This review encompasses all four seasons of Mad Men aired to date, so it will contain a few spoilers. I will try not to drop any huge ones, but you should probably not read it if you have not watched Mad Men and would like to at some point.
Most people have heard of Mad Men, and most know that it is a phenomenal show. That said, it does not have huge viewing figures compared to other successful shows. This is a shame, but since it has not led to any worries about it being cancelled, it doesn’t bother me too much. Hopefully I can convince more people to watch it.
The star of the show is undoubtably Don Draper, who just exudes cool at every step. Strangely, for the star of a TV show, he is also a bit of a bastard. In fact, he is a complete bastard for most of the show. He treats people badly and cheats on his wife more often than I have a cup of tea. BUT you still want to be him!
Don is a partner in an advertising firm, so the show features a lot of brainstorming ideas, schmoozing potential clients, and dealing with the technological changes that the era was famous for. Apparently people also drank a lot of whiskey! Every time anyone walks into an office the alcohol comes out.
The show does a good job of sharing screen time between many different characters. There is the vile Pete Campbell, the old school Roger Stirling, the career girl Peggy, and the gorgeous secretary Joan. The show moves at quite the pace, but you still get to know a lot about all the characters and will soon decide which ones you like and which ones you despise.
So the characters are interesting and the show gives and insight into life in NY in the 1960s, but why is the show entertaining? In theory, it should all be rather boring. Fortunately the script is absolutely golden. It really shines in two main ways for me. First, there are great one liners and witty remarks. Not quite as in-your-face as, say, the West Wing, but it is there. You can easily miss them if you are not paying attention. Second, the script is unpredictable. You honestly never know whether a character will react with sympathy, or get mad. It doesn’t feel arbitrary and sporadic, just unexpected. I remember really liking a character one minute and then being genuinely appalled at the reaction of some of the characters to a colleague coming out as gay.
I have no idea what it was like to live in the early 60s, and I have no idea how accurate Mad Men is, but it certainly captures a fantastic atmosphere. You can’t help but feel nostalgic for a more simple time. Stupid of course, but that is how powerful this show is. You must watch this show.