Thursday, July 22, 2010
"Mad Men" As Good as Advertised
“Who is Don Draper?”
If you have to ask, then you haven’t been following the Emmy-winning basic cable series “Mad Men” for the last three seasons.
And even if you do ask – as a journalist does in the opening scene of the fourth season premiere of the AMC series at 10 p.m. Sunday – don’t expect even the character played by the criminally handsome Jon Hamm to have an answer.
Unquestionably, “Mad Men” is a series admired by critics and award voters more than it has been by viewers.
And just beginning to watch this acclaimed series set in the Madison Avenue advertising industry in the 1960s will be a little like seeing the end of a commercial without knowing what product is being sold.
“Mad Men” writer-creator Matthew Weiner is repackaging the series in its fourth season, giving creative director Don Draper a bigger role in a new advertising company with the people he admired in his old one.
It is such a start-up project that the new firm -- Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – doesn’t even have a table in its conference room and falsely claims to have a second floor of offices to impress its clients.
It isn’t always easy to be instantly impressed by “Mad Men,” which doesn’t have the same quick pace as most television programs and relies more heavily on atmospherics and character development than almost any TV show alive.
“Mad Men” unfolds like a novel one can’t put down every season, which makes it better when it is packaged on a DVD and viewers can watch the entire season in a night or two.
No question, Sunday’s opening episode is a page-turner, which is full of small moments that speak volumes about new business partnerships, dissolving marriages, advertising manipulation and how to play journalists.
Besides Hamm, the mesmerizing cast includes John Slattery as Draper’s politically-incorrect business partner; January Jones as Don’s drop-dead gorgeous and wronged wife, Betty; Vincent Kartheiser as an aiming-to-please account executive, Pete; Elisabeth Moss as Peggy, a copywriter who Don took under his wing and who is learning how to survive in a man’s world; Christina Hendricks as Joan, the sexy officer manager; and Jared Harris as Lane, the British advertising executive who ran the previous firm and joined the new one when his parent company kicked the feet out from under him.
Every character is richly drawn. However, it is Hamm’s portrayal of a brilliant, self-destructive and self-loathing man who has ruined his marriage and Slattery’s brilliantly-timed sarcastic humor that make the opener fly by as quickly as a 60-second commercial.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4