Friday, August 28, 2009

"Mad" Woman

I am new to the world of Sterling Cooper. I'd meant to watch the show from the outset, but I don't get AMC in HD, so I didn't try too hard. Then it came on demand and I watched a couple of episodes and I was hooked. The VOD quality was horrible so I bought the first two seasons on DVD and I've been watching it with the spouse.

What makes this show addicting? I think its the characters. They are all so complex. None of them are pure evil or pure good. I adore character driven dramas. I loved "thirtysomething" back when I was a twentysomething because I loved the characters. I couldn't tell you a single plot, but I sure remember the people. I think it is why I still watch "Desperate Housewives" although I don't think its very good. I like the characters. Or it could be because I'm waiting for a bus to come by and plow Susan Meyer over. I despise her. She hasn't evolved at all over the course of the shows run. Anyway, back to "Mad Men." I also love the setting, the early 60's certainly looks fun. Growing up, it was always the late 60's that got the press. Hip huggers and love beads seemed to fascinate the world more so than skinny ties and old fashions. And the show seems exotic because they smoke and drink constantly. This kind of behavior is, well, scandalous in our politically correct world. And how they speak to women and how they treat them is jaw-dropping to a post-ERA baby like myself.

Shouldn't this be off-putting? No, I find it enthralling. And most of the credit goes to the Don Draper, the scrumptious hero/anti-hero of the show. He has a home outside the city with a pretty blond wife and wonderful children, one of whom can mix a wicked bloody mary. In the city he is an unapologetic philanderer living with a dead man's identity. He is a brilliant ad man who must navigate through the treacherous shoals of the corporate world. He's good at what he does and tries to live by his own moral code. Okay, its nothing like mine or yours, but the audience gets to see his struggles with what he thinks is wrong and write. Fascinating stuff wrapped up in a suave and debonair package.

The rest of the ensemble is interesting as well. All of them have an angle they use to try and get ahead, all of them have personal anchors which threaten to drag them down. The great writing in the series really capitalizes on the power of these characters. As a writer, it draws me in. It makes me think about my own characters. I can tell you, my whole perspective on characterization changed profoundly after watching Alan Ball's "Six Feet Under." He never pulled punches with his characters. I remember one scene where two main characters are arguing and they are holding nothing back. It was raw and beautiful, making me cringe while being enraptured. It gave me courage to force my characters into emotional areas I would generally back away from. "Mad Men" isn't quite so intense but the dialog is crisp and the actors are wonderful at body language. I watch the show with a writer's eye, studying the complexities of these characters.

Do you have certain shows which influenced you as a writer?

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