I’ve just finished watching the third episode of Mad Men over on BBC Four. It hasn’t gripped me yet I have to say, but one thing that is starting to bug me is, well, the smokespoitation (a word I thought I’d made up but apparently haven’t). Yes it’s okay, I do get that everyone smoked in the 60s. Even in the office. Even pregnant women. That anti-smoking guy who hangs outside all the party conferences every year shouting at people must be doing his nut.
But it isn’t just the smoking. In general, it is one big fetish fest for everything they did in the 60s that we now consider dangerous. This is all very well, and factually accurate, but do they really have to signal everything with such great big neon signs stating “LOOK PUNY NOUGHTIES-ERA VIEWER! WATCH US TAKE MINIMAL CONCERN FOR OUR HEALTH AND SAFETY AND QUIVER WITH REPULSION AND DESIRE! BWAA-HAH-HAH-HAAAH!” Last week it was children running around with plastic bags over their heads and rolling around in the bag seat of a car with no safety belt during a crash. This week we’ve had extreme drink driving and a kid being slapped across the face. We aren’t talking subtle here.
The problem is, combine that with the rest of the sixties Americana – the cine film camera, the hats, the rampant sexism, et al – and there isn’t much left. This week’s episode in particular just felt like two episodes jammed together. The subplot about the main character’s wife’s unidentified illness (MS?) was all but forgotten. They’ve spent so much time and energy recreating a period (albeit very much from a contemporary perspective) that plot-wise it seems to be little more than a run of the mill soap.