AMC’s watershed, Mad Men, winner of multiple “best dramatic series” Emmys is about to wrap up its sixth season. This show has been so good, especially in the first seasons, that it has a set a bar for itself that is almost impossible to reach year after year.
Those first seasons were remarkable in their art direction, pacing, and masterful characterizations by (then) mostly unknown actors. Creator/writer Matthew Weiner’s steady development of protagonist Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) against the backdrop of the “everything is possible” early 1960s world of Madison Avenue – has created an icon.
Popular culture can now interject “the Don Drapers of the world” or “the bygone days of Don Draper” into casual conversation, and most will know what they are talking about. The clear indelible image of Jon Hamm with his white shirt, dark suit, skinny tie, Brylcreem hair, with the ever-present cigarette and nearby cocktail once seen is impossible to shake.
While Don is talented and impossibly handsome, he is also deeply troubled – much more than one would expect. After 5 seasons viewers have come to know Don as a talented business person and insensitive sleaze-bag. The fact that Hamm and the show’s writers keep him so interesting week after week despite his amoral behavior is a testament to the show’s writers. Much of the credit belongs to Hamm whose performance is never less than remarkable.
Unfortunately, AMCs sister show Breaking Bad (and their actors) have robbed Hamm for multiple years of a much deserved Emmy. Perhaps with Bad wrapping this year Hamm may yet have his day at the podium.
Which brings us to now. 8 episodes down and 5 to go in what has been a very uneven season. Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen gave the season a “B.” Foul!
Sure, some of the first episodes moved slowly. But, as in every other year, Men found its grove. Clearly, Weiner is setting up a big finale that will play out next year where Dick Whitman and Don Draper become one.
Touching historically correct bases like assassinations, invitations to group sex, and Don’s very bizarre hotel room tryst with his neighbor’s wife seemed more like “darlings” than plot necessities. Betty Draper has become a phantom. Joan and Roger have been underutilized.
No matter. Let’s face it – it’s Don we care about. Through him, we are watching the great unraveling that was to come in the stoned-out 1970s and beyond. Weiner’s ultimate game plan (I think) is to draw a clear connection between the idealism within the nuclear family of the late 1950s to the great moral ambiguity that was to come with Nixon, Watergate and later with cocaine and AIDs.
He has nearly pulled it off. Next season should be a doozy. Let’s hope Hamm gets his Emmy.
Mad Men is on AMC Sunday evenings.