While I enjoy Mad Men and think it's one of the best shows on television right now, it only rarely hits me in the gut the way shows like Six Feet Under, West Wing, Friday Night Lights, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Freak & Geeks have. I am, however, optimistic that Mad Men can be one of those shows, the kind that makes me exclaim--and if you know me, you've no doubt heard me say this--"This is the best fill in the blank since West Wing!"
As an example of Mad Men's potential, click here to watch the clip of Don's new ad campaign pitch to Kodak who was looking for a way to market their new "wheel" slide projector. (I'd post the clip here, but the embed feature's been disabled. I think by AMC.)
I was impressed by the number of ways the show's writers were able to incorporate the writing of the time into the first season of the show. Among others, Ayn Rand comes up quite a bit (ouch), and one of the junior account execs (they're all aspiring novelists, short story writers, television writers) publishes a story in The Atlantic Monthly. This is all great, but last night I was stunned to find poetry in the episode, and not just a shot of a book cover or a poetry reading going on in the background of a scene. Poetry was actually incorporated into the plot of the episode. If ever there's a way to win me over to a show, that's it.
Brad Frenette at The National Post has a good write-up of the episode. Here's part of it:
Here's a clip from the episode described:In last night's premiere, another book was brought into the fold: Frank O'Hara's excellent collection of poetry, Meditations in an Emergency.
The book is introduced in the episode as Draper sits beside a "boheme" in a New York City bar (and it's noted in the scene that O'Hara wrote half the book in the bar). Both men are alone, and when Draper asks if the tome is any good, the other man looks over his sharply tailored suit and remarks: "I don't think you'd like it".
But Draper goes on to buy and read the book. The episode closes as Draper mails the book to a mysterious someone with an attached note.
Over the montage runs Draper's voiceover reading a passage of O'Hara's poem "Mayakovsky."
Apparently, after this episode aired, copies of Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency went from 15,656 to 161 on Amazon.com. It's now down to 11,447, but the product placement of poetry in the episode is, I think, a testimony somewhat to the argument that people want to read poetry, they just need an excuse to feel okay doing it.
Here's the last section of "Mayakovsky" which Don reads at the end of the episode [via Orange Crate Art].
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
from Meditations in an Emergency