Mad Men, 2007

We started watching Mad Men with season 1 episode 1 the other evening. Mad Men is an HBO AMC series about Madison Avenue advertising men in the early sixties. The photography is impressive, and they’ve clearly paid a lot of attention to getting the atmosphere right. Along with the angular architecture, Brylcreem, and sharp suits, that atmosphere includes lots of whiskey and a truly extraordinary amount of tobacco smoke.

Don Draper is preparing a campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes, and having a hard time of it because of recent news coverage about the health risks of smoking, and government restrictions on tobacco ads. Everyone knows the health risks are real, so you could say the cynical Mad Men and tobacco executives don’t care who they kill to make a buck, but they themselves all smoke constantly. The psychological implications of this are explored somewhat obliquely. I look for this to be tied in to Don Draper’s past. (No spoilers in the comments, please.)

The first episode hit pretty heavily on the position of women in business and society. This probably isn’t inaccurate, but the emphasis on it is anachronistic. Racial and ethnic bias are secondary themes, and naturally homosexuality, because every show has to include a moral lesson about how wicked it is to think ill of homosexuality.

This episode wasn’t slow in a bad sense, but it moved at a measured pace, and seemed quite thoughtful. One episode in an evening is probably about right. I look forward to the next show.

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