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Limit Your Exposure : In depth annalysis of Mad Men
September 2, 2009 10:13 AM   Subscribe


 
If I'm not watching it why would I want spoilers?

(It's on the list. Honest.)
posted by Artw at 10:16 AM on September 2, 2009


"No one is watching"??? The entire fucking internet never shuts up about this show.

How about this show: I HAVE NO CABLE AND AM MORALLY SUPERIOR TO YOU.
posted by GuyZero at 10:20 AM on September 2, 2009 [46 favorites]


I heard people talk about this show all the time and assumed it was on HBO or something. I didn't realize it was on basic cable until this season, so I watched the premier and the episode last night. It's really fun to watch, although I have no idea what's going on in the overall arch of these characters -- other then what I've read about the characters online.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 AM on September 2, 2009


No one's watching Mad Men? I see ads for it everywhere. I hear people talking about it all the time.

Don has done everything he could to have the perfect life, only to find out that the life he sought is empty and cold. He's tortured and he has secrets.

I'm'a stick with Wolverine comics, thanks.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:21 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Definitely my favorite series since The Wire. Just finishing up the first season. Great stuff.
posted by Perplexity at 10:21 AM on September 2, 2009


er, I mean say overall arc of the characters, not arch.
posted by delmoi at 10:22 AM on September 2, 2009


If no one's watching it, why does everyone insist on talking about it all the freakin' time? Seriously, NPR wouldn't shut up about the new season.
posted by lekvar at 10:22 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nearly every blog I read is watching and commenting on it. Which is sad because I don't have cable and am trying to wait till the end of the season to catch up :(
posted by muddgirl at 10:22 AM on September 2, 2009


AMC's Mad Men is the best show on telivision that no one is watching

The season opener was a front page story on the Globe and Mail website the other day.

Honestly, I think the best show nobody watches should be Intervention. That is one chilling, pathetic, hair-raising show.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:24 AM on September 2, 2009


Not available on Netflix streaming, Hulu or the broadcaster's website. I would give it a try, but it seems nearly impossible to watch, without downloading the massive 720p scene rips.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:24 AM on September 2, 2009


More people seem to be watching Mad Men now on AMC than I knew were watching The Wire when it was being broadcast on HBO. Perhaps because AMC is basic cable?

Anywhoo, Mad Men is even more of a slow burn show in terms of emotional payoff than The Wire was and I know a lot of people get bored with it but for me, I just love everything about the show, from the costumes to the sets to Elisabeth Moss, January Jones and Christina Hendricks (god DAMN that lady has got a gorgeous ass ... I started watching the show because I loved Hendricks in Firefly but you didn't get a hint of "the valentine" in that show!!!) to ... just everything. Everything.

Watch it now.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:24 AM on September 2, 2009


Here's where someone comes in and says he's very disappointed in Season 3 of The Guiding Light Mad Men.
posted by stargell at 10:24 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just watching the show will give you lung cancer, a drinking problem, and serious case of misogyny.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:25 AM on September 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


We're only pretending that nobody's watching Mad Men so we can still claim that we liked the show before it was cool, right? Or have I missed another memo?
posted by Spatch at 10:25 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have to say that I don't know anybody who isn't watching the show. I barely watch television and I'm watching it.
posted by OolooKitty at 10:26 AM on September 2, 2009


Don is whiny emo punk. "Boo Hoo! I have tons of money and a big house and healthy kids and a hot wife and a new mistress every month, but I'm so sad because of my tortured past or because of the emptiness of bourgeois suburban life or something. Poor me!"
posted by ND¢ at 10:26 AM on September 2, 2009 [18 favorites]


Who is their target demographic with this show? I'm mid 20's, male and love the Wire, I've tried to watch this show due to the acclaim and I find it very boring. It's more boring than Church.
posted by nowoutside at 10:26 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not available on Netflix streaming, Hulu or the broadcaster's website. I would give it a try, but it seems nearly impossible to watch, without downloading the massive 720p scene rips.

You can "watch it now" on Amazon. They even seem to have the current season.
posted by exogenous at 10:29 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


@nowoutside I'm with you. I loved The Wire, but don't get the appeal of Mad Men. It's not that it's boring to me, but it's just...not good. It's not a terrible show, and it has its moments, but if this is "the best show on television", then I'm glad I don't watch much television. Still, I'm going to give it a second chance, I think. Everyone raves about it, so it has to be good. Right? Right?

Best show that nobody is watching? WTF? Mad Men is AMC's highest-rated show and was just picked up for a fourth season. People are watching it.
posted by jdroth at 10:29 AM on September 2, 2009


Yeah, everyone but me seems to be watching Mad Men (and I have the first two seasons on Blu-ray, but just haven't started watching them yet). I expect that by the end of this season the general public will treat it like The Sopranos with respect to spoilers--that is, because it's generally though that everyone is watching the show and that it's important to their lives, major events that take place on it will be granted the status of real-world news, and therefore will not be considered spoilers. So I'm going to have to hurry to catch up.
posted by Prospero at 10:30 AM on September 2, 2009


I think it is super boring, but the design is cool. It's like everyone is a bit wooden all the time. The opposite of the Sopranos where everyone is freaking out constantly. The plot is cool, though.
posted by kathrineg at 10:30 AM on September 2, 2009


The best show on TV is Breaking Bad.

I think Mad Men is hella dull, but then I'm the only person on the planet who couldn't get into The Sopranos, so what do I know.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:31 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't get all the ridiculous chin to the sky snobbery about this. Its a good show and someone wants to talk about. Saying its the best show no one is watching is obviously hyperbole but why come in the thread to hate? It's not productive for people who do enjoy it and want to discuss it.
posted by zennoshinjou at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2009


I loved The Wire, but don't get the appeal of Mad Men. It's not that it's boring to me, but it's just...not good. It's not a terrible show, and it has its moments, but if this is "the best show on television", then I'm glad I don't watch much television. Still, I'm going to give it a second chance, I think. Everyone raves about it, so it has to be good. Right? Right?

Nope! It's funny, 'cause AMC also has Breaking Bad, which is a genuinely fantastic show, but lacks the chiseled jaws and tailored suits that are apparently fun for people to stare at.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2009


What's that silver or gold thing Joan is always wearing around her neck?
posted by mattdidthat at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2009


They are discussing season 3 over at Slate's TV club.
posted by ND¢ at 10:34 AM on September 2, 2009


AMC's Mad Men is the best show on television that no one will stop going on and on and on about to the point where it's actually hip to say you don't watch it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:35 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


iTunes also has the third season. Each episode is three bucks.
posted by nushustu at 10:35 AM on September 2, 2009


exogenous: You can "watch it now" on Amazon. They even seem to have the current season.

Exciting, except that season 1 only costs 2$ less than buying the DVDs. Ouch.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:40 AM on September 2, 2009


I don't think I'm hip, but I'm not persuaded that it's worth watching. I'm sure the concept is great, but the one or two episodes I've seen kind of remind me of Todd Haynes' attempt to recreate Douglas Sirk in "Far from Heaven." Julianne Moore was not Jane Wyman, Dennis Quaid was not a convincing closeted homosexual, and "Mad Men" is a deeply respectful, carefully staged version of the early 1960s -- but something feels off about it, like everybody in it is made of wax.
posted by blucevalo at 10:43 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The best show on television is that show where they set up imaginary battles between gladiators and ninjas and Vikings and samurai and try to figure out scientifically who would win.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:44 AM on September 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


I've just gotten into it this season and I'm catching up on season 1 and 2 via iTunes and the torrents. I'm liking it.

I'm glad something is finally replacing The Wire as The Best Show On TV. As much as I loved it, I got really tired of my white suburban neighbors walking around saying "Sheeeeeeeeeeeet" and planning trips to Baltimore. Hell, there's currently an AskMe thread about how to keep phone calls off a cell phone bill and I almost advised them to "get a burner."
posted by bondcliff at 10:44 AM on September 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


I want to read this thread so much, because I'm just in the middle of season 1 and am really into it, but I shall not. Sigh. I'll favorite it, as if I'll remember to come back to it later.
posted by nosila at 10:47 AM on September 2, 2009


got really tired of my white suburban neighbors walking around saying "Sheeeeeeeeeeeet" and planning trips to Baltimore.

Wonder if there's any market for a Chris Partlow & Snoop Abandoned Rowhouse Tour.
posted by Spatch at 10:47 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not The Sopranos, though.
(nothing will ever come close...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:49 AM on September 2, 2009


re: No one watches, I remember maybe in one of the interviews done this summer in the build up to the new season that people at AMC weren't exactly thrilled with the actual number of people watching the show.

Also, any drummers notice the drum kit at the country club in the "My Old Kentucky Home" episode? Looked out of place, as in, too much heavy hardware for the time. Also, when were K Zildjians introduced?
posted by dyobmit at 10:55 AM on September 2, 2009


The best show on TV is Breaking Bad.

What I've seen of Breaking Bad, which is only the first couple episodes was very good. I thought it had died a quiet death a long time ago. I'm going to have to look at it again now that I know it's still around.
posted by dortmunder at 10:56 AM on September 2, 2009


No one's watching it? Even though I don't have cable, about 6 of my grad school friends and I all together at the one person who has cable's house every Sunday to watch it.

I love me some Mad Men. I especially love me some Peggy Olson. I thought the first two episodes this season were weak--I started to get worried that the show was becoming a parody of itself, was jumping the shark. Little character development, plenty of stalling. But last Sunday's episode was just really great. And uncomfortable. And great.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:56 AM on September 2, 2009


Mad Men has its moments, but it is definitely a slow burn, as one person here described it. Breaking Bad is much more suspenseful, if you're into that sort of thing, and each episode's narrative is well-crafted (almost airtight) from opening scene to last.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:01 AM on September 2, 2009


Project Rungay is fine, but the truly outstanding analysis happens over on Alan Sepinwall's blog. Mad Men Footnotes is useful, too.
posted by keever at 11:02 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


"AMC's Mad Men is the best show on television that no one will stop going on and on and on about to the point where it's actually hip to say you don't watch it."
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:35 PM on September 2

So, you're saying that hipsters are the reason we can't have good TV?

Great. Just great. I'm so sick of hipsters, I could jes' cuss.

And Christina Hendricks shoulda got her own Emmy, already.

If it's now legal to shoot grey wolves in Idaho and Montana, surely there must be somewhere you can pay $12 for a hipster tag, and enjoy shooting one of them in the wild, too. If not, I think we can help certain states with their budget shortfalls...
posted by paulsc at 11:05 AM on September 2, 2009


People seem to like that Dexter show, too. I finished season 1 last week, and I am glad it is over. What a pile of steaming nothing.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:05 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not The Sopranos, though.

The last couple of seasons of The Sopranos wasn't even The Sopranos.
posted by rokusan at 11:05 AM on September 2, 2009


Dexter's pretty good, but it's populated by telegraphed twists and some of the most hardcore overactors in the business. Adding Jimmy 'King Emo' Smits in Season 3 was almost self-parody.
posted by rokusan at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, when were K Zildjians introduced?

In plenty of time. Amazed how long they've been around, in one form or another. I can't vouch for the hardware in the episode, because I've never watched the show. I've never watched the show because I'm 3.4 billion light years hipper than the people who do watch the show and 17.4 billion light years hipper than the people who don't even know the show exists. I'm so hip the guy from LCD Soundsystem comes over and begs to do my laundry.
posted by el_lupino at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to sugest that Kings was the best show that no one watched.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:09 AM on September 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


What I like about Mad Man (only halfway through season 2) is how it addresses the American class system. Sometimes it exaggerates it too much. But in general it's very clever about using it's meritocratic world of advertising to show how upbringing and social connections play into power.
posted by bendybendy at 11:12 AM on September 2, 2009


I enjoy Mad Men, though I do understand how katherineg could sometimes find it wooden. To me, that's a direct result of some of the acting--though most in the cast are excellent, the sparse dialog lends itself to inscrutability, as does the time period, when social status and the appearance of perfection were so important that everyone took pains to hide even the slightest hint of non-conformity. It takes a skilled actor to pull off the, "I'm really feeling awfully conflicted about this, even though I'm just standing here looking cool," moments.

Love Among the Ruins bored me to tears for that reason--I like Peggy, but I do occasionally find her acting subpar. Betty should be a sympathetic character, with what Don and her father have put her through, but her acting is really one dimensional. It's a shame, because the actress is gorgeous, and she could do a lot to bring some sympathy to her character if she were just more skilled at her craft.

However, the latest episode, My Old Kentucky Home, redeemed itself with a better look at the rampant racism of the time and how the characters dealt with it.

It will be interesting, going forward, to see what happens with Betsy's pregnancy--the blog linked to in this post suggests there is some foreshadowing going on with all her pregnancy drinking and smoking (common during this time), and that the baby will have problems. How would Don and Betty Draper deal with a child who doesn't quite fit into their image as the perfect couple (Betty already cannot stand that Jane, Roger's new wife, knows she and Don were "having troubles").

Christina Hendricks is, of course, absolutely fabulous, as Wolfdaddy mentions, and they could build the entire show around her character without losing any of its appeal.
posted by misha at 11:12 AM on September 2, 2009


By the way, the characters on Mad Men are supposed to be a bit wooden. They are the people who were blindsided by the social upheaval of the 1960s. They are about to be dragged uncomfortably into a different culture, different world, where the rules they took for granted in the 1950s about gender relations, social clout, and what is considered "successful" are completely turned on end.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:13 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I miss Battlestar Galactica.
posted by orrnyereg at 11:14 AM on September 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


I don't think I'm hip, but I'm not persuaded that it's worth watching. I'm sure the concept is great, but the one or two episodes I've seen kind of remind me of Todd Haynes' attempt to recreate Douglas Sirk in "Far from Heaven."

