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156 of 167 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 April 2008
Buried away on BBC 4 & the midnight slot on BBC 2 it's little wonder that no one's seen this show. I was lucky enough to read a review and started to catch it from Episode 3 and I'm so glad I did. The show is brilliant. Set in a 1960's New York Ad Agency it deals with the life of the ad men, their wives, mistresses and their secretaries. The writing is so sharp you'll cut yourself, the research and detail is faultless, it's slick, cool and gripping. Each episode is a gem in it's own right, like little mini Hitchcock films, the style and look is very Rear Window. Even the open credits are a work of art and a tribute to the great Saul Bass.

Although set in the 60's it easy to relate to the men & women in the show, times have changed a lot, the men all smoke & drink in the office and think nothing of making a sexist remark to their P.A. Now these things don't get said in front of women in the office anymore, but they are still thought and said behind closed doors, so the issues they create are still very much in the work place. They just said it out loud in the 60's.

The ad men are hard driven and determined to be top dog at work and find it difficult to transfer their work personalities to home where they suddenly have to take off the suit and attend kids birthday parties or paint the fence. The wives are complex people stuck in their domesticated perfect wife routines, slowly being driven crazy by suppressing their personalities.

It's pure class all the way, forget Desperate Housewives and get watching Mad Men, it's the best thing on TV for years.
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110 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2008
Remarkable. Utterly gripping, gorgeous to look at, fabulously well scripted, impeccable acting. All the more remarkable, then, that nothing much actually happens. Sure there are individual events and half a dozen longer threads woven through the series, but the real drama is found in how the characters relate to each other and themselves. Each character is complex, multi-layered, often deeply flawed, and fascinating. So, not one for people who like plenty of action. It will, however, handsomely reward those who take delight in dialogue and character. In my opinion, simply perfect.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2010
Incredibly well researched, this is a beautiful drama bubbling with a tension which really captures the era. Mad Men is overwhelmingly uncomfortable to watch for those of us who were brought up in an age defined by both political correctness and economic change - not only is this a chauvinistic, homophobic world defined by men, it is a world of capitalism, consumerism and greed. And yet it is exactly this which makes this so watchable.

The series revolves around an ad agency on Madison Avenue in the 60s, and its strength lies in the slow building of the characters who inhabit this shady world of cigarette sales and illicit office liasons. The central tenet of the series is office politics as the "Mad Men" vie for advertising sales of products which define the 60s,ranging from the first disposable diapers to the carousel slide projector. Set against a backdrop of an America on the edge, we are treated to original footage from, for example, the Kennedy/Nixon election campaign. We are left in no doubt that this is an accurate portrayal of a world which now seems so out of touch: where smoking and drinking to excess in the office is normal, where women are objectified and dismissed (pre 60s feminism at its most disquieting), where the billboard presentation of a sinister American Dream shaped by mass production is as much a facade as that presented by many of the characters to their nearest and dearest on a daily basis.

And it is this which keeps you hooked: there is a gripping sense of something disturbing lying just under the surface - as it does with so many of its characters- and we are never very sure when the explosion will happen. It is very real, very unsettling and above all, a harsh reminder that we have a long way to go before we can really leave behind the legacies of this era.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The sets and clothes and hairstyles are so realistic it's like going back in time. It's a glamorous world if you're lucky enough to be part of it, but human foibles remain the same.

The most noticeable thing was the vast amount of smoking that goes on, along with copious amounts of drinking at all times of the day, in the office and out. Also, most women are there simply to look good and keep their men happy and the only non-whites are in menial jobs. You can even clip any old unruly child round the ear and the parent supports you for doing it. It's a different world, but oh-so-realistic of what went on before we all became more enlightened and P.C.

The lead man, Don, is as cool as they come, and has no qualms about having a few bits on the side despite having a gorgeous wife. The supporting males in the office add to the mix, as do the many glamorous office girls who're hoping to land a mad man. A special mention has to go to Joanie, the voluptuous office manageress, who must be one of the coolest, sexiest chicks on tv. She glides effortlessly around the office, looks great and is tougher than most of the men.

