On Monday morning the water cooler conversation is going to be all about Mad Men. The plot! The clothes! The Jon Hamm! This has been one of the biggest build ups to a television show that I can remember in a long time, but I'm not sure I'm totally on board.
It's not that I don't like Mad Men, or that it's poorly done. Quite the contrary. The Emmys speak for themselves. The problem is that I feel almost bullied to watch it. It's the adult equivalent of peer pressure. No show is a sacred cow, and for some reason Mad Men has achieved almost demigod status.
I'm no hippie dippy who doesn't own a television. In fact, I've been the gal spending Sunday afternoons on the phone, looking for friends with HBO or other premium cable channels. I've watched re-runs on Hulu with earplugs while my son napped. But just for a minute, let's acknowledge that it's perfectly okay not to buy into the Mad Men hype. Or at 9:00 tonight to decide it's a great time to take over the laundry room. I'm betting it's going to be empty.
1. You Can't Watch It Online: Not everyone can stay up late on a Sunday night and watch a television show. Some of us have jobs. Most shows, if you miss them, you can catch up with them somewhere online if your DVR spazzes out. Not Mad Men. You either see it when it airs or line up your stars for a re-run. But then you're one episode behind in an already complicated plot that will likely be spoiled the minute you come into contact with anyone who saw it. Most old episodes are behind some sort of a pay wall, which is a little off putting for anyone who genuinely wants to catch up after the long hiatus.
2. It's Been A Long Time Since The Last New Episode: I understand there were some contractual snafus with the network, but a year and half is enough to make even a casual viewer walk away. (Especially when full episodes are not easy to come by. And no, those featurettes on the website don't count.) It's like a blind date that leaves you waiting at the bar for too long and never bothers to call to say when he'll arrive. Pretty soon you lose interest and start chatting up the handsome stranger next to you. There's always another source of amusement.
3. Don't We Generally Try To Avoid The Advertising Industry? The largest reason many of us have DVRs or like to watch shows online is so that we don't have to look at ads. Media critics like to lament that we're constantly bombarded with advertisements. Babies see thousands of them before they're even born! And yet we will invest time and mental energy revving up for a show that is about nothing but advertising, an industry we claim to want to ignore.
We are not watching to learn about client pitches or how to sell slide projectors. I'm there for the Don Draper. He could recite the phone book and it would be brilliant. The characters are all so attractive and slick, they could make putting up drywall look good. True, there was a Golden Age of advertising in the early 1960s where everyone boozed up in the office and smoked cigarettes and grabbed their secretary's ass. It's been covered in the last four seasons. Unless there's a new variation on womanizing, I'm not sure what the take away is.
4. There Are Way Too Many Merchandise Tie-Ins: While creator Matt Weiner has said there is very little direct product placement on the show, everyone from Banana Republic to Barbie is riding the coat tails of the show's success with some sort of product. Like skiing, being a Mad Men fan is becoming an expensive habit: I've mentioned that old episodes have to be purchased and the bombardment of related merchandise is astounding. The teasers for the show have taken over Grand Central Station, subway cars and random building facades. The saturation is reaching a boiling point. I feel as if I need to sit and rock in a dark room just to get away from it.
Then again, it is a show about advertising. Well played.