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Mad Men III

Any doubts that I might have had about the excellence of Mad Men - is it genius or is it just stylishly cool - were put to rest during a part of the long birthday party sequence that took up the final third of the episode. Betty has asked Don to pick up the cake, but also to film the party, something that it seems he forgets to do without prodding. Getting the cake turns out to be a very big deal, but before Don leaves, he gets out his camera and takes some - what? - 16 millimeter? Super Eight? - footage of the kids running around. It is silent, of course, as home movies inevitably were in 1960. But here's the payoff. The music playing in the background is "Voi che sapete," certainly the best-known aria from Mozart's  The Marriage of Figaro. It's so well known, in fact, that most people won't hear it. But it reflects Don's innocence about love. Like Cherubino (who sings the aria) he doesn't know what it is. By the time you hear the aria, Don is filming adults. First, he captures two people who are playing a sex game that's frankly acknowledged by the woman - much to the man's discomfort. Then he pans to a married couple still very much in love; their unguarded kiss is a gift. And then we see Don, the master of every situation but this. He still doesn't know what love is. Che cosa è amor.

Watching Mad Men has been a touchy experience. As it happens, I'm a half-generation away from Don and his children. My parents were ten years older (or more) than he is and I am ten years older than they. Our experience of the upheaval of the Sixties was different. But Don Draper is certainly more of a younger father than an older brother. There are moments in this show when I feel that I am invading the parental sanctum. As it happens, Jon Hamm is something like a year older than my daughter. But when I see him with his hair slicked down, and his five-o'clock shadow (which is how I'm sure he got the part - although he's great), and his wonderfully guarded impatience with everything, I see someone's dad, and I don't want to piss him off.

What an amazing show.


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Having caught up to you and the viewing of episode trois, I couldn't agree more. This show makes me tense.

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