Sunday is Mad Men Day

don, always in the foreground

Sunday evenings are always filled with dread for me. That’s when I painfully realize that my two days of freedom are over and that I have to go back to work the next morning. I makes me want to cover my head in blankets and hide. I’m sure many people feel this way. It’s an awful feeling.

But that feeling is no more, thanks to....Mad Men!

Ever since I’ve started watching the Sunday evening broadcast (airing on the west coast at 7pm), this day has been a delight. I look forward to it all day, and think about it after it’s over. It soothes and simulates my noggin.

the ladies: betty, joan and peggy

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the show when it first came on, and I was kind of suspicious of the hype the show had been getting, but by chance I happened upon a rerun of the first season on Bravo, and I found it so unusual for a TV show. It’s slow at times, the shots are lingering, and people don’t really say what they seem to feel; there is such a depth of character and subtlety in what you see, and you know there are thoughts/feelings going on there that are a little hidden to the us and the characters themselves. The stylish era is sumptuous in its detail, and the clothes are gorgeous. It’s simply a beautiful show to look at, and so deep that you can watch and rewatch each episode (as...ahem...I’ve done).

We watched the first and second seasons on DVD, and each season has a different flavour. The first season is more centered on the main protagonist, Don Draper, and the mysteries that lie within that grey suit. The second season is more effuse in its focus, with storylines with Betty Draper, Don’s wife, and Peggy Olsen (my favourite), a young secretary-turned copywriter, as well as Don; the people in the show generally become a lot more rounded. Plus, the extras on the DVDS are also great: two commentary tracks for each episode, features about the advertising age, women’s movement, costume, and little historical snippets that give the show cultural context.

the men of mad men (harry, paul, pete, ken and sal)

So far we love the 3rd season. The show is dealing a lot more with the bourgeoning civil rights movement (in the past, the black people on the show have been just in the background—ie. Clara the maid/nanny, Hollis the elevator operator, the waiter Don has a conversation with about Lucky Strike in the Pilot episode), and the role of women in that world. Don is shown to be more and more flawed...the show has done a little more experimentation in form, with film noir influences, bizarre dream sequences, singing & dancing. In my opinion, it’s the best season yet!

If you are a fan, there are several sources to fuel the obsession. Here is a list of great places to visit:

  • AMC, the network that airs Mad Men, has a great site and blog—lots of bonus pictures (fyi, all of the photos on this page are from there), discussion about costumes, props, sets, interviews, and behind the scenes videos. One of my favourites is their ‘scrapbook’ for each season—here you see papers, documents, and other stuff that you only glimpse in each episode (wanna see Joan’s drivers license? How about the organizational chart from season three?)
  • Footnotes of Madmen is a great site where you get information on the historical and social context of each episode of Mad Men. If you’ve ever wondered about Patio cola, or the Bubble Cut Barbie, here’s the place.
  • Basket of Kisses is a very well written blog, devoted to every minutiae of Mad Men, written by two devoted female fans.
  • For episode reaction and summary, there are several mainstream news sites that follow Mad Men. Slate’s TV club has entries discussing the latest episodes (so far this season, there have been 42 articles). Their back and forth articles are rather entertaining. The NY Times also discusses each episode of Mad Men in their Arts Beat blog.

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