to his own gain. All the while, he's constantly being put in his place by older males, as he desperately covets their Alpha Male status.
And you can see all this happening. You can see him happy. You can see that he genuinely feels a need for being a good husband and bucking the trends of his peers. But then, just as he almost reaches this state of awareness, he's cast back down, by the very people he's trying to do right by. In most TV shows I watch, characters don't have anything approaching this level of complexity. In those that do, none of them carry it off with such aplomb. All these subtle nuances are so well written, that they're plain as day. The writers don't have to smack you around the head with clumsy dialogue. The direction and the few words spoken speak volumes.
The themes and issues the Pete character explores shows us a new generation of male, and the slight shift in attitudes towards sexism that's occurring. In Donald Draper's world, he can sleep with whoever he wants, and they'll wait for him. Even if he gets his come-uppence, and I'm sure he will, he still runs his own show. And revels in it. Pete doesn't get this. Pete's playing field is a little more even. His wife tells him what to do. He gets put in his place regularly. This sort-of push-and-pull struggle Pete endures makes him such an unsettling and fascinating character to watch. Absolutely mesmerising. Like a firework you lit that didn't go off, you are both scared and excited by the uncertainty and ferocity lurking within.
Believe me, I could of written a massive diatribe for pretty much every character in the show. I continue to be blown away by it, and engrossed by one of the finest Television Shows I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Go watch it.