Why Mad Men is the prettiest boring show on the box
Image: AMC/ MAD MEN/ SMH.
Words: Mike Nicholson
This will not make me a popular guy. I expect, nay, deserve the hate mail and abusive tweets I will receive for my stance. I pity the moderator of comments at TheVine. But bear with me as I explain to you why the most overrated – though beautifully shot – drama on television is Mad Men (or Mad Meh as I affectionately renamed it).
I watch a lot of television. Unhealthy amounts if I’m being honest. Mad Men and Chuck Lorre crap aside, I’m pretty non-discriminatory when it comes to my viewing habits. I’ll watch Scandinavian political drama, ten minute Adult Swim comedies, dabble in reality TV or throwback to past Judd Apatow’s hits that were before their time. I feel this puts me in good stead to pass judgement on AMC’s snooze fest of a period piece.
My biggest gripe with this show is that in the three and a half season I’ve watched, NOTHING HAPPENS. The pilot is a great piece of television but from there it’s all downhill. I must have started the first season about four times never getting further than a few episodes in. I swear I watched an entire episode literally revolving around whether or not the head of the advertising agency was going to attend a work party. Even Godot didn’t have to put up with this. Mad Men is also set in New York City’s good ol’ days of the 60s advertising world so of course there’s womanising, drinking and smoking. We get it. How about showing us something we didn’t already know?
Now if you’re going to be one of those fans that tell me, “it gets really good from season four” then I’m going to have to respond by saying, “tell it walking, thanks but no thanks.” I may be an ADD suffering, twitter obsessed member of Gen Y, but sifting through thirty-six slow moving episodes to get to the good stuff is a hard sell for anyone. The biggest jaw-dropping moment, and I use that term loosely, arrived with the discovery that Jon Hamm’s character, Don Draper, **spoiler alert if you care*** has Principal Skinner-ed everyone and is not who he seems. The reveal isn’t even satisfying.
Of course Jon Hamm could act his way out of a paper bag and is so debonair The Internet has labeled him the Robert Downey Jnr. of television (probably). But judging from his other roles in shows such as 30 Rock and his hilarious cameo in Bridesmaids he would be better served sticking to comedies. With Rob Lowe’s exit on the horizon, I hear a position has freed up on Parks and Recreation. Strike while Pawnee is hot.
Then there are the other characters. I nothing them. Fred Armisen’s Scientologist ex-wife wears a really weird fat suit for a while as the repressed secretary Peggy. That kept me sort of engrossed in a morbidly fascinated way. January Jones’ turn as a cold, miserable wife makes the audience ponder whether she’s a great actor or just playing herself.
I also like to think that the son in Angel, Connor, is actually a real person and not a fictional person dreamed up by Joss Whedon. In my reality he does a fantastic job of acting as human Vincent Kartheiser rather than the other way round. Has there been a more punchable face on TV in recent times than his version of Pete Campbell?
My feelings, or lack there of, towards the main characters continued to be a stumbling block with connecting to the show. When they’re all participating in extra-marital affairs like it’s going out of fashion, my care factor was zero. I felt no sympathy. When a lawn mower saws off a characters foot, I figured ratings need a bump or something.
You want to watch a show with layered characters? Watch Six Feet Under. The Fisher’s have so many flaws you’ll need a lift. There are episodes that will shake you to the very core. You will bleed for these characters. And when the credits roll for that final time whilst Sia’s ‘Breathe Me’ plays out, I challenge even the coldest of hearts to avoid the ensuing waterfall of eye moisture. Now that’s a cable drama.
Who am I to knock Jon Hamm & Co. when I’m actively watching, and publicly on record live tweeting*, trash like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal? Well, the difference between these types of shows and Mad Men is that Shonda Rhimes’ soaps don’t set out to be anything but fast-talking, emotionally extortive, pop song heavy melodramas. What you see is what you get with the Meredith Greys and Olivia Popes of the world. Not to mention a hugely diverse cast that the majority of other networks could only dream of rivaling.
“But what of the critical acclaim?” Oh please. Mad Men has been awarded top honours from the same people that year after year decide The Big Bang Theory is a comedy, and a top comedy at that. The Academy can go jump. Until Amy Poehler wins all of the awards, their relevance is moot.
However, there is one redeeming feature of Mad Men; now that it’s over we’re edging ever closer to Breaking Bad being back.
What I love most about television is that it divides the masses, or in this case, everyone else and me on my lonesome. So tell me, why is Mad Men so great? Or have I hit the nail on the head with my diatribe against Mad Meh?
Mike Nicholson is a 26 year-old freelance media graduate from Adelaide, South Australia. When he's not undertaking a variety of temporary media and non-media related work you can find him avidly tweeting, trawling the internet for memes or attempting to forge a career in radio. Check out his innermost thoughts on twitter: @Mikey_Nicholson.