I once said I “really hated” Mad Men (see: here). Despite that, I have always had a very strong sense that I should love it – the show gets all kinds of awards and critics are pretty much universal in their praise of it. So, I wondered, was I just being unfair? I watched a season 1 marathon on AMC a few years ago, but I got bored quickly and didn’t pay that close of attention; it was more like background music while I did other things. I started to think that maybe I didn’t give the show such a fair shake.
Then I realized the entire series is on Netflix, and I decided to give it a second chance. At first, I was pretty sure that my initial suspicions were true – this show is not that good. Thus, I composed the title of this post.
But then – and man, annoys me to admit it – the show started to win me over. Now, it wasn’t until the last episode of season 2 that I started to truly get into it (so we’re talking about a really slow burn here, people), but get into it I did. And now, while I wouldn’t say I love Mad Men, I do sorta like it. It’s not all bad. Sometimes it’s even extremely good. And, so, the title of this blog post turns out to be a bit of lie, but I’m going to keep it so titled because it’s catchy. And because it’s my blog and I can call it whatever I want to.
Here are some of my thoughts about what works and what doesn’t on the show:
What I Like:
- Joan + Peggy: I have to start with the two strongest female characters, although they too have their moments of nonsense. Joan is fantastic – and she gets great lines, so it’s hard not to love her. And Peggy. She’s probably the character I find myself rooting for the most, and I love her evolution over the course of the series. Although, the whole thing with her baby and how she never really acknowledged it was strange, and very cold.
- The clothing: Swoon. Almost no explanation is required here. It’s all so impeccable.
- The credits: As I already mentioned, I love them. They are so sleek, and I think they capture the tone of the show perfectly.
- “Meditations on a Crisis”: Such a great episode – Peggy finally telling Pete about the baby, Don going back to Betty, Betty admitting she’s pregnant, and the impending merger. So many good things happening.
- “My Old Kentucky Home”: Peggy gets high, Pete and Trudie dance. Amaze. Also, let’s talk about Pete for a second. He’s slimy and awful, but I actually sort of love him. It’s just that, once you cross the line into sheer pathetic-ness, you become sympathetic. I wish he’d catch a break sometimes!
- “Shut the Door. Have a Seat”: The energy of them starting a new agency propels this episode throughout. So good; I think it might be my favorite of all.
What I Dislike:
- Don Draper: I find him a cold, unlikeable protagonist. It doesn’t matter how tasty Jon Hamm is (answer: quite tasty); I just cannot get behind this character. Sometimes there are moments when you think he might care about his wife/children/someone other than himself, but they usually disappear pretty quickly. One thing I will say is that, in the beginning (circa season 1), I thought they made him particularly awful. In the latter seasons, you at least got more moments when he was being a good dad, and that ingratiated him to me a little bit. But, overall, no.
- Betty Draper: I will be honest – a lot of this is probably because I, like Zach Galifianakis, just do not like January Jones. I mean, she’s so robotic in every role she plays, including this one. Although, in her defense, Betty is a pretty robotic character, so in this instance it’s somewhat appropriate. However, like Don, every now and then Betty has a moment of brilliance. Two examples come to mind. First, when she shoots the neighbor’s pigeons in season 1 (simply because the visual – her in her nightgown, smoking, shooting birds – is hilarious). Second, when Sally asks Betty if she can go horseback riding, and Betty says, “It’s too dangerous… Do you remember what happened to the little girl in Gone with the Wind?” Yikes. Way to traumatize your child.
- The heart of my problem with the show = nobody is never happy, and you get the sense that none of these characters will ever be happy. It’s depressing. That’s not to say that all my favorite shows are cheerful comedies; that’s far from the case. But generally, most shows have a sense of hopefulness for the future. Your favorite characters might be unhappy now, but you always feel like there’s a chance things may turn around for them, that they’ll get their lives back on track again. But I never feel that with Mad Men. I’m pretty sure these people will always be stuck in terrible lives, unhappily drinking and smoking yet perfectly coifed, for eternity.
So, yes, “hate” is much too strong a word. Mad Men has its moments of pure wonderfulness, and I have totally gotten on board with it. However, it will never be one of those shows that I love, that I have to watch when it airs or else on the internet first thing next morning.
But, dammit if I’m not looking forward to season 5.