Sunday, June 08, 2014

[TV] Still Mad After All These Years

So we just finished 7 episodes of the final season of Mad Men and we now break until next year, so Matt Weiner doing the interview rounds. Here’s the money quote for me regarding the use of the very un-60s hip Frank Sinatra in the scene where Don and Peggy dance in the office:
For me, it was an explanation of the thesis of the show. There were a lot of people in the audience who were there, and it was their childhood, and they have a very distinct viewpoint on what was going on. And it has been cemented by the representation of the late '60s as this revolutionary moment, of cultural upheaval, whatever the cliche. My basic statement was there were a lot of people who were adults when this happened, and they had their own lives, also. It's just like the idea that as the hippies come along, "Oh, Don's going to be left behind." Well, you can read Playboy Magazine and you can see that a guy Don's age in a suit and a tie is still at the top of the heap in 1969. It's not like they were supplanted by people in bell bottoms and sandals. It really was a kind of acknowledgement of the fact that the way history has been metabolized is very different than the way it was.[emphasis mine]
I don't think you can overstate how important this is to the dramatic quality of Mad Men versus, oh say, everything else ever. Weiner is so fully involved with the characters he sees beyond them as socio-political actors and just portrays them as people. Contrast this to something like The Wire, which became ever increasingly an outlet for David Simon’s cultural frustration. Mad Men is, I think, unique the realm of high-end TV drama in that there is no larger theme. We know the Sopranos was about self-delusion and Deadwood was about civilization from savagery, but Mad Men is just about the characters in the show working through the arcs of their lives. To make that interesting, nevermind riveting, is a remarkable achievement. While we’re doing quotes, the legendarily acerbic critic John Simon once commented about the movies:
“[American films] do not (cannot? dare not?) cope with serious, contemporary, middle-class, adult problems….What is virtually nonexistent is serious filmmaking about the urban bourgeoisie and its ordinary problems of existence and co-existence–not something about beautiful young women dying of mysterious diseases, to say nothing of demonically possessed teenagers.”
Matt Weiner can do this, remarkably so. It is sad that, as Mad Men draws to a close, there is nothing else on the horizon that can. For example, here’s the word on the next HBO drama which concerns gay rights in the ‘60s:
Open City will feature "characters from disparate corners of Manhattan as they navigate the cultural revolution and political turmoil of the era." It will also include a look at the "unlikely alliance" between the gay community and the Mafia upon the opening of a nightclub in the West Village.
Good grief what tripe. (Yet, they keep cancelling Milch.)

Throughout this half season you couldn't help but feel as though there was attention being drawn to how far these characters have come, thereby setting up the endgame for next year. Don starting ever so slightly to overcome is self-destructive narcissism; Roger having to be a grown-up; Peggy coming to terms with the cost of lifestyle choices (notice how this could have been easily turned into a chest-thumping feminist issue, but it remained personal to Peggy); Pete's growing cynicism; Joan, despite her elevation, continuing to live entirely in a state of fear -- great stuff. And if you didn't love Robert Morse’s song and dance, made perfect by Jon Hamm's reaction shots, you’re dead to me.

I’m pretty sure I’ll binge this season over again just before the next one starts. And I’m sure I’ll binge the whole series again in a few years. So many memorable moments to relive.