If you haven’t heard about the Emmy-award winning show Mad Men created by Matthew Weiner, then you’re missing out (and have children under the age of 5 so you’re probably too exhausted to stay up past 9 pm. It’s hard for me, too. And my son is 8!)
As a rule, I don’t watch television – unless I’m forced to. Usually, it’s some episode of Phineas and Ferb (which is actually pretty good) or soccer. But I’m also a rule-breaker, especially when it comes to great stories. When a show is so imaginative, original, touching and wicked, I am compelled to watch.
Where can you find me at 9:45 pm on Sunday? On the couch in my family room with my feet propped up, holding a juicy Cosmopolitan (Kettle One + Martini Gold, shaken not stirred). Between sips, I anticipate the familiar Mad Men title sequence oozing with über chicness. Its stripped-down graphics and music set the tone for the show. The animation features a silhouette of a faceless, suited man tumbling from the top of a building, arms flailing helplessly while his life’s work of colored advertisements flashes behind him until the end when he snaps into a chair, perfectly composed holding a cigarette with his back to us.
Like many moms with young children, I’m a late adopter to new shows. I didn’t used to be. I discovered Mad Men a while back, but never watched it. Hearing others talking about the show’s drama and handsome leading man, it made my list of shows to watch. My sister-in-law graciously loaned me her Mad Men season one DVD box set. I watched everything on it: episodes, commentary and interviews. Ravenous for more, I read articles and blogs, visited websites and took the quizzes. I rented and watched every episode so that I could get up to speed for the start of Mad Men’s fourth season in July.
Why do I watch? It’s simple: to escape. It’s more fun to be entertained by the misbehaving ad man Don Draper and the rest of his poised and super-flawed entourage of characters. While I am repulsed by the sexism, racism and intolerance of the 60s, I am fascinated by the painstaking realism of the era I was born in, but too young to embrace.
Truth in fiction
So much change bubbled up from the 60s: civil rights, the feminine mystique, violence, unrest, glass ceilings, and intense creativity. Although I didn’t arrive in the world until six years after the Mad Men plotline begins, I heard about the “good ol’ days” of advertising from co-workers at an agency I worked for in the 90s. As a recent college grad, I had zero knowledge of it. I felt a little like naïve Peggy Olsen. The only context I had was from ad books that I pored over during college. Some of the older creatives hung on to ad glamour, while others moved on from the three-martini lunch. But still, when account management needed something to be done in the afternoon, we would always find our creatives sitting at the bar.
Ignore the ads, engage your fantasy
Not since the X Files have I looked forward to a weekly drama such as this. However, I could do without the smarmy commercials of Lipitor, Viagra, Chevy, hotels.com, and the insipid Unilever ad agency spoofs. The iPad ads, however, are great.
You don’t have to be an expert in advertising or marketing to “get” Mad Men. The message in Mad Men is not about advertisers selling a product. At its core it’s a slow-boiling drama about wanting what others have. A simple look or action can change everything.
So sit back and relax next Sunday evening. Start your own ritual. Put your feet up, make a drink, and for a little while escape.
What do you think? Leave a comment or Send me an email!