Academics, teaching, books, technology, and asking questions about MOOCs
Monday, July 26, 2010
Off Topic: Mad Men
As a counterpoint to work, I've been rewatching Mad Men, which is a dessert/chaser so that I don't have bad conference dreams all night long. At its best, it's like a good novel, and thinking about it has banished a lot of 4 a.m. obsessive work thoughts when I wake up too early.
Last night I watched the premiere, and here are some thoughts--with spoilers, so stop if you haven't seen it or don't care about the show:
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On the positive side, the pace was good, with a new office and a new energy. The light and one of the views in this new space actually echoes the opening credits, which was interesting. The only trouble is that the show has always included some brief pauses or silences to let the multiple motives of the characters and the implications of their actions sink in. That's missing.
On the other hand, they've converted Don from a part-time SOB with a troubled interior life to a full-time SOB with none, or none that we care about. He's all brisk surface, and none if it is pretty, even if the character is played by Jon Hamm.
Speaking of pretty, the new lighting washes out the planes of the characters' faces, making them look older, pasty, and not good. If your lighting makes people like Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks look bad, there's something wrong.
This episode had three plots: a sitcom plot with Peggy and assorted ad hijinks; a grouchy melodrama starring Don; and the beginnings of a tragic melodrama starring Betty.
The thing is, I didn't feel that I knew any of these people, even though I've seen every previous episode, and, what's worse, I didn't want to know them. There has to be a sympathetic or somewhat likable character somewhere, doesn't there, to engage the viewer? Maybe this isn't true in postmodern fiction where we're too busy being dazzled by the intricacies of the author's cleverness and self-referentiality to care, but thinking about character is what chases the work dreams away for me. When I woke up at 4 a.m. today, I chased the work dreams away by composing this blog post in my head.