The thing is that it's very much the opposite of a bunch of characters made of wax. "Far from Heaven" took place in a moment and superimposed a more modern sensibility on a society full of people who didn't fit in. What I love about "Mad Men" (apart from the arch humor and the unpredictable plots and the well-drawn characters) is watching that tumultuous decade unfold and seeing how the characters react, and grow, and change (or don't...god, that blackface routine was stunningly cringe-inducing) along with it. It feels like real people bringing to life an era that is only history to people of my age.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:15 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Count me on the side of people who love it; and my experience is that everyone I know who spends a lot of time online is watching it, but my friends who aren't online as much have never seen it.

My big epiphany about Mad Men is this: lots of people are drawn to the show because of the early-60s fashion and design. And that's awesome. But Matt Weiner has said (I think I saw this in an interview linked on Alan Sepinwall's blog) that he plans to end the show in 1970... which means that as the seasons progress (and you can see this start to happen in S3 and even towards the end of S2), that look is going to mutate with the times. And I honestly wonder if people who're just there for the design will be as riveted when everything looks like 1970.
posted by COBRA! at 11:17 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Betty should be a sympathetic character, with what Don and her father have put her through, but her acting is really one dimensional.

I think you're missing the point with Betty-- nobody on that show is wholly sympathetic (or unsympathetic, as far as that goes). She acts one-dimensional because she's an incredibly repressed person ("My people are Nordic" is one of my favorite lines ever). And that's tragic, but it's also partly her fault.
posted by COBRA! at 11:20 AM on September 2, 2009


Its a good show and someone wants to talk about. Saying its the best show no one is watching is obviously hyperbole but why come in the thread to hate?

Because a post about a TV show that a really really really really lot of people are watching isn't a good post. Hating makes people go "Ohhhh, maybe I shouldn't make posts about things that most people already know about."
posted by 23skidoo at 11:21 AM on September 2, 2009


Another vote for Breaking Bad over here in the UK. Or United States of Tara.

I watched the first episode of season 1 of MM last night and it looks great, possibly has potential & made me feel like I'd had a heavy night out without any of the physical effects.
posted by i_cola at 11:26 AM on September 2, 2009


Man I wish I was as hip as you guys.
posted by graventy at 11:35 AM on September 2, 2009


Watch it now.

I can't, I'm working. Now.
posted by juiceCake at 11:37 AM on September 2, 2009


I don't know, but I suspect that to really appreciate Mad Men you have to have been alive during that time period.

I think that the sixties were the fastest paced decade in terms of changing social mores and technological advancement.

We take a lot of these things for granted, but even pantyhose were a huge, freeing technological advance for women. I'm not even going to get into the Selectric and the Xerox Machine.

So many things changed and so many roles changed and so many people of the boomer generation were caught between the conventions that shaped their lives and the freedom that the younger generation embraced.

I think the show captures that brilliantly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:38 AM on September 2, 2009


Friends talked about 'Mad Men' a lot in the past. I originally had no interest. Recently, though, I rented Season 1 and 2.

I love this show...and, as of last night, am now current with Season 3.

BTW -- AMC has ordered up a 4th. season.
posted by ericb at 11:38 AM on September 2, 2009




If you have Comcast you can watch the episodes through their on demand service. Last season the shows were pretty much uninterrupted through on demand, now there are several BMW commercials spaced in where there would normally be commercials. Sure no one is watching....
posted by Big_B at 11:53 AM on September 2, 2009


I thought the first two episodes this season were weak--I started to get worried that the show was becoming a parody of itself, was jumping the shark. Little character development, plenty of stalling. But last Sunday's episode was just really great. And uncomfortable. And great.

My exact reactions, too.
posted by ericb at 11:54 AM on September 2, 2009


Another note about watching them on demand - AMC is not available in HD in our area, but the on demand versions are in HD. Yay!
posted by Big_B at 11:55 AM on September 2, 2009


This is my favorite show on TV right now but I also think it's boring. It's hard having to think and fill in plot holes and remember things from past episodes. So it's boring like War and Peace is boring, which is say, slow paced, edifying, and gorgeous.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:55 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mad Men is overrated. So is True Blood, but not as much.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2009


el_lupino, I looked at that Wikipedia article and couldn't find an answer satisfactory to my admittedly limited knowledge. I know the company has been around for hundreds of years, but my sense was the cymbals with the big black "K" stamped on them are a relatively recent thing, like this, as opposed to the older stuff like this.

Maybe the question I'm really asking is, "When did they start with the big black "K" stamp?" Because that's what was clearly visible, on the bottom of a crash cymbal in particular, in that episode.

No idea where I'm at wrt hipness, but I'll be damned if I'm letting the dictionary nerds have all the fun.
posted by dyobmit at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2009


I only watched the first five episodes and was going to write a thoughtful critique of my problems with the show, but looks like the LRB beat me to it. No disrespect intended, I just think these are fairly important points to make, especially when something is being touted as the best anything.
posted by Football Bat at 12:01 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jon Hamm (Don Draper): "I love Breaking Bad. . . . I’m a huge fan of Bryan Cranston’s. I think what he does on that show is magnificent, and I think that what they’ve done overall is pretty impressive. So I’m glad they’re getting recognized just as much as I’m glad we are."
posted by waraw at 12:02 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Venture Brothers is the best show on television.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:03 PM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


I liked this series better when it was That Seventies Show.
posted by srboisvert at 12:08 PM on September 2, 2009


Jon Hamm's John Ham.
posted by brain_drain at 12:09 PM on September 2, 2009


"... My big epiphany about Mad Men is this: lots of people are drawn to the show because of the early-60s fashion and design. And that's awesome. But Matt Weiner has said (I think I saw this in an interview linked on Alan Sepinwall's blog) that he plans to end the show in 1970... which means that as the seasons progress (and you can see this start to happen in S3 and even towards the end of S2), that look is going to mutate with the times. And I honestly wonder if people who're just there for the design will be as riveted when everything looks like 1970."
posted by COBRA! at 2:17 PM on September 2

By the time MM S8 or S9 is out, we'll all be watching it in 3D, and 3D will make even the craptastic shag carpets and Harvest Gold/Avocado Green kitchens of 1969/1970 look fantastic. Not to mention what 3D is going to do for Christina Hendricks, who is nearly 3D, herself, now. They'll be going back and re-issuing season 1 to 7 in remastered 3D box sets, too, I bet.

The future (of the Mad Man 1960's) is so bright, I've got to wear (Sony 3D enhancement) shades...
posted by paulsc at 12:10 PM on September 2, 2009


By the way, the characters on Mad Men are supposed to be a bit wooden. They are the people who were blindsided by the social upheaval of the 1960s. They are about to be dragged uncomfortably into a different culture, different world, where the rules they took for granted in the 1950s about gender relations, social clout, and what is considered "successful" are completely turned on end.

Hmm, I always see discomfort as a great producer of restrained emotion, which I don't see a lot of. Peggy is pretty good at that.
posted by kathrineg at 12:16 PM on September 2, 2009


OK, so I haven't seen Mad Men other than the first episode, which I watched a long time ago -- I wasn't impressed enough to want to make a commitment to watch every other episode, so I back-burnered it in favor of other stuff. I know some people here have said it's a slow burn, which is fine, and it's on my Netflix queue so I'll definitely watch it at some point in the future.

