Mad Men is one of the most engaging television series I’ve ever watched.
It’s complex. Works on many levels, brilliantly conveys the cultural milieu of the 1960s, and highlights with jolting detail the differences which exist between this time and that. The show depicts domestic and business life in mid-century Madison Avenue America with impeccable musical and visual style, replicating in unerring detail the vibe, vibrancy and tumult of the times. When you’re not dazzled by the furniture design and clothing fashion, you’re kept rapt following clever dialogue coming out of an intense suite of complicated, unfolding, intertwined life stories, relationships, and career paths. On top of this there’s the ongoing history of the period. Massive societal and behavioral shifts affecting attitudes toward virtually everything: sex, marriage, family, feminism, business ethics, morality, lifestyle, health, the environment…all of which force both reflection upon today’s world, and the ways in which things have changed for better and worse, and renewed awareness of the challenges that must have faced our parents and grandparents.
Lots of rich material to process.
So it was with interest that I picked up the March 2012 issue of Esquire magazine. Jon Hamm’s Don Draper is such an intelligent, fluid, sophisticated, pleasingly-flawed and intriguing lead character that I welcomed the opportunity to read something of what the actor thought about all of the above.
The magazine’s profile unfortunately, provided nothing. Nothing statements about golf and the St. Louis Cardinals. Mundane quotes about tap water and dusty rockabilly music, some silly conceit about eagles, and an incomprehensible on-going gag featuring false facts about the actor. Perhaps Hamm is the problem. Perhaps he’s just dumb. Maybe this is all the reporter had to work with.
Either way it was a boring, useless article; stimulating nothing but irritation, and faint disappointment at the gap between imagination and reality; it’s wise, I suppose, to focus on the art, not the artist. The acting not the actor.
I expected more from Esquire (hadn’t Mordecai Richler written for it?) and/or Hamm. No wonder magazines and their kin are in trouble these days. Oh, for the 60s again.