"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mad Men Thoughts

TV shows that I end up liking tend to be the shows that surprise me, that show me something new about people that I didn't expect.   Dexter this season, to me anyway, got predictable... it didn't surprise me anymore, and that's why the season was drab.   Justified this year has also been pretty predictable, although I expected a drop off after last year's great season.   Sons of Anarchy got a little predictable this year.   Breaking Bad is perhaps the best thing on TV because it always always always surprises me.   Homeland's first season was so good because it was so full of surprising twists -- things about the characters you wouldn't have expected.  

Mad Men is maybe the second best thing on TV (behind only Breaking Bad) precisely because it's always surprising.   Last night's second episode of the new season had a series of moments that I thought were takes on the characters that I never would have expected:

1.  First, obviously, there was "Fat Betty" -- January Jones in a fat suit to play Betty Francie (formerly Betty Draper) becoming a middle-aged housewife with a weight problem.   I never would have expected it.   Jones, after all, is spectacularly beautiful.   But that's the point... what happens when a beautiful woman starts losing her beauty?   What does she do then?   That's interesting, and it's almost never explored on TV.

2.  Next there was Don Draper as "old coot" at a Stones concert in 1966, talking to teenaged girls and telling them he's worried about them.   He was the ultimate cool guy, but last week he was embarrassed by his young wife's free spirited "Zou Bizou Bizou" rendition, and this week he's worried about groupies at rock concerts and noticeably put off by a younger man from the agency smoking pot backstage.   That's not a turn of events I expected either.   The cool of the 1950s meets the new cool of the 1960s.  

3.  Finally, there was the very weird off-the-wall new character, the copywriter Mike Ginzberg, hired by Peggy Olson.   I don't know what they are going to do with him, but his weirdness about jumped off the screen, so they're going to have to do something with him.   I expect a romance with Peggy, but that may be too predictable.  

Really great TV makes it so you can't wait for the next week.   That's part of the fun of TV that you lose when you watch things on DVDs.... that anticipation.   Dexter used to be like that.   Breaking Bad still is.   And Mad Men still is.  

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