What bugs me about the whole phenomenon, though, is that I get a vibe of "borrowed intellectual equity" from just about everything that's written about it. Most of this is due to the "best show on television" hyperbole -- like, if it turns out I don't like Mad Men, it must mean I'm some kind of Jon-and-Kate-watching mouth-breather who doesn't have the capacity to understand narrative nuance and sublime storytelling.

It's probably just me, though. I generally agree when people say The Wire is the Best Show Ever, and I don't get that borrowed-equity vibe from people who talk about it. I guess smugness is best perceived by people not in the know.

I like Dexter. But yeah, season 3 was a big letdown, particularly after the suspense of season 2. Also it needs more female characters who aren't kind of pathetic.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:18 PM on September 2, 2009


They are about to be dragged uncomfortably into a different culture
This is also an attraction for me. We as the audience know what's coming, the tremendous social upheaval just ahead. I shivered with dread when (avoiding spoilers) a certain invitation showed a certain date. I thrill to think of how these characters, so molded by one era in time are going to handle the transitions into the new era that will come.

Again, slow, slow, slow burn.

The anticipation is killing me.

I hope it'll last.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:25 PM on September 2, 2009


The Venture Brothers is the best show on television.
posted by vibrotronica


For stuff that's currently running, I put it a close #2 to Mad Men. but, then, I haven't gotten a chance to check out Breaking Bad.
posted by COBRA! at 12:29 PM on September 2, 2009


I shivered with dread when (avoiding spoilers) a certain invitation showed a certain date.

Yep. Me, too.
posted by ericb at 12:40 PM on September 2, 2009


The Venture Brothers is the best show on television.

I'm pretty sure it's Metalocalypse now -- at least on the basis of a surprisingly strong season two vs. a surprisingly meandering season three for VB -- but Mad Men is just a little better than both. It's very close for me, though.

And yeah, the third season of Dexter was a little too Murder, She Wrote for me, but I have high hopes for season four. Apparently someone remembered the show started out being about Dexter hunting serial killers. Who knew?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:40 PM on September 2, 2009


Damn ... I wish we had a thread where we could discuss the show's characters and plots, foreshadowing and expected/anticipated plot twists -- especially in the current season.
posted by ericb at 12:42 PM on September 2, 2009


First, let me say that I love Mad Men. That said, I do understand how many people would be bored by it, or find the acting wooden. And, I understand the criticism that nothing much ever seems to happen.

What keeps me coming back is the somewhat off-kilter surrealism they invoke sometimes, often simply from some of the framing...the silent way the characters sometimes occupy the settings. It often reminds me of a Twin Peaks sort of atmosphere. Silent, moody, stylish...with a very dark undercurrent just below the surface of each character.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:47 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Heck, the Draper house is full of knotty pine, to boot.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:49 PM on September 2, 2009


I thrill to think of how these characters, so molded by one era in time are going to handle the transitions into the new era that will come.

Pete Campbell will ditch his wife, come out, grow his hair long, move to San Francisco and settle in the Haight. He'll become a "drug pusher" and sell "acid and grass" to all of the other hippies!
posted by ericb at 12:51 PM on September 2, 2009


What keeps me coming back is the somewhat off-kilter surrealism they invoke sometimes, often simply from some of the framing...

As well as clever transitions, sound effects, etc. For example, the transition of Pete Campbell entering Specimen Room #1 at the fertility clinic transitions to Roger Sterling repeatedly whacking a novelty paddle-ball back-and-forth at his desk. Or, the transitions involving one person exiting through a door in one scene to another person entering a different door in the newly transitioned scene.
posted by ericb at 12:57 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


*the shot of Pete Campbell...*
posted by ericb at 12:59 PM on September 2, 2009


I find it extremely gimmicky -- not the design, but the whole "omg they're SO not-PC but WAIT! WAIT! they're just like US!, only they're not diplomatic or sneaky about their racism/misogyny/antisemitism/etc the way WE are now!". I really dislike the -- obviously deliberate -- stilted delivery of the not-so-great-to-begin-with dialogue, and the slow pacing wouldn't bother me if the show weren't simply so utterly banal in its insights. The writing is very average -- there's better stuff on TV today and until recently there was stuff that was actually 10x better -- and the redhead lady is the only effective, interesting actress there, I don't see others building a career off of this thing except for her. If you're into fetishism of the era, just rent Far From Heaven that for all its copycat mannerisms -- poor Douglas Sirk... -- is much, much better.

But more power to the creators of this series because even if their audience must be comparatively tiny they've managed to build a product that makes people -- at least some people -- feel cooler, hence the frankly sad Internet obsession with this, in the final analysis, very average show.
posted by matteo at 1:00 PM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


The Wire was a very important show, but for about half its run it wasn't actually great television qua television. Pacing and other problems galore. Both Mad Men and Breaking Bad are significantly better than the average quality of The Wire but then they've been running for much less time and thus it's unfair to compare, since the first two seasons of The Wire were brilliant and it was only later that it went in to decline.

But we really need to get over this whole "There is no god show but The Wire and David Simon is its prophet!" thing 'cause there are lots of really great shows that it disrespects. Very few are as important but "important" and "good" aren't always the same.
posted by Justinian at 1:01 PM on September 2, 2009


Mad Men is one of those shows, like the Wire, that trusts its viewers enough not to spoonfeed them plot points. Even when I was spoiled for one of the biggest secrets of the first season, I was still completely engrossed watching it develop. It's a pleasure to watch a show that doesn't try to make parallels explicit with awful expository dialogue and pop music. TV doesn't have enough writers who trust you to pay attention, connect the dots yourself, and enjoy the rewards of watching a well-built story with multidimensional characters.

Plus, the barware is exquisite.

That said, the first few episodes were very tough for me to watch. It moved slowly, the incredible sexism of the characters was off-putting, and Don Draper's identity confusion wasn't all that interesting. Thanks to Netflix sending me a couple of disks at once, I got swept up in it. The acting really did help--I think the women of Mad Men are incredible.
posted by gladly at 1:02 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I enjoy saying that True Blood is better in two seasons than Buffy ever was in seven, but only because it annoys my girlfriend.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2009


dyombit: Right, Zildjian's been around for a long time. The reason I threw that link in there was that it had a bit on the competition between the Turkish Zildjian company and the American one that began in the 20s. I was thinking the need for differentiation was of some consequence, but in retrospect, that's a little too far between my lines.
posted by el_lupino at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2009


Mad Men is overrated. So is True Blood, but not as much.

People taking True Blood as anything but bawdy fucking'n'sucking Sunday night entertainment drive me insane. It's not necessary to your life to watch it, but it's fun.
posted by saturnine at 1:21 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I refuse to watch Mad Men based only on the fact that it's so chock full of laughable typographical anachronisms.

And also because I don't receive AMC.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:22 PM on September 2, 2009


Meh. Couldn't watch more than 5 minutes of Mad Men without going "is this IT?!?!" Expectations for TV must be at all time low. Or I'm just a crank.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:25 PM on September 2, 2009


I'm pretty sure it's Metalocalypse now -- at least on the basis of a surprisingly strong season two vs. a surprisingly meandering season three for VB

Two words: The Nozzle.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:27 PM on September 2, 2009


Or I'm just a on crank.
FTFY and recommend you watch Breaking Bad :-P
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:39 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


People seem to like that Dexter show, too. I finished season 1 last week, and I am glad it is over. What a pile of steaming nothing.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:05 AM on September 2 [2 favorites +] [!]