There are no cliffhanger episodes, but it's not that type of show. It's all about character interaction and how their lives slowly develop. Absolutely facinating, so I hope its not cut short in its prime, like so many great, but low rating US shows.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2011
I'd urge anyone who is a fan of quality American Drama to watch this show. If you like any of the HBO or Showcase shows like the Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire etc etc etc then you will love this.
The show starts of slowly and I know a couple of people who have given up on it early on....DON'T. A few episodes in you start to learn that the main character has a dark secret which is then slowly unravelled over the course of the series.
The show captures the look and feel of the sixties perfectly and smartly embraces the issues of the day like sexism, civil rights and the birth of mass consumerism superbly. At this price, don't think twice, just buy it!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2011
I think the style / presentation of Mad Men, striking as it is, overtakes the actual content of the show:- lots of reviewers are drawn to praising the accuracy of the sets, the detail of the costuming and the quality of the acting. But this is surely a diversion?

Visually there certainly is a "wow" factor but just because the show is executed with style does not mean there is artistic worth to the actual content. What matters as a viewer is getting emotionally involved with the characters and being moved by their stories. That's where I think Mad Men struggles a bit.

Having just finished series 1, I'm struck that the show is really little more than a kitchen-sink drama: all the characters are unhappy, projecting an image that fails to match the sadness of their real feelings. A 60's society striving for "perfection" but which, like advertising, sells an image not the reality.

So far, so obvious - it's yet another dissection of the American Dream & that's been done before in various artistic forms. Quite a lot in fact.

How is this central conceit played out? We get the 2 main characters, the "apple pie" perfect American couple the Drapers: him successful, powerful & dashing (possibly even more square-jawed than Stan from American Dad) and her: doll-like, beautiful and the perfect mother. But what's this? The reality is that he's actually vulnerable and confused (and in the Don/Dick storyline quite literally projecting an image of who he is) and she feels trapped, unfulfilled and inadequate. He's giving vent to his frustrations by hitting the bottle at work, playing power games with his colleagues or cheating on his wife. Meanwhile, she's stuck at home, propping herself up with alcohol or getting intimate with the spin dryer cycle. You'd be forgiven if it all sounds a little cliched.

Notwithstanding the great acting, there just isn't that much depth to the material here. The characters don't really move on from their starting point and the plot pacing is extremely slow. No problem with that if substantial points are being made, but with Mad Men you feel that, actually, still waters *don't* run deep.

And in case you struggled to get the point by watching the Drapers play out ground-hog day every episode, then most of the other characters in the show are also - surprise! - people struggling to be true to themselves. There's little variation in the several supporting characters and the show's primary "universe" therefore feels flat and uniform (and pretty dispiriting). Looking for a little light relief or contrast? The main attempt at showing a different world is by setting up business man Don's affair with the artistic boho Midge. This set-up doesn't feel natural and the appearance of Midge's beatnik pals mid-season you feel is there solely to allow Don a fairly clumsy speech on mainstream culture vs the counter culture. It's all a bit obvious and the beatnik's themselves? Pencil bearded, polo neck dropouts, spoken-word recitals, smoking pot and listening to Miles Davis records - with the cliches flying thick and fast, it's a surprise they don't end each sentence with "daddyo".

In fact, there isn't really much here that feels natural or organic and it's hard to accept the characters as "real" rather than just constructs. This forced quality can be levelled at the other main conceit of Mad Men - the attempt to "hold up a mirror" by showing the emergence of what we living in the 21st century might call "modern society": consumerism, aspiration, image, technology, trends and so on.

Again, the point is made quickly but often repeated - it was a time of change: the new hope of the Kennedy era, the changing roles of women in the workplace (Peggy *can* aspire to be a copywriter), the emergence of mental-healthcare and so on. These things of course help to set the scene (successfully so) and much of it is done with subtlety but it's when the writers overstep the mark to shoe-horn in little "knowing" illustrations that it feels forced & unnecessary - for example the cigarette ad campaign being hampered by "new" concerns over the health risk of cigarettes. This sort of nudge and wink tactic just feels a bit contrived and breaks the spell of an otherwise nicely crafted setting. And let's not forget that the setting should be just that - a background against which the characters play out their own storylines, the setting itself should not be forced into the limelight and upon the audience.

The negative points notwithstanding, I hope that subsequent series of Mad Men might put some flesh to the bones by adding some depth and divergence of character. The show is different and does stand out from the pack - it's just not the masterpiece of TV that others might lead you to believe it is. I've been strong in my critique but felt that a little balancing was needed to all the 5 star reviews that - in my view - fall a bit easily for the show's "selling points" without doing what all good consumers should do - look beyond the shiny surface!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2009
This series almost, but not quite, lives up to the hype. The sets and costumes are terrific, and the subtle psychological tension gets more and more gripping as the series progresses.

Best of all is the acting: it is uniformly superb, but Jon Hamm and Vincent Kartheiser must be singled out for the exceptional depth of their portrayals, and their marvellous timing.

