Those Who Can't, Critique. "Mad Men" - a Newbie's Take.
So I jumped on the "Mad Men" bandwagon only this year, curious to see if it was, as so many say, "The greatest show ever created in the history of creating shows on Earth, or for that matter, the Universe! To include all the shows that will ever be created in the future."
I enjoy the attention to detail in every episode, but my expectations for this show were set falsely high by the unending praise it has received. What I have seen in the last 13 slow-paced episodes of this trying-not-to-be-a-soap-opera Soap Opera is summed up below.
He's eccentric, he loves the Far East, he's a fat old man of unknown orientation who doesn't do any work. His appearance in any scene signals that we're going to hear melancholic yearnings for the old days, when an agency founder could go to Singapore and buy a young boy for an entire week for mere pennies on the dollar. Always in the same suit, he is slightly cantankerous but is also an open-minded type, not quick to judge a man for stealing a dead man's identity. In today's world, he'd be the guy who spouts the phrase, "It's all good!" so often that you'd want to punch him in the Adam's apple.
Speaking of not doing any work, this silver-haired, silver-tongued devil is king of fucking off. He is a cheating, lying, back-stabbing bastard who thinks the world is a set designed for him to stroll onto. When he's not around, he imagines that those parts of the world he just visited cease to exist until he steps back into them. He drinks from dawn 'til dawn, and then gets on the phone and talks smooth to all of his women. He's an old-fashioned bastard, and he knows he's a bastard, and he's easily the most compelling character on the show.
Never has the term "mousy" been better applied than to this young lady. Trying to find her way in a big mean industry in a big mean city, the secretary turned copywriter summons more lip-biting, shoulders-back resolve per episode than Mary Tyler Moore fit into an entire career of playing similar "dames." Expect her to be at the forefront of the Womens' Movement in future seasons, only in an I'm-not-sure-about-this way.
Sniveling, blue-blood, baby-faced punkass bitch of an account man, the actor portraying this guy is playing it as if it were meant for the stage. Everything is over-acted. I think he's channeling Dave Foley from "News Radio" and "Kids in the Hall." His pathetic existence is enabled by his wife, who dotes on him like the Mommy he needs. He wore a black turtleneck in the wake of the Kennedy assassination and will likely be listening to the Beatles or trying to join the Black Panthers in future seasons. Personally, I would like to see him try marijuana, and then go all Reefer Madness and jump in front of a train.
The 1960s ideal of sexy, she's the voluptuous, big-hipped lady not afraid to shake it in that Ginger from "Gilligan's Island" way. Married to a dick who is about to die in Vietnam, (foreshadowing on this show is about as clumsy as a Will Ferrell movie) she has a smooth way with men and a cat-like instinct with the women, none of whom have the hips to challenge her dominance. She will have multiple men in her life, none of whom will satisfy her the way the extra-large, chrome "electric toy" she got in "the Village" does.
"Mad Men" wants to be on the edge of societal issues, so they threw in this dude so they could address bigotry or tolerance or whatever. (Nevermind the Black people in the elevator.) Played like some sort of sashaying stereotype, sympathy for this guy is not easy to find. He's the closeted gay, and the world of 1963 is full of aggressive guys who recognize his leanings and they're all ready to take his pants off and have their way with him. By next season, he will be considering a "pioneering surgery" that will "free him to be who he was born to be." All of the other characters will understand this decision and encourage him.
A fixture in every agency, he's the guy struggling to be the hippest dude who ever lived. He's into Black Jazz, weed, cool clothes, facial hair and progressive politics. He will be jamming at Open Mic nights soon, probably playing the bongos. Trouble is he has no talent, sucks as a writer and is always getting shown up by better people in lower positions. He's annoying, has no apparent love life and thinks he's better than everyone. I predict a major nervous breakdown followed by electro-shock therapy, returning to the agency as a janitor.
Every ensemble cast, from the war movie to the campus comedy, needs a chubby kid with glasses. Enter this guy, a character so undeveloped and nondescript that you wonder why he is even around. I'm not even sure what he does, other than make sure commercials get played on the TeeVee. He will be the guy that the neighbors talk about to the news reporters in phrases like, "He was a quiet man," and "I never expected he could do something this awful."
She never smiles, despises her own children, drinks, smokes and pops pills, and hates that her marriage to the flim-flam man robbed her of her rightful place as the debutante with a scepter and a crown. She's about to carry on an affair with a weasel politico that can only end in disaster; i.e. she gets pregnant as they break up and becomes that lady with lots of children with varying last names. Age will not be kind to her and a botched face-lift will doom her to a life in the country, where the local boys won't honor her with the title MILF, but instead refer to her as "the former Cougar with the stretched eyes."
His father, who appears to him in night visions to berate him, said, "Look at your hands! They're soft as a woman's! What do you make? You grow bullshit." That sums up the business quite nicely. Now that his sins are catching up to him, perhaps our lead character can finally grow a set, maybe go to the Keys and start Cap'n Dick's Fishing Charter, maybe settle down to a life of drinking and smoking that doesn't involve ruining every life he comes in contact with. I think we're supposed to be sympathetic toward this guy, the insecure man behind a mask of security, but his wandering and pondering are starting to grate.
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