Let me make one thing perfectly clear--Mad Men is not The Sopranos. Now, with that out of the way, I think I can give an honest opinion about this overrated show. Yes, it's overrated, and it's overly hyped as well.
When Mad Men first came out, I read the reviews that stated the show was the next best thing to The Sopranos. After watching Season 1 and half of Season 2, I think not. Don't get me wrong, I'll give proper credit to where credit is due. Mad Men is an extremely colorful take of the Camelot years of the sixties, when the Kennedys were in power and The Rat Pack was conquering Las Vegas. The show is colorful, full of wonderful women to look at, gorgeous fashion styles, glossy cars, and lots of booze and smoking. Oh, and there are lots of affairs amongst the many beautiful characters.
But, that's not what the bother is.
Mad Men suffers from a lack of story, loss of basic thematic elements and mediocre plotting beats. In a word: dull. Some may argue that what is perceived as dull may just be the result of the senses' overexposure to romantic comedies and action flicks. This is not true. One can sit through The Sopranos, yet still feel the plot going forward.
This brings me to Mad Men's comparison to The Sopranos. The key protagonist to Mad Men, Don Draper, has a secret, is torn inside and is trying his best to keep the awkward dealings in his life together. Unfortunately, not only is the character fairly drab, but also the actor lacks the capability to express any type of emotion beyond a sneer or constipated grimace. His face can't seem to shape to articulate sadness, despair, anger or fury. His actions are even worse. It doesn't matter if the scene involves drama, romance or comedy, he just acts the same way in every scene without deviation.
James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano, however, has a vast range of twitches in his repertoire that he can express cruelty and love all with one glance. He can be subtle or in-your-face just by the way he squints his eyes.
By the same token, The Sopranos had a complex set of characters with their own quirks and their own historical story lines. It's only after vigilant research do we discover the intricate relationships between them all and their effect on subplots carefully added seasons prior by the writers. Also, The Sopranos had varying degrees of atmospheres, moods and weather patterns. Mad Men seems to miss out on all this.
Mad Men also lacks basic storytelling techniques. Regardless of all the rave reviews and awards being piled on this show, which is probably because of all the SPP (Strategic Product Placements), the show goes nowhere. Subplots begin, but never really resolve to much of anything. I think the advertisers love Mad Men because of all the notable mentions they receive throughout the show. Guess who pays for the awards shows? You got it, advertisers.
And finally, there is one more thing that needs to be said. Not to give away any storyline, but, when a parent dies, the reaction of an offspring character should be what they're feeling. It's not a monologue, discussing what they should be feeling. Even if the parent is unloved, the child should at least, for the sake of those observing their actions, show some sort of emotion of some kind—even an acknowledgment would suffice. It is not walking into the boss's office telling, and him that he didn't know how he should feel. I get better satisfaction watching Bugs Bunny cartoons than watching elementary school actors deliver empty lines from undeveloped scripts.
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