There's an article in this morning's New York Times about the growing popularity of cable series such as "The Closer." Despite the fact that such programs don't have nearly as much availability as major network programs, they are growing both in quality and ratings.
One of these cable-only programs that I enjoy is one called "Mad Men" on the AMC channel. A new episode will appear tonight. It's about some Madison Avenue advertising executives in 1960. So far, there's not much of a plot. But as a sociological study, the show is absolutely fascinating. It's about an era when everyone smoked, the women always wore dresses and heels even when vacuuming the carpet, when alcohol was the drug of choice, before feminism and Vietnam, before the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK and so on.
What intrigues me about the program is the incredible attention to detail. The producers have really done an amazing job of capturing every aspect of life in those times precisely accurately. I was only a child during that era, but it all looks right to me. For example, in one scene the lead actor opens a can of beer and it is the old fashioned flat-top can that one needed a can opener to open. It made me wonder where they found those old cans, which haven't been manufactured since at least the 1970s.
I can see where the plot is going. The men are in total control and appear to have it all. In their own way, so do the women. But none of them are happy. Their lives are empty and meaningless even though they have achieved the "American Dream."
We'll see where it goes. Undoubtedly some awful tragedy is lurking right around the corner for one of the major characters. However it goes, it remains the most accurate portrayal of that period of time that I have ever seen--even in movies and programs produced contemporaneously. In some ways "Mad Men" is a caricature, but one that emphasizes the important details.