Where Have All The In-Office Bars Gone?: Some Thoughts On Mad Men

The early 60s were awesome you guys. Not only could you drink at work all the time, but the ladies were crazy hot! Need proof? Just watch AMC’s Mad Men. If that isn’t a quote worthy of the DVD box, I don’t know what is.

Over the past few months Em and I have gone through the first two seasons and will hopefully be able to keep up with the new one which starts in the next few weeks, it depends on how often AMC reruns the show, really.

But, I kind of like watching the show on DVD. I’m not too good at remembering the small details thanks to Lost and comic books taking up so much of my memory banks. It’s easier for me to remember who some of the ancillary characters are when I’m watching three episodes a night instead of one a week.

The thing about Mad Men that I keep coming back to when I think about the show is how much I like the style of it. I’m not saying the show is style over substance, but I’m also not really sure what the story as a whole is about. Sure, you’ve got Don Draper and all the mysteries wrapped around him (can you imagine marrying someone who you know NOTHING about?) and Peggy’s rise from secretary to…whatever she will become and all the side stories, but I think what keeps me coming back is the time period. I’ve talked before about how fascinating old New York is to me and how much I like the 60s, so the show definitely rolls right into my wheelhouse.

Plus, everything just looks so cool. Don Draper is a badass and everyone always looks so well put-together (at least when they’re at work). You didn’t have to worry about political correctness or anything like that. Sure there’s all kinds of negatives (especially if you’re a woman who’s not Peggy), but this fictional representation of times gone by definitely has some resonance, even considering the fact that I work only a few streets over from Madison Ave. and get to wear a T-shirt and shorts to work if I want.

I think part of the affection I feel for this time is based in the fact that it wasn’t that long ago, that maybe my parents or aunts and uncles experienced similar life events and what that would mean to them. Plus, damn, a lot has changed since the early 60s. I like that the show embraces the time period and makes the occasional joke in reference to things they couldn’t possibly know coming up in history, but don’t overdo it.

Plus, it’s really interesting to see the effects historical events had on people. The women in the office are devastated when Marilyn Monroe dies, everyone’s watching Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the White House (something my mom has told me she remembers from her childhood) and the looming threat of the Cuban Missile Crisis. People really thought the world was going to end and I loved Pete’s rationale when he was talking to his wife. Moving closer to DC would bring you closer to a target, while NYC will probably already be a target. I can’t relate to him wanting to die in Manhattan, but I remember my dad telling me that we’d be screwed living in in Toledo if there was a nuclear attack because one of the first things a theoretical enemy would do is blow up Detroit to cripple our ability to make vehicles. Kinda heavy stuff, but I always remembered that, not that he was always talking about getting blown up or anything, it was just something we talked about at some point.

My biggest complaint with the show is how there doesn’t seem to be a clear indication of how much time passes between episodes and scenes. It’s not a problem for the most part, but it does become kind of annoying when you’re not sure how long Don’s been gone for or how long Betty’s been carrying on her investigation.

I’ve also got to say that it’s really hard to like some of these characters. It’s the same kind of thing I felt while watching the first few seasons of Sopranos. They hook you early with these fascinating characters and then you’ve got to watch as they continually make BAD decisions and do some pretty reprehensible things.

If I can jump into some SPOILERish territory right now, I’ve got to say that Betty really bugged me in the second season. Look, we all know that Don is, was and probably will be cheating on her, but after tearing through his closet and desk and not finding any kind of proof, I don’t understand why she still believed the word of a d-bag comedian who is hardly a reputable source. Never once do we see her thinking she might be wrong, she just keeps him at arm’s length. I really expected her to give up and bring Don back, saying something about her depression or whatever mental disorder her psychiatrist told Don about in the first season. I did feel bad for her when her dad felt her up though. That’s gotta be one of the creepiest non-horror moments in TV.

That being said, Don’s little California excursion didn’t help matters. What was the deal with those rich people anyway? I kept thinking they might be Manson Family stand-ins or something. In fact, there are all kinds of moments during the second season where I felt this dread at the most mundane times. Bobby goes to pee behind a tree at a park and I couldn’t help but think that something bad was going to happen (and not the rampant littering when they take off). I guess that’s my moderness talking. Back to California though, it was cool to see a little bit more of Don’s past.

I’m not really sure where Season 3 will take us, but I’m definitely strapped in for the ride. I hope Joan (who was also on Firefly a few times!) ditches her asshole fiance, though I doubt she will, that Peggy continues to climb her way up the ladder and find herself as an adult and that Duck’s dog comes back, bites him and then goes off to live with Pete. I swear to God, Em almost stopped watching the show after he let the dog loose.

Finally, why isn’t Jon Hamm in talks to play Superman? Aside from looking like old timey Clark Kent with the hat and suit, the dude’s got the voice of a superhero and should play one STAT. He already does a great job portraying Don in different stages of his life, with the meek Don in flashbacks (Clark) and the ultra confident Don in current times (Supes), plus we’ve seen him play Lex Luthor, so there might even be some interest there. This man was born to play Superman and should immediately be signed to a contract for a trilogy. I hear that Mark Millar fellow has one in mind even. Maybe if Kick-Ass does really well, it’ll happen.

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