If you want to derail a thread with a personal opinion of yours that is unrelated to the topic at hand, can you at least try to make sure that that opinion isn't utter bullshit next time. For example, an unrelated personal opinion that wouldn't be utter bullshit could sound something like:

People seem to like that Dexter show, too. I finished season 1 last week, and I am glad I got the mental acuity to appreciate its unadvertised depth. What a pile of glowing excellence.

See, it's not that hard!
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 1:55 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


From: Netflix Shipping
Subject: For Thu: Mad Men: Season 1: Disc 4
Date: Wed, 2 Sep 2009 13:00:11 -0700 (PDT)

Mad Men: Season 1: Disc 4
Arriving on or around: Thursday, Sep 03, 2009
Bring it on, baby.

(lights up cigarette, pours a Manhattan)
posted by crapmatic at 1:55 PM on September 2, 2009


"I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana."



I seriously pity those who can't get into the show.


Don't miss Vanity Fair's long feature, with lovely Annie Leibovitz photos of Don and Bets.
(Why no loving spread on the silver fox, Roger Sterling, who I have a terrible lech for, even after this week's song.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:58 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how "outstanding" the Tom & Lorenzo analysis is.

Keever's right: What's Alan Watching? and Footnotes of Mad Men are better, and I'd add Amanda Marcotte's posts at Pandagon to that list.
posted by robcorr at 1:59 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I prefer Breaking Bad to Mad Men, but I've only seen a few episodes of the latter. Glacial pacing. Rich people bemoaning their self-inflicted problems make me say, "Suck it up and deal," and off I go to Chopped or Alton Brown.

Love me Elizabeth Moss though. She'll always be Zoe from The West Wing to me.
posted by Tacodog at 2:03 PM on September 2, 2009


I love Mad Men like crazy, and want to have a million of its babies. But I can see how it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. And that's fine. I don't think I'm better or smarter than people who don't like it, and I'm kind of weirded out by the fact that people get defensive about not liking (or liking) a TV show.

The Project Rungay boys turned me on the the Basket of Kisses blog. Lots of discussion, in-depth analysis...I love that stuff.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:11 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I've got Kings lined up on Netflix. I knew it wasn't going to last, and I'm tired of getting invested in series television that gets canned before the storylines resolve.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:13 PM on September 2, 2009


I don't get all the ridiculous chin to the sky snobbery about this.

It's about media.
posted by mediareport at 2:49 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Royal Pains. I forgot Royal Pains.
posted by i_cola at 3:05 PM on September 2, 2009


Meh. Couldn't watch more than 5 minutes of Mad Men without going "is this IT?!?!"

At least you gave it a chance.
posted by spaltavian at 3:06 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


AMC's Mad Men is the best show on telivision that no one is watching

Half the women on my Facebook list have chosen Mad Men icons for their profiles in lieu of photos.

I just saw an article about this program on Slate yesterday.

Your phrasing makes Mad Men sound like an obscure gem, like a surf-punk band that played two shows at CBGB's in 1972 before the bassist died of an overdose.

That's not the case. It's a popular, well-promoted, mainstream TV show. I mean, I never watch TV at all; if I've heard of a show, it's popular.
posted by jason's_planet at 3:14 PM on September 2, 2009


So, I met Matt Weiner and chatted feminism wand historiography with him, and that show? Is all him. It's auteur tv.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:19 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


telivision

this is a fascinating misspelling.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:20 PM on September 2, 2009


Is this one of those things you need a high-speed torrent connection for?

Do they even make televisions any more? I can't remember the last time I watched a television...
posted by five fresh fish at 3:21 PM on September 2, 2009


I find it extremely gimmicky -- not the design, but the whole "omg they're SO not-PC but WAIT! WAIT! they're just like US!, only they're not diplomatic or sneaky about their racism/misogyny/antisemitism/etc the way WE are now!"

This. I've watched a bunch of it and everyone in my office is obsessed with it, and it is lovely, no question. But it's so winking -- scene after scene of "look, he's washing down his Valium with a martini!", "look she's pregnant and smoking!", "look, the kids aren't in seatbelts! and they crashed into a tree! because she's drinking! in the car!" . . . . I get it! And I freely admit that I have only watched nine or ten episodes of however many there are, but every single one was about Don Draper having an affair with one or another hot woman. In one group of episodes, the twist was that she was Jewish.

I want to love the show. Everyone loves the show. Christina Hendricks is very hot and John Slattery even more so, but the show itself -- I just can't watch it.
posted by The Bellman at 3:27 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think some people here are not getting Mad Men at all, ie: Pacing and who this show is about (the ennui of the "rich", etc).

It's glacial pacing and class presentation are for a reason. These are not classic boomers as we know from the sixties. These are the parents of boomers. These are the WWII generation and just after WWII generation. And culture-time was static for them, or at least they wanted it to be static. These people saw the horrors of WWII and Korea and the invention of the bomb and the start of the cold war. The world sobered up and realized mankind, for the very first time, could destroy the planet in just a few minutes. Shit was moving way too fast. So they did everything they could to slow down and hold on to what they could. The culture. That what the fifties were. They were a collective illusion and denial of reality. And that meant building myths about the culture. That is was all white. All middle class. Safe. Suburban. It conformed.

The characters in Mad Men are on the brink of the collapse of that culture. And what better eyes to show that collapse through than the very makers of the illusion in the first place - Madison Avenue. The tension between the Post WWII American Dream and the reality of the 1960 - beginning with the assassination of Kennedy (which will be the denouement of the series, BTW) - marks the difference between when the adults were in charge and when the world went back to it's adolescence. That is the very moment youth culture became the center of the culture.

Don Draper is linchpin of this tension. He is a man who has created his entire past from whole cloth to avoid thinking about the awfulness of his childhood in the depression as the orphaned son of a whore. He is Archibald Leech, not Cary Grant. Becuase no one is Cary Grant. But the run-amok the falseness of this life is making him insane. Betty is other side of this coin. She has had her life and her role created for her. And it is equally false.

The show is brilliant. And also allegorical to our present in so many ways. Our present where truth and culture is as vapid as the media that sell it. Where the adults struggle to stay in charge to the point where they sell lies to each other. I love it. But then again I worked in advertising for ten years.
posted by tkchrist at 3:35 PM on September 2, 2009 [39 favorites]


Season 1 of Mad Men is excellent, and people who don't make it through to the Kodak pitch are missing out. Season 2 started to drag a bit, and had way too much Betty Draper. She is funny to watch because she's such a clueless and shitty person inside, but there's only so much friendless child-abuse Barbie I can take. Don's vision quest among the Eurotrash was tedious as well. Still watchable, but it's lost its awesome.

