Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't Get "Mad"

I don’t get Mad Men.

Granted, I’ve watched only two episodes, but two hours of my life is all the show’s going to get.

People blather on about how beautifully the show captures the 1960s—the clothes, the sexism, the smoking. I got over that in about 15 minutes. Yes, you’ve done your research. Now have your characters DO something.

I’m told I’d appreciate it more if I watched the whole series. Well, yeah; that’s normally the case with serial dramas. It’s just that I’m way past the point of investing time in things while hoping they’ll get better. I prefer instead to move on to better, more promising things. I would far prefer to miss out on something than wish I could precious hours of free time refunded.

I’m not saying it’s a bad show. It’s fine. The acting is good. The subtlety present in the storytelling is a nice counterpoint to the melodrama and David-Caruso-style jackassery so common on the procedural du jour.

However, I think the pendulum swings too far toward style and nuance. If you want me to watch the show, I need something of substance BEFORE your final commercial break.

I guess what I’m saying is I just don’t understand the hype.


Chimpotle said...

So did you just like jump in to the current season? If so, that never works, especially with a serial drama. Without any of the back story of the past seasons, you're missing out on a lot of what these episodes are about.

JJSKCK said...

I watched last year's season premiere and one episode from this season. More accurately, I watched about 1/2 of the one from this season because after 20 minutes I got bored and started doing random chores around the house and listened in the background.

I didn't care about the back stories because nothing was happening.

It's weird because plenty of people who have tastes I trust love the show. I just don't get it.

The DLC said...

I avoided it for the first couple years because I hate exercises in nostalgia. But interesting things actually happen and the plot gets legitimately weird at times.

If you give it another chance, start at the beginning of the series. It sets the tone for everything.

Corey said...

Yeah, I think you and I have pretty similar tastes on a lot of things, but on this one you're dead wrong. I know, I know...entertainment is subjective, everyone is entitled to their opinion, blah blah blah. You blew this one. Watch from Season 1, episode 1 or you don't get a say. FYI - my verification word to post this is: "Josh Is Wrong About Mad Men". Weird.

JJSKCK said...

Yeah, I get the sentiment, but that's probably not going to happen. Much as I don't go back to restaurants after a couple lackluster experiences, I don't keep trying the same TV shows hoping they'll finally click, no matter how much people rave about them.

I just had one too many people get weird about the whole Mad Men thing; that coupled with me and my wife being the only ones who the brilliance is apparently lost on are what sparked the post.

And I understand people's reactions: I was weirdly fanatical about Arrested Development, and I was just as annoying as your typical Mad Men zealot.

The DLC said...

I will go on record as NOT being an Arrested Development fan. Much like you, I just didn't get it.

emawkc said...

You know what? I am totally with you on this.

Jason Harper said...

I'd be dishonest to say I wasn't pulled in by the nostalgia. I am a nostalgia sucker. I listen to the oldies on Saturdays and keep Mel Torme locked in my closet. But Mad Men makes an almost surgical practice of stripping away the sheen to show the ugly insides of American culture at the time, most prominently as it relates to gender issues. I also enjoy the show's in-depth handling of the ad business. Going back to the branding of the country in 1776, America's always been about marketing, and the 50s and 60s, with the rise of new kinds of media, was the defining era of American consumerism.

Sometimes it is definitely over-nuanced and goes through spells of meandering plotlessness, and that always infuriates me because the show's writers are brilliant when they're actually moving the characters, so I can see your point. But I wouldn't say that the show is only or even mostly an exercise in nostalgia.

But I think the problem, JJS, may be that the feverish hype has put you off. It would put me off, too, if I hadn't jumped on the bandwagon earlier, during the second season. And I don't have cable (I bought an iTunes subscription package), so I just decided that this would be the one show I'm going to watch as it actually happens.

JJSKCK said...

@emaw - Nice! *Commences knuckle dragging*

@Harper - I fully predict Mad Men will follow the usual pattern for this type of series/band/movie:

1. Passionate early adopters
2. Critical accolades
3. Growing audience
4. Hype
5. Backlash

It's inevitable. The hype really isn't what put me off, though. If anything, the hype is what made me sit down to watch it, excited that I might have a great new show to follow.

It didn't click. My wife and I looked at each other after the season 3 premiere, baffled that this was the same show people spoke of in such a reverent manner.

Fine. I moved on.

Except when people ask if I watch the show, they get almost angry with me that I don't. That, or I'm immediately dismissed like some cultural cretin who enjoys things like Flavor of Love and Ke$ha.

Harper said...

If you're pretty sure that Mad Men's not for you, that's cool, but if you ever do get curious, the only way for it to work its power on your eyebrains is if you go back to the beginning. As with most complex TV dramas in the age of DVDs and Tivo, writers are free focus on long-form storytelling, which I think produces rich experiences (Sopranos, The Wire).

But if I watched more TV shows, cared more about sports and consumed more entertainment media overall, I'd be less likely to care about Mad Men. It just so happens that this is the show Angela and I watch. It also helps that we both have a thing for the voluptuous redheaded secretary played by Christina Hendrickshominahomina.

Scattered thoughts:

- It's unfortunate the way shows like Mad Men have empowered NPR dweebs and English major types to hold it over people's heads that the popular media are now affirming their tastes.

- The hype/backlash pattern you point out is typical of everything that gets media attention nowadays, from Obama to the Arcade Fire. It is inevitable and a bit sickening because real value gets overlooked. I fall victim to this constantly, and what I was trying to say is that if I hadn't watched from the beginning and gotten hooked, I would probably be influenced by the hype not only to refuse to watch it, but refuse to like it. And then I'd miss out on something I might enjoy. I regret, for example, that I rejected following sports from an early age (despite one ill-fated period in the 90s when I decided to root for the Buffalo Bills), because I've missed out on a lot of fun and am now forever handicapped when it comes to talking sports, which will always be a thing, whereas Mad Men will have its day and be forgotten.

- I am but a reed, bending with the wind. And as such I try not to pass judgment on people who don't lean the same way.

Harper said...

Wait. That last thought was lame. I am an oak tree -- a bent twisted old oak on a barren, scorched plain. Vultures nest in my blasted branches, expelling dark, putrescent pellets of judgment.

Enjoy Scrubs.

emawkc said...

Thanks for being a good sport, man. It's all in good fun.

I think shows like Mad Men are the exception to the pop culture rule in our society. They're like sweet roses blooming in a field of cultural shite. But hey, that's just my insignificant opinion.

To your point, though, AMC has a chance to NOT do what networks typically do -- that is, take a great show and run it into the ground. This season should probably be the last for Mad Men. Once you've told a story (and told it well) it's time to bring it to a close.

Same goes with Breaking Bad (another GREAT AMC production). Rubicon, I'm very interested in, but it seems even more dense than Mad Men. Still AMC is doing some of the best work on the television box these days.

smh said...

This is ridiculous! You can't judge a show by watching to disparate episodes from the middle of the series.

You cannot give a true opinion until you watch the first to episodes of series one back to back. THEN you can give a proper opinion.

Your opinion is the equivalent of someone showing up to a pizza party when only crust is left and proclaiming the entire pizza as 'uninteresting'.

C'mon, it's only 90 minutes of your life. Man up.