Hello, and welcome to TV Tuesday- today I’m going to be talking about the first season of the hit AMC drama Mad Men!
Season one of Mad Men was better than I expected it would be. Before going into watching the show I’d heard mixed reviews. Some people really liked the show, and others got bored right around the second season, while others couldn’t even get into watching it at all. I thought I’d be one to get bored, or not be able to get into it, but after the first episode I wanted to watch more- and I’ve continued this way.
The show takes place in 1960 in New York at an advertising company, Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency.
But the show is much more than just advertising. It’s centred around that, but also around the characters lives, and that is what makes it so interesting.
We spend the whole season trying to piece together who Don Draper is. He wasn’t always who he says he was. It isn’t until his brother comes to see him that the viewer starts to wonder who Don Draper really is. Through flashbacks, and character development we get to witness the kind of man Draper is, and where he came from. He runs away from all his problems, always wanting to start off new when things don’t go the way he wants them to- for example trying to run away to Paris, then again when he wants to run away with Ms. Menken when Pete Campbell finds out he’s not Don, but Dick Whitman.
It is said that Dick Whitman died in war years ago, but we soon find out through an intense flashback, that he really didn’t die. Don Draper was the name of his commanding officer in the war. When they got blown up, he died, but ‘Dick’ stole his dog tags so he could pretend to be Don Draper for the rest of his life, and not have to go back to the life he once had because he couldn’t face going back. What does that tell us? Donald Draper (the fake) is a coward. (Even though he made up to look like the strong, head male.)
To top it all off, his wife Betty, knows nothing of his past or of what happens in his life. When one of her friends tells her that her husband is cheating on her, Betty asks Don, what would make a man do something like that? The viewer then says ‘yeah Don what would make a man do that?’
Betty Draper played by January Jones, is more of a secondary character as of right now, she has a few story lines of her own, the modelling gig, going back to work, thinking about cheating on Don, but they are all quite minor in the grand scheme of things. I think her character is bound to break out in the coming seasons.
Pete Campbell I’ve mentioned, he comes off as a loving soon to be husband in the first episode, and he just falls as the episodes continue. He wants to be Don Draper, or better yet beat him, that’s why he threatens to reveal his true identity (which in the end doesn’t even matter). He’s a bit of a dweeb, trying to be arrogant, and rude, but you can tell that it’s out of his comfort zone. He almost gets fired for trying to be better than the rest of the men, which is a big no no, especially if you’re at the bottom. He gets married, but hates his wife, so he turns to Peggy for comfort.
Now Peggy Olsen- I love to hate her character. She’s this innocent little thing straight from the country; this is her first big city job. She becomes Draper’s secretary. Everyone thinks she very odd, and well to be frank, she is. As much as she tries to do her job, all the men seem to like her, but she has weird tendencies.
It isn’t until she comes up with a great idea for a slogan on one of their accounts does she begin to copy write, and become noticed for something more than just a secretary. She soon gets a few more until by the end of the season becomes a junior copywriter. We also find out in the last episode that she is pregnant! To be fair I thought the actor Elizabeth Moss was pregnant in real life because her face got bigger, but I couldn’t find anywhere that she has children so I just shrugged and moved on. I didn’t think it would fall into the show. Kudos goes to her make-up artists and her wardrobe team because she legit looked pregnant. At first I thought she was just finding out she was pregnant, but then she gets handed a baby a few scenes later, and I just want to point out that how could she not know she was pregnant. That makes no sense to me that people after at least 5 months don’t know they are carrying a child around.
It’s never really spelled out for the viewer if Pete found out it’s his, but the scene after we see the baby he looks like he’s just been hit with a train so that may have been a clever way to demonstrate (without words) that he knows.
Now I want to talk about Joan for a moment because she plays a big role in Peggy’s life, but also around the office. Joan Holloway is the alpha female in the office- all the men want her, and all the ladies want to be here. She gives Peggy the run-down of how the place works, and Peggy always goes to Joan when she doesn’t know what to do. As much as Joan is in charge of everything, it is clear she is desperate to find love, and she tries to find it with Mr. Sterling but that is dashed when things take a bad turn for him.
Lastly I want to talk about Sterling; it seems Don’s best friend. He is also a scumbag, but I like him a little more than Pete somehow. He’s a hardworking, smoking, drinking, and taking women kinda man. This gets him into trouble as he goes down halfway through the season with a heart attack- in the middle of fooling around with a young girl. (I have to add he is not a young man anymore, he’s probably the oldest of them all). His character disappears for a while after he goes back to work, and suffers, I don’t think it’s another heart attack, but close to it. I’m sure he’ll be back season two full swinging.
The way they combined all these plots throughout the season was really well done, and really well thought out, there wasn’t a single thing that they showed that didn’t have a significant meaning. I know I said this about shows that take place in the past in my post about The Carrie Diaries, but this show really pulls it off. The show looks and feels like it takes place in the 1960s. No one looks like they are going to pull out a cell phone, or use a computer or anything high tech. The show stays true to the era; it even shows in the way the speak- the lingo is from the era and fits. It didn’t feel like a polished version of what the year looked like; they tried, and did a very good job representing how gritty and how ugly it could be.
If season two is half as good as this first season was, there is no doubt I’ll be sticking around to continue my journey through the world that is Mad Men.