bill bodkin looks at the return of the best drama on tv — mad men
Brilliance has returned to television.
Yes, amidst seas of squabbling housewives, hipster vampires and meaningless innings of mid-summer baseball, there’s one show that stands above them all — Mad Men.
Enter the world of the charming rogue, New York ad man, Don Draper (John Hamm) — a tortured soul with a heart of tarnished gold. For the past three years we’ve seen him become the head of creative at thehigh-powered agency Sterling Cooper. We’ve seen his rocky relationship with his wife Betty (January Jones) go from marital bliss to near divorce to new parenthood. Now in Season 4, Don start from zero. He’s left the now twice-sold Sterling Cooper and has formed his own agency (along with a majority of the cast) and his wife has left him, taken his new-born son and flown off to Reno with a political mover-and-shaker. Hamm’s performance is so multi-faceted — each week is a rollercoaster ride of emotion, each week peeling back layers of his emotional armor. It seems that we’re finally getting to the heart of this complex character.
No, this isn’t the happiest of show. And as a person who likes to dedicate his free television viewing time to movies, football, pro wrestling and food shows — heavy drama is usually not on the menu. However, Mad Men is one of the most engrossing and intoxicating shows I’ve ever experienced.
If the show focused solely on the times and trials Don Draper it would a terrific show, but writer/creator Matthew Weiner (formerly of The Sopranos) has created a world where every character is vital, where every prop is integral and every line delivered has some sort of ramification. Characters come and go, sometimes not seen for weeks at a time, but their storylines are never forgotten and they are resolved (or not and for a good reason) by the end of the season. Weiner seamlessly integrates major political issues of the time and product placement (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) into storylines.
This season, however, is one that intrigues me. The reset button has been pushed, but lingering storylines will undoubtedly be addressed. Season Three started out a bit slow, a little convoluted, but by the season’s end we were left with one of the most dynamic season finale’s ever written for television. We were left with a slew of unanswered questions. How will Don cope without Betty and a new business? Can he and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) co-exist? Will former Sterling Cooper exec Duck (Mark Moses) keep trying to steal Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and his new sleeping buddy Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) from the new group? And what of the supporting cast — will Joan (Christian Hendricks) stay with her disappointing husband? What’s going to happen to the Sterling crew (Ken and Paul) who was left behind? What about newly out of the closet Sal (Bryan Batt)? So many tough questions and a whole season to answer it.
So grab your sweaty glass of scotch, don your finest threads and get ready for the most brilliant television show you’ll ever see in your life. [Mad Men airs every Sunday on AMC. You can get a million Mad Men related items on amctv.com.