27
Aug
09

In praise of: Mad Men (and Spectacular Spider-Man)

Now that The Wire and Battlestar Galactica have ended, Mad Men is the best television drama currently in production. This occurred to me as I was watching it last night (incidentally, there was a reason I was up watching telly ’til three in the morning, but I’d rather not explain for fear it would put me in a bad mood again). The episode I watched was titled “Shoot”, where a rival advertising firm tries to lure Don to the company, using a modelling job for his wife to bait him. I suddenly realised that there’s nothing else around right now that touches this level of quality.

First of all there’s the acting. It’s more than excellent. The characters are so well realised that every principle actor seems to be in the role they were born to play. With the exception of The Wire, this is probably the best ensemble television cast in recent memory (it easily trumps The Sopranos in this regard).

What really works here, however, is the writing. When I first encountered Mad Men I was unimpressed. The unashamed sexism and social exclusion of its setting seemed very gimmicky. What I hadn’t figured out was that the works are left under the surface. The writers rarely point out the important elements of the story they’re telling. Rather they trust the audience with the intelligence to recognise it for ourselves. This is not only clever in it own sense, but highly appropriate for a show about an advertising firm in the early 60s, where images hide things that are more important.

I wanted to embed a video here, but it seems AMC have been all over Youtube, and so the clips can’t be embedded. This one seems to best describe what I’m talking about.

Anyway, apart from Mad Med the only other show that gets me excited these days is The Spectacular Spider-Man. I know it’s a kids’ program, but there’s no reason kids’ programs can’t be great. The scripts are smart and witty and avoid talking down to their audience, and the animation is beautifully fluid (and also I’m a great big geek, so really go for this stuff). It’s possibly the best action cartoon since that Batman series in the 90s. Here’s an episode I quite like.



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