Thursday, July 19

Mad Men

This is a new show premiering at 10 on AMC tonight. I work in the ad industry, so I will be sure to watch this.

"It doesn’t take long to get seduced by “Mad Men.”

The arty opening credit sequence sets the mood as cast names whiz by almost too fast to see. A velvet-voiced crooner in the background eases us into a different world--New York in 1960 at the birth of modern advertising.

The camera lingers on leather banquettes and men in sharp suits with short-cropped haircuts. It turns to the bar where an ad man sits drinking, so natty, so hip, so Madison Avenue and so not anywhere else.

It’s a perfect visual memory of an era long gone and much missed.

Then the man, noticing his waiter is smoking Old Gold, calls him over. He's an ad guy. He wants to know why Old Gold, not Lucky Strike. But before the waiter, who is black, can answer, his supervisor appears.

Is there a problem? he asks the advertising man. He tells him the waiter has a bad habit of getting chatty with customers. He apologizes for any affront.

Just like that, the romance is punctured. We’re reminded, in one swift moment, that the very real memory of that time isn’t real at all but as much a construct as the ad campaign the man at the bar is working on.

“Mad Men,” which premieres tonight at 10 on AMC, is good at that. It nails the era's sense of postwar, nuclear-family, can-do optimism, all the while undermining it.

Creator Matthew Weiner, a “Sopranos” veteran, has studied the master -- that would be David Chase -- well.

In “Sopranos,” Chase brilliantly contrasted the ordinariness of Italian family life against the brutality of criminal life.

In “Men,” Weiner flawlessly creates a world that invokes fondest memories of an era, then tests those memories, peeling them back to reveal ugly truths beneath, the ingrained racism, anti-Semitism and sexism that permeated all levels of society during those years."

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