Don Draper – are you mad?

The weather outside is frightful – well, in this part of England it is; strong winds, low temperatures, driving rain. These are dark days made for staying warm, enjoying big soups and good books; for taking the time to listen to the complete Beethoven string quartets [sixteen in all, so you need to take an occasional break] and for planning the next trip. The thought of sun on my back is becoming more appealing by the day

Dark evenings also mean a little TV, where I’m selective even though the number of available channels and the consequent amount of mind-numbing cack make sitting in front of the screen feel increasingly like letting sand run through an hour-glass. When I do watch it I lean towards science-based programmes and documentaries that I’m slightly embarrassed about being a fan of; I’ve seen part of The History of the National Grid and one episode of Birds Britannia on BBC, both of which are superb in the way that only the BBC can be. Wallander is also a must, not least because it’s based where we stay in Sweden and sometimes our garden features in the background. Then there’s News – I’m an addict to keeping up with current goings-on – and reruns of Frasier, comedic writing at its best.

But when it comes to watching TV on a regular basis I’m simply incapable of organising my life around a specific broadcast or following a series from start to finish. In fact, it’s taken me nearly thirty years of unstinting enthusiasm [not to mention stamina] to see all the Star Trek episodes. As someone who longed to be beamed-up and boldly go wherever a starship could take me I’ve been dilatory at keeping up my Trekkie credentials. Nope, I’ve not been a good target for weekly episodes, cliff-hanging endings or targeted advertising.

Not, that is, until now. With pervasive and sublime submission I’ve become addicted to Mad Men; the series now in its fourth season on BBC4 that transports you to the sixties and into the ad agency world of Madison Avenue, New York. The style, attention to detail and – perhaps more importantly – the nostalgia have caused me to break the habit of a lifetime and buy the preceding three series as a DVD boxed set. I’m absorbing every nuance; the clothes and style of antiquated innovation, cringing with each shot of bourbon and sexist put-down, wincing at the racist slights and the hierarchical rivalry.  It’s unnerving how significantly our conduct in daily life has changed in less than a generation. The Mad Men of the sixties smoke in the office, drink hard liquor as part of the working day and dismiss female colleagues and partners with casual sexist asides. This, of course, is all part of the theatre of the production but two things stand out in my view – the sheer style of the sets and the fashions together with the astute observation of a political and cultural backdrop. These were days of gross inequality, the Cold War, segregation and the rise and rise of consumerism.

The sixties were the first time that fashion became a part of the lives of those that didn’t have access to the haute couture of French [and expensive] fashion houses. Mad Men captures the essence of the sixties look and, even if you didn’t punctuate every appointment in your office then with a double shot of J&B, you are convinced by its authenticity. It’s certain to continue raising the profile of the era; my only concern is will the ‘Porkpie Trilby’ hat make a comeback?

Images from Google Images.

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