Saturday, March 24, 2012

MAD MEN returns

Mad Men is back! Season 5 opens this weekend on AMC channel with a 2 hour episode, Sunday. We haven't decided whether to watch it on TV or wait for the commercial-free DVD set. As mentioned in early January we caught up with Seasons 1 to 4 via a DVDs, and found ourselves well and truly hooked on this saga of the 1960s advertising world in the USA.

John Hamm plays the lead advertising executive, Don Draper, a character with something he'd rather forget in his past - something he was eventually forced to admit and to come to terms with over the course of the first four seasons of the series.

The series was created and written by Matthew Weiner who wasn't even born in 1960 - his birth data: 29 June 1965, in Baltimore Maryland. He's not writing from personal experience then, so while the series is entertaining, one has to suspect there's a fair amount of stereotyping and cliché involved. Interestingly Matthew Weiner has natal Sun in Cancer, John Hamm, his leading actor has Sun in Pisces....both Water signs, they probably get along well.

From Wikipedia
(Hamm) went through numerous auditions, and explained each time to the casting directors what he could bring to the character, if given the part. Alan Taylor and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner thought that Hamm was too handsome for the role, but decided that "it was perfect to cast sort of the perfect male in this part"; Weiner also sensed that the actor had not been raised by his parents, similar to Draper's backstory.
Cancerian intuition and sensitivity in action?

The female character I've enjoyed most so far is Joan, the office manager and red-head sex-pot played superbly by Christina Hendricks, natal Sun in Venus-ruled Earthy Taurus - just the right base-line for playing a sex-pot? Moon in Aquarius - possibly the reason she has appealed to me - or to my own Aquarius Sun.

Apart from Don Draper (John Hamm), I've found the female characters of the cast more engaging than the the males, which is unusual for me I might add! Two other female characters have prominent roles to play:

Peggy Olsen (far right), the new girl secretary of season 1, whose imagination and determination set her climbing the corporate ladder rather quickly - she's played by Elisabeth Moss (Sun in Leo). And Don Draper's wife Betty a Grace Kelly look-alike, down to earth in some ways but spoiled rotten. I began by thinking she was the only sane and decent one out of the lot in season 1, but had changed my mind by season 4. Betty is well- played by January Jones (Sun in Capricorn).

We left season 4 in October 1965, whether it'll pick up at exactly the same point isn't clear. I read that the producer intends to screen 7 seasons in all, and by the end of the 7th season will have brought the story right up-to-date. (I hope they'll have first-class make-up artists in the wings for that!)

The only clues available so far, as to how the new season will unfold, stem mainly from something in a promotional photograph for season 5: an issue of Life magazine dated March 1954, Rita Moreno on its cover, is in clear view on a table. Avid fans have commented on possibilities for this seeming anachronism. Will there be a long flash-back in the opening 2-hour episode? Or, is the magazine simply a red herring for fans to pick up? It could easily have been used in a scene - for ad research or new/old ideas. Or is there an article in the mag. relating to something or someone in Mad Men's cast of characters? Best comment I've seen on this issue:
Gee, you people have never been to my Doctor's office. He still has magazines from the 1970s in his waiting room. Come to think of it, some of his patients have been waiting there that long.


Wisewebwoman said...

My sister got me hooked on this series quite a few seasons ago, and like yourselves, as I don't have TV, I get the DVDs as they are released.
Parts of it are so unerringly true of the offices of that era that they give me an eerie, deja-vue feeling.
Apparently the research is meticulous, down to matches and delph and straws. I believe it. Peggy Olsen irritated me in West Wing and continues to do so here. The rest of the cast are flawless. Love John Slattery and of course Hendricks.

Juno said...

I love this show!! The only two shows in the last 20 years that I have loved have been Buffy the Vampire Slayer (first several seasons only) and Mad Men. I was born in 1967, so I do not remember the 60's, yet I have always had a strong interest in that era and even wished I had been born 20 years earlier when I was a teenager. My parents moved into their house in the early 60's, and it stayed unremodeled for decades. It was a full-on 60's timewarp and I loved it. AS Wisebewoman wrote, the attention to period detail in MM is truly outstanding - it DOES feel like a time warp. IN our house, we even had the same model of beige rotry-dial phone that Betty uses in the Draper household! When I watch it, I feel like I have gained a window into my parent's lives before I was born, the life my older siblings can remember as children. But it is more than that - DD is the damaged soul of the show, and so conflicted. I find him utterly compelling (and super handsome). He is the alpha male, but he has a nice, caring side that you see with his non-sexual relationships with women (Anna, Peggy, Joan, the nurse neighbor) I am sure it is the piscean John Hamm coming through :) I could go on and on about this show. Why does it resonate so much today??? So many reasons.

Rossa said...

I've not seen the series but as a redhead myself it's nice to see Christina Hendricks strut her stuff for redheads and curvy women!

She is, apparently, naturally blonde but has the skin tone to carry that shade of red so it looks natural.

I remember visiting my Aunt in Paris in '78, aged 19, and being surprised at how many redheads there were until my Aunt, another redhead, pointed out that 4 out of 5 were out of a bottle! We had great fun trying to spot the fake ones from the natural

Seems you can't keep a good redhead down ;-)

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ Glad to know that it's nearer to the truth than I suspected. But I don't mind a bit of artistic licence anyway - something exactly true to life would be boring. :-)

I enjoy seeing the fashions and feel glad they changed - a lot!

Peggy is probably the least believable female for me.... but I think it's due to the writing rather than the acting. I guess she's supposed to provide an example of the opposite type from most other females in the series.

We're home - so will probably watch at least the opener on TV tonight, then if the ad. breaks are too annoying wait for the DVDs as and when.

Twilight said...

Juno ~~ I lived through the 60s, but in England, where things were quite a bit diferent then, though I do recognise the fashions, and general style of things.

I didn't much enjoy the decade in general as I had a lot of "issues" - bad marriage etc. but also some adventures, though not in a Mad Men kind of world.

We got well and truly hooked on the series, and can't say exactly why. It's really a polished soap opera when you get right down to it. But highly polished!

Boston Legal and Mad Men are two recent-ish US series I've loved (and Lonesome Dove, an oldie in which at one time I could almost speak the lines along with the characters I'd seen it ao many times).

I've grown to like John Hamm's style a lot. We saw him in a movie on TV in the motel last nigh - it was on showtime (we don't have that at home)
Title "Stolen" - he played the lead - a father (and detective) whose young son had been abducted.
He played it well.

Twilight said...

Rossa ~~~ Yes, redheads do have a certain "edge". :-)

If you get the chance to see "Mad Men" I guarantee you'll love Joan.
she manages to be super efficient, sexy and compassionate all at the same time. Good writing - by a male too.

Twilight said...

UPDATE ~~~ We watched the season 5 opener (2 hours) last evening.
We both felt disappointed in the blandness of it. Usually, opening episodes offer a wave of drama on which to surf theough the coming season. This opening episode felt flat as a pancake, for me, and rather false, dialogue seemed more stilted and unnatural than I recall in earlier seasons.

Perhaps the plethora of commercial breaks put us off. The first segment was around 20 minutes long before the first ad break, then as the show progressed commercial breaks came thick ad fast, every 5 minutes at times, breaking up the continuity badly. Ironic really - show's about the advertising world!

Maybe we'll opt to wait for the DVDs if next week's hour-long episode follows the same broken-up pattern.