January 28th, 2010

don draper

Mad Men blogging

BBC have started broadcasting Season 3 of Mad Men (BBC4, 10pm Weds), starting with a two-episode premiere. UK folks can view online here.

These two episodes were I thought more 'enabling of future brilliance' than 'awesome in their own right'. Don't get me wrong - the script was exemplary, and the characterisation superb - but I felt that these were episodes doing a lot of groundwork to enable the rest of the season. For example we saw a brief glimpse of a wedding invitation (Roger Sterling's daughter) and the date was the Kennedy Assassination. Draper and Pete Campbell, in their respectively very clever and very stupid ways, compete themselves into predicaments they will regret later. Peggy and Salvatore struggle with expressing their sexual selves.

What was missing was the extra almost mystical under-current which the very best episodes have. This is when you realise that people then, like people now, can tap into a hidden creative power, a bit like electricity or groundwater. There was however excellent character development, irony and subtle use of language. These are great features to find in a TV show. In contrast, I watched Midsomer Murders earlier, with a lovely cast including Jenny Agutter - but the script! Oh dear. 'As you know Bob, I am a recovering alcoholic and ghost-writer.' 'Ah yes, I did realise that old chap, as I have known you for twenty years.'

Example of how Mad Men does it. Don has seen Sal in a hotel room with a half dressed guy. They are on the plane going home. Don: 'Sal I am going to ask you something, and I want you to answer me honestly.' Sal looks at Don, and you see him frightened, ready to spin a story, then deciding to be open about himself for the first time in his entire life. 'OK'. Then Don, seemingly-oblivious, outlines an ad campaign idea he has about a woman exposing herself on the underground (employing the same pose as the air hostess he fucked the night before). And you think - shit, Don is so selfish, and sexist, and he can't see beyond his own creativity to Sal's needs. But then he adds that the slogan of the advert is 'Limit your exposure'. And you think - is that Don's secret message to Sal? (ETA - and is it a supportive or dismissive message?) Or is Don selfishly using Sal's emotional pain to generate ideas? Or is he cannibalising his own life for ad copy? Or what? Now - that's script writing. (NB the answer is 'all of these' I think)