I found the first episode of Mad Men to be very good. Interesting dialogue, just enough unanswered questions and the show didn't feel the need to explain how an advertising agency works. I found it hard to believe that so many people smoked, and it was a bit hard to swallow that women were treated so poorly. I have to imagine that while these scenarios are no doubt true, they have been a bit exaggerated for dramatic purposes. As an Ad guy, I liked that it wasn't all about advertising and as a Creative Director, I am a bit jealous of Don Draper's role. I dream of being able to sit in a plush chair, smoke and drink all day and get away with simplistic solutions to client problems all while being half-crocked.
Having just seen the third episode, I will say I'm a bit disappointed in where things are headed. There is not a likable character in this show. They are either too chauvinistic, too racist or too full of shit to like. And I have yet to see a conscience among them. How am I to sympathize with Don Draper's struggles with his wife when he has one mistress and is working on another. How am I to sympathize for Betty Draper when she seems to have no identity herself other than her husband and her children. She is a cook in a kitchen and nothing more right now. I'm sure it's true that these relationships existed, but to this extreme? Who could live like this? The two interesting characters are Pete Campbell and Joan Holloway. I can't quite figure out if Pete is for real just yet. But I know that I don't like him and he has smarm down cold. And Joan is fantastic as the head secretary who knows her role in this crazy industry and plays it to the fullest.
Being that the show is eventually about advertising, it isn't making much of a statement about the industry. These men get by with half-hearted attempts and loads of bullshit. The examination of the Doyle Dane Bernbach advertisement for Volkswagen was a nice bit at the beginning of the third episode. It's evidence that Sterling Cooper, the agency featured in the show, might be a bit prehistoric in how it approaches advertising, Roger Sterling leading the charge with the statement that the best headline reads "99 cents."
I will go against my traditional behavior here and say that I'm going to stick with this show. I've seen enough to think that we might quickly get past these shortcomings. At least that's what I'm hoping. The fact that the show takes place in the 60's is its hook and it's downfall. In a time where we know smoking is bad, drinking on the job is unheard of and infidelity isn't what it used to be, we need something to identify with. Something that tells us that 40 years later, we aren't that much different. That years have passed, times have changed, but our problems remain the same.