I sometimes come to the party late; and that is no exception to AMC’s critical darling Mad Men.
While everyone else was singing of it’s praises, I was not impressed. The pilot I watched when it initially aired and for only a few minutes had nothing that was grabbing me. It was one of the few times my hypocrisy in regards to television or film of any sort still occasionally occurred quite frequently, and I didn’t stick with it.
Cut to present, at the behest of some people, with some of the shows being off for weeks here and there, I began to sneak in some episodes. If you followed me on twitter, you’d see that I was NOT happy watching the show, and spoke to some of you about what I was missing.
For those like me not fully in the know, Mad Men features Jon Hamm who stars as the elusive, slick-tounged ad man on Madison Avenue named Donald Draper. Or so we think. He might be someone else all together, hiding away in the nice live of a man who goes home to a loving wife Betty (January Jones) and two kids. While he is wooing clients to the ad firm of Sterling-Cooper, with John Slattery stealing the show as Roger Sterling, he is also wooing the pants off the ladies. Also enter, for us the audience, the ‘new kid’ who we see the world of ‘Mad Men’ through at first, is Elisabeth Moss’s Peggy Olsen, who is, if I remember correctly, not from the Big Apple, is fresh. Christina Hendricks is another ‘secretary’ like Peggy, but is more like the floor-foreman of the ladies. Telling Peggy and essentially us, about the rules, who to sleep with and not sleep with, make sure to use birth control, and to not talk to Don unless spoken to, and I could go on. There is also Vincent Kartheiser’s Pete Campbell, a snake in human skin, desperately pining for the world he’ll never truly be apart of in the way he wants.
I could continue on and on regarding the other characters, there are so many of them, and the intricacies that make them work, but the show’s first season for me was a tough sell. For some of you who stuck through Season 1 while it aired week-to-week, I sympathize. It was murder for me until the last disc to get through the show.
For those who are used to normal television, where you have a lead character you connect with, let’s be clear when I say there is not really any redeemable characters in this show. At least, not at first. That or they aren’t the lead, meaning you see them around all the time, but they aren’t a focal point. (Referring to Rich Sommer and Michael Gladis especially)
Tonight as I watched the last disc of episodes though, especially with the episode Nixon vs. Kennedy, a show that seemed to feature more about those background characters a bit more, I was hit with the show’s heart. The massive lines that had ballooned out over 7-11 excruciating episodes became a clear and clever concise web of pathos, and I then found the heart of Mad Men.
For me, every show needs heart. Say what you will about some shows, like even the Sopranos, where you love to hate Tony, he had signs of sympathy, that wasn’t so elusive. It wasn’t so… cold and distant. Maybe it felt like a realistic ‘tv’ show, and not just… well, realistic. No one really knows why people do the things they do, and while I get it, sometimes, sure, my hardest hurdle was trying to connect with one character. Peggy in the first episode sleeps with Peter, a real slimeball, and I lost any sympathy or iota of care for her plight.
Even now, after I realized I dig the show I still am not a Draper fan. Not to say this as a slight against Hamm. The dude is a solid performer, and I love his performance, but the character himself, is just so… seemingly apathetic, my only want in regards to his character and my involvement of watching the show is to find out the real mystery behind Draper, or Whitman or whoever the heck he really is. Instead, I care more about Joan and Roger, the quirky but tough Bertram Cooper, and Peggy, and the barrage of other wonderful characters they’ve set up for us.
For those who love the extras, the dvds have a decent few featurettes and some commentaries from the writers of the show. Many of those who want a likeable hero or even ‘anti-hero’ to get their hooks into, Mad Men is not that type of show. For me, out of a (I believe, from memory) 13 episode season, it wasn’t until the Nixon vs. Kennedy ep which was the Season’s penultimate episode did I find that Mad Men was well worth the time and effort in any capacity, especially on DVD. The picture is sharp, crisp, considering it’s not offered currently in Blu-Ray, and you can find it in local Columbus stores from anywhere like $18.99 to $32.95.
But what do YOU think, examiners? Do you watch MadMen? Did you think Nick was spot on or just plain crazy for not liking the show right away? Or perhaps you currently are going through Season 1? Let us know and we may read your comments on Nick’s podcast, the Good, The Bad & The Geeky which sponsored by Audible.com! You can comment below or send your thoughts via e-mail or heck, if you have twitter, tweet us! Also, If you like what you hear, please subscribe on iTunes or check out our iPhone/iTouch App!