Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why DO people like "Mad Men"?

I watched the first episode of Mad Men the other night, after a number of years of reading many, many folks whose judgment I trust insisting that it's one of the best things ever. But after just one episode, I was really baffled. The show looks and sounds amazing, and yet, after a single episode, I wasn't sure I liked any of the characters enough to keep watching.

Then I read this post by Ken Levine:

When I’m creating a show my first rule is that I’ve got to love my characters. They may be flawed – they should be flawed – but ultimately I love them and care about them. And hopefully, I can convey that to the audience and they’ll love them too.

Again, the characters don’t have to be particularly loveable. Sweet and earnest and always-doing-the-right-thing is also boring. The best characters are complex. They may have internal battles between good and evil. They may be scoundrels but deliciously so. Or they can’t get out of their own way. Or life’s dealt them a bad hand. Or Hitler was their nanny growing up. I dunno – there are endless possibilities.

And often times the more layers the better.

But lately I’ve observed a disturbing trend. (Now the rant begins) Series creators are making their characters so hateful that I stop caring.

So apparently over time, the characters in Mad Men with whom I was not particular impressed in the first episode get even worse? Well, that settles that, then. Real life offers crappy people a-plenty to deal with. Why watch more of them on teevee?


Thee Earl of Obvious said...

This is a show about a time when roles were more clearly defined. A time when we could develop a persona instead of undertaking the arduous task of being a real person.

Men were men and women were women and all that crap. Dress like this and you are part of this socioeconomic group, dress like that and you are not.

From the outside looking in the world then seemed so orderly and smart. I think this show tries depict the show from the inside looking out.

You and I would have been outcasts in those days sire

Well, you more than me

That's a compliment

Unknown said...

Haven't watched it, but there's a certain nerd appeal to some shows that sometimes makes sense and sometimes doesn't. For example, Dr. Who (never cared for it). Twin Peaks (interesting but got old. Downtown Abbey (never watched. West Wing (never watched). Breaking Bad (love). 24 (loved, but too rightwing for this grouping). Mad Men fits that. Some day I might watch it.

Kaye Waller said...

I tried, I really tried. Born in 1951, I lived through those times and began my working career under those kind of conditions, which stretched on into the early 1970s, and there was nothing nostalgia-inspiring about it, especially for women. I'm glad they're over!

And as a fellow writer, I agree. After watching the first season, not one of the characters interested me in the least. Even those that should have elicited sympathy in me only made me see them as pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I reached a similar conclusion after a handful of episodes. I can offer up one defense of the series, though: the women, despite their clearly defined roles in that more simplistic society, were really interesting, ironically enough.

Kal said...

It never appealed to me. This might be one I watch after it's all finished. I was against the WIRE for years and that one ws good and I dedicated four months of my life watching LOST every day until the finally to catch up and regret that to this day.

fillyjonk said...

I've seen a few episodes. The sets, the interiors, and the clothing are fascinating....but for me, it felt like "there was no *there* there." None of the characters seemed particularly interesting or memorable to me, and everyone just seemed kind of "empty."

I can't enjoy a show about "empty" people.

Also - my parents were young-marrieds in the 1960s. But they were university people and listening to them talk about what they did (had dinners with the international grad students where different couples cooked food from their countries, went to plays and concerts, refinished furniture) seems so much more interesting than the slick surface world Mad Men presents...

Roger Owen Green said...

I've never seen it. I will some day. Or not.

Mimi said...

I've been watching - I didn't start until about a year ago, and I don't get AMC, so I'm not current.

Having said that, I like it for a few reasons. One is that the costuming, set design, and the recreation of that time - including morals and mores is absolutely incredible. Also, I find that the characters, while not usually likable, are complex and some interesting things are said about our identity.
I also think that it helps me to better understand those in my life who were young adults at this time.
The story lines keep me engaged and curious how they will play out.

Jeneric Generation said...

If it helps, I didn't like the first episode either. I wondered why people liked it as well. But then I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I watched the next few episodes. And now it is one of my favorite shows of all time. If you are interested at all, I wrote a post on why the people who like it, like it (including myself!). I would love to know your thoughts!