Lockdown Binge #6: Mad Men

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When it got here to choosing a TV present to binge throughout lockdown, I used to be confronted with two equally interesting choices: ought to I search solace in a comforting favorite or make the leap and at last watch a traditional sequence I’d by no means fairly acquired spherical to?

And whereas it was undoubtedly tempting to go for the previous possibility (a Twin Peaks rewatch should look forward to now), ultimately I made a decision this was the proper alternative to in the end dig into one of the critically lauded sequence of my lifetime, and one I had at all times been that means to look at. 

And so, a visit to 1960s Manhattan was so as – I used to be lastly going to dive headfirst into Mad Men…

What’s Mad Men about?

In case you’ve adopted TV within the final 15 years, you’ll little doubt be a minimum of vaguely acquainted with the premise: Mad Men takes an, on the face of it, fairly uninteresting matter – an promoting company in 1960s’ New York – and turns it into one of the compelling sequence of the 21st century thus far.

The sequence, created by former Sopranos author Matthew Weiner, centres totally on Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the mysterious artistic director on the fictional Sterling Cooper advert company. Over the run, the present delves deep into his troubled psyche and explores his work life, his residence life and, crucially, his previous life, as he and the opposite characters regulate to the rapidly altering occasions amid the cultural revolution of the 1960s. 

There are additionally an unlimited vary of different lead and supporting characters which lend the present an actual sense of depth, from the terrific Elisabeth Moss as younger upstart Peggy Olsen to Vincent Kartheiser because the formidable and largely detestable younger account government Pete Campbell. 

How lengthy is it?

In whole the present ran for seven seasons, from 2007 to 2015, encompassing some 92 episodes – every roughly 45 minutes in size. 

The place can I watch Mad Men?

Luckily it couldn’t be simpler for anybody with a Netflix subscription – all seven seasons are out there on the streaming platform

Why ought to I watch Mad Men?

In case you’re something like me, there’s certain to be a protracted record of reveals which were in your watchlist without end however which, for no matter cause, you’ve simply by no means acquired spherical to. Maybe you’ve merely been daunted by fairly what number of episodes there are, or too busy catching up with reveals which can be at the moment airing to seek out the time to return and begin one thing from scratch.

For me, Mad Men is one among many reveals to suit this description. In reality, I’d made a few false begins up to now – watched the primary few episodes, loved what I’d seen, however in the end been distracted by some shiny new toy and left the mission unfinished earlier than it had hardly begun, protected within the information that I’d watch it once I simply had a bit extra time.

And so now – a time when evenings-in are hardly in brief provide – appeared like the proper time to lastly make the leap and tick it off the record. Fortunately, it has not been a let down: Mad Men has rapidly discovered its place amongst my very favorite TV sequence. In fact, declaring the present as a masterpiece is hardly a brand new or authentic stance to take – however that is a type of reveals that very a lot lives as much as the hype.   

For a begin, the setting, that of 1960s Manhattan, is one that’s uniquely fascinating. Usually you’ll end up marvelling on the great ‘60s aesthetic, wishing you may be transported again to that point, solely to seek out your self disgusted by among the atrocious social attitudes on show and be grateful we’re dwelling in a extra progressive age. 

There’s an actual pleasure in watching the characters regulate to the altering occasions (a few of them, it have to be mentioned, adapting with higher ease than others) whereas all types of cultural milestones seem all through, together with the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam conflict, woven expertly into the drama with out ever showing shoehorned in. It additionally makes nice use of the popular culture of the interval – films and TV reveals repeatedly seem within the background, usually with delicate significance, whereas each episode ends with an expertly curated tune, usually in a roundabout way linked to that episode’s plot or themes.

The storyline itself can’t actually be summarised in a pithy one or two line description – there are quite a few character arcs, with aspect characters coming and going all through the seven seasons. However what the present is absolutely about is, basically, the battle to seek out happiness and fulfilment in a society the place it’s simpler to lie about your identification, and the place it’s easier to do what’s anticipated of you than to pursue what you really need. Every of the present’s main characters repeatedly makes an attempt to come back to phrases with themselves and their respective conditions, making an attempt to battle their demons and self-destructive tendencies – usually with little success.

Mad Men, Series 5 Episode 7, At The Codfish Ball Don Draper (Jon Hamm); Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka). © Lionsgate

There are occasional sojourns into melodrama (a grisly incident involving a lawnmower immediately springs to thoughts), moments of nice catharsis (an workplace fist-fight between two companions is especially rewarding) and a few really tragic incidents that may go away even essentially the most hard-hearted viewer struggling to carry again the tears (none extra so than the demise of 1 character in season 5). However what’s really exceptional is it’s a present with hardly a foul episode or misstep, in some way managing to proceed to enhance on itself even when it appears to have peaked.

It’s additionally a present with an unbelievable vary of characters, almost all of whom are remarkably well-drawn and three dimensional, with likeable qualities that engender nice empathy but in addition no scarcity of, generally unforgivable, flaws. Everybody could have a favorite – whether or not that may be the trailblazing Peggy Olson, the considerably eccentric Michael Ginsberg or the hilarious although undeniably egocentric Roger Sterling –  and everybody could have a least favorite, nearly actually Pete Campbell, a very despicable piece of labor whom it’s endlessly enjoyable to hate.

The performances throughout the board are additionally great – from the exceptional Kiernan Shipka as Don’s daughter Sally (she was simply eight on the present’s genesis) to Hamm within the lead function, who brings an easy depth to Draper, a very enigmatic determine whose usually cool exterior masks all types of inside turmoil. 

On the face of it, the present may not appear suited to binge-watching – it’s a comparatively sluggish burn, seldom making use of cliff-hangers or different such units and with advanced plot threads taking part in out over a number of episodes. However the world is so totally realised and the writing so subtly sensible that after you press play it’s close to not possible to tear your eyes away from. Other than anything, it’ll make you, for a short time a minimum of, neglect all about lockdowns and viruses – and at this second in time isn’t that precisely what we want from telly? So if, like me, you’d been pushing aside this present for years – now could be the proper time to place that proper.

Now, it’s most likely about time I lastly acquired spherical to The Sopranos…

Mad Men is offered to look at in full on Netflix. In case you’re on the lookout for extra to look at try our TV information.

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