I’ve started Mad Men a few times, and never managed to get past about the sixth episode. Not because it’s bad (it seems brilliant). I just don’t manage it.
I tried it about ten years ago, on my own. It was on that long ago, right? I had seasons one and two on blu ray. Then I watched it – in sync – with an ex from our respective houses. But that could only last so long. I’m now watching it with the current, in person, again on Netflix.
It really is not bad. I can see why people rave about it: in terms of reputation it seems to sit on a level just below the Sopranos and the Wire, and just above Breaking Bad and Fargo. Like Fargo, you can lose yourself in the cinematography.
Forget for a moment the masculine fantasies of smoking, drinking whisky and napping in your office. What I love about the sense of place the show evokes is the sharp suits, the dizzying skyscraper shots and how cool everything is when it’s soundtracked by some hard bop.
One thing I have noticed on rewatching the first episode is how unflinching the writing is in its gaze upon the chauvanistic behaviour of the titular Mad Men. Don Draper, our (anti)hero, seems to be on the side of good when defending his new secretary Peggy when she’s verbally set upon by a particularly unpleasant weasel of a colleague.* But then he storms out of a meeting with a client, insisting he “won’t be spoken to like that by a woman“. Perish the thought.
So there’s a lot to be getting on with: aesthetically beautiful; interestingly conflicted characters (only at the very end of the episode do we learn that charming womaniser Draper has a family. He may also have unacknowledged PTSD); good cast dynamic. I hope that this time I can last the course. Mad Men was, of course, apparently the last show from TV’s golden age.
* By the end of the episode, Peggy and said colleague are getting it on.