Style and Substance

I promised myself that this blog would focus on architectural licensure, not my own personal hobbies and interests.  But I suppose that I can allow myself the occasional non-sequitur…

I woke up Sunday morning wondering if Mad Men‘s time has passed.  After all, we haven’t seen Don and company since June of last year — it’s conceivable to think that the world has moved on, more interested in some of the other quality dramas (True Blood, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey…) that have risen to prominence in the months since.  For a show that defines itself through its high sense of style, now six seasons in, I feared that Mad Men could be in danger of going out of it.


“Just show me who you really are.” Easier said than done.

Wrong.  The show is as compelling as ever, thanks mostly to Jon Hamm’s indelible portrayal of (anti-) hero Don Draper.  Don’s inner battle with his own personal identity crisis (I won’t spoil it for the non-fans out there) is metaphoric for any of us — particularly men — who struggle to define ourselves.  Season 6 appears to find Don confronting his mortality, going so far as to seep into his ad campaign for an idyllic  Hawaiian resort.  Don’s best pitches have always been his most personal ones (I’m thinking of the lump-in-the-throat presentation to Kodak in the season one finale “The Carousel”), but this one might have strayed a little too far into somber territory.   (The client’s reaction to this pitch is as scathing of a review as you’ll ever receive in architecture school, cringe-inducing for anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of an unappreciative client.)

Mad Men’s constant focus on Creative — the department in the advertising agency that conceives of and then develops the ad campaigns for Sterling Cooper Draper Price’s varied clientele — is just one of the many things that I find compelling about the show.  I can think of very few other mainstream dramas that make the design process so riveting, without dumbing things down for the sake of the audience.  It’s not just the inside view of the craft — it’s also the personal expression that informs it.  Don does his best to hide his true self from everyone else around him, but it’s through his art that he reveals himself.  (Talk about truth in advertising!)

I think I’ll leave it at that, lest this start to become a forum for critical review of television dramas.  Safe to say, though, that my favorite excuse for a Sunday night martini has returned, and I’m more than happy to be along for the ride.