Once upon a time in the west - and in gritty noir backlots - rough and ready men carried guns, drank hard liquor, and made violence a part of their daily lot. That's the way they were portrayed, at least. And the idea of "real men" inhabiting a cushy mid-town Manhattan office building was a ludicrous as, say, Cary Grant's Roger Thornhill being a secret agent in North by Northwest. See, Hitchcock got the joke. But as David Hinckley points out in today's Daily News, our idea of tough guys has changed.
"Mad Men" also reflects something else that's been brewing on TV for quite a while, however: a long-term shift in the professions to which we look for swagger. Once upon a time, American swagger was largely defined by physical guys like cowboys, G-men, explorers and soldiers. Think John Wayne. Sure, there's always been swagger in other fields of endeavor. While Wild Bill Hickok was galloping through the West, robber barons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan were accumulating insane levels of wealth simply because there was no one to stop them. But in general, swagger once had a blue-collar aura, reflected in the Westerns that dominated early television.
Live-blogging of the frustrating and fascinating Mad Men continues tonight. [Note: our hosts at Yahoo appear to be on the slow side tonight, so bear with us and dump that crappy YHOO stock.]
Thanks to Yahoo's server troubles, I've moved newcritics live-blogging of Mad Men to my trust old-school Typepad blog. Comment away! Back in a few...Cool credits about to roll.
Love the Hudson Line shots - North by Northwest in reverse! Big error, though. "Mount Kisco, next." In yer dreams. Knew there was another name in Draper's past - Dick Whitman.
"Who put the Chinamen in my office?" Ha.
Some hilarious "oriental" humor. We get it. 1960 was a different time. Now can these guys do something?
"Part of this job is doing things you don't want to do." Welcome to that strange place known as Workland.
So how accurate is Mad Men? Burt Helm from Business Week wondered the same thing:
So last week I picked up the phone to ask a couple of these allegedly overpaid, creative, glib and self-destructive ad guys from the 60's what they thought of the show. AMC courteously agreed to send them screeners. I got two very different opinions of the show itself, but some agreement on how accurately it portrayed Madison Avenue in 1960.
"What a miserable piece of garbage," said Irwin Warren, who was a copywriter for Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1965. "It's a kind of a poor man's The Apartment". Jerry Della Femina, who was in the mailroom of agency Ruthrauff & Ryan in 1960 before becoming a copywriter and a founder of his own agency, loved the depiction. He had recently participated in a panel discussion at Michael's about the show. "It’s a pretty fascinating as a study of the 60’s."
But how accurate is it? For those who haven't seen it, the show is a parade of constant smoking, near-constant drinking, casual sexual harassment and anti-semitism. Warren admitted that much of that was spot on.
A miserable piece of garbage? Seems to describe what I've seen of the firm's work so far. Man does Sterling Cooper blow. They don't even get the VW ad!
OK, we get that it was a sexist period - now make something happen. "Rib-eye in the pan...with butter....ice cream." That's not a plot.
The cheesy Yonkers Raceway commercial for slot machines and a legal sports book on my local cable system is far better than anything Sterling Cooper has produced.
This scene as a Breakfast at Menken's quality to it.
I'm a total sucker for the commuter train scenes, probably because I spend half a life on 'em. But didn't they have monthly passes in 1960? Does he buy a ticket every night? Any experts out there?
WWeek's Daniel Carlson has a snarky post: AMC is "TV for people who would like to think of themselves as movie people but lack the energy." Is that us? More:
"...if half the show is just the cheap thrill of watching people play dress up, the other half is watching those people act out a fairly rote melodrama. Weiner's time on The Sopranos means that Mad Men is inevitably being forced into that same mold of darkly lit offices, slick hair and commonplace adultery, and while Weiner certainly knows his material, the fact that he's so willing to stylistically rehash it is a disappointment. Mad Men lacks the sheer fire and energy of The Sopranos, and not simply because AMC won't let you get away with nearly what HBO does (AMC after dark consists largely of the same boring content as AMC daytime). It's also because while The Sopranos was a complex and original show, Mad Men wants to be all things to all people, offering the same aesthetic and stilted drama—unhappy philanderers, ambiguous mistresses, depressed housewives—that have marked too many series before it. It's as if Weiner wants his show to be just edgy enough to be noticed but actually safe enough to be digested by even the most casual viewer; no one has to think too hard here, and no one is asking you to.