Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mad Men: Season Two

Last week, I attended, as a guest of AMC, the sneak preview of the first episode of the second season of Mad Men, the show that has been hailed by The New York Times as: the smartest show on television." Written, created and executive produced by Matthew Weiner, Mad Men has become the darling of critics and critical viewers alike. And with good reason: the show creates a world of hard drinking, Madison Avenue ad-men in the 1960's Camelot that was lost never to be regained again. These Mad Men shaped the way America thought, and they accomplished it all with a martini in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and prodigious juggling acts that balanced wifes and mistresses in ways that corporate American males of today could not compete. Don't look at it as nostalgia, but more like a carefully crafted, beautifully researched slice of life of a time gone by.

The Museum of Modern Art
, where the screening took place, could not have been a better venue to show off the first installment of the second season. In the same building where the principal works of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock hang, Matt Wiener's series feels right at home. New York was the center of the art scene at the time that Mad Men takes place. And even though it might be a stretch for these corporate characters to share excitement about the artistic experimentations of the Abstract Expressionists, the precise writing, sleek design, and cool look of the show is definitely influenced by this downtown movement. In future episodes, I can most definitely see Sterling Cooper acquiring a nice Clifford Still: it would complement reception's decor rather nicely.

Talking with Matt Weiner after the screening, I shared with him my thoughts that it was very satisfying and rare to get a chance to watch the show with a large audience, a treat that most television viewers never get. On the small screen the details are more vivid and the viewer easily focuses on subtleties. Watching it on TV is like looking at an artist's sketch. At MoMA's theater, HD projection is like standing in front of those Abstract Expressionist canvases that hang at the museum upstairs. I am convinced that home viewing is the ideal home for Mad Men because it best serves the show's stylistic landscape. At the same time, it was a wonderful experience to share those great dramatic and comic moments in such a unique communal fashion.

I'm excited about the second season of Mad Men. After watching the first show, I'm certain that the second season of the series will be extremely successful. Lightning can definitely strike twice; I'm just curious about how it will streak across America's screens this summer.

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