Thursday, June 4, 2015

MAD MEN: WHY WE LOVED IT SO MUCH



Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Courtesy of Flavorwire.com)
Just hearing the opening theme on Sunday night gave me, and millions of other viewers of Mad Men a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.  For 7 seasons (it premiered on AMC in July 2007 and had its final episode in May 2015) we followed the trials and tribulations of Peggy, Roger, Pete, Joan, Betty, and of course, Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. 
The music evoked an era, as did the visuals. It should come as no surprise that Matthew Weiner, the creator, admits to having been greatly influenced by Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, in terms of production values.
Cary Grant as Roger Thorndike in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest"
Don, the fictional creative director of Sterling Cooper (the original agency before it was transformed by partnerships, take-overs, etc.) was the quintessential, uber advertising executive of the 1960’s – at least on paper.  An extraordinarily handsome womanizer, he was a genius in wooing both clients and a multitude of woman with charm and something intangible, possibly mystique. And Don was mysterious.  In fact, the basis of his character was the idea that for years no one knew much about the man with a secretive past and Don liked it that way.  
Don was classy and true to himself (it is interesting to note that while other male characters adapted to fashion trends throughout the run of the series, Don never changed his style) and even when we hated what he was doing, we found ourselves rooting for him.  Besides, his relationship with his daughter, Sally, always seemed to redeem him in our eyes.
Because of the superb writing and excellent acting, none of the characters were portrayed as cardboard figures.  They were flawed.  We loved them one week and hated them the next, or vice versa.  Peggy could be na├»ve, but stubborn.  Joan could use her sexiness to her advantage, but also lament being labeled as such.  Pete could be callous but also sensitive.  Betty, Don’s first wife, was cold at times, but the audience was usually made to see things from her perspective. My personal favorite was Roger (John Slattery) whose delivery of lines hit the mark, week after week.
Aside from the characters themselves, viewers enjoyed having a mirror set up, reflecting the era of the sixties.  For those of us who lived through the Kennedy assassination, the bee hive hairdos, the turmoil of the Civil Rights and Women’s’ movements, it was a chance to remember all of these in context.  For those too young to recall any of it, it was a fascinating history lesson.  This was particularly so when examining a period when people smoked like chimneys, drank like fish, and said things that were outrageously “un-P.C.”
Mad Men was a unique series and its storylines took us on unexpected, thrilling journeys.  I will miss it.
Thank you Matthew Weiner for a wonderful ride.

 And thank you all for reading my blog on Rhodes Less Followed today.  You can follow me on Twitter at @VivianWrites

Have a nice weekend, Vivian

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