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Mad About ‘Mad Men’

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We see a series of Quentin Tarantino-esque close ups of milk being poured into a pan. The stove is turned on and there’s a sizzle as the milk starts to heat up. Watching over the stove with a cigarette in  his mouth, Don Draper drifts off into LaLa land. As his mother’s death flashes before his eyes, the milk starts to burn and he’s jolted back to reality. He then joins his pregnant wife, who is lying awake in bed, unable to fall asleep, and asks him, “Am I ever going to sleep again?.” After he reassures her, she says, “I just want everything to be perfect. I want her to come into our home at its best.”

The description above is from the opening of the third season of AMC’s Mad Men, which, after weeks of intense media coverage, premiered on August 16th to 3.7 million viewers. It was also the most downloaded program on iTunes. No small feat for a show airing on a network that couldn’t get arrested before it showed up. Matt Weiner, the series’ creator, who got his start in sitcoms like Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Becker before getting a gig writing for The Sopranos, recently talked about his inspiration for the show in an interview with The New York Times:

I started off writing the show as a scathing analysis of what happened to the United States. But the more I got into Don, the more I realized this is an amazing place. Something really did change in those years. What would it be like to go to that place?”.

Mad Men has more than succeeded in making “that place” an intriguing and rewarding journey so far, but, like 30 Rock, TV’s other critical darling over at NBC (which by the end of its third season seems to have devolved into a  manic revolving-door of nonstop gags), it may be starting to show signs of decline. While it’s way too early to jump to any conclusions, the first two episode’s of the season have seemed a bit overstuffed and, dare I say, predictable.

Yes, we finally got to see Bryan Batt, who plays the closeted art director, Salvatore Romano, share a passionate kiss with a bellhop on a business trip, but it’s interrupted by, gasp!– a fire alarm. I hate when that happens! We also see Peggy grow into the ever more hardened professional, as well as go a bit nuts singing “Bye Bye Birdie” to her reflection in the mirror.

And of course,  Don and Betty, are still desperately trying to establish themselves as the picture of domestic bliss. Even though the first episodes out of the starting gate this season have had a “been there, done that” quality, the nice thing about Mad Men is that, even if  you’re not interested in the plot, you can just sink into the painstakingly recreated 1960s period detail. Which for now, is exactly what I plan on doing.

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