Sunday, August 21, 2011

Achievement unlocked: Mad Men, season 1

Mad Men really is mesmerizing, and produced in this way that feels completely immersive.

The storytelling is deliberately paced, and to be honest, I was afraid I wouldn't have the patience or attention span for such a thing anymore. I was reminded of an interview on the radio, I think on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a few years ago discussing how the show ER changed the pacing of storytelling on hour-long dramas (a genre now largely populated by procedurals and high-concept mysteries). Having watched ER for the majority of it's run, I hadn't considered that, as my television viewing was shaped by it in the same way it influenced the evolution of other shows. But I reflected on having recently watched earlier episodes of the show and how the first couple seasons, upon re-watch, sometimes felt plodding compared to later ER episodes, with their frenetic quick cuts and breathtaking action (and later, constant "peril of the week" ridiculosity, like tanks and falling helicopters and several gun-toting loons).

Mad Men doesn't overly exposit, but uses language beautifully and otherwise allows the atmosphere and environment to embellish the narrative. The perfectly constructed mid-century mise-en-scène (see, I learned something from my single undergraduate film studies class) and calculated character development demonstrate how powerful, and to use the term again, immersive, serial story telling can be through television as a medium used to its fullest potential.

Oh! The design! Oh! The ennui!

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