Mad Men: First Impressions

If you can believe it, I’ve never seen Mad Men. Well, until now.

Expectations: I know very little about this show. I know that it’s got a great cast, and it’s supposed to be incredible. It’s a period piece about advertising executives in the ’60s. Women’s role in business is awful. And Don Draper, I expect to be especially powerful and domineering. That’s all I’ve got.

Reactions: Well, they certainly weren’t kidding about how women were treated in this show. I knew that men looked down on them, but I had no clue that the show would be so ruthless about how these women would be portrayed and talked down to. Clearly, they’re sexual objects, but it’s much more than that. In fact, seeing how Peggy is treated in the workplace almost made me feel just as surprised as Don to see that a woman was in charge of the Jewish department store, as even I thought they couldn’t have so much power in the world.

But it’s incredibly sad to think about how Peggy (and other women) are forced to react to it. She can’t just ignore it. The peer pressure (much of which was thrown in her direction by Joan) taught her to just go with it, leading her to sleep with Pete in the end of the first episode. I fear for her future — emotionally, physically, professionally, all of it.

Speaking of Pete, I had blocked out the fact that Vincent Kartheiser was in the show. I tend to get repulsed when I see him, only thinking of Connor from Angel, so I was pleased to see that he has no Connor-like attributes. Of course, he’s still a repulsive human being, but there’s something about that power- and sex-hungriness that makes him compelling to watch, especially next to Don Draper, who (despite my initial expectations) is not domineering, but just good at what he does. You can see why he has his job. In fact, he’s almost a little soft in the first episode…right until about the point where he tells Peggy he’s not her boyfriend — and you see that he has a wife and kids at home, less than an hour (viewer time) from when we saw him sleeping with another woman. Likable, yet ugly. Intriguing.

I will say, though, that knowing how “breakthrough” this series was supposed to be, it left me with high expectations that perhaps weren’t met in the first episode of the series. I got a great show, but for some reason, I wanted more. I was satisfied at the end of the episode (even though I thought it would end when they successfully pitched the cigarette ad) and I wanted to know what would happen next, but my mind wasn’t blown. It didn’t reach, in my view, what I thought it would be. Perhaps it will become that, but hey, we’re looking at first reactions here.

The verdict: If someone else were watching the show, I’d certainly jump in. But would I toss the DVD in on my own? Probably not. I think I need a few more episodes in to get to that level of commitment and fandom, but right now, perhaps I’m just a little too worried about Peggy. But seeing as JC was won over in the first episode, methinks I’ll be seeing more.


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