More MAD-Ness

Not surprisingly after the Emmy blowout, Mad Men has been picked up for a third season. However, Lionsgate and AMC don’t have a deal yet with creator/showrunner Matt Weiner, who is holding out for more money; if things fall apart (or if he accepts a better offer from richer networks, which are undoubtedly after him now), the show would have to come back without him.

I didn’t get the sense that the show advanced much in its second season. It’s still interesting, of course, but the novelty is gone, and despite the attempts to dig more into the inner lives of the characters, I still find a lot of them kind of flat, kind of limited by the show’s pervasive distance and coolness. Mad Men and The Sopranos both present a world we’re not supposed to admire, populated by characters who are basically awful; a show like that needs to manage the very difficult trick of making us see ourselves in these characters (if we don’t, then there’s no reason to watch except to feel superior to them) without excusing them for what they do. The Sopranos usually pulled that off; I don’t see Mad Men as similarly skilful; watching it can be like visiting a museum and staring at the dinosaur skeletons — these were the monsters who once roamed our earth. The slow pace does not bother me much; I think it’s refreshing compared to the overcaffinated pacing of most current shows, and in many scenes, it only seems slow compared to other shows that go too damned fast. The problem is that I’m still not sure what the point is, exactly. I know the point is supposed to be that underneath the period trappings, this world is still our world, but I still don’t see that they really manage to pull that off. It’s brilliantly made, still, but I’m not sure how much more it is than that.

Alex Epstein has other, more specific problems with the way the “big moments” this year — the show’s attempt to match or top the spectacular BB gun sequence from season 1 — don’t feel earned.