Monday, May 18, 2015

Sad Men

And thus, Mathhew Weiner's MAD MEN ends not with a bang, but with an "Ommmmmm..."

The finale of AMC;s first successful foray into series television had the feel of a greatest hits album with additional previously unreleased tracks. High notes abounded, giving closure to some characters, new roads to travel for others and for Dick Whitman AKA Don Draper, a round trip ticket. Some elements seemed too pat, like a fairy tale ending for Peggy Olsen, but those who are familiar with the Weiner universe now full well that pitfalls are right around the corner. But that final coda put it all in perspective with a wink and a jab to the ribs to make it all worthwhile.

With MAD MEN, the golden baton handed down from THE SOPRANOS and THE WIRE fell into the hands of true television artist. Its passing, especially after the finales of JUSTIFIED, BOARDWALK EMPIRE and most notably, BREAKING BAD leaves a prominent gap in the landscape which will not be filled soon by what lies in the horizon. This is true of broadcast, cable and even streaming services. John Ridley's brutally honest AMERICAN CRIME on ABC was a step in the right direction, an anomaly in a schedule filled with reboots, comic book adaptations and the same ol' thing. Even MAD MEN's network AMC is unwisely double dipping with its cash cow THE WALKING DEAD with a LA based spin-off, not a good precedent to set.

But I'm not here to bury MAD MEN, but to praise it.

It was a show that right in my wheelhouse-quirky, downbeat, goofy, philosophical , moving, sexy, scathing, melancholy and oh, so cool. Its run has been infrequent over time, yet when it did return, albeit for scant few episodes of a half-season (can't AMC ditch this insipid practice?) it was still a cause for celebration.

Turning the last page on the novel known as MAD MEN, Matthew Weiner gave us hope for what is possible in the world of long-form dramatic story telling and lifted it to levels that, with any luck, we'll be able to witness again. Just like Don Draper, in the end, Weiner realizes that MAD MEN was the Real Thing.