Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Television Review- Mad Men

This past Sunday was the highly anticipated series premier of Mad Men Season 4; did you get a chance to catch it? I unfortunately didn't but with my new TiVo I was able to record it! Season 4's premier delivered records with 2.9 million viewers tuning in marking it as the most watched season premier for a Emmy-winning series. I expect this season to have a huge gain in viewership for the series and well deservedly too! If your still skeptical about whether this AMC period drama is well worth your Sunday evenings, read my thoughts on the show ahead. There are a few spoilers.

In case you're unfamiliar with the show, Mad Men is a highly critically acclaimed Emmy and Golden Globe winning American period drama series created and produced by Matthew Weiner broadcasted on AMC. The show is set in the 1960s and follows a fictional advertising agency named Sterling Cooper located on Madison Avenue in New York City. The series centers around Don Draper, the Creative Director of Sterling Cooper and his professional life in the office as well as his personal life outside the office. The show also depicts historical events and social movements thematic to the 1960s.

Seeing that working in a advertising agency on Madison Avenue would be my dream come true and the fact that I've always been most intrigued by the 60s decade, I was immediately drawn to this series. After diligently watching the first three seasons, I can say this series completely blew my expectations out of the water. I was throughly impressed by the historical accuracies of not only landmark events, social movements and culture (especially the GORGEOUS fashion trends) of the 60s but also the work ethic of advertising men at the time.

Many of our male characters in the series are often shown lighting up, drinking during the work day, subjecting women to male chauvinism, and engaging in promiscuous activity in the office. In a recent study done by the Wall Street Journal, 101 male Young & Rubicam alumni were surveyed and the results of the poll showed that 58% of the sample smoked, 68% had at least one drink during the day, 45% agreed there was male prejudice towards women, 55% responded DEFINITELY YES in acknowledging sex in the workplace.

Aside from company culture, Mad Men does an incredible job in depicting American society and culture in the 1960s. Besides the themes of smoking, drinking and sexism I mentioned earlier, the show also highlights themes of adultery, feminism, racism and homophobia. The show presents many of its male characters frequently cheating on their spouses and subjecting women to pervasive sexual innuendo. The racism in 60s is also prominent in the show. Of the two black characters I can recall from the show, one worked as an elevator operator for Sterling Cooper until he gets unjustly blamed for theft in the office and the other, Carla, works as the Drapers' help and often has to deal with being talked down to by Don's princess of a wife Betty. In one episode, account man Peter Campbell spots an market opportunity for their Admiral account if they were to delve into the African-American market. Their clients gruffly respond to his suggestion by stating "Who's to say that Negroes aren't buying Admiral televisions because they think white people want them?"

Radical change can been seen as the series progresses. Peggy Olson who arrived in the first episode as a secretary for Sterling Cooper uses her smarts and wits to work her way up the ladder and ends up as a Senior Copywriter for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at the end of Season 3. The show marks notions of change through historical context as well. Peggy is shown in Season 1 getting prescribed for the newly approved Birth Control Pill and Season 3 notes social unrest throughout the progression of the Civil Rights Movement. The start of Season 4 mentions Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights activists that were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. There have also been hints on the active Twitter accounts of shows characters that we may see the return of Salvatore Romano, the Art Director of Sterling Cooper and a closet homosexual who was wrongly fired from the agency in Season 3 due to his sexuality.

One last thing I love about this show is that it plays well into the changes that were happening in advertising at the time as well. We begin in the first episode with Reader's Digest Reports on the Dangers of Smoking forcing ad man Don Draper to rethink their creative approach for the Lucky Strike Cigarettes account. Additionally, the famous "Think Small" campaign done by DDB for Volkswagen Beetle is shown in Season 1 causing Don Draper to realize the potentials of using nostalgia in their advertisements. I'm excited to see what will happen when Nixon signs the law banning cigarette advertisements on T.V.

Besides the shows great portrayal of the world of advertising and 60's decade, they've hit the spot on many other facades as well. They've assembled a great cast creating throughly complicated characters. The lead character Don Draper puts on several different faces throughout the series causing me to have many love hate feelings toward him. The visual style of the show is gorgeous and the wardrobe even more so. Don't be surprise if you start seeing women today donning Audrey Hepburn inspired hair styles. All in all, I find Mad Men to be smart, creative, engaging show and a great watch.

Recommended- Final Score 9/10

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