I wasn't really able to get into Breaking Bad but maybe I should give it another shot. I was fascinated by the main character, but the manufactured peril from the young accomplice and his drug dealing pals seemed very shallow and silly, like the show didn't know if it wanted to be realistic or wacky, and it didn't do either very well.

True Blood is at least a tiny bit better than gratuitous bullshit like Californication and Weeds. I just started watching Weeds and it occurs to me that the makers of the show really are expecting us to think that an uncle going online (posing as his nephew) and rubbing one out while dirty-IMing the nephew's 15yo girlfriend is both hot and lovably mischievous. The way these shows wink at the audience as if to say, "I know you're just here for the tasty bits—you don't mind if I stop taking the plot seriously, do you?" True Blood's like that sometimes, but it's got a little more than that, thankfully. Just not a whole bunch more.
posted by fleacircus at 3:36 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


But it's so winking -- scene after scene of "look, he's washing down his Valium with a martini!", "look she's pregnant and smoking!", "look, the kids aren't in seatbelts! and they crashed into a tree! because she's drinking! in the car!"

I know! It's great that we've learned that to stop doing these things in present day!

*wink*
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:46 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]



Meh. Couldn't watch more than 5 minutes of Mad Men without going "is this IT?!?!"

At least you gave it a chance.


I think I've been spoiled by too much Arrested and Office, where about 10 bajillion things happen in the course of 5 minutes.

Don't get me wrong. I can watch things that are excrutiatingly slow for many people--I guess just not TV. Also, the dialogue wasn't my style, but maybe if I had waited around for 6 minutes?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:48 PM on September 2, 2009


Don's vision quest among the Eurotrash was tedious as well.

A lot of people seem really down on this part of the series ("The Jet Set" on through the end of season two), but -- if I may be SPOILERY -- this is actually some of my favorite stuff in the show, because you just don't know whether Don will ever go back to Sterling-Cooper at all. Or his family, for that matter. The moment where he just gets into the car with Joy was just jaw-dropping to me, because it's surprising and totally in character all at the same time: This is someone who decided to torch his entire life on a whim once before, after all. If the world is doomed anyway, why not indulge? If your wife's a pain in the ass and your kids make you feel guilty just by looking at you and...and, basically, if your life is a fucking sham, why not trade it in for something better, like you did the last time?

That he doesn't do it -- that he seems to come to his senses when Joy's nieces and nephews (or whatever they really are?) show up, clearly reminding Don of his own children -- says a lot about how much his life is not a sham; he's not Dick Whitman, hasn't been in forever now, and where being Don Draper was once an escape, he's now a real person with real responsibilities...whether that person is in fact the real Don or not. He doesn't have to go back to them, but he goes back anyway, and I think that's why he seems so utterly disgusted with Roger now -- because he chose that irresponsible, self-indulgent path (and all of Sterling-Cooper's paying for it, since their sale to the Brits was motivated in large part by Roger's need to pay off Wife Number 1). It's funny that Don's the one (of the old guard, anyhow) who seems most in tune with the world that's coming, but -- for all his infidelities -- also ultimately is the one most devoted to hearth and home. ...As long as he doesn't have to spend most of his time there, at least.

So, um, at any rate, this show is awesome, end of story.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:13 PM on September 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


She is funny to watch because she's such a clueless and shitty person inside, but there's only so much friendless child-abuse Barbie I can take.

What? I hear this sort of allegation all the time and I think it's completely false. There's nothing clueless about Betty Draper, except the face that she has been taught to show the world. I've been re-watching Season 1 and it's pretty clear that Betty Draper knows exactly what's going on from the very first time she gets any sort of significant dialogue. In many ways, she's a lot smarter and more aware than Don or any other white character on the show.

One of the great ironies of the show is that Don married a smart woman, cast her in the role of Perfect Mommy To His Perfect Kids, then ground her down to a bitter dust by sleeping around with other smart women.
posted by muddgirl at 4:16 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was hoping for some good commentary on mad men, but I see now that I shall have to stick to my friends for that.

On another note, I am not sure why anyone who "hates" a character for being "superficial" in mad men would even bother commenting about the show at all.

On another note, I am super glad that they ended up hiring Jon Hamm for the part of Don Draper.

On yet another note, Breaking Bad is amazing television and Walt is one of the best characters on TV in years.

I am so, so glad AMC is doing the Prisoner.
posted by shownomercy at 4:21 PM on September 2, 2009


...then ground her down to a bitter dust by sleeping around with other smart women.

Gah, someone's probably going to justifiably misinterpret this. Not all of Betty's problem's are caused by Don's infidelity. She's got a MAJOR Feminine Mystique thing going on, as I assume the 3rd season will discuss at some point if it hasn't already.
posted by muddgirl at 4:22 PM on September 2, 2009


As for Breaking Bad, I thought the pilot episode was absolutely insufferable, especially Walt...

...but it's definitely grown on me.
posted by muddgirl at 4:23 PM on September 2, 2009


For the last 2 years Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Project Runway were the only commercial TV shows I watched. I finally gave up cable because there was nothing on (and when I say cable, I mean any sort of TV reception.) I'm tempted to pay Amazon 1.98 per episode so I can watch this season, but at 13 episodes long that's 26.00. I'll wait for Netflix to get the DVD.

I do find it odd that the people I think should be watching it-- people like my mother who was 21 in 1958-- have no interest in the show. However it is fun for me to spot the props: "Oh look! My parents had the same glasses." It's also a great show for promoting discussion if your husband happens to be 11 years younger and didn't live through the 60's.

Damn ... I wish we had a thread where we could discuss the show's characters and plots, foreshadowing and expected/anticipated plot twists -- especially in the current season.

What's wrong with TWOP?

It's not The Sopranos Deadwood, though.
(nothing will ever come close...)

For those of you who are missing The Wire, have you given the Canadian show, Intelligence a try? The first season was damned good but the second season was smoking hot. There were a couple of episodes in the second season when I felt stunned at the end of the 45 minutes, as if someone had hit me in the face with a frying pan.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:31 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one's watching it because they're too busy turning their Facebook/Twitter avatars into cartoon images based on Mad Men.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 4:50 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That Infanta montage was pretty sweet.
posted by The Whelk at 5:03 PM on September 2, 2009


I watched about half a dozen episodes before giving up. Hm.

So this is a show about the worst human beings an era has to offer? And an apparent moral play based on their lives? How does that make sense?

I should give up on television. I don't know if there's anything there. It's a dead medium.
posted by koeselitz at 5:05 PM on September 2, 2009


And I honestly wonder if people who're just there for the design will be as riveted when everything looks like 1970.

If they do 1970 as well as they do 1960, the answer is yes. One of the things that's great about the design of Mad Men is that unlike most period pieces, they don't take the one year/one style approach to production design. And for everything that casual users notice, there's ten more things for us design nerds to geek out over.

I think the Sterling/Cooper office is the mid century modern set piece that draws people in, but range they display when they get out of the office is brilliant. Peggy's Apartment, The Draper Kitchen, Don's California adventure. Bert Cooper's Japan fetish. If they can keep that range, I actually can't wait for them to progress through 1970.
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:12 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the best show on TV.

