F/Y/I-I just finished season 4. I'm semi-spoiled for Season 5, but I'd rather not hear too many details.
Another Zeitgeist show that I came to after the first and for that matter second wave. I sort of knew the premise and I'd heard all the buzz, but I was a little leery about just how blatant either the soap opera aspects AND the knowing look at the "good old/bad old days" was going to be. I also wasn't sure if it was something hubby would be interested in. We got the first season DVD's about two or three months ago from Netflix and he seemed to get into it right away, although I had to keep the discs coming every week so he wouldn't lose the plot thread. I think it helped that pretty much the first character we met was played by Elizabeth Moss, who he immediately pegged as Zoe from his beloved West Wing.
I don't have too many DEEP THOUGHTS on the treatment of sexism, racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism or the oh-so-glossy, oh-so-beautiful people doing all that smoking and drinking while either espousing or being the victim of those attitudes. I think that Matthew Weiner came away from the Sopranos with a good back-ground in how to create compelling characters and weave them into interesting stories. There is some of that Sopranos feeling that something bad is almost always around the corner, but it's not the complete sense of dread that finally drove me away from the Sopranos.
There are characters who have broken my heart (oh SAL!) made me hate them with the white hot heat of a thousand blazing suns (Lee Garner Jr.) made me LOL (Roger Sterling) and made me clap and scream "You Go Girl!" (Joan with the vase.)
There has been the double-barreled problematic issues of treating racism etc without coming across as racist. I think the Paul Kinsey character was hopeless and I'm glad he's gone. Then there are the "rape" issues. Dr. Greg. Peter Campell. I'm not quite on the "Greg needs to die bandwagon" and I do like that even as he got branded "Dr. Rapist" all over the internet, Joan still clearly loves him. (Vase moment included.)
Then there's Peter Campbell. I'm at the point where I have one episode of first season Angel to go and I thought the ONLY reason, I might go on to later seasons would be Spike. Now there's my interest in seeing Vincent Kartheiser as Connor, a character I know absolutely nothing about, but I have found Kartheiser's work as Pete so interesting that I might be willing to go on, to see him. I've genuinely loved Pete's evolution from weasel to human being, and I'm sort of willing to overlook the Au Pair thing simply because it really felt less like an actual, organic story than a plot point that was put in to instigate discussion of how awful men are and how he raped or sexually harassed her.
Which brings me to the character who I understand to be the most controversial and generally disliked on the show: Betty Draper (now Betty Francis.) Originally I bought into the "frigid, ice-princess, bitch" narrative that Weiner was feeding us, presumably to help justify Don's infidelity. Then my inherent loathing of that kind of manipulation kicked in, as well as my defense mechanism toward female characters who are the victims of rampant misogyny. So Betty joins Gwen Cooper, Beth Raines (Guiding Light), Blair (One Life To Live) and Allison Cameron, on my list of heroines I will defend against both their fannish detractors and the writers/show-runners who go out of their way to make them look bad.
Pretty much everything Betty did in the 4th season was decide to make her look bad and Don look awesome (presumably as the lead-up to his marrying Maria Von Mary Sue in the finale). Well I say FUCK YOU, MATTHEW WEINER, and Rock On, Betty, including her treatment of a certain brat. Sorry, I also refuse to be manipulated into thinking of Sally as poor wittle victim.
Which brings us to the man himself. I thought I'd turn into a Don Draper groupie, but Jon Hamm's looks don't really do it for me. Clearly the man is classically handsome, but either the acting or the writing is failing, or the Dick Whitman part of him is just too unpleasant for me to make the jump. He should be a magnificent bastard, a Jack Harkness, a Captain Kirk or even a Greg House. Not so much. Therefore, although I think he treated Betty horribly, I don't think that losing him is the worst thing that could have happened to her...or Midge, Rachel, Suzanne (blech!) random stewardess, Alison, Dr. Faye, etc etc. Which actually makes the show easier for me to watch, since I have no shipping interest in anyone he actually screws. (Nor am I on the Don should get with Peggy bandwagon. Although god, that woman's taste...*shudder*.)
The other thing that I have great ambivalence/emotion/interest in for this show is how much my father wanted to be a Don Draper. Not the smoking/drinking/screwing, but the being a high-powered Madison Avenue copy-writer. The creative genius who could craft word pictures and sell them in an instant. He was a free-lance publicist who billed himself as the worlds 2nd greatest publicity man. (Barnum being the first.) He could write great copy and he did handle accounts. What he couldn't do was go to an office and do it every day as a job. And he couldn't be Don Draper because he was a Jewish man in that time frame and he had weight issues. I honestly wonder if he would watch Mad Men and enjoy the gloss and glamour or if it would break his heart by reminding him of the world that was slightly behind him. If he was any character, it was Danny Siegel (the one played by Danny Strong, formerly Jonathan on Buffy) with short filling in for fat.
I'm currently sweating out Season 5 coming out on DVD's, but I gotta tell you that Season 4 finale was an absolute piece of shit, and I don't know how much of Maria Von Mary Sue and her horse teeth I want to stomach.
But I do want to see what happens to the others and I especially want to see if they ever get Sal back. (Hey, if a whole episode can be a dream sequence without ever admitting it, surely I can hope.)