Monday, 10 March 2008

Mad Men

I've just watched the second episode of this show by some of the Sopranos team, with a slew of new actors. I really want to like it but I'm struggling at the moment. Its certainly well filmed and luscious but I'm not sure about the pacing which may be a little slow for modern viewing. As a quick 'for instance' Tin Men was on television yesterday - the one set in a similar era about the scams of selling aluminum house cladding with Danny de Vito, and I must say that had a more driven plotline, sharper cuts and still funny observations of the time.

I guess the challenge with Mad Men is that in between the clever evocative Madison Avenue 1960 colour schemes there's an acting style that seems to owe too much to old TV re-runs from the era. The press releases all say how wonderful this show is and historically accurate and so forth but I wonder then if it sways towards unnecessary reverence in some of the portrayals.

For my eyes there's still to much sign-posting around the what would be judged in 2008 as political and social incorrectness of the 1950s turning into the 1960s. Tonight when the girl walks in playing spacemen with a clothing plastic bag over her head, the comments about 'I hope you haven't left my dry cleaning on the floor' seemed just a little too forced. And when our secretary heroine is being eyed by the 'red blooded office men' it gets a lengthy montage in case anyone is missing the point.

The equivalent 1970s incorrectness of the British 'Life on Mars', for me, usually in a split second gesture gives a more robust counter to some of the social change between the decades.

So back on Madison Avenue, there's the new girl in the office, who presumably will fall inappropriately for one of the other office workers by the end of the first series. There's the main man with a pretty but ailing wife and bohemian mistress (who probably lives on Bleeker St., but I suspect another couple of episodes before that unfolds). I'm concerned that we have another psychiatrist supporting a main character though in Sopranos it was Tony, this time it's the wife. And there's the sort of barber's shop quartet of main man's office buddies, all of whom smoke copiously and drink manhattans, old fashioneds and similar cocktails from about 11am.

At the moment I'm struggling to find characters to like. Perhaps they will do more with the advertising campaigns that get passing mention. Cigarettes, Nixon and new aerosol Right Guard all have potential, but somehow are being underplayed. Maybe I'm looking for plot when the series main ticket is a form of sixties evocation that I don't properly comprehend.

Perhaps I need a blast of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to set me more in the era. Bring on 169 East 71 Street. And maybe some cultural drift from the real 1960s into what is presumably still a late 1950s workplace. Don't think twice, its alright.

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