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Friday, August 14, 2009

10 reasons we're mad for "Mad Men"

Fall TV doesn’t get into full swing until September, but you can’t ask for a more perfect return to form than new episodes of “Mad Men." Channel Surfing’s love for the Emmy-award winning drama reached new heights after a scintillating Season 2. If you haven’t gone “mad” yet, here are 10 reasons you should strap on a straitjacket, ‘60s-style. "Mad Men" returns at 9 p.m. Sunday on AMC.

Good Don, Bad Don: The complexity of Don Draper as good father, bad husband continues to be one of “Mad Men’s” most compelling draws. It’d be easy to loathe him for his constant philandering (and many probably do), but that Betty is so emotionally stunted and child-like tends to keep Don somewhat bulletproof. Despite his personal flaws, Don has remained intensely likeable in two seasons. Or maybe that’s just Jon Hamm’s real-life presence and the fact that he makes all the ladies swoon.

“Meditations in an Emergency”: The Season 2 finale did what all great closers are supposed to do -- wrap up loose ends, create new challenges and ramp up drama for next season’s major plot points. The Don-Duck Phillips showdown was a delicious serving of one-upmanship gone awry, while Don-Betty and Pete-Peggy finally addressed the tension between them in profound, potentially life-altering ways.

The most disturbing scene in “Mad Men” history: Joan moved from salacious eye candy as a sexpot secretary to scary, unexpected territory as an abused wife at the end of Season 2. Her marriage to a well-bred doctor seemed to finally give her the stability she long craved (and perhaps deserved). But after a horrific sequence in Don’s office, all that’s left are emotional scars that will change her character forever. Who will she confide in?

Salvatore’s secret: “Mad Men” had largely treated Salvatore’s closeted homosexuality with a wink and a nudge, but not much more in terms of a greater social context. But when a European intern openly came out to the Sterling Cooper office, the slurs and crass jokes made viewers fully understand why Salvatore’s inner turmoil stays exactly where it needs to in the close-minded ‘60s.

Oh, those crazy Campbells: The products of high society, Pete and Trudy Campbell are together because they belong to the same social caste, not because Pete truly loves his wife. A despicable character at the outset who provided far more comic relief in Season 2 than expected, Pete has become more likable even if he hasn’t truly matured. While watching Pete fling a turkey over the balcony proved an eye-opener for how stilted marriages work, ultimately, the big revelation regarding his brief fling with Peggy could create dark waves this season.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, trozwado@greenbaypressgazette.com

On skinny ties and pencil skirts: Between Betty Draper’s Grace Kelly style (and uncanny resemblance) and hubby Don Draper’s classic, sixties corporate chic suits, “Mad Men” is as much about the fashion as it is the plot or acting. Few television shows have been so influential with fashion — save for “Sex and the City” or more recently “Gossip Girl” — but it’s to "Mad Men's" credit that the artistic touch doesn’t feel heavy-handed. Instead, I’m captivated by the dazzling array of fashion, from Betty’s love of crinoline-and-pearls look to all that tweed that Peggy Olson tends to wear.

Real life and fiction intersect: In two seasons, “Mad Men” has weathered the Nixon-Kennedy presidential race of 1960, the Cuban Missile crisis and the advent of the space race. With Season 3 set in 1963 and future seasons pushing deeper into the turbulent 1960s, the intersections between the real-life events of this tumultuous decade and the fictional realities of the show will only continue. Having the show set in a period so chock full of historical moments is, in a way, a wink at the audience because we — as the watchers four decades later — know the outcomes of the many events the characters are experiencing for the first time. We know the Cuban Missile Crisis gets resolved, we know Kennedy wins and, sadly, we can anticipate his assassination in 1963.

Mad “Women”: The complexity and depth of Betty Draper, Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway, each of whom represents a different kind of woman in a predominantly man’s world, remains compelling episode after episode. Housewife Betty survives her husband’s infidelity with a borderline frightening grace that can neither be praised, nor damned. Office vixen Joan understands her place in the man’s world — perhaps even exploits it to her advantage — but you get the sense that she wants to do more. Peggy — who works her way up from being a secretary to an office in two seasons — reflects the changing tides of women in the workplace. Each is unique, each is complex and together, they’re an unstoppable trio.

Paul Kinsey: A wannabe Bohemian writer, who lives in New Jersey and dates a black woman when it was still taboo, Paul is the '60s counterculture revolution at its nascent stages. Although he dresses, talks and acts like many of his colleagues, you sense he’s just a little — how shall we say it — different? Although he’s a secondary character, something about Paul speaks to the flip side of the 1960s the way many of us see it today, and I’m more than a little curious to see how far it will go.

Silence is golden: Talk is cheap, right? Many of the greatest moments in “Mad Men” are those without dialogue — from the sideways glances between Pete and Peggy to a brief touch between Don and Betty — and it’s a testament to the slow pace of the show. One of my all-time favorite scenes from the show is the closing of a Season 1 episode where Betty stands outside her home, wearing a negligee with a cigarette in her mouth, and calmly shoots her neighbor’s pigeons down with a gun. She doesn’t utter a word and it’s brilliant.

-- Malavika Jagannathan, mjaganna@greenbaypressgazette.com

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1 Comments:

Hey!

I've entered a contest to win a walk-on role on that retro-licious TV show, "Mad Men".

If you wouldn't mind taking a couple of seconds to vote for me, go to my blog, or copy and paste the following link which goes right to my picture:

http://madmencastingcall.amctv.com/browse/detail/EZ3MBH

Thanks a bunch!

By Blogger Mad Men Girl, At August 24, 2010 at 12:30 PM  

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