Category Archives: TV

James Wolcott on Mad Men

Everybody and their mother has fallen head over heels for this show. Here’s a rare dissenting view

It’s a critic’s darling groomed for greatness despite long inert spells in each episode that leave everything opaque, as if recognizable human behavior would be vulgar coming from such immaculate mannequins. It has a seductive look, a compelling mood, a cast that could have been carved from a giant bar of Ivory soap, but zero grasp of the elastic optimism and vigor of the Kennedy years, the let-go spring of release after the constriction of the Eisenhower 50s. Even the exuberant pop music on the soundtrack is used as a counterpoint to the characters’ enclosed meanness and malaise. The more explaining and self-examination that series creator (and former executive producer of The Sopranos) Matthew Weiner does in interviews and post-episode commentaries, the muddier everything gets. Is he aware that Sterling Cooper is the most incompetent, uninspired ad agency ever to blight Madison Avenue? Meeting after meeting adjourned until the next meeting because Draper’s dimwit team can’t rub two sticks together to spark a decent idea. I don’t mind Mad Men as a mild narcotic, but the raves it’s received smack of self-congratulation, as if its fans in the press and online were fondling their own taste buds. It’s fetishistic praise, better left to the movie critics and their blurb libidos.

Mad Men and Women’s Business Wear

Tomorrow Museum’s got a great post on Mad Men and women’s business wear. I found this tidbit especially interesting: 

Prior to watching the show, I thought of the women’s struggle in the workforce as a problem perpetuated by male bosses. But Mad Men demonstrates just as much tension comes from the other women, who, either jealous or comfortable with the status quo, don’t want to see Peggy get ahead. Secretaries wield an enormous amount of power in office politics.

Thematically, Mad Men keeps getting richer and richer.

(Via The Moment.)

Read, Write, Sleep, and Don’t Watch TV

To the consternation of many other fiction writers, you are incredibly prolific. You also don’t watch television. Are the two connected? Is there anything on television you are curious to see? I am a bit of a crank, I admit. Until I went off to college at 17, I was part of a household in which the TV was on all the time. In college, I discovered that there was more to life than TV. And so I refuse to watch any prime-time programming. Yes, yes, I know I’ve missed great things, but let me be a crank. I do watch PBS once in a while, I love the old movie channel, and I do watch the Dodgers and Angles usually sans sound, with music and a book.

What is your daily reading diet? I start with two newspapers: the L.A. Times and the Santa Barbara News Press. Then I re-read what I’ve written the previous day. Then I work. When that’s over, I do something physical: yard work, hiking, swimming, snorkeling. Then I make dinner, read, maybe watch a movie, sleep. This last is important: I need my rest, as we all do; and I sleep well, you’ll be happy to know, as a result of having a clean conscience.

—T.C. Boyle, USC Trojan Family Magazine, Winter 2006

Related Reading: “More on Hitchens’s Apartment.”