TV show set in the ‘60s but far beyond

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By GENE H. McINTYRE

My eye teeth were cut on TV dramas in the early 1960s.  Most memorable to me—as a young whippersnapper back in those days—were 77 Sunset Strip, Route 66, and The Naked City.  They presented Hollywood versions of life among the in-crowd in Southern California, on-the-road along U.S 66 (all the way to my hometown of Astoria, Oregon in one episode) and detective work in “a city of 8 million people.”

The formula for each episode was so scripted it meant that the viewer could absolutely predict that the heroes in each installment would come out unscathed, live to see another episode, and gain evermore fame and fortune for their television work.  Whatever the case, it was nothing more in each presentation than a fantasy trip and one that captured popular attention back in those yesteryears.

Now, then, there has been many a weekly fantasy trip to keep the spirit up through the drudgery of life at the typical 40-hour job.  They have usually “hooked” many among us, being entertaining enough to keep us coming back again and again until, as they all have done so, sooner or later, becoming deposits in the TV archives.  Of late, the BBC have contributed Downton Abbey and Top of the Lake, to name but two among an ever-expanding set of serialized sequentials.

Considering a currently all-the-rave show, Mad Men, what’s most interesting about it is that it has broken with tradition in its opening two episodes of its sixth season.  Formerly, it was more like a fictional docudrama look at America’s 1960s past in the business of ad-making.  It has always offered up characters who interact by talking past each other, connect lamely, if at all, speak cryptically, and leave viewers to guess what’s next with and among them.

Season six presented a two-hour show two weeks ago and it was soon apparent that six would not be in the same genre as the first five seasons.  Sex was somewhat incidental in the first five but now has taken over the whole show and, if your taste runs with voyeur experiences, it will surely satisfy a need.

At the same time, it may be that the huge change suggests Mad Men has taken a giant leap from the 1960s to 2013, and wants to address mental health issues.  How so?  Well Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has been displaying mental health issues from the first episode of season six when he couldn’t seem to evidence anything other than to mope around and brood while visiting Hawaii with nothing less than one of the most gorgeous women (Jessica Paré) in America.

Philandering would appear to be a common pastime with many an American man and woman these days; those who cannot find it in themselves to practice oneness with the person they chose to marry.  Draper is one of those for sure but he comes across as unhappy about it while continuing his wayward behavior.  Stay tuned or not, it may, as one critic commented, “challenge and annoy,” episode to episode, but is unlikely to bore.