Monday, April 09, 2012

Mad Men

Calling Sterling Cooper. Here’s the challenge: How do we keep from losing the Mad Men audience, now that all the leading characters have lost their appeal? Don Draper has turned into a sleezebag. Betsy Draper has become a shrew. Peggy Olson is a weirdo. The less said about Roger Sterling, the better. There is not a single “Falling Man,” but a castful of falling men and women.

It’s a problem, but not the only one faced by the series. Another is the commercials. One of the features of the series has been its use of actual sponsors (Lucky Strike, American Airlines, Vicks), which adds to verisimilitude. But the actual sponsors of Mad Men (including Clorox, Miller Beer) are represented by commercials that would make Don Draper throw up. Whatever else you may think of the creative team at Sterling Cooper, they do show good commercial judgment, which is in short supply at Mad Men’s actual sponsors.

I was an advertising manager in the late 60’s, and I have to admit that Mad Men’s client-agency meetings are reasonably authentic. Whoever handles the costumes, hairdos, and general ethos of agency life in that era knows the territory. To a point. The smoking and on-the-job drinking are overdone. My own experience was in Boston, and New York agencies may have been more licentious, but I wonder. As for womanizing, the writers would have us believe that Madison Avenue was just one orgy after another. I, Claudius revisited.

I have watched every episode of Mad Men, and I am tired of the falling people. I watched the most recent episode, in which Don Draper did a lot of coughing. Maybe his chain-smoking will finally do him in. Maybe poetic justice will finish off all the characters of this once-gripping, now tiresome series. Maybe that’s the moral of the story: Quit while you’re ahead.