Mad Men Season One

Mad Men Season One
Most period-set entertainments make one immediate claim: that it’s not about the setting, it’s about the characters. Mad Men — the AMC drama that follows Madison Ave. advertising executives in the early ’60s — is all about the period: the look, the clothes, the smoking and drinking, the casual sexism (and even occasionally, the casual sex). So rooted in the show is their dedication to period accuracy that it takes a few episodes to decipher which smoking, cocktail wielding, besuited fast talker is in fact having an affair with which bouffanted gal from the typing pool. While that makes Mad Men a bit of a tough sell — it lacks the immediate central character-based drama of a Sopranos or even The Office — it’s intent on overall obsession, with style over personality. It also means that once you do get to know these people, their context is already an embedded part of the package. That’s what makes Mad Men, over the course of a 13-episode first season, increasingly addictive viewing. Its pace is, in some ways, a reflection of its time — there’s very little OMG! drama, à la Gossip Girl or even Desperate Housewives (another show in which context should be everything). Instead, it’s the quieter revelations of marital discord or professional ambition gone awry that lead to the show’s big bang moments. Given that AMC is hardly a household name in cable channel product, Mad Men is given the full court press on DVD. Packaged as a giant zippo lighter (cool but impractical), it contains features on the style of the show, advertising practices of the time, a music sampler and enthusiastic episode commentaries. (Maple)