Monday, November 09, 2009

Hey, Don Draper: Who Mows Your Yard?

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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  • You know, I've bumped against a few reviews and summaries of MM in the last couple of years, but this is by far the funniest, most incisive, and quite possibly most accurate I've seen so far.

    By Blogger warren, at November 9, 2009 at 5:18 PM  

  • You forgot Don and Betty'th daughter Thally: tharp ath a tack, but picking up a lot of damage from her folkth.

    By Blogger flashman, at November 9, 2009 at 8:19 PM  

  • What happen to Hollis the black guy in the elevator. A low key brother who keeps the lift a liftin', "what flo suh." Hollis plays the back like a caboose porter. Speaking of the back, he has no background story other than the backdrop of elevator. He only speaks when spoken to and he knows his place. Most importantly he understands how to not get in trouble around them good white folks.

    By Anonymous KissMyBlackAds, at November 10, 2009 at 7:32 PM  

  • Now I MUST see this show. People who I never thought in a jillion years would watch something like this do... and I'm in advertising for Christ sake! If this is an example of your writing ability, then get the damn book published and I'll be the first to buy it. This was exquisite.

    By OpenID adchick, at November 10, 2009 at 9:04 PM  

  • That about sums it up. Excellent effort.

    By Blogger Moda di Magno, at November 11, 2009 at 10:35 AM  

  • Right on, Jetpacks, you nailed it.

    By Blogger rebecca, at November 11, 2009 at 2:26 PM  

  • very well reviewed. and hysterical.

    did you see all 3 seasons. Cause while you are spot are doing a major disjustice to the character development if you have not seen the first 2 seasons.

    otherwise, spot on. spot fucking on.

    ps I love Joan.

    By Blogger shaun., at November 13, 2009 at 1:23 PM  

  • Hey, Shaun - no - haven't yet. But I plan on it. The DVDs are here and waiting to be watched.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at November 13, 2009 at 1:33 PM  

  • You forgot Peter Campbell's wife - Trudy.

    The ultimate symbol of white privilege who needs constant reassurance to overcome her trivial insecurities.

    While the creepy Pete needs an sensible wife to compliment his messed up 'Yang'...he gets a emotionally messed up, self-obsessed, wannabe socialite without any useful thought or skill 'Yin'.

    The writers mercifully saved humanity in season 2 when they made her infertile.

    /Sorry haven't seen season 3 yet.

    By Anonymous Catcher In The Rye, at November 22, 2009 at 4:13 AM  

  • Fantastic review! Favorite line?

    "I think he's channeling Dave Foley from News Radio" -Nailed it!

    If I can add to the guy into black jazz; he is a future Apple fan boy for sure!

    By Anonymous Darren, at November 22, 2009 at 10:23 PM  

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