To promote Season 4 of its critically acclaimed television series, Mad Men, AMC will be airing “marathons” featuring the five “best” (as determined by viewer votes) episodes of the show’s first three seasons. The marathons are scheduled to air each Monday night (starting at 8 p.m.) until the season premiere (Sunday, July 25th at 10 p.m.).
Tonight’s marathon installment featured five episodes from my favorite season of the show, namely, it’s first season. Watching the marathon (and yes, I actually sat through all five hours) reminded me of how spectacular this program is, and how much I have missed having it in my life during its interminably long hiatus.
The phrase “relationship television” refers to the phenomenon where a viewer will compulsively watch a particular television show each week, to the point of sometimes altering their personal and professional lives around the viewing of that show. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in a “relationship” with Mad Men. And you know what’s great about relationships? The cheesy love letters that come with them, of course!
Dear Mad Men,
The first time I heard about you, I wasn’t sure we would get along. You see, typically, I’m not a big fan of “period pieces.”
And, although you are certainly more contemporary than other shows of that genre, you ARE technically a period piece, Honey. Granted, you received rave reviews from highly intellectual critics and pundits, even before you arrived. But that just made me think you were stuck up and elitist.
Plus, you were on a television channel that I had never watched before — one that I had heard catered almost exclusively to really, really old people.
But a friend of mine aggressively sang your praises. She told me how hot, sexy, smart, and witty you were. She had me at “hot and sexy” . . .
So, I watched the pilot episode. And even before the first commercial break, I was hooked. I mean, it was REALLY love at first sight.
Your pilot episode opened with this brilliant scene! In it (just in case you don’t remember), the lead protagonist, Don Draper, is in a bar, struggling over an advertising campaign he must pitch to the makers of Lucky Strike cigarettes, the following morning. You see, it had recently been revealed that smoking could cause lung cancer.
Furthermore, federal legislation prevented advertisers from saying that cigarettes were “healthy.” The meeting was just a few hours away, and Don still had nothing to present to his clients. So, understandably, your protagonist was a tad stressed out. So while Don is busy getting plastered at the bar, he is also hard at work, brainstorming ideas for his campaign (Talk about multi-tasking!). To organize his ideas, Don uses the advanced technology available to him during the 1960’s. No lame lined notepad is good enough for the likes of Don Draper! NO WAY!
Don has something a bit more “high-tech” in mind . . .
I mean, seriously, he wrote ALL OVER that napkin! By the time he was finished, there was so much writing on that piece of cloth, you could barely tell what color it was!
When the waiter approaches Don, the latter tries to wrangle him into a conversation about what type of cigarettes he smokes (Hint: NOT Lucky Strikes). “I just love to smoke,” explains the waiter, matter-of-factly. Don deems the statement important enough to jot down on the sacred napkin. (Way to go, Waiter Dude!)
This conversation is interrupted by the manager of the restaurant, who immediately presumes that the waiter is bothering Don, simply because said waiter is black. As a child of the late 20th century, I found the blatant racism to be pretty shocking and offensive. But back then, it must have been fairly common place. Then, as Don scans the bar, the entire room seems to explode in a giant puff of smoke!
Because, of course, EVERYONE smoked in the early 1960’s! The scene I just described was less than five minutes long. Yet, despite its deceptive simplicity, it spoke volumes.
That’s one of the things I love most about you, Mad Men. You never talk down to me, or feel the need to spell things out for me. You don’t take my intelligence for granted. This makes me feel smarter, when I watch you. And, in case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy feeling smart.
(It happens so rarely, after all.)
Aside from your witty writing and snappy dialogue, you know what else is so great about you? Your cast of characters . . .
When writing a show that takes place in a corporate environment, it’s sometimes tempting to simply rehash the same stale corporate stereotypes we generally see on show’s of the “office” variety. But you didn’t take the easy way out, Mad Men. Each of YOUR characters are multi-faceted and complex, from the lead role down to mere walk-on parts, like, for example, that waiter in the aforementioned pilot episode.
In fact, it wouldn’t be at all out of the ordinary for a character who initially seemed pigeon-holed in the uptight “goody two shoes” role to rock out at a party . . .
. . . or get high on some killer weed, while spending a late night at the office . . .
. . . or get knocked up by a coworker, and not tell him about the baby until a full season year has passed, since it was given up for adoption.
I also wouldn’t put it past you to have a heretofore pristine and well-coifed housewife come completely unglued . . .
. . . or to have a beloved gay character nearly raped by a man, and then subsequently fired for REFUSING to submit to the rapist’s advances . . .
Oh, and the female characters on this show? They totally kick ass!
Early 1960’s America wasn’t a kind place for working women. In the workplace, they were often mistreated, and undervalued, if not openly sexually harassed.
They also lacked the same opportunities as men, and were expected to conform to the demeaningly narrow stereotypes of the era.
And yet, many of the female characters on this show, bucked societal trends, and found success in the “take-no-prisoners” world of corporate New York City.
Did I mention that the men on the show are hot?
And their sexual conquests are even hotter?
Seriously, what more could I ask for in a “Television Show Relationship?”
Well . . . maybe there is one more thing, I could ask for. It’s a minor thing, really. It’s just that . . . DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP GOING AWAY FOR SO DAMN LONG?
I know they say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but a YEAR??? Come on, Mad Men! That type of “absence” just makes the heart depressed.
And yet, now, I hear you are returning to my home in just a few short weeks!
So, I hope you’ve been working out . . .
. . . because I plan to have some SERIOUS makeup sex with you, upon your return!
See you on July 25th! I love you!