Saturday, 21 July 2012

Mad Men: Season 1

On TV: 2007
Channel: AMC
Genre: Drama
Episode Type: Season 1 (13 Episodes)
In 1 Sentence: Suave, sexy and sharp: Mad Men is must-see television
IMDb Summary: A drama about one of New York's most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s, focusing on one of the firm's most mysterious but extremely talented ad executives, Donald Draper. The agency is enjoying success, but the advertising game becomes more competitive as the industry develops. The agency must adapt to ensure its survival. Don Draper is at the top of his game, but the secrets from his past and his present threaten to topple his work and family life.

My Review: Welcome to Mad Men. The glamorous world of 1960s advertising where all is not what it seems.
What gives Mad Men an award-winning edge is the smoldering subtext. It’s what is not said that matters and all in the gorgeous 1960s setting. Who doesn’t want a wardrobe full of Betty Draper’s clothes? Who wouldn’t want to work in the elegant advertising office, drinking whiskey with the elusive Don Draper, admiring Joan Holloway’s polished look and avoiding arrogant accountant Pete Campbell? 
I remember first watching season 1 of Mad Men a few years ago when the BBC decided to show a repeat of the series. It was long after the buzz of the show had mounted and I had always been curious by its beautiful cinematography and alluring 60s atmosphere. I watched with eagerness and yet the BBC didn’t show the second season and so that was that. Now, many years later I appreciate how little I did appreciate what a treat Mad Men was. I think this has something to do with maturing a great deal and so understanding all (or at least most!) the references and subtle one-liners. And after watching my fair share of quality or not-so-quality television.. Mad Men is one of the best.
The writing, while not sharp like the West Wing, complex like Lost or gritty like The Wire it is incredibly clever. It is only with marathon viewing, as I greedily watched the first season, that I admire and respect all the little things and details that have been put in. The glances between characters, that one cigarette - for all that goes on in the agency it is what lies beneath the surface that is the most intriguing. 
And that leads me nicely onto the acting. John Hamm of course has stolen all the attention. And rightly so as he does a remarkable job as lead Don Draper who gets even more mysterious with each layer unpeeled. The episodes were we flashback to his childhood were most poignant and the last scene of the finale is heartbreaking in its stillness and honesty. It is only in the quiet that we really come to see some of what Don is. 
But it is Betty who I adore the most. It takes a while to get to grips with her character and for the majority of the season she is seeing a pyschartrist. We see her through the eyes of him and Don, but it isn’t until near the end of the season when she becomes a model that we see a different side to her - more than her child-like nature - her fragility and deep, deep unhappiness. January Jones manages to portray the perfect 50s housewife in the turmulous 60s and do it with a dark edge that even she doesn’t understand. 
Two other characters that are prominent are Peggy Olsen and Pete Campbell. It was hard to like either of them at first and still I both loathe and empathise with Campbell. It is Peggy that was one of the most intriguing as we knew so little about her. How she is percieved by the office appeared to be a way of showing the sexism and politics of the time and yet as the series progressed she came into her own and while she still has unlikeable qualities, she is human. And I suppose the one I relate to the most in the end.
It surprised me how much I fell in love with Mad Men. The music, the costumes, the bars, while stunning, was only the backdrop to a gripping drama that I cannot wait to devour more of in season 2!
If you’ve never dipped a toe into the Mad Men pool it’s definitely worth your while! It’s fast becoming my current favourite show!
Score: 9/10

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