Sunday, 18 January 2009

"I Ain't Mad At Cha"

This week I got my first taste of the award-winning, critically acclaimed ‘Mad Men’ and it tingled my TV taste buds.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact flavour of ‘Mad Men’, but if pressed I’d say that it’s a heady mix of whiskey, nicotine and untreated Chlamydia.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this much lauded show; ‘Mad Men’ is set in the 1960’s and revolves around the professional and personal lives of the employees at the fictitious New York advertising agency Sterling Cooper.

‘Mad Men’ has managed to achieve that rare feat of earning widespread success both critically and commercially. The plaudits heaped on this excellent show more often than not focus on the show’s visual style and historical accuracy.

And it would be very hard to argue with either of those accolades; from the first frame of the Hitchcockian opening credits, you feel like you’ve been transported back to the early 60’s in all it’s chain-smoking, sexist, whiskey-swilling glory.

If you like your TV shows to be buttock-clenchingly tense and peppered with explosions, gun-fights and car chases, then this isn’t the show for you, but if you like an intelligent drama, freed from the shackles of big network pressure with something new and interesting to say then ‘Mad Men’ is well worth investing your time in.

The show’s main protagonist is ‘ad man’ Don Draper played by the brilliant Jon Hamm. A murky past and a complex personal life make Draper perfect serial drama fodder and Hamm plays him to tortured perfection. Hamm should be a bigger star, and it appears that ‘Mad Men’ is already helping him to achieve that; rumour has it that he will soon be appearing in another Emmy-winning show Tina Fey’s ’30 Rock’.

Jon Hamm isn’t the only member of the cast that deserves singling out for praise. There really isn’t a weak link in the entire ensemble, even January Jones, who creaked her way through ‘American Pie: The Wedding’ as Stifler’s love interest, brings something extra to her on screen alter ego.

Special praise goes out to the impossibly sexy, red headed ‘Firefly’ alumnus Christina Hendricks who plays Sterling Cooper office manager Joan Holloway. ‘Mad Men’ may be set in a time when it was very much still a man’s world, but Hendricks’ Joan can hold her own alongside most of the mad men and the voluptuous Hendricks oozes sex appeal despite being clad in often dowdy 60’s clothing.

‘Mad Men’s plethora of awards and steady Nielsen viewing figures is hopefully proof of what I’ve alluded to in this blog in the past; a return of the serious, intelligent TV viewer, which will hopefully reflect on screen, in a return of the intelligent, well-made TV show. AMC’s treatment of what has quickly becomes it’s crown jewel should show the likes of Fox what can be achieved by keeping faith and investing time in well-written shows with great casts… But I doubt Murdoch’s listening.

Don’t just take my word for it; if you enjoy watching brilliant actors speaking beautiful dialogue then do yourself a favour and let ‘Mad Men’ transport you back to a simpler time. It may not quite live up to the hype, let’s be honest; what ever does?, but you won’t be disappointed.

‘Mad Men’ airs on BBC4 Tuesdays at 10.30pm. Season 3 will debut on AMC in the States this summer.

Random TV Thoughts (Week ending 18th January):

- Kelly Brook joined the judging panel of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ this week, joining the similarly untalented Amanda Holden alongside Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell. Am I the only person who thinks that when Kelly Brook smiles, she looks like Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the original ‘Batman’?
…Anyone? …Ok, just me then…

- ‘24’s return on Monday didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, but it was still a scorching return to form for Jack and the crew. I think I’ve already found my annoying storyline for the season though – step forward the President’s husband and his inquest into his son’s death.

I can’t wait for Jack vs. Tony tomorrow, I think Jack could definitely outdo Batman vs. Joker from ‘The Dark Knight’ for most violent interrogation of the year. If I was Tony I’d be slightly scared, it’s a good job he’s wearing the bad guy’s standard attire of all black…

- Fox finally did the merciful thing this week and announced that like the rabid dog it had become; ‘Prison Break’ would end after the current fourth season. Schofield and the boys had a good run; the show has made stars out of Wentworth Miller, Robert Knepper and Amaury Nolasco, as well as resurrecting the careers of Dominic Purcell and the mighty William Fichtner.

Sadly though, like Brooks in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, beyond those prison walls the Fox River 8 just couldn’t survive and rather than put us through another disjointed, lumbering season Fox decided to pull the plug. Could Michael Rapaport be becoming the new Ted McGinley!?

- Down at the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ house, Coolio continues to be the only thing worth watching in this disappointing series. With the calculating Ulrika Jonsson throwing out words like ‘bullying’ and ‘intimidation’, OFCOM needlessly got involved yet again. Coolio isn’t a bully, he’s just an idiot and a damn entertaining one at that, he’s from a different background to the majority of the other housemates, a fact that seems to be lost on the likes of Ulrika. Coolio can’t change who he is, just like Ulrika can’t change the fact that she’s a cold, manipulative, scrotum-necked bitch.

Kudos to Mutya ate too many Buenos for actually following through on her walk out promise, something Ulrika would never do, despite whining about wanting to go and crying crocodile tears at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, Verne Troyer finally showed us his drunk side, and in doing so further cemented his victory, Terry Christian continues to come off shockingly likable and Ben Adamzzzzz and Michelle Heaton continue to be living, breathing examples of the vacuous new breed of modern celebrities. Unfortunately, barring some Big Brother twist, Coolio is almost guaranteed to be next out, luckily the show ends on Friday, but if the certified gourmet chef goes on Monday then it’s going to be a long final week for ‘Celebrity Big Brother’.


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