Friday, August 24, 2007

Golden Age of Television


I know I'm not the first to say it, but we are in a golden age of television. I just finished watching the Mad Men episode called Babylon, and I can't remember when I last saw a more layered and subtle episode of anything on television. The program of course has crossover talent from the Soprano's. That's been covered widely in the press. But it bears repeating again and again that this is the best thing on TV right now. I am fascinated by the loves of Don Draper, and by his demons. When have we seen such a more morally and existentially ambiguous character? He is like a cowboy in that way, or like a character James Dean or Brando might have played. His soul is all over the map. Tonight he goes from a flashback (which cleverly adds to the subplot of the mysterious brother) of falling down the stairs when he was a kid, to reading Exodus in bed, to having an epiphany or inspiration--isn't the same for him as he has the suits of an advertising executive, but the soul of a poet--in a West Village bistro, circa 1960. Meanwhile, the directors and writers swoop and dive into equally unnamable, but somehow parallel yearnings of the other characters--his wife, his secretary, his boss, his boss's girlfriend (who is his secretary's boss--this is a hierarchical universe, bordering on a meritocracy as we see his secretary potentially tapping a current of embyonic talent).

And if that weren't enough, we have the gorgeous productions values. The New York times is creaming all over the look--the atmospheric perfection of a thousand details of sight and sound: filmic light, the perfect cigarette holders, lighters, ashtrays, the sound of each of these so carefully wrought that the props themselves are characters and objects of desire, which adds of course another layer to the wanting of the main characters. They are raw balls of need, each of them, and it's all just so very close and really very out of reach. . . but we pray for these wounded souls. This is transcendent television.

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