In Contention

‘Mad Men’: Rewriting the hero

Posted by · 4:25 am · June 23rd, 2008

I know we don’t really cover TV here at In Contention, but since Matthew Weiner’s AMC show “Mad Men” is the greatest piece of screen drama I’ve seen in any medium this past year, I couldn’t resist linking to this mammoth profile of the show, and its creator, in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine.

Neatly timed to coincide with the imminent first-season DVD release, and (hopefully) to catch the eye of Emmy voters, Alex Witchel’s piece gives fascinating insight into the writerly thinking behind what is certainly the most literate show currently on air. (As a screenwriter, I found the first season to be pretty much a master class in character construction, and the marrying of social and personal narratives.) Weiner, who was also a significant member of the writing team on “The Sopranos,” proves a fiercely intelligent interviewee; the following is one of the best descriptions of a writer’s raison d’etre I’ve read in a while:

The payoff for Weiner is getting to combine his love of history and literature with his love for the tradition of live television from the 1950s: Paddy Chayevsky, Rod Serling, “Kraft Television Theater” and “Playhouse 90.” “It all goes back to being socially conscious and the blacklist and who those heroes are,” he said. “Those were my parents’ heroes, and I think that part of the show is me trying to be one of those heroes and part of the show is trying to figure out — this sounds really ineloquent — trying to figure out what is the deal with my parents. Am I them? Because you know you are.”

Read the rest here. Sorry for the fanboy tone of this post, but it’s a great piece on a landmark work.

→ 10 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

10 responses so far

  • 1 6-23-2008 at 4:55 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I watched the pilot on my iPod not long ago. I’ve had the whole season in itunes for some time, but never watched it. I need to settle in one of these days and watch the whole thing.

  • 2 6-23-2008 at 10:55 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Really worth doing, Kris, since it’s a slow-burn show that requires a lot of attention – not one of those you can watch in bits and pieces.

    By the way, did watching it on a iPod convey just how gorgeous it is? TV hasn’t looked so beautiful since Deadwood debuted.

  • 3 6-23-2008 at 11:09 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    People: The Wire.

    Mad Men doesn’t even compare.

  • 4 6-23-2008 at 11:22 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The Wire is basically The Shield in Baltimore. I couldn’t get through Season One.

    Sorry to go against the grain and all. Just didn’t work for me.

    As for the iPod deal, yeah, it looked beautiful. But I really just wanted to watch it on a bigger screen the whole time.

  • 5 6-23-2008 at 11:42 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    The Wire is basically The Shield in Baltimore? Except with due process!

    Kris, you’re so wrong, man. Like Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana, I guess, the first four episodes of Season One are basically a sprawling mess; complicated, not sure what’s happening, maybe boring. But there’s a moment in episode 4 or 5 when one realizes the whole point to the show, and like an epic Greek tale, David Simon’s narrative unfolds brilliantly.

    Like the Shield..?

  • 6 6-23-2008 at 11:57 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I admire The Shield, Mr Gittes, though I’ve never quite warmed to it the way 99% of the critics have. But I don’t question the brilliance of David Simon: “Homicide: Life on the Street” is one of my favourite shows of all time.

  • 7 6-23-2008 at 12:01 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The Wire or The Shield? ^^^

  • 8 6-23-2008 at 12:46 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Oops, The Wire.

  • 9 6-23-2008 at 1:22 pm

    BobMcBob said...

    It shouldn’t be surprising that “Mad Men” was a hit. “American Psycho” has a strong cult following and Gordon Gecko is still worshipped and misquoted by people daily (he actually said “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”)–not to mention the “The Godfather”. People envy a powerful man who answers to no one–when he’s corrupt and immoral, it’s all the more interesting.