When we next see him, it will be Valentine’s Day, 1962.
While we may not learn exactly what he has been doing in the year and a half, we know that Jon Hamm, his alter ego, has been busy garnering awards, along with Matt Weiner and the whole crew: three Golden Globe, a Peabody, and 16 Emmy nods, including outstanding actor, supporting actor, writing, directing, and series.
Clearly it’s a show filling a hunger of the tv-watching audience of 2008. What are we finding there?
Well, it’s one heck of a kaleidoscope of recent history. The past forty years have seen powerful societal revolutions. MM gives us a chance to see these revolutions--which some witnessed first hand, and others, including the brainchild Weiner, inherited--all recollected in tranquility (and saturated color). Yes, the series is the poetry of our summer.
For instance, TV viewers born in each decade from 1960 on know there was a feminist revolution, but for nonboomers, we never saw exactly what it was trying to correct. MM dramatizes what women faced in the workplace when they entered it after the war. That’s not to say that women don’t still face sexism, but most of us don’t encounter it to this degree: “It’s like watching a dog play the piano” Mr. Rumsen on the thought of Peggy Olson writing copy.
Drugs are entering daily life—the beats are getting high, and it’s the beginning of the “us vs. them” with the police. Don’t trust anyone over 30 is on the horizon. Music is energizing the postwar crowd. When the Twist comes on at PJ’s in the party for Peggy, a primal scream of delight goes up that we can all relate to.
The overarching revolution that’s coming is not old versus young—it’s old order versus the new waves of energy of those who think young, challenging that order. And Matt Weiner is giving us a front row seat to the sea changes, layered with personal details of characters amid the revolutionary swells.
I am not a complete disciple of the Mad Men. I thought the storytelling itself was weak and disconnected; there were lots of strong, interesting moments that did not build together well in larger arcs.
James Wolcott’s early post also voiced the minority vote: that the series isn’t as good as people think it is, and we wish it were.
But it’s still the perfect summer fare, and the sixties are the place to be. Which may be why New York is experiencing a full revival of Hair. . .
This Sunday night, July 27, at 10:00 p.m., Mad Men second season premieres. Tom Watson, editor extraordinaire of newcritics and I will be your hosts for live blogging of the episodes. Tom leads off this Sunday. So turn on the lava lamp and join the fun. Can key parties be far off?