Tuesday, July 28, 2009

mad, mad world

The two sides of my Mad Men-self - home and business, cocktail and coffee.

As an early birthday present (August 9th - mark your calendars!) Nathan bought me season two of Mad Men. In case you don't know, Mad Men is a television show set in the 1960's, which focuses on the Sterling-Cooper advertising agency. The characters in the show either work at the agency or are married to men who do, and the story lines follow these people as they deal with business, pleasure, family, social pressures, gender expectations, secrets, and lies, all while drinking, smoking and cheating on their significant others like it's going out of style. (Maybe because it actually is?)

I love this show for so many reasons. First of all, it's one of the most well-written and literary television shows that I've seen in a while. The dialogue is artful, weighted - the silences between words tell you more about what the characters are thinking, doing, then the words they actually say out loud. This is a show that is all about subtext, which is artful and not easy, especially on television. For example, when my favorite character, Peggy Olson, calls her boss by his first name for the very first time, I gasped. A small gesture, yes, but when I thought about all she had gone through to get to where she was at that moment, all the history and change and strife that had come before her to pave the way for this simple, poignant and totally kick ass moment - it was amazing. It's what story telling should be.

There was a seven year period of my life (after high school and up until about two or three years ago) where I simply didn't watch television. Sure, I'd catch an episode of the Daily Show once or twice a week, and I watched movies and DVDs, but as for shows with ongoing plots and character development? Hardly anything. Part of this was because I did not (and still don't) have cable, and Internet television was not yet as accessible as it is now. But another part of it was because there wasn't anything on television that captured my imagination.

These days, that's changed. I still don't have cable. In fact, we don't even have a television, and instead watch things on my laptop or, when we're feeling fancy, on our sweet projector and screen setup. The change is that television is good again. Yes, there is still crappy television. There will always be crappy television. But now that I can stream things online and rent or buy series on DVD, it's easier to weed out the crap and make way for the good stuff. Mad Men, Lost, True Blood, 30 Rock, The Office. When I watch these shows, I get taken to a place that toys with my imagination, gives me a few hours of rest, makes me think, and keeps me engaged. And isn't that the point of television, good television? To provide an escape that makes you a better storyteller, a better listener, when you return? That, at least, is my story, and baby I'm sticking to it.


  1. Mike just bought me the second season of Mad Men for my birthday too. I practically devoured the first season via Blockbuster Rentals this past week while on vacation. I feel very much the way you do about the show. It's marvelous. It has so many levels, which means I'll be watching it over and over again and enjoying it a little differently each time.

    Happy Early Birthday! :-)

  2. I'm already hooked by the review. Happy birthday (early)!

  3. I feel the same way. I was really proud of my no television rule, but as the internet became more and more involved in my life, I found myself religiously watching more and more shows.
    I'm feeling less and less guilty about it.

  4. yes yes YES!! you NAILED that review of MAD MEN!! not into many series myself, i was hooked the first time i saw an episode...and find myself watching re-runs, LONGING for the new season to start...i absoulutely LOVE that show and often find myself at a loss trying to describe it's greatness;i will now direct them to your description...beautiful...