Mad Men: End of an Era
Eight years ago, I flipped to AMC on a whim, and caught a pilot. It didn’t seem anything special at first, actually taking me two viewings of said pilot, but it stuck with me. The show centered around an advertising agency in the early 60’s and had a lead I had never seen before. But I stuck with it. Soon, it became must watch television, with a first season finale that held one of the finest scenes in television history. The show of course, was Mad Men. Forget the Emmys and Golden Globes it garnered, there was an inherent honesty that cane with it every Sunday night. Our lead, Don Draper was a womanizer, creative genius, hypocrite, and alcoholic. Yet, you still rooted for him. You actually end up rooting for the cast as a whole, more often than not. That is an almost unparalleled statement (unless of course you’re a Game of Thrones or Sopranos), when we’re talking about a dozen main characters that hold the glue of a story together.
It is set in the 1960’s, but could be mistaken for modern day, with the light racism, and sometimes not so subtle misogyny. It is actually eye opening to realize that not much has changed in fifty years, with women still fighting for equal pay, and respect. Peggy Olsen is the face of the progressive woman, elbowing her way through glass ceilings and poisonous attitudes, finding herself on the cusp of advertising fame. She is foiled by Don’s ex, Betty Francis, who enjoys being the trophy wife, living out her cancer-stricken life generally with ease (until recently). In essence, they are no different than the career driven, ass kicking females, or stay at home moms of today. Matthew Weiner (also the man behind The Sopranos) knows this, and slowly weaves tales we can understand, sometimes unraveling our inner psyche. He had us latch on to more than just Don’s good looks or Roger’s wit, but to a familiarity that makes us keep coming back, over and over again (hmm my own little ‘The Wheel’ pitch).
With that being said, we had a good run. It has been 92 deep, entrancing episodes, that have lead us to the tumultuous 70’s. As much as I want to be upset that a show that inspired me to put out my own best work, is ending, it is the right time. I always go back to a singular moment in Mad Men. Don was seeing a hippie girl (beatnik), and would stop by her apartment from time to time. After a drug filled night with her and her friends, he realizes he doesn’t belong there, making a move to leave. The others hearing a police presence outside, tell him he can’t leave, fearing arrest. He looks them over and says a simple “No, you can’t”, implying there was a difference in their stature. We are still in that drug filled room, coming down for a high, and Matthew Weiner has left us, to think about another dense series, that has realized it’s stature.