It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World On TV’s Mad Men

News that MAD MEN, the multi-Emmy-winning series on AMC, had its fifth season delayed until 2012 is a disappointment for the show’s viewers. I’m catching up with season 4, and it’s as good as ever. (As much as I’d like to delay finishing to tide me over until next year, I don’t think it’s possible.)

In case you haven’t seen it, the show takes place in 1960’s New York City, revolves around an ad agency and focuses on Don Draper (played by actor Jon Hamm). What’ll initially catch your eye is the wardrobe, the incessant smoking, the nonstop liquoring and shameless womanizing. (If you’re trying to quit tobacco, this show won’t help.)

I get sucked into the beauty and allure of the 60’s, New York City, cheap prices for everything. One character goes to an Allen Ginsberg poetry reading, another to a Bob Dylan concert. I’m a bit jelly for their (fake) experiences, but the show doesn’t romanticize the past. It doesn’t hide the civil rights movement, the objectivity of women in the work place and the Cold War paranoia.


Male colleagues attribute the advancement of a female copy writer’s career with unwarranted quips to her waning virtue, all within her presence. A man draws an obscene cartoon and posts it in a female assistant’s office and plays it off with this stunner: “This is why I don’t like working with women. They can’t take a joke.” (Post-feminist readers, I feel your awe and disgust.) African-American men and women tend the elevators, restrooms and lunch carts, and characters don’t hide their bigotry, which is accurate for the era. A female assistant comforts a newbie in regard to the intimidation of a typewriter by saying “It was designed by a man, and he knew to make it simple enough for a woman to use.” (Arg!) This show also touches on homosexuality in the 60’s, how the discussion is avoided … basically, it’s a repression sandwich.

Click here to “Mad Men” yourself.

MAD MEN doesn’t hide the paralleled difficulties for women and African-Americans to be seen as equal citizens. I don’t want to recommend this show over a history book, but it showcases the small battles, which a history lesson may not always illuminate. Watching this makes me reflect on the opportunities I’m lucky enough to have today, it makes me grateful for the battles won before my time and happy that there’s something on television that makes me think beyond the screen.

Ok, I get that after all that, these characters and this time period may not seem preferable to watch, but there’s so much more to it: superior writing, character development and notable acting (Elisabeth Moss has had me rewinding scenes to applaud her nuanced performance). If anything, the carefully mapped set designs and costumes take you away from the current day, and that’s one of the hallmarks of entertainment for me. You’d be mad to miss it.

Click here to see Don Draper let loose on 30 Rock.

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