If anything lets "Mad Men" down, it's the heavy-handedness of some of the writing. The "it was a man's world" message is laid on with a trowel; I'm not convinced, for example, that it really was unthinkable in 1960 for a housewife to answer the telephone rather than her husband. Also, the "pointers" for characters' motivation are sometimes contrived; notably in the case of the art director Salvatore Romano, virtually whose every utterance "hints" at certain repressed desires, as though they weren't obvious from Bryan Batt's (it must be said excellent) acting.

The writing is weakest when it tries too hard to be ironic, and strongest when it addresses in sympathy the characters' secret demons and desires. The main storyline, concerning the protagonist Don Draper's mysterious past, while it may be melodramatic, is none the less moving for it.

It's not quite perfect, but this is quality TV that has the same underlying seriousness and intelligence that the best British drama (e.g. that of Dennis Potter and Alan Bleasdale) had until the mid-1990s.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2009
I had caught the first couple of episodes of season 1 on TV but because it aired way past my bed time I didn't keep up with it. I bought the DVD based purely on price, it was cheap enough to be a no brainer. However, I also knew that the writing would be first class (being a huge Sopranos fan). I have to say that this is definately the next best thing to the Sopranos, but don't think they are similar...MadMen is a much slower pace, a slow burn to get you hooked. Switching on the DVD for an hour is like a total immersion into 1960's culture, it looks and sounds stunning and transports you effortlessly into the times. Characterisation and plot are superb (my facial expressions must change constantly between jaw dropping and grinning). I could whittle on all day, but all I can say is BUY IT! it is a classic. (ps can't wait until season 2 comes out on DVD, that too is way past my bed time!)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 19 June 2009
I missed this 1st series on TV, but after watching and enjoying the 2nd had to go back and start at the beginning.

It's compelling. Well-drawn characters, excellent scripts and casting, period detail, pathos and a plot that progressively hooks you and becomes as addictive as the nicotine and alcohol evidenced throughout each episode. The context of the 50's for series 1 and the 60's for series 2 are the springboards for much of the character and plot development and also serve to remind us how rapidly the world has changed.

I was not a fan of the Sopranos, and as a result of this series being mentioned in the same breath, I approached Mad Men with some trepidation.

I shouldn't have, it's an excellent series and stands head and shoulders above most of the pap that is commissioned and broadcast on TV today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 November 2012
When things get bad, we tend to look to the past. And the bleaker the future looks, the further back we search for comfort. As the new millennium keeps disappointing us, TV shows set on the 50's and the 60's (once a rarity) keep growing in numbers. Many have tried and failed. MAD MEN tried and closed the deal. And have been doing so for 5 seasons now.

Meet Don Draper (Jon Ham), a Madison Avenue water-walker (and based on real life ad-man, George Lois). He is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. He is brilliant and secretive. He wants to keep walking the tight rope with no safety net. And definitely no contract. He is a chain-smoking, hard liqueur guzzling, womanizing alpha male. He is a loving father of three, married to a picture-perfect ex model. He has it all. And yet he cannot find peace. Because he learned early on that the world is always yawning at your heels, eager to yank everything you love away.

From bursting with joie-de-vivre Roger Sterling (hilarious John Slattery) and ever scheming Pete Cambell (baby-faced Vincent Kartheiser) to the gorgeous women (such as barbie January Jones as Don's wife), the cast is one perfect pick after another. And the writing is brilliant, reproducing the tastes and smells and nuisances of the era around Camelot, while drawing you in to the personal stories of characters polished yet inevitably flawed.

The 50's and the 60's were before my time so it is not nostalgia that makes me love the show. Yes, I find the era mesmerizing and (probably undeservingly) less complicated. If nothing else, though, back then they knew how to dress. Women looked feminine and men looked manly. You see January Jones on the red carpet, for example, all dressed up and groomed for a Hollywood function - and that modern image cannot hold a candle to herself dressed for everyday(!) life in the 50's. When did we loose it? When did we decide men should stop wearing suits and hats and women should start wearing sweat-suits outside the house? I, for one, blame the hippies!

This is one of the best TV shows ever and this box-set includes season 1. There are four more. Season 6 is eminent whereas season 7 has already been green-lighted. As I have said again before, good TV is best watched on DVD. Make weekends out of it. It is much more enjoyable to watch an entire season in a couple of days than having to wait week(s) between episodes. And (quite ironically, in this case), you will not have to suffer the...commercials.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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