Thursday, August 07, 2008

I Love Mad Men

Another week nearly expired. All we need is the weekend to officially snuff it out, like a pillow over a face. It's been a few weeks now since I returned from Belgium, and it's pretty remarkable how one eases back into the rhythms of a nearly forgotten life. Namely, that of the constant reminders of one's unemployment. I sometimes rather wish K. would berate me for my inability to get a job ... to hold some obvious grudge. At least then, I could direct my self-defensive anger at her. But, alas, no. Much worse when the constant reminders come from within. When they impose one layer of guilt for not having tried hard enough to remedy the situation; and then more layers still when the previous layers of guilt were not enough to shame you into finding a job. Around and around it goes.

Fortunately, I've discovered people more sad than I am: the main characters of AMC's magnificent show, Mad Men. We finished watching the first season last night, and I think I can say that on the merits of that season alone it has entered top tier of 'must see shows'. I'm really taken by the show's painstaking attention to detail -- with respect both to its sets and its characters. It's nice when a show doesn't even pretend to show you somebody as 'good', 'bad', or 'in-between'. The categories, as for most people in our lives, are neither necessary nor possible. (Even the loathsome Pete!) Most captivating for me is the depiction of heartbreak, especially in the marriage of Don & Betty Draper.

In this clip, from the season one finale, Betty confesses what we've known from the first episode. And I won't lie, I get a little dusty watching it.

The woman who plays Betty here plays this perfectly, and really exposes a level of raw emotion not seen since Carmela Soprano. Betty impacts me more, though, because of the level of pity I feel for her, which I never really achieved for anybody in the Sopranos.

In the next clip, superstar ad man Don Draper buys into his own sales pitch for Kodak's new slide projector, and it is mesmerizing to watch unfold.

The timing here is rich. And like Don says at the beginning, it walks a tight rope between being potent and being too sentimental. But something about the use of silence, punctuated with the clack of the projector. It just says it all ... about both the hope for something better with his wife and kids, and the regret that its not what it once was.

Not saying I relate to this or anything, at least not on the dramatic level on display here. Just saying, there's a ring of truth to it. And insofar as this is the case, maybe the healthy relationships, whatever that means, are the ones least true to life as we know it.