Mad Men is back for its sixth season with a two-hour opener tonight. We haven't seen it yet (we're DVRing it so we can watch without having to sit through the plethora of seemingly interminable commercial breaks; a nice irony, that) but we'd be willing to bet, sight unseen, it's just more of the same of the past five seasons. The show just never seems to grow — or grow up. And what is more of the same? Here's the very best in-a-nutshell critique of the show we've ever read. It's by culture writer Daniel Mendelsohn from a lengthy article he wrote for the 24 February 2011 issue of The New York Review of Books titled "The Mad Men Account":
The writing [in Mad Men] is extremely weak, the plotting haphazard and often preposterous, the characterizations shallow and sometimes incoherent; its attitude toward the past is glib and its self-positioning in the present is unattractively smug; the acting is, almost without exception, bland and sometimes amateurish. Worst of all — in a drama with aspirations to treating social and historical “issues” — the show is melodramatic rather than dramatic. By this I mean that it proceeds, for the most part, like a soap opera, serially (and often unbelievably) generating, and then resolving, successive personal crises (adulteries, abortions, premarital pregnancies, interracial affairs, alcoholism and drug addiction, etc.), rather than exploring, by means of believable conflicts between personality and situation, the contemporary social and cultural phenomena it regards with such fascination: sexism, misogyny, social hypocrisy, racism, the counterculture, and so forth.Should the Mad Men sixth season opener astonish us by disappointing our expectations we'll come back here with an update — and an apology. Meanwhile, don't hold your breath.