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Mad About You

Over at The New York Review of Books, Daniel Mendelsohn tackles the “Mad Men” craze:

Since the summer of 2007, when Mad Men premiered on the cable station AMC, the world it purports to depict—a lushly reimagined Madison Avenue in the 1960s, where sleekly suited, chain-smoking, hard-drinking advertising executives dream up ingeniously intuitive campaigns for cigarettes and bras and airlines while effortlessly bedding beautiful young women or whisking their Grace Kelly–lookalike wives off to business trips in Rome—has itself become the object of a kind of madness. I’m not even referring to the critical reception both in the US and abroad, which has been delirious: a recent and not atypical reference in the Times of London called it “one of the…best television series of all time,” and the show has repeatedly won the Emmy, the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Writers Guild of America Award, and the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Series. (A number of its cast members have been nominated in the various acting categories as well.) Rather, the way in which Mad Men has seemingly percolated into every corner of the popular culture—the children’s show Sesame Street has introduced a Mad Men parody, toned down, naturally, for its tender viewers—suggests that its appeal goes far beyond what dramatic satisfactions it might afford.

At first glance, this appeal seems to have a lot to do with the show’s much-discussed visual style—the crisp midcentury coolness of dress and decor. The clothing retailer Banana Republic, in partnership with the show’s creators, devised a nationwide window display campaign evoking the show’s distinctive 1960s look, and now offers a style guide to help consumers look more like the show’s characters. A nail polish company now offers a Mad Men–inspired line of colors; the toy maker Mattel has released dolls based on some of the show’s characters. Most intriguingly, to my mind, Brooks Brothers has partnered with the series’s costume designer to produce a limited edition Mad Men suit—which is, in turn, based on a Brooks Brothers design of the 1960s.

I’ve only seen a few episodes. I’ve talked to some people who say the show is spot-on; others say it is contrived.

What’s all the hubbub…bub?


1 Ben   ~  Feb 10, 2011 11:04 am

There's a lot going on in Mad Men. But the thing that resonates most for me is the opening music. There's this monotone, repetitive phrase in there that encapsulated the whole series. My 2 cents is, the show is fun, but don't watch too many episodes back to back. You might just end up slitting your wrists from emotional estrangement.

Mad Men: When men were men, women new their place and everyone was really, really miserable.

2 Matt Blankman   ~  Feb 10, 2011 12:30 pm

Contrived? Hardly - this is really brilliant television. However, when I watched the first episode, I couldn't decide if I liked it or hated it. A few episodes later I was completely hooked. It's beautifully acted, written and directed. Yes, the set and costume design are a big deal, and yes, some people are likely just on a nostalgia kick, but this is not just some shallow trendy show.

3 rbj   ~  Feb 10, 2011 1:25 pm

[2] What you said. Brilliant television. It's the only series I watch these days.

4 Crazy8Rick   ~  Feb 10, 2011 1:30 pm

I have become a big fan of Mad Men lately by accident. I never watched the show when it first came out, but saw copies of the full first season on DVD in the local library. So I checked them out to see what all the hub bub was about. Being a child of the sixties and at the time a Black radical (I was all into Malcolm X - by any means necessary) I found the show to be a compelling snap shot of a time and place (the Kennedy/Johnson years) that remain vivid in my memory to this day. The treatment and view of minorities and women during that time is dead on. And I got that exact same 'looking through a window at a life I could never have' feeling that I experienced growing up black in Washington DC when I watched the Mad Men series. It was really weird. And like Ben says: we were really, really miserable. My how times have change. Through it all I still had my Yankees!!

5 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 10, 2011 2:20 pm

haven't seen enough of it. Watched a few minutes of an episode a year or two ago, and what little I saw made me roll my eyes. Save the drama fer ya mama. But I didn't give it a fair shot, and admit my first impression could be 100% wrong. The women are gorgeous, so that's reason enough to give it a longer look.

6 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 10, 2011 6:41 pm

its not perfect, what is? but its the best show on television as far as I'm concerned. Theres certainly room for constructive criticism, but it can border on being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian...and I leave that sorta thing to Armond White.

7 Matt Blankman   ~  Feb 10, 2011 7:38 pm

Jim Emerson wrote some really good pieces about the show during the most recent season. You can find them here:

Also, Matt Zoller Seitz did a great "Mad Men Mondays" essay each week during the Mad Men season at the New Republic website.

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