On Oct. 26, AMC’s “Mad Men” wrapped up its second season with a resilient finale, which makes the wait for the third season (set to air mid-late 2009) particularly difficult. “Mad Men” garners paltry ratings (the second season averaged 1.5 million viewers, according to Reuters); however, the show continues to grow and its total ratings average is up 63% from season one. The six-time Outstanding Drama Emmy winner deserves all the attention it can get and is a show to catch up on during its off-season.
“Mad Men” takes a glimpse into the lives of the fictional advertising agency, Sterling-Cooper, during the swinging 1960’s. Emmy-nominee Jon Hamm plays Donald Draper, the company’s creative director. Don is a mixed-up man whose goal is to forget about the past and continue with the lies he has been telling for many years.
Hamm recently hosted an episode of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which spoofed “Mad Men” and Don Draper, specifically. Multiple sketches re-iterated Don’s excessive smoking, drinking and sexual promiscuity.
Don’s wife, Betty (January Jones) is naive towards her husband’s infidelity throughout the first season; however, she came out of her shell during the second season when she finally kicked Don out of the house. Jones knocked the ball out of the park every week and deserves awards attention as Don’s long-suffering wife.
“Mad Men” perfectly blends the power-hungry, career driven men at the company with a deeply subtle and emotional portrait of their social lives outside of work, which is rather bleak for most of the characters.
Before junior account executive Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) married, he cheated on his infertile fiancée with Don’s assistant Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss). Peggy climbed the company ladder and is now a junior copywriter, which symbolizes the growth of women in society. While Peggy is a success at Sterling-Cooper, she revealed to Pete in the second season finale that she had a son and gave him up for adoption as a result from their tryst in the first season.
Christina Hendricks is perfection as office manager, Joan Holloway. Joan is tough as nails in the office, though she opens herself up and lets her guard down when it comes to the men in her life. In the first season, she carries on an affair with one of the senior partners of Sterling-Cooper, Roger Sterling (Emmy-nominee John Slattery), yet she gets engaged to a doctor in the second season after falling out with Roger. While Joan remained mostly in the background this season, she shared one intense scene with her fiancé in the office. Hendricks displayed careful restraint and deserves recognition for her devastating performance as woman who lost control to a callous man in the one place she thought she had all the power.
Bryan Batt plays Salvatore Romano, a sexually ambiguous art director, who is married to a woman, though he is clearly covering up his own sexual identity to conform to society standards set in the ’60’s.
“Mad Men” realistically displays historical events, which are incorporated in an engaging way as a background player to larger proceedings that take place in the character’s lives. The high-profile Presidential election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon played a significant role in the first season and the death of Marilyn Monroe consumed the women in the office during one episode in the second season. “Mad Men” continues to use those pieces of time as a way to establish relevancy and make connections between the past and the present.
Creator Matthew Weiner, who wrote and produced HBO’s “The Sopranos” in its hey-day, has helped establish “Mad Men” as one of the best television series of all-time. With pitch-perfect acting, writing and direction, along with timely costumes and lustrous sets, “Mad Men” should be around for a long time.