Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Portrait of Don Draper


"Mad Men" is just one of those shows that viewers either "get" or they watch one episode and, from then on, avoid at all costs. Without a doubt, the writing and the story lines ask a lot from an audience and answers are usually never given directly. Events and personalities are understood only by inference and widely varying interpretations are equally possible. Therefore, for the average television viewer, this show may be a slight challenge. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Each episode is a bit like reading a short story by Updike, Cheever or O'Hara. One is usually left with one feeling and later, upon reflection, something quite different emerges. (This makes for lively discussions at on-line forums, I assure you.) The program's loyalty to historical authenticity - in fashions alone- and the ethos of that era set a new standard for television. The creator, Matthew Weiner, skillfully reminds us that it may be a mistake to judge the past by our standards. This is where we came from and not so long ago.

Storyline follows the inner workings of an advertising agency in the early 1960s. One of the executives there, Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is a guy my parents would have called "slick" and that, by their definition was certainly nothing to be proud of. The writers of the show have deliberately made Draper sometimes hard to like, with his serial cheating on his wife, his brusque approach at management, and his lack of openness.

Still, with all those strikes against him, Draper has his charm and is, by no means, a villain. Draper is, like all of the characters on the show, in transition, a man under construction.

So, as fans of the show wait impatiently for the fourth season, here's a salute to Don Draper, an unheroic hero.

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