Monday, April 6, 2009

Top TV Pilots of All-Time, #7

Chaos. My list is in chaos. One of the many perils in rolling this countdown out over such a lengthy period of time is the possibility that some new pilot, heretofore unseen by me, enters the list and forces a complete and total reevaluation. I've only watched two new (to me) pilots since I started my list but, sure enough, one of them has forced its way on---and the other is missing out only by a technicality! I'll explain the latter in a future post, but...

#7 Mad Men (2007)

With only three days distance from having watched the pilot for AMC's Mad Men, I'm careful to not go crazy and push this even higher...though I'm gamely fighting against my instincts in not doing so. With Mad Men already having finished its second season, I'm definitely late to join the bandwagon which has already heaped so much deserving praise on it. It's fun to be the champion of a show early on, before everyone else discovers it, but when a show is this rich, I don't care when I jump on just so long as they don't leave me behind.

The pilot episode, titled "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," was nominated for a whopping six Emmys and won three...including Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, Art Direction and Cinematography. I think those three awards nicely sum up what makes the pilot so special---it's style and substance. Almost every show these days is a rehash or, if you're lucky, a re-imagining of some other archetypal show which preceded it. There's the cop drama, the medical drama, the legal drama, the supernatural drama, and so on and so forth...with each new show revisiting familiar territory in an attempt to carve out its own semi-unique niche. Rare is it when a show can explore some untold story from some unexplored time. Mad Men is one such show.

Although it's ostensibly a drama about work and family, the setting of a 1960's Madison Avenue advertising firm gives those familiar conflicts a very unfamiliar context. Without being heavy-handed, the pilot manages to organically work in issues of race, religion, and gender, all the while introducing us to our main character, Don Draper, in a way that makes him both attractive and repulsive. It's a world I've never seen, and it's mesmerizing. It's almost like looking in on the Rat Pack...if the Rat Pack had led more ordinary lives and were actual people. The pilot even manages to work its way toward a surprising reveal in its final scene, one which redefines all that had just come before.

Great casting, great concept, and great execution. There really isn't a misstep in the entire pilot. The following scene from the pilot captures a lot of that.

1 Comments:

Blogger lmha said...

HUGE Mad Men fan. I love it. I agree with everything you said - and it's totally addicting.

April 7, 2009 at 4:52 PM  

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