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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Mad Men Seasons 1-3

I am terrible at marketing, so when I saw that Mad Men was a show about advertising executives, I checked out Mad Men: Season One from the library. The result was I ended up watching not a TV show about advertising and how to do it properly, but about rich powerful men in the 1960s and how different the 1960s were from now. There was the division of labor (in both physical location and focus) between women and men, the political events and major events of the day (the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of major political figures such as John Kennedy and Martin Luther King), and the start of the recognition of African Americans as a viable economic market.

In Mad Men: Season Three, there's even a depiction of child-birth as it was in the 1960s. No ultrasounds, no knowledge of what was to come, and the men confined to a waiting room. More importantly, there's a sense of what's never changed amongst humans: infidelity, abuse of power, office politics are all depicted, including some great examples of good management. We ended up watching 3 seasons in fairly short order (granted, each season is only about 12 or 13 episodes). The cinematography is very pretty, and well deserving of the Blu-Ray versions of the show if you can get it --- none of the fake gritty /grainy look that made me feel like Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] would have been a waste of money, much as I enjoyed the first two seasons of that show.

All in all, an enjoyable series, if slow. And if you're young enough not to have lived through the 1960s, a good history lesson. As Charles Stross in Glasshouse reminds us, the 1960s were as alien as any science fiction future that you could think of. In terms of bringing that to life, Mad Men does a better job than even that excellent book did.

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