1. It’s set in the 60’s.
After the 40’s, the 60’s is my other favorite period in American history that I enjoy watching on screen. I’ve always found these two eras really fascinating, for some reason. Probably to do with the fact that most men wore fedoras during that time…mmm men in fedoras ❤ No, seriously what I find so intriguing about the 40’s is that contrast of the glitz and glamour versus the corruption and crime that was so rampant in that period. What I love about the 60’s though is that while it’s clear that there has been a marked improvement from 2 decades ago and the future of America appears to be looking up, there are (still) quite prevalent tensions that surround issues particularly those relating to race, gender, politics and sexuality that affect how society acts, reacts and functions on the whole. These issues are interwoven seamlessly into the episodes; the show has been commended for how accurately they have depicted that era. But yeah in many ways I see the 40’s and the 60’s as yes, very different and distinctive eras but in many ways also very similar. But hey, that’s an entire blog entry on it’s own!
2. The stellar cast.
Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) is respectable and brilliant in his professional life but a selfish, cheating womanizer in his personal life. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is a slimy, self-praising only-out-for-himself tool. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) is a naive and conservative but ambitious young lady. And of course, my favorite character, Ken Cosgrove, the easy-going class clown who has a surprising flair for writing. (he is played by Aaron Staton, who I MUST mention was Cole Phelps in my favorite game L.A. Noire!) Every character in the office has a distinct personality and quirks that make them who they are; they all bring something to the table which somehow just complement one another perfectly. It makes for a very interesting group dynamic, one that is so irresistable to watch; I find when I’m watching each episode I feel so comfortable with these people, almost like they were my colleagues too. This is, of course, largely due to the fantastic actors that perfectly embody these characters.
3. The excellent writing.
You could have the best cast of actors who are all at the top of their game but it would be meaningless if the story was written poorly. A significant part of Mad Men‘s success I believe is because it is written so well. Not just the narrative but the script is also well written and true to the period. You wouldn’t think a story set in 1960’s NYC about a bunch of boozey ad men would be interesting but it is. There is just something about it that hooks you and sucks you in. It is clear that the overall narrative arc has been well thought out. Each episode flows smoothly into the next and the different sub-plots and new characters make their appearances at the opportune time. The pacing of what happens when and to whom is flawless – you never feel like the season is dragging; each episode is there for a reason, and how they build up to each season finale is executed perfectly.
4. It is about the in’s and out’s of Advertisng.
Albeit it’s about advertising “back in the day” but sometimes it’s good to see how things were before because then we can be proud of where we are today. Advertising has definitely come a long way since then although I have to say there are some real bad ad campaigns out there today! In a way you can can say Mad Men is something like watching my “what could have been”. Some of you may know that I actually have a degree in advertising. I never pursued it and so watching Mad Men kind of gives me a glimpse of me in an “alternate universe”. Often when I’m watching the show I catch myself thinking, “this would have been me if I had gone into advertising”. Well, except with the absence of drinking every 5 minutes and everyone smoking every 3 minutes! I may not have gone down that road but I still genuinely do have some level of interest in the field. It’s really interesting watching the different ideas and campaigns that the characters come up with.
5. It is a window into the past.
I may not live in America (well apart from when I was two) and I may not be a history geek but there are certain things of the past that do intrigue me. As mentioned at the beginning of this post I do have a strange affinity for 1940’s and 1960’s America. I am easily amused and sometimes the seemingly insignificant things catch my eye. Many things on the show amuse me. The secretaries in the office using a typewriter and a dictaphone. The art directors drawing all the artwork for the ads by hand. During meetings with clients sometimes the OHP (overhead projector) or slide projector is used for presentations. When the office received a photocopying machine everyone was so excited. *chuckle* Such simpler times back then aye?! We take for granted so much these days. I can’t get over too how everyone seemed to smoke back then – and often!! – and how much everyone drank what looked like all the time!! How they ever got any work done back then is beyond me. What was really ludicrous was even people you’d think wouldn’t/shouldn’t smoke did (doctor and priest) and even more unbelievable, being pregnant didn’t stop you from smoking and drinking either. Crazy.
So yeah, I absolutely adore Mad Men. Okay it’s more than that – I am obsessed with the show!! I watch a LOT of TV but Mad Men has become my all time favorite TV series. Thank you, Matthew Weiner (show creator) for making this brilliant, brilliant series!! Was sooo chuffed when they won Outstanding Drama at the Emmys – they’ve taken this title since the show started and I’m confident their winning streak will carry on. They’ve only just started shooting again – they’ve been renewed for 3 more seasons, YAY!! – so it’s going to be a bit of a wait before season five begins, sadl. It’s all good though, I’m just going back and re-watching all of them – never gets old!
I will end this post with some wise words from Don Draper himself: “Advertsing is based on happiness. We make the lie, we invent want.”
For those who have never watched Mad Men, hopefully this post has peaked your interest!! There is a reason why this show has won Oustanding Drama four years in a row!