Other People Do Cool Stuff #2

See what I did there? With the title and everything?

Okay, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Until #22.

Tonight my parents watched the season 2 finale of Mad Men, a show that if you know me you’ve probably borne witness to my banging on about how earth-shatteringly brilliant it is.

I like to think I introduced the ‘rents to its amazingness, but sadly not; they just nick the seasons they don’t have off me. My dad’s in the phase of modern middle age where he’s decided that he until now wasn’t watching enough quality programming in high definition, so he’s been on a bit of a Blu-ray binge for a couple of years now.

Which, along with the wondrous/insidious magical box that is Sky+, has made temporarily relocating home much less of a chore than it could have been.

There have been a few slightly uncomfortable moments between mum and dad when Game of Thrones has been on, I won’t lie. Still, it makes a change from their terminal Strictly addiction, mercifully.

I’m not trying to get you to become interested in my parents, by the way. For one thing, they’ve next to no online presence so it’s be kind of difficult unless I started handing out mobile numbers, which is something I won’t do again in a hurry (don’t ask). For another, I’m not sure how keen you are on church fêtes and accounting.

No, the titular Other Person for this week is Matt Weiner, creator/writer/executive producer of Mad Men. Why? Because I think it’s a great show and I’m trying to get more folks to agree with me. Or just watch it. Despite the period sheen of the show it actually has a hell of a lot of substance, tons of clever writing (some of which is very funny and all incredibly well-observed) and more genuinely human moments in one of its seasons than I’ve seen in many series’ entire runs.

That most of the characters are all trying to keep up the public charade of this fake, plastic world that they’ve created for themselves while their private lives crumble and decay in the background is about as good an allegory for the effects mass media advertising have had on the modern world as you can get.

I don’t buy that it’s too slow: I’m glad to be given a story that doesn’t want to constantly spoonfeed me morals or race to the next plot point as fast as Betty Draper can change outfits.

I also don’t buy the complaint that it’s sexist (That’s the point. That’s the joke!), or the characters are unlikable:  I might disagree with their views on gender or race, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sympathise with every single character on a certain level at some point. They have different layers. You know, like real people. I can’t talk to some of my close friends or collaborators about certain things like politics or religion because I know it’ll cause an argument. You shift your talking points to the things that are going to keep you good friends; I’m genuinely excited about a show that lets me have that complicated a relationship with a fictional character.

Phew. That kind of went on a bit, didn’t it? I don’t know what effect this will have on anyone. If you’ve already decided that you’re not a fan then little I say is going to change your mind, but if you were on the fence about whether or not to check it out I hope this wasn’t far too long-winded and heavy-handed for ya.

To keep up with the Matt Weiner theme: he pretty much writes or co-writes every episode now, along with usually directing the season finale. That’s workmanship I really admire. Plus his commentaries are full of wit and insight and you tell in his voice that he truly treasures being able to tell these stories, which is what it’s really about. I get a kick out of having these stories told to me and taking them further by talking them out and deepening the tales with people who aren’t me.

I think the mark of great art is that it gets people talking. Sometimes important things, sometimes just the hurt look someone gives when another person mentions something perfectly innocuous, sometimes laundry masturbation – yes, that’s in Season 1 – but talking nonetheless.

And Mad Men‘s a show I want to talk about with you.

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