The times have changed in Mad Men, but the qual­ity re­mains the same

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FOOD & DRINK -

It took a long time for the lat­est se­ries of Mad Men to hit our screens, and those with­out Sky At­lantic (Sun­day, 11.10pm) will have to wait a bit longer. ( Don’t worry, RTÉ is plan­ning to show the cur­rent se­ries later in the year.) The de­lay was due to the show’s cre­ator Matthew Weiner play­ing hard­ball with AMC and Lionsgate, the cable net­work and pro­duc­tion com­pany that air and pro­duce the se­ries in the States. Given the length of the gap be­tween sea­sons four and five – 17 months – there was a worry that this se­ries wouldn’t quite reach the same heights. Thank­fully, with nine episodes down, we can re­port that the writ­ers and the cast – not to men­tion the stylists and the de­sign­ers – are still very much at the top of their game.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing el­e­ments of the show is the way the writ­ers track the course of so­cial change through­out the 1960s. We tend to think of the decade in its en­tirety as one of lib­er­a­tion from hide­bound as­sump­tions about race, sex and re­li­gion. (Aside from those of us liv­ing in Ire­land. We had to wait yet an­other cou­ple of decades.) This neat fram­ing is, of course, far too sim­ple. Most of the change in the US and Europe hap­pened in the big cities, and to cer­tain groups. It didn’t hap­pen all at once, and it took some in­di­vid­u­als longer to un­der­stand that change was in­evitable.

The way the char­ac­ters re­act to change, and the rel­a­tive speed with which they un­der­stand cer­tain new re­al­i­ties, is what makes Mad Men so fas­ci­nat­ing to watch. In the first cou­ple of se­ries, Don Draper un­der­stands the needs of his clients and the de­sires and fears of their mar­kets bet­ter than any of his col­leagues.

But there was a sub­tle change in the last se­ries, which is be­ing de­vel­oped in the cur­rent one. Don now rep­re­sents the old Madi­son Av­enue, ill at ease with the new youth cul­ture. When a client wants some mu­sic that sounds like The Bea­tles to be used over an ad, Don is non­plussed. He doesn’t re­ally know what The Bea­tles sounds like. So he leaves it to his younger col­leagues, who fumble about try­ing to find some­thing that sounds like She Loves You. But The Bea­tles have moved on. It’s Don’s wife who rep­re­sents the dis­con­nect be­tween the younger gen­er­a­tion and the adult world that her hus­band in­hab­its. She tells Don to lis­ten to To­mor­row Never Knows, the last track on 1966 al­bum Re­volver. Don lis­tens to it for a few min­utes and then turns it off.

It’s the story of the old guard des­per­ately try­ing to make sense of the new rules, when those rules have al­ready changed. Mad Men re­mains com­pul­sive, ad­dic­tive viewing.


This lat­est slice of Scan­di­na­vian noir fol­lows a pair of in­com­pat­i­ble de­tec­tives – one Swedish, one Dan­ish – on the trail of a se­rial killer who is out to high­light the ills of mod­ern so­ci­ety.

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