I’ve been thinking all week about the season 6 premier of Mad Men on AMC, excited for the return of my favorite show. I’ve also been thinking all week about this blog installment, wondering what I could add to the conversation about this most-talked-about show. A straight recap will not do. Like showing a picture of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the ad campaign, anybody can do that. (Although if you want it done well, head on over to Slate Magazine.) I could describe how much I love this show, but I’m sure I would be chastised by Don for devaluing the word. Plus, if I simply listed everything I loved about it, I’d risk being chastised by Peggy for not knowing the difference between ideas and the execution of ideas. That doesn’t leave me much, but here are a few thoughts I came up with in a crisis…
This is the penultimate season of the show – one more and it will take its place among dozens of other legendary shows, to be remembered and ranked occasionally by far less ambitious, far more banal nostalgia/compilation shows. I have no doubt that this show will stand the test of time. It’s set in the ’60s but that’s merely the backdrop. This is a show about people and the decisions people make, and that’s a timeless theme. Revisiting season 5 recently, I found it remarkable how identifiable the scene is in which Peggy tells Don she is leaving the agency. I’ve quit jobs before, I know that uneasy feeling and that speech you have in your head when you walk in the door. I’m sure somewhere some version of the same thing happened yesterday.
The season 6 premier was strong and I’m happy I don’t have to fret just yet about the series end. I’m also happy that I now have new content to think about and revel in, to take my mind off the wait for the final season of Breaking Bad.
By the way, both of these shows were shows that I put off watching. I’d heard lots of great things about Mad Men when it first hit the airwaves, but I didn’t get AMC and I wasn’t buying the hype. AMC had just begun airing season 2 when I began watching season 1 on DVD, out of sheer curiosity. It took me about three episodes to get used to the tone of the show, and in that time I nearly abandoned it. When Don abandons his daughter’s birthday party and comes home late at night, stinking drunk and with a dog, I realized that this was a show in which good things were not going to happen. Once I understood what the show was doing, I really got into it. By the end of season one I was flabbergasted, I was astounded, I was in awe of this remarkable creative achievement.
I intentionally avoided watching Breaking Bad because I didn’t believe AMC could really have two great shows, and I was a little annoyed that it was taking attention away from Mad Men. Eventually I succumbed, watched a few episodes and abandoned it because of the violence. But people I knew would just not shut up about this show, and I was browbeaten into giving it a second chance. That was one of my better decisions. Now I am that person who will browbeat you until you watch this show, believing as I do that your life will not be whole until you do. There is a scene mid-way through season 3 that is, in fact, the most exciting/tense/scary thing I have ever seen. My heart started racing. I put my feet up on the couch and backed away from the screen. I trembled with fear. And when it was over I thought, “holy shit, that was great!”
So you see, these are most definitely doors you want to open. I doubt I’ll post about Mad Men again, except in passing, until season 7, so to all the fellow fans I say, “Happy New Year!”