Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The best in period drama. Period.

The award-winning drama Mad Men, set in a New York ad agency in the early 1960s, is great on social history. There's been plenty of commentary about the role of women in the office, the obsessive smoking and boozing of nearly all the characters and the beautiful period costumes and furnishings. For me, though, it's the incidental asides that are the most shocking.

I think I may have blogged before about a scene in which creative director Don Draper takes his family on a picnic. He and wife Betty think nothing of abandoning all their rubbish on the ground. After all, America's a big country, eh? If people don't like the litter, they can go picnic somewhere else.

In another episode from Season 2, which I've just watched on the BBC iPlayer, account man Pete Campbell returns from a convention in Los Angeles and tells colleagues about his experiences. There's this very odd moment in which you realise they're talking about the west coast of America as if it's a foreign country. It's much more than straightforward east-west cultural differences. It's a reflection of the fact that, by and large, people were not making three-hour plane trips across the States at the time. No one else had been there.

Ageing art man Salvatore said that he'd like to meet the people for himself. Pete admitted he was glad to be home. I guess NYC must have seemed kind of reassuring.

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