Friday, June 29, 2007

Brylcreem and Brooches on AMC

Just watched a promo (a "making of" ) on AMC for Mad Men - a series by Matthew Weiner.

It takes place in 1960 at a top New York ad agency and details the work and personal lives of the men and women that make up the company.

Of course, I'm completely in love with the idea of it. I was so glad to hear the confession by Weiner that he's a bit of a fetishist for the "look" - going so far as to make sure the fruit in the fruit bowls on set were the right size for the era. It looks perfect. I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt that it's good and complex and deep too. The promo did it's job - I am looking forward to watching the premiere episode.

My only concern is how they will manage to tell the stories without unintentionally condoning the reality. If, as they say, they are treating the sexism and racism of the time period accurately then the show might not actually provide a lot of roles for actors who are not white men. You see where I'm going? I don't want revisionism in drama, don't get me wrong. I'm just a wary of opting for a setting that might inadvertantly provide the same roles it did then to actors now - although I am sure the writers took this into consideration.

In one clip from the promo, the main ad man, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) talks to a black waiter in a restaurant. The white maitre d' comes by to make sure the waiter isn't being "too chatty" - and Dan, surprised, assures him they were just "having a conversation". Realistic and sympathetic - but the black actor (in 2007) is still playing a waiter. Granted, this is not the only role available to him anymore - and perhaps there is much more to his character and his storyline than I glimpsed. But it still gave me pause.

I guess Sopranos had similar issues. If you were an Italian actor, hurray. If not, please move on to the next show, thank you. But I don't think that should've prevented the Sopranos from getting made. And I wouldn't want to prevent Mad Men from reaching screens either. Like I said, I'm eagerly anticipating it and I certainly won't judge it till I've seen it.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, emerges from Mad Men. Will it be popular? Will it instill a certain nostalgia in young white guys for a time that perhaps looks pretty swell from the outside? Will it influence women's fashions? (We've already been tilting towards belted waists and Spanx.) Will it push smoking back into vogue among a certain set? The repressed office atmosphere of the time - rampant with casual sexual harrassment - will be an interesting contrast to today's office equality with-a-broader-cultural-side-dish "raunch"*.

One scary thought - what if this is just Entourage (a show I can't watch more than 20 seconds of) set 47 years ago?

As you can see, for all my love of Nostalgic Americana, I have reservations about the actual conditions of the time. So now I wait till the show airs.

Anyone up for a premier night cocktail party? Suits and frocks required. Gimlets served.

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