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Period drama. The 60s. Cigarettes and booze. Mad Men is all about that and more. The brainchild of Matthew Weiner, this American TV series just ended its third season with a coming fourth season slated for a July airing date. And this when I'm only starting on Season 1. Ugh. But better late than never right?

Mad Men follows the comings and goings of the men and women of the fictional ad agency, Sterling Cooper. Mostly, the series is centered around one man Sterling Cooper's creative director, Don Draper, played to enigmatic perfection by Jon Hammer, his dealings with the ad agency's clients, which include hard sells like Lucky Strike and Richard Nixon, his superficially perfect family life with wife Betty (January Jones) and his many women on the side. Don Draper seems to be the embodiment of that period: on the surface, a successful and dapper man, but go deeper and you'll finds all kinds of emotional and psychological trauma and maybe remnants of the physical excesses indulged in back in the day.

This is what I'm talking about. TV! About characters and a period setting that is integral to the story and not just there to tell audiences how different it was back then. Of course, it was different. That's what made it so interesting. Now, give us a show about people living in that time. And voila, Mad Men.

The characters are rich and dynamic. They have both charm and flaws, which can make you either hate them or love them on principle but nothing per se. Kind of like how you feel about real strangers in your life.

I love the visuals. The suits are gorgeous. The dresses, too. The hairdo -- oiled and nicely slicked back for the men, neatly coiffured for the women. And even cigarettes, which everybody seems to do on the show, both men and women alike, looks good. I don't smoke and I don't understand the habit but even I can appreciate its appeal when it's being shown this way.

This show is about a time when corporate America is on a boom, when moral compasses of CEOs and junior executives all seem to be missing a needle, when sexual harassment is rampant and commonplace in the office,  when nothing is done about the environment and cigarette smoke causing cancer is dismissed as a myth, it's the Bonfire of Vanities except we're not dealing with stockbrokers but ad guys. Yet, there is not a single wagging finger. All of this happened, see, and rather than moralizing us about the mistakes of that time, we're just seeing them as facts and history.

I'm not finished watching the first season yet but so far so good. I haven't found any major thing that I disliked about Mad Men. Well, I don't like Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) but that just goes to show how effective his character is.



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