It hurts to list all three series in the same title because of the distinctions between Mad Men and the others, but that point will be clear soon enough.
I received an email from a colleague:
You probably don’t want to spend too much time on TV (I realize films are your area) on the radio, but I am wondering what trend you think might be indicated by all the new shows on women–Pan Am, Charlie’s Angels, Playboy Club–nostalgia, sex. big planes, big cars, success of Mad Men which has all those things but not a female protagonist (I love Peggy, Joanie, & Betty but don’t think they drive the plot). Plus, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and all the other women comics who have their own shows and totally one-up(wo)manshipped the Emmy’s. There seems to be a critical mass that has reached the tipping point.
I answered her with what really amounts to a defense of Mad Men but also added my own thoughts about The Playboy Club – already cancelled this season – and Pan Am.
The short answer for the dramas is that the 60s series (of which I have seen Pan Am and The Playboy Club) are trying to capitalize on the success of Mad Men (which I adore) without understanding how ideologically complex the latter is…but that’s a much longer conversation.
I think the critique of sexism and racism and heterosexism in the series is played out brilliantly in ways that are much deeper than who gets the most screen time on Mad Men. Besides, who’s the more interesting character as we head into the next season, Don or Peggy?
As the song says, “The Times, They Are a-Changin’,” but it doesn’t happen all in one mad rush and, certainly, not yet in any case for the men in the gray flannel suits still chain smoking and swilling multiple martinis at the expense account lunch.
The real change is happening at the interstices of the world they think they control but which is about to being to implode. That’s the kind of complexity that shows like Pan Am and The Playboy Club miss entirely with sloppy high-heeled mob murders and clumsy espionage subplots.
My two cents…
Maybe Pan Am will bite the dust soon. I have no interest one way or another because Mad Men will return at the first of next year.