You know you’ve become over-involved with a television show when it starts to frustrate you and you watch it religiously anyway. That’s the way it’s been for me with Mad Men from the beginning. Although I loved the idea of a series about an advertising agency in the 60s – when Madison Avenue was as cool as Silicon Valley was in the 90s – I didn’t even watch the first season.
I hated that they kept showing Don Draper’s home life. I didn’t want to see his home life – I wanted to see the workings of the ad agency. It was about as far from McMahon & Tate as you could get (if you don’t get that reference, then you clearly don’t understand that this column is written for Boomers).
But then I couldn’t help myself, and I got sucked in. And even though I still don’t think it’s as brilliant as everyone says it is (sometimes a scoop of orange sherbet is just a scoop of orange sherbet), I’m still hooked. Which is why the current season is so aggravating. To wit:
Don Draper. Can someone please get this man a character arc? I understand the man is changeless – have you noticed that his hair stays Sixties-short and Brylcreemed even while everyone around him is growing hideous sideburns – but we’ve already seen him ruin his marriage by sleeping around. Why does he have to do it again?
Milestone Millstones. I thought the idea of showing the angst of throwing a wedding on Saturday, November 23, 1963 was wonderful. But the Sixties were crazy enough on their own without hanging episodes on touchstones like Martin Luther King’s assassination. Soon: Bobby Kennedy shot! Stay tuned!
Character Confusion. Am I the only one who initially thought that Peggy Olson was sleeping with Sterling Draper’s new copywriter, Michael Ginsburg? The actor who plays Ginsburg and the actor who plays Peggy’s boyfriend, Abe Drexler, look startlingly alike with their shaggy moustaches and tousled hair. Did we all look that horrible in the Sixties?
New York, New York. Between the Sixties and the Seventies, New York deteriorated from the place to be to the place to leave. It started on a downward spiral that it has only recently recovered from. Yet other than the scene several seasons back when Roger and Joan are mugged on a garbage-strewn street, everyone still seems to live in the pristine Manhattan of old.
Homosexual Happenings. Gay pride blossomed in Greenwich Village in the Sixties, but where the heck is Sal Romano, the character axed for being gay back in 2009? I keep expecting him to walk through the door. If they want to hang an episode on a milestone, let it be Stonewall. That at least would be original.
January Jones. One of my friends finally explained to me that January Jones, who plays Betty Draper Francis, was pregnant last year, and that’s why her character gained so much weight. But why haven’t they done anything with it? This is a character who used to be a model, for crying out loud, in a decade when women were still judged by how they looked. And what’s the deal with her black hair? Blondes had more fun back then. Are we supposed to discern something from this?
Sally Suspense. The Sixties were a big time for runaways. I’ve been waiting patiently for the Drapers’ daughter Sally to hit the road in search of that creepy guy Glenn. What was the point of his cringe-inducing character if not for some payoff yet to come?
Missing Music. Another friend of mine noted that this is a show set in the Sixties, and yet we haven’t heard a peep from the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, or anybody. We agreed that it was probably a royalties issue, which is particularly problematic when a production company asks to license music for the DVD series. But still …
But the real reason Mad Men is driving me mad is that last night’s episode was everything I ever wanted from the series: intrigue, repartee, shenanigans, all relating to the agency and getting clients and only tangentially touching on their home lives. That’s the show I want to watch. But I’ll watch the one they broadcast anyway.