For the first time this season, we allowed ourselves to see what other critics have been seeing. Mad Men? It’s just not what it used to be. One particular review we read recently cited the show’s descent into a parody of itself as the reason for dipping ratings and plummeting interest, and that holds true. Week on week, Mad Men follows the same old tired rote and we learn little new about any of the characters. Don is a sad, old, pathetic philanderer with a dark past that no longer elicits sympathy from viewers. Joan is a bit of a bitch, with occasional moments of niceness. Roger is an alcoholic with occasional moments of profundity. Pete is a creep with (very) occasional moments of nobility. Betty is vaguely psychotic (illustrated perfectly this week by her insistence that Don drive through riots to collect his children), but we’re inclined, as we always were, to blame Don for that psychosis. All in all, this adds up to a show which could, potentially, bore us all too soon.
Aside from the encroaching boredom, we also had major issues (again!) with the treatment of race on the show. Focusing on the death of Martin Luther King, Jnr., predominantly from the viewpoint of the main (white) characters, while an interesting perspective, was not what we wanted to see. The episode should have delved into 1960s black America, not through the eyes of the white spectators but through those of the people who really lived it. The only problem is, we suspect, that the writers have no idea what that would look like.
The episode was not without merit. The Ginsberg storyline – being set up on dates by his father – was amusing, and kind of sweet. The meeting with crazy Randall the property insurance guy (William Mapother, Justified, Lost) was comical, and was a nice, lighthearted break from the heavier subject matter. The episode also marked one of the very few times we’ve