Doctor Who and The Venture Bros are close behind. I'm pretty pumped about the Venture Bros season 4 trailer.
posted by painquale at 6:01 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Roger is my favorite too, for the record. I LOVED his graceful smackdown of Don, that barn-raised stud putting on airs, this week.

mattdidthat, it's a pen, I assume! A fancy lady-professional's pen, right?

Also, I called the accordion.

What makes me most furious about Mad Men (aside from things from the mouth of the creator which were just too brave and poorly thought-out in a room of women who study media theory) is the jewelry. I MUST HAVE THEIR JEWELRY LIEK NAO.

What I like best about Mad Men is the reflexivity. It's about manufacturing brittle consumerist happiness in the postmodern era, and the mediated American dream's roots in actual creative know-how. It amazes me that it gets such short commercial breaks.

It's hitting its stride in season three, in terms of audience numbers, so now would be the best time for the backlash. Whatever, haters. Stop watching advertisements and you won't feel so helpless. Mad Men tried to tell you that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:28 PM on September 2, 2009


Aha! Thanks, Ambrosia Voyeur!
posted by mattdidthat at 7:51 PM on September 2, 2009


So this is a show about the worst human beings an era has to offer? And an apparent moral play based on their lives? How does that make sense?

"Lives of the Saints" may be morally edifying, but I suspect quite boring.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:06 PM on September 2, 2009


Actually, it's all dismemberment and martyrdom and mysteriously sweet-smelling rotting corpses. It's like a big crazy Dario Argento movie, plus God and stuff. Hours of entertainment.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:19 PM on September 2, 2009


Please tell me Christina Hendricks gets nakers in it.
posted by Chocomog at 8:24 PM on September 2, 2009


On another note, I am not sure why anyone who "hates" a character for being "superficial" in mad men would even bother commenting about the show at all.

Yes, this. I love Mad Men in the same way I loved Sopranos--it's a critique of how men perform maleness, how power oppresses even the people who live off its fat, how people can live entire lives struggling to reconcile crushing capitalist greed with a wholesome, domestic life. No one is really superficial, everyone suffers, everyone has a past and a context. Betty Draper is the only character who would even remotely qualify as one-note, and that exterior chips away around episodes 6 and 7 in season 1. At Season 3 she's one of my favorite characters. She reminds me a bit of Carmela Soprano, another wife who is both buoyed up and suppressed by her husband's economic and social status. Someone earlier complained that the mind-bogglingly dated behavior was gimmicky. To each his own, I suppose. Among my friends, especially the ones who don't read bell hooks and Ta Nehisi-Coates, the displays of racism, anti-semitism and particularly the sexism has been an enlightening element for people who would never otherwise consider that women, blacks and Jews were uniquely, light-heartedly and extravagantly dismissed a mere 50 years ago. It's not a moral play about how Bad everyone is, especially when (sob) one of your beloved characters does something unforgivably racist/sexist/whateverist and then remains just as vulnerable, despicable and charming as ever.

And seriously, no one is eating their shit over this show just because it's pretty. People love this show because it's smart as fuck and one of the few current dramas that doesn't dumb down its dialogue or declaw its content for the lowest common denominator. I just wish it were on HBO so we can get some Mad Men nudity already.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:42 PM on September 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


So we're debating whether or not Mad Men is awesome? Put me down for awesome. If you don't get the show, no hard feelings. It's probably not paced for everyone. So far, I'm a bit wobbly on the third season -- the last episode seemed very unlikely, for lack of a better word. But Weiner has earned my faith, and this is a show that plays out patiently, demanding patience in the process.

The only reason I can think of that people would compare MM to The Wire is because they are both among the best shows that have been on television, and they aired (are airing) in the same era. Otherwise, there is almost nothing in common. What is more remarkable is the era itself. Between DVR, DVD collections, Hulu and bit torrent, the technology is driving an unbelievable golden age of television. Truth be told, HBO got it started with The Sopranos, but now everyone is running with it. After half a century, TV is finally coming into its own as a true artistic medium. The last five years or so, I've been really let down by movies and (especially) music. But what's happening on TV more than makes up for it.
posted by Edgewise at 8:57 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I should give up on television. I don't know if there's anything there. It's a dead medium.

The past 8 years or so have seen better television, if you know where to look, and more of it, than at any other time since the medium was created.

That period has also seen worse television, without having to look, and more of it, than at any other time since the medium was created.

But, like fff, I almost never actually turn on a television, and pick and choose what I want to watch and download it, so I'm quite firmly in the glass-half-full category.

It's all about the writing, at the end of the day. The Wire, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Rome, Battlestar Galactica even, and less-successful shows like John From Cincinnati or Carnivale... all fascinating, (usually) well-written long-arc programs, where the sheer number of hours televised have meant a whole different kind of experience than can be gotten from even the best movies. When you've got something like the Sopranos, with, what, something like 400 hours over 6 years, characters can be explored in a way that, even on episodic television in the past with its slavish devotion to wrapping up the A, B and C storylines in 48 (or 24) minutes every week, hasn't really happened before. It's truly a new world, and I've actually started watching (well, downloading, like I said) and paying attention to television again for the first time in decades because of what's been happening. It's been a feast for me, because I only really started in the last year or two, and have been able to go back and watch some of the great stuff that has been produced in the last decade. Mini-series too, like From The Earth To The Moon or Band of Brothers. Phenomenal stuff.

But don't get me started on True Blood. If that show isn't written for barely-literate 12-year-olds, it's written by them. It's insultingly stupid.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:01 PM on September 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


You know what was a good show? Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It had, like, Data AND Geordi AND Worf...
posted by bicyclefish at 9:30 PM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


When you've got something like the Sopranos, with, what, something like 400 hours over 6 years

Um, around 80 hours over 6 years, actually. Not that your point isn't true, of course, but 400 hours is high by a factor of 5.
posted by Justinian at 9:35 PM on September 2, 2009


Right, yeah. I shudder to think of all the brain cells I've killed since I got my math degree 20+ years ago.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:43 PM on September 2, 2009


It's a TV show. Like or don't like it. If you don't like it, don't watch it. I happen to like it. I watch it. What's the big deal?
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:12 PM on September 2, 2009


Heh. That is simply not the way that Metafilter works, my friend.

Or the internet at large, where the having of opinions is the functional equivalent of the right to bear arms, for that matter.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:29 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Band of Brothers. Phenomenal stuff.

Oh my, YES, YES and YES.
posted by ericb at 10:59 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's how many people are actually watching Mad Men. Apparently that doesn't even crack the top 25 for cable viewers.
posted by skullbee at 12:24 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love this show because it reeks of the same "turn reality into a product before someone else does!" stench that my dad used to talk about -- he was an army illustrator in the 60's that went to work for Ford by 1974.

Really, as much as i can appreciate the archetype of the "non-man" that Don Draper is, and the incredibly super-curvy hotness and power of Joan (who is the shadow-boss before women could really be the boss in an office), and the whole groupthink/classist and static personality expectations of most characters, this show really shines for me when they actually talk about advertising, about how things must be presented to the public. The way the show showed the sudden transformation from print-ads to TV ads within the agency was great -- a one man division becomes the prime focus.

It's like a primer on media conformity and american pop culture rolled into one.

The next time you see a Pepsi ad on tv, think about how that message became plausible and acceptable and i bet your experience in watching Mad Men will inform your thinking with some worthwhile gem (which is more than the ad itself will do, no doubt).

With season 3 i'm not yet digging the merger business, and the scandal factor seems to have amped up a few notches -- Peggy in particular seems to be headed for some kind of meltdown -- i just hope that as the characters develop they manage to maintain the culture-shift awareness the way they have in the past.
posted by phylum sinter at 2:35 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I enjoy saying that True Blood is better in two seasons than Buffy ever was in seven, but only because it annoys my girlfriend.

It probably annoys her because the 2 shows have nothing substantial in common, rending comparisons pointless.

I don't know, but I suspect that to really appreciate Mad Men you have to have been alive during that time period.

I can tell you that the show is loathed by several female relatives of mine who were young adults during the 60's. A few eps were watched and it was quickly abandoned because they found it 'stressful' or 'annoying'.
posted by zarah at 3:08 AM on September 3, 2009


The amount of detail in the production is incredible. You can even smell the alcohol and cigarette smoke.

I love it.
posted by elmono at 7:56 AM on September 3, 2009


(True Blood and Buffy) have nothing substantial in common, rending comparisons pointless.

Well, I guess. Other than headstrong, supernaturally-gifted female lead characters who develop rocky romances with socially-awkward vampires (romances which are put to the test when the female lead in character begins to fall, against her better judgment, for a sexually aggressive blond bad boy who himself has an adversarial relationship with her initial paramour), the two shows have absolutely nothing substantial in common. Also, a comparison of any given genre show to any other show in the exact same genre is pointless.

You know how we call SF serial shows "space operas" and western serials "horse operas?" Shouldn't we have a term like that for horror serials? "Blood opera?" "Fang opera?" "Dork opera?"
posted by hifiparasol at 8:16 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


This sort of reminds me of the debate about whether "American Beauty" is a classic film or not. The amount of exquisite detail in that film was breathtaking in its meticulousness, and the first time I saw it, I was mesmerized. On second and subsequent viewings, it lost something, or perhaps it never had that something to begin with behind all the flash. I've heard similar things about "Revolutionary Road." "Gangs of New York" is also meticulous and well-crafted (and supposedly researched up the wazoo) but I found it empty and uninvolving.
posted by blucevalo at 8:35 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don is so fucking hot. That's the only reason I'll ever need.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 8:36 AM on September 3, 2009


Well, I guess. Other than headstrong, supernaturally-gifted female lead characters who develop rocky romances with socially-awkward vampires (romances which are put to the test when the female lead in character begins to fall, against her better judgment, for a sexually aggressive blond bad boy who himself has an adversarial relationship with her initial paramour), the two shows have absolutely nothing substantial in common.

Yeah, I mean, they have very different timbres, but they're basically both dealing with the question "What if vampires and other supernatural creatures existed?" I like True Blood way more, largely because it refuses the central conceit that most other supernatural shows have: "Okay so all this CRAZY SHIT is going on but WE ALONE are allowed to know about it, the fucking SHEEPLE can't handle it and WE MUST PROTECT THEM"

True Blood, for all its faults (and oh man, there are so many), is at least willing to democratize the whole thing; the first episode starts with this ratty-lookin' pudgy redneck exposing himself as a vampire, vampires have to deal with their own internal politics and ethics and quasi-familial power struggles and other small choices that fill our day-to-day lives. Humans fetishize vampires. Humans try to become vampires out of a sort self-destructive lust. Humans try to become vampires because they think it'll solve all their problems. Humans try to become vampires based on what seems eminently logical (as in Lafayette's incredibly awesome last-ditch begging-for-life effort: "Not only will I be a badass vampire.... I'll be YOUR badass vampire."). Stephen Root -- STEPHEN FUCKING ROOT -- is a vampire.

A lot of supernatural shows don't seem to spend much time questioning the basic premise: that people should be protected from the unknown, rather than participate in the full reality of the world. It's a weirdly aristocratic/gnostic kind of elitism. And while I think that itself could be fertile territory for plotlines (having the characters be all: Hey, why AREN'T we telling more people about this? Why AREN'T Mulder and Scully allowed to blog about their adventures? Why CAN'T the Scooby-gang rent some airtime to start a "Say NO to Hellmouths" TV campaign? Why DO we have to keep hiding Alf from the Ochmoneks?), most of these shows don't spend much time addressing the issue of whether we should spread some knowledge, alter some paradigms.

True Blood, like Alien Nation, is the rare show that lets everyone in on the craziness, and deals with the fact that, vampires or aliens or whatever the fuck else is happening, we still gotta deal with the fact that table four wants their remoulade and god damn it Terry where the hell is that burger for table five and shit, Sam, I can't find a babysitter, can I take tomorrow off? No matter how nutty the world has gotten, people still gotta get up in the morning, people still piss each other off, people still worry about their mortgages and next meal and whether these shoes go with this belt.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:53 AM on September 3, 2009 [13 favorites]


I can tell you that the show is loathed by several female relatives of mine who were young adults during the 60's. A few eps were watched and it was quickly abandoned because they found it 'stressful' or 'annoying'.

My mother, who was born in 1952, feels the same way. We all thought she'd love the show, but the depictions of the beleaguered housewives and dismissed secretaries reminds her too much of her own adolescence spent watching her mother toil in the kitchen. I don't think Mad Men's ability to discomfit women of that generation bespeaks a lack of accuracy, but quite the opposite.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:19 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, Mad Men detractors seem to think that the show's meticulous design means it's superficially uninvolving, but every time I watch an episode, I pick up on something strange and far too intellectual for cable TV. The episode where SPOILER Bobbi Barrett tells Don that he has a reputation and he leaves her tied up in the bed? That's all about the crisis of how we can't (willingly or objectively) face our selves as they are portrayed in the world, no matter how in control we think we are. Straight out of Lacan's méconnaissance/Symbolic Order of the Mirror Stage. The hints about "German vocab" and repeated shots of mirrors everywhere are all nods to that branch psychoanalytic theory.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:32 AM on September 3, 2009


I find it extremely gimmicky -- not the design, but the whole "omg they're SO not-PC but WAIT! WAIT! they're just like US!, only they're not diplomatic or sneaky about their racism/misogyny/antisemitism/etc the way WE are now!".

Some interesting thoughts on that thought here.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:28 AM on September 3, 2009


Holy shit. Alien Nation. Alienation. I just got that.
posted by spec80 at 2:59 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some interesting thoughts on that thought here.

I got stuck in the 3rd or 4th paragraph, when it became clear that the guy had only watched the first two episodes before making his Final Judgement of the show.
posted by muddgirl at 3:36 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, I had little initial interest, but on the strength of this thread, I, um, acquired the first season, and just watched the first episode.

*stands; applauds*

That is some very smart shit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:02 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also: HOLY CRAP "Peggy Moss" is Zoey Bartlet!

I knew I'd seen her somewhere before!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:17 PM on September 3, 2009


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