Is “Mad Men” showing signs of fatigue?
Well, the show’s characters seem to be. Now more than half-way through its sixth season, this storied, critically acclaimed AMC series about the New York advertising business in the 1960s is smack in the middle of 1968.
Maybe the stress the various characters are exhibiting — from Don Draper (Jon Hamm) to wife Megan (Jessica Pare) to Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) — has something to do with living in that tumultuous year, which was filled with so much violence and civil strife.
Nor does it help that these characters live and work in New York in that era — a time when living in the city’s center (or any city center for that matter) seemed dark and dangerous as cities ran out of money and violent street crime skyrocketed. In this weekend’s episode — the ninth of the current season, seen Sunday night on AMC — the characters seemed, well, for want of a better word, jumpy.
The jumpiest had to be poor Peggy, who stabbed and nearly killed her live-in boyfriend with a knife attached to a long stick when she mistook him for a burglar in the middle of the night.
She’s been nervous at the office too. Ever since the show’s two competing ad agencies merged, she’s struggled to avoid playing favorites whenever she encounters the two superiors to whom she apparently reports jointly — Don Draper and Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm).
And, of course, Don continues to act faithlessly (you won’t believe who he slept with this week). Meanwhile, ex-wife Betty (January Jones) flirted shamelessly with someone while her husband, Henry (Christopher Stanley), was a few feet away in a phone booth. And Megan was concerned she’d be canned from the TV soap opera she’s working on. One of her female co-stars even tried to make out with her in Sunday night’s episode.
The fact is, many of the scenes in “Mad Men” this season play like a TV soap opera of the ’60s — scenes in which two people are seen in intimate conversation as the camera alternates between closeups of their faces. And with so many characters bedding, or at least kissing, each other, the soap opera comparison isn’t at all far-fetched (and possibly deliberate).
Still, we’ve come a long way with these characters since this show burst on the scene in 2007 and immediately raised the quality bar on made-for-TV drama.
The question is: Is the bar still as high as it was when “Mad Men” set it way back then?