The trouble with vacations is that you spend all your time at the beach or on your bike or dining out at fine seafood restaurants or playing mini-golf or visiting local places of historical and natural interest or sitting on the front porch reading books that you often get to the end of a day too tired and content and serene to watch television.
Once upon a time this didn't matter. You could go away for weeks and weeks at a time and miss nothing but re-runs and summer replacement series---a euphemism for shows the networks decided to scratch from their regular schedules after five or six episodes had already been shot. Not any more.
Now summers are full of new stuff. Original stuff. But not necessarily good stuff. Stuff like AMC's series Mad Men, which is new stuff about old stuff, life in the fast lane at a Madison Avenue advertising agency circa 1960, a time when men were men---yes men, organization men, men in gray flannel suits---and women were secretaries and housewives and that rigid division of the sexes is perfectly recreated in the show and is the reason Mrs Peel, having watched the first episode, isn't all that keen on watching the second:
As television, it’s a powerful re-creation/evocation of a time and place by Matt Weiner, a writer and producer from The Sopranos. It’s clear that this era holds a fascination for Mr. Weiner, perhaps fueled by the celluloid slickness of The Sweet Smell of Success, See Sammy Run, maybe even Bewitched. There are nice flourishes, like the Bass opening and the myth of the napkin doodle, that show a true fan’s warmth toward his subject. Still, Mr. Weiner’s ad men are in a clearly defined Members Only club of their own...
Mrs Peel admires the historical accuracy but doesn't find it charming.
James Wolcott was disappointed by another aspect of the show, its strangely enervated mood.
When you think of advertising movies from the postwar boom period, from The Hucksters to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? to Lover Come Back, you think of ulcers, tense presentations trying to appease tyrant clients (the scene in The Hucksters where Sydney Greenstreet pounds the name of his company's soap on the conference table with his angry, bullying, puffy fists is unforgettable), racing to meet deadlines, taking clients to night clubs, hangovers, cynical campaigns with cornball sentiments, elevator rides where everyone's too wary to speak. Mad Men had some of this, but there was little pulsation or fidgety anxiety at the constant pressure to perform; the pace of the opening hour was oddly subdued and unurgent, infected with a strange malaise and languor that made even the agency's get-ahead types seem marooned in their own retrograde attitudes, even the bachelor party at a strip club tolling with a Cheeverish sense of mortality and dissatisfaction.
Wolcott plans give Mad Men a chance to develop and will tune in Thursday for the second episode. Mrs Peel's still on the fence.
Meanwhile, also at newcritics, Claire Helene's frustrated by the Emmy nominations which are as far as she's concerned more of the same, safe, predictable, and dedicated to rewarding popularity no matter how mediocre the show getting the nod.
Claire wants to know what shows and actors and writing you think got overlooked. Go tell her here.
Me, I'm starting with Deadwood and Battlestar Galactica.
Also, anyone watch the premiere of Saving Grace last night? How naked did Holly Hunter get? Oh, and was the show any good?