By BRENDAN OUDEKERK
Like most of you reading this, I didn’t know too much about the hit series “Mad Men” three months ago. I knew it was critically acclaimed and apparently very interesting, but I knew no one that had watched it. Despite worries about missed back-story from past episodes, I decided that I would give it a trial on my TiVo in an attempt to liven up my summer. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
“Mad Men” is a character-driven drama on AMC focusing on the high-paced life of Madison Avenue advertising agency employees. Character-driven dramas tend to be tedious and difficult to follow, but I find myself completely absorbed each week, wanting to know what will happen next.
Fortunately for those yet to jump in, the plot is fairly simple: Don Draper (Jon Hamm) leads a complicated double life filled with infidelities and lies, and we get to see how he juggles his nuclear family in suburbia with his fast-paced action in the city.
Up until the most recent episodes, Don had been keeping mistresses (yes, plural) in the city attempting to conceal his infidelities from his suburban housewife. We also find other employees of the agency dealing with issues of their own—sexism, infidelity, and of course baby mama drama.
Despite seeming extremely cliché, these problems, mixed in with the conservative 1960’s values, make for an exceptionally excellent show. The way in which the action unfolds provides a stark contrast between 60’s moral values and the reality of what’s actually happening in the character’s lives.
Coupled with the advertising agency’s struggle to make their products seem revolutionary and safe, the show really hits a new level. The constant smoking, drinking and other forms of substance abuse resonate with greater significance in the hindsight of the 21st century.
The new season seems to be more focused on new problems stemming from previous decisions. Don has been confronted by his wife about his concealed second life but is forced together by their new baby, placing their issues on hold. A merger with a British company has thrown off the power structure within the agency, and everyone is struggling to gain their bearings.
I would highly recommend this show for anyone interested in gaining a new obsession. If you are worried about not knowing the background of the characters, the show’s Wikipedia page has accurate information about their back-stories. It’s easier than you might think to jump into the series, since each episode provides important information at the beginning and ends with a satisfying conclusion. Trust me, once you start watching you won’t be able to stop.