Friday, July 20, 2018

AMC's Mad Men Marathon Ten Years Ago

I can say without reservation that 2008 was one of the worst years of my life. The company for which I worked at the time transferred me to what was widely considered the worst division in the corporation. As a result I experienced increased stress, anxiety attacks, and even depression. Quite simply, I was suffering from an adjustment disorder. Worse yet, it was on July 19 2008, after going to see The Dark Knight, that I developed the worst case of the norovirus I have ever had in my life. For several days I simply could not keep anything down. That Sunday, July 20 2008, I then stayed in bed. Even if I had not been predisposed to do so, I had little choice but to remain in bed and watch the Mad Men marathon on AMC that day.

For those of you who don't remember, the second season of Mad Men debuted on debuted on July 27 2008. To promote the new season, AMC then showed every episode from the first season on July 20, starting at 11:00 AM Central. Now I had seen a few episodes from later in the show's first season, enough that it intrigued me. Even if I had not been sick, I probably would have watched the whole marathon. Regardless, by the end of marathon I was hooked on Mad Men. I became a fan of the show and it remains the only show from the 21st Century to rank in my top ten favourite shows of all time.

Of course, anyone who knows me would understand why Mad Men would fascinate me. Ever since my teens, I have been fascinated by the Golden Age of Advertising. Even before Mad Men, David Ogilvy and Leo Burnett numbered among my heroes. What is more, the Sixties have always been my favourite decade for popular culture. A number of my favourite TV shows, movies, music artists, and fashions all emerged from that decade.

While the Sixties is my favourite decade for popular culture, it was by no means perfect. In fact, for many it would have been a miserable decade in which to live. Racism was even more prevalent than it is now. Sexism was even more prevalent than it is now. About half of all Americans smoked and drinking to excess was not unknown among businessmen such as the ad men who worked at Sterling Cooper. As the decade progressed the United States would become more and more embroiled in the Vietnam War. Fortunately, Mad Men acknowledged all of these things to some degree or another. The show definitely did not offer a romanticised, sanitised view of the Sixties.

In keeping with a show that presented a realistic view of the Sixties, Mad Men featured realistic characters as well. There were very few characters who were purely good and bad. Perhaps no better example could be found than Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), who was in many ways not a very nice guy. He was a serial adulterer who drank a bit too much and had something of a temper, which he sometimes displayed in front of clients. His wife at the start of the show, Betty (played by January Jones), was not any better. She could be downright abusive to her children, had a bit of a temper, and seemed to put more importance on a woman's looks than anything else. Even other characters who might seem purely bad (such as Pete Campbell, played by Vincent Kartheiser), occasionally displayed good qualities. What is more, Mad Men was very well acted and very well written. There should be no surprise that Mad Men won several Emmy Awards and was nominated for many more.

Ultimately, watching the Mad Men marathon on July 20 2008 and then watching the second season made my life a little bit more bearable during what was one of the worst periods of my life. The marathon would also introduce me to a show that I have watched faithfully ever since and one that would become one of my favourite shows of all time. To this day if I am feeling unhappy or stressed out, I can always guarantee on an episode of Mad Men to bring me out of it. 

No comments: