Why Does Mad Men Work?

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Now that we finally know who Rooney Mara is, let’s move on to another phenomenon. Specifically, let’s examine a little show (that came out of nowhere & won & may continue to win lots of Emmys) whose stars are getting cast right and left. Oh sure, a hit show always promises good things for its cast while it’s hot – they can usually count on a few more returned phone calls and auditions – but there’s something about Mad Men and perhaps even its cast that’s just plain different. Jon Hamm is about to hit the big screen in The Town (directed by/starring Ben Affleck – this may be one of the fall’s biggest films). We’ve just learned that January Jones was cast as Emma Frost in the upcoming X-Men: Origins- First Class. Elisabeth Moss has just signed on to appear in On The Road (yeah, that one) alongside Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen. They’re all over SNL. Point is, the stars of AMC’s hit  show are on some kind of roll these days,  (Season Four’s third episode aired last weekend). We know that Emmy has recognized newbies like Glee and Modern Family and The Good Wife, and this fall we’ll be introduced to yet another crop. But Mad Men continues to get attention, even more so this year as its hero falls victim to the depression, rejection, doubt, and uncertainties that have been plaguing normal people for centuries. So what gives – why does it work – and seemingly get better? (Full disclosure: I’m an unabashed fan. I loved this show from the getgo and spent an awful lot of time trying to convince others to give it a gander. Including the fact that their current agency headquarters  is housed in the same building of my first job out of school).  So what’s the appeal of Mad Men, really? And why are so many people at a loss to explain why they’re hooked (and why do they always wind up snapping their fingers when they describe the entire devil-may-care era in which it takes place?) Like The Sopranos, it’s a boozy misogynistic super -stratified world of a very specific group of people. And yet it’s not like The Sopranos at all.  It’s set in another era, but unlike those History Channel shows which appeal to a slightly more seasoned audience, this one’s popular among the young. Is it because we live in an era where we’re completely jaded since everything is possible on account of YouTube and cell phones, but this group of strivers had no such technology and relied almost solely upon verbiage and a plunging neckline? Or is it because we live now in an age of fractured families, alienated youngsters, and legitimate global fears and here’s this little microcosm of society that just hints at what we know will come to pass? Who knows. Maybe it’s just a bunch of really attractive people who took the time to clean up and button down in order to pursue the American Dream at a time when one could still sleep soundly through the night. Maybe it’s one of the few shows that’s genuinely escapist without being weird or set on another planet or in another dimension. If you haven’t watched, give it a shot. Nor is it ever too late – the web is riddled with sites that’ll bring you up to speed in two shakes. Then let us know what you think about the show – good, bad,  or indifferent. If you are a fan, here’s something to consider. Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which Mad Men character – besides Don & Betty – you’re most fascinated by:

1)    Joan

2)    Pete

3)    Peggy

4)    Roger

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