Thursday, 29 May 2014

The mystery of whether I enjoy Mad Men or not

I want to like Mad Men. It seems like the right thing to do. It seems logical to like Mad Men. But I don't. Not much, anyway. Maybe not at all. I've only seen one season, which doesn't seem like much, but is still thirteen hours long. If I had done anything else for thirteen hours, I would probably know if I liked it or not. I will watch more of Mad Men. One more season. Maybe two. Because I really, really want to like Mad Men. It's an important television show. It's part of discussions about important television shows. I am not having these discussions about Mad Men, but one day, when somebody asks me what I think of it, I will have an intelligent answer. And maybe I'll be able to say I enjoy it. Or maybe not. The problem is that I admire it rather than enjoy it. It is an extremely well-made, well-written, well-acted series, and it has literary things to say about American society. Long articles can be written about the themes that run through each episode, and how they show up through metaphor and plot. Identity, racism, sexism, outdated social attitudes. All very interesting. But I don't want to write an essay. I want to be entertained.

I want to enjoy it. And that will only happen if there's a story I care about. From what I've seen of it so far, there isn't. I understand that it's a toned down, not-much-happens sort of show. I'm not against that. There just needs to be something going on that I can engage with. I don't really like the characters, but characters don't have to be likable. When the characters aren't likable, I look for something in the story. And when there's not much going on in the story, I watch something else. Don is a mope, who is full of little mysteries I think I'm meant to care about, but don't. His wife is bored. Peggy's alright. Joan reminds me of those really good Firefly episodes. There's lots of advertising meetings that all seem to involve the staff coming up with silly ideas, then Don saying 'No, that's not right. You have to consider the truth of the human condition, which I will now explain to you.'

His relationship with his family seems to be the main focus, but I have no sympathy for him. He looks constantly depressed at all the nicest family gatherings, then goes and sleeps with someone who's not his wife, and I'm meant to feel sorry that he feels so disconnected. Why is he doing this? He doesn't really say, but I think it has something to do with the themes. Those themes that need analysing. All the answers will be in there, not in the scenes where he sits in his office and stares at the wall, looking perplexed about this materialistic society and his existence in it, and the themes that are ruining his life. The episodes go by like this and I end up feeling different - not uplifted, not tense or excited, but interested, and a bit glum.

The reason I'm writing this, after only seeing one season, is that I want to make a record of how wrong I was. I want to have a revelation and realise that I love Mad Men, and I want to watch all of it, then watch it again and again. I'll appreciate it in all its deep and nuanced and brilliant complexity. I was wrong back then, when I hadn't really gotten into it. I'll own boxsets because I love it so much. It'll be wonderful. I will be a fan of one of the best TV shows ever made and I will write about it here. I really want to like Mad Men.