Things I Did On My Summer Vacation #4 Mad Men

52 episodes in 39 days, says my Netflix instant watching activity. That includes 8 episodes watched on Labor Day, in a successful attempt to finish before I returned to work.

Mad Men is perhaps the best television drama series I have seen. You’ve probably heard this praise from others. The Television Academy of Arts & Sciences thinks highly of it, having awarded it three four consecutive Emmys for its first three four seasons. Next weekend, we’ll see if Season Four picks up the top prize, too. I had heard Mad Men was good, but I didn’t have any more of a desire to see it than I did The Sopranos. I still haven’t see a single episode of that. And I still haven’t seen an episode of The Wire.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Six Feet Under. My list of great televisions dramas that I’ve seen every episode of stops there. (I’ve seen plenty of pretty good ones…L.A. Law and various similar David E. Kelley shows…if I think about it longer, I can come up with a pretty good list of pretty good television dramas.) I may have seen every episode of Dallas, but many of its 357 episodes weren’t very good, and I was too young to get a lot of what I was watching. Speaking of Dallas, I have a few more thoughts on that iconic show. Later. Back to Mad Men…

I’m not adept at writing full-scale reviews. So I’ll just be succinct. Mad Men puts me in a different time and place in a more authentic way than anything else I can recall other than maybe a Saving Private Ryan. It may even be a stylized version of a narrow subset of early 60’s America, but it’s endlessly fascinating. There was not a single episode where I felt it was okay to leave the room, leave the show running, and return a couple of minutes later. All 47 or 48 minutes need to be watched. Those opening credits…I loved seeing and hearing the opening 52 times, setting the tone for the show. And then the closing credits were always an integral part of the episode. Whether there was a period song or the haunting score of David Carbonara.

The stories…the advertising campaigns…how the characters can fleshed out over four seasons….how humor gets inserted

Acting…Jon Hamm…you hear a lot about him…because he’s that good. And he hasn’t won an Emmy yet. The show has won every year, but no won has won for acting yet. I love, love, love Elisabeth Moss. I mean, I shouldn’t love actresses I know nothing about, other than that she was terrific as Zoe Bartlett on The West Wing (and she was briefly married to SNL’s Fred Armisen?) Her character Peggy Olson experiences the most growth through the four seasons. From the naive newbie secretary to Don to the confident indepensible contributor who has won Don’s respect and friendship. Give Elisabeth Moss an Emmy.

The showrunner Matthew Weiner seems intent on making every single scene a work of art in itself, and I rarely get that sense from a television program and only occasionally in film.

And time is up on this blog entry. I’ve just started on Breaking Bad, and I can tell that Bryan Cranston is certainly deserving of his Emmys.


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