All Hail the Returning King

July 28, 2008

While summer television is never exactly “good,” this year’s summer TV can not even be described by anything resembling a synonym for “ok.” In fact, I’ve spent all morning browsing through a copy of the Dictionary of American Regional English in order to find words capable of describing the mediocrity that is the post-Hell’s Kitchen TV landscape in all our glorious dialects. Yet, if everyone in the MSM and their mothers are to be believed, our TV has just “tarved” (to tip, turn) and glory days are here again. After all, Mad Men has returned.

I’m not going to try to “make strange;” (to act shy, or, to feign ignorance of) Mad Men was one of the best shows on TV last year and I’m excited to have it back. It’s a well acted, meticulous show, with rich supporting characters and wonderfully understated performances by its female leads. Indeed, the show succeeded despite the relative weakness of its major mystery (Don Draper’s checkered past) on the strength of the secondary storylines and believable romantic relationships. Few shows manage to handle one love/sex story well; Mad Men always seems to juggle five or six, with each one pulsating sexual energy. I’m going to hold off judgement on the new season for a few episodes (sadly, Saladeers are not treated to the same free media as tvguiders), but, in the meantime, I will offer this: a DVD tip of the week.

In one of the show’s many “wink-wink, nod-nods,” one of Sterling Cooper’s principal partners is played by Robert Morse, star of the classic musical and film “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” Film satires, especially today’s, have a tendency to age rapidly (will the four people who found “Epic Movie” funny still laugh in twenty years?), but the best satire, like Swift, is priceless. “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying” doesn’t quite reach the heights of A Modest Proposal (now there’s an idea for a musical!), but its underlying scenario is still recognizable, and its depiction of corporate life wouldn’t be out of place on The Office. Plus, there are musical numbers. “How to Succeed” is a charming counterpoint to Mad Men, mixing office politics with a dash of whimsy. Add in Taschlin’s excellent “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter” to fill-in the cinematic prehistory of Mad Men, and to restore the icons Mad Men spends so much time deconstructing.

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2 Responses to “All Hail the Returning King”


  1. Fact check: you clearly rated Rock Hunter a mere 4/5 stars on Netflix. Is that really what passes for “excellent” in this day and age?

  2. dailysalad Says:

    Again we have a problem with the Netflix scoring system which is based on some sort of satisfaction quotient rather than technical virtues. But, I “really liked it” verses excellent are not incompatible. Besides, I think I was probably in an ungenerous mood that day. I might just go ahead and change it to 5 stars.


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