Friday, July 20, 2007

Studio 60 Syndrome

I caught the series premiere of Mad Men on AMC last night. It's a stylish drama about 1950s/1960s Madison Avenue advertising tycoons (and the women who answer their phones). It definitely has potential...great historical details, witty dialogue, sex appeal, and a nice twist at the end of the pilot that sets up some major flaws for our protagonist. However, I found all the scenes dealing with advertising to be boring. I'm afraid it might have what I call Studio 60 Syndrome: no one gives a shit about what the characters do for a living.

When it comes to workplace comedies, the more mundane the better. Just look at The Office, Extras, Drew Carey, Just Shoot Me, etc. But when the show is a drama that takes itself as serious as Mad Men, the work had better be important. This is why we see so many cop/detective, medical and law shows. These people deal with life and death situations in their everyday work. (Screenwriting books and teachers will say there are HIGH STAKES.) More edgy examples would be The Sopranos or Weeds - the mafia and drug dealing - also life and death. The West Wing is another: when running a country is your job, you have a lot riding on whether you do it right. But on Studio 60 or Mad Men, what happens when the characters don't succeed in their job? Nothing, really. No one dies or goes to prison for life.

I don't mean to say that Mad Men is doomed to the fate of Studio 60. I think that its historical setting gives it a new dimenson, a new way to discuss gender, power and money. Also, previews show that the firm is going to get involved in politics, which could be very interesting and high-stakes (like I said, West Wing). We'll have to see how it goes.

Mad Men airs Thursdays at 10 (same time as Burn Notice...which sucks...but luckily cablers tend to re-air their original shows often) on AMC. You can also download it on itunes.

1 comment:

Chianapet said...


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My take on anything televised: