Tuesday, July 8, 2008

TV Watch: Mad Men

The Showtime and HBO networks have become masters over this decade in developing and producing great television series, the best that TV has to offer.

HBO has led the way with the granddaddy of them all, "The Sopranos", and they have also given us "Entourage", "Sex & the City", "The Wire", "Big Love", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Rome", "Deadwood", "Carnivale" and more. Showtime has given us programs like "Dexter", "Brotherhood", "The Tudors", "Sleeper Cell", "Weeds", "Californication", and "The L Word" among others.

AMC has now gotten into the action, and their new drama "Mad Men" takes a back seat to none of the HBO/Showtime offerings. The first season is set in 1960, and follows the lives of the office staff at the mid-level 'Sterling Cooper' Madison Avenue advertising agency. Jon Hamm stars as Donald Draper, an emerging superstar in the ad industry and the firm's star employee.

The plot line largely revolves around Draper in his work and home lives, with January Jones as his wife Betty. Hamm and Jones do an outstanding job portraying a married couple with children at a crossroads in their own lives and in American history.


They are not the only memorable characters. Vincent Kartheiser as young budding ad man Pete Campbell, Peggy Olson as Draper's newbie secretary Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery as firm partner Roger Sterling, and the spectacular Christina Hendricks (scene-stealing every time she appears) as office manager Joan Holloway all shine. They lead a tremendously deep supporting cast of office staff and family members that make Mad Men one of the best ensemble series to come along in years.

The actors aren't the only excellent work being done on this show. The production staff does an outstanding job of recreating the world of America at the time just before Kennedy's 'Camelot', before Vietnam became a dirty word, before anyone knew what a hippie was. It was a time when smoking and cocktails were in vogue, and when there was no such thing as political correctness.

This show is available locally on Comcast's OnDemand feature service, currently showing the full season one. Season 2 is scheduled to begin airing live in late July 2008.

As with most series, it takes watching 2-3 episodes before you really get hooked, but this AMC feature will absolutely pay off for you, as "Mad Men" is one of the finest television programs to come along in years.

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