Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mad Men S5 E1

Much modern film making is based on the false premise that people change. Executives want the characters in their films to arc and grow and learn things about themselves over the space of 120 minutes. Its silly of course because very few adults grow or learn things or change. Thats why most movies are so bad: they're centred around this central untruth and they feel completely artificial. (That and the fact that the core audience for films seems to be 14 year old boys). 
...
Television is different. In TV you don't have to have growth. In TV you can go to the planet of the week, jump through the time gate, have Kirk fall in love with Joan Collins, watch Joan Collins get hit by a bus and leave. Famously on Seinfeld the mantra was "no growth, no hugs," which seems about right. Even on a show like Modern Family which ends each episode with a one minute voice over detailing what the characters "learned" over the previous 22 minutes, essentially they're fibbing because the reset button is pushed and everyone is exactly the same for the very next episode. 
...
This is why Mad Men is so comforting. In five seasons no one has really changed at all. Don is still moody, introspective and a horn dog. Pete remains a spoiled, ungrateful little shit. Peggy is smart, sassy and insecure. Roger constantly cracks wise to cover his deep misery, angst and depression. We want these characters to stay like this. Its what we're used to and we like it. S5 E1 has been criticised in some quarters for its lack of action and the fact that everyone seems the same. To me this is not a pertinent critique and is applying the standards of one medium, film, to another, television. In fact the opening episode was pretty good. The plot such as it was, was about the surprise party Megan threw for Don's 40th birthday. She scandalised a couple of people by doing a little song and dance number. Don was upset not by the song and dance but by the fact that all sensible people on planet Earth hate parties and only the completely insane enjoy surprise parties or having a party at one's own house. 
...
I liked the lightness of touch of S5E1 (Harry has become a great comedic staple, seeing Pete's gun again etc.), the gags (Roger's quips and Pete's evil practical joke about the Staten Island Ferry terminal) and the grown up resolution to some of the storylines (the guy with the wallet wasn't a complete asshole). For me the best part of the episode wasn't Megan and Don attempting to ruin the white carpet but the lovely scene between Joan and Lane Pryce the two most human characters at SCDP. Both of them were feeling vulnerable and sad and both had the emotional capacity to comfort one another. Nice. 
...
A great start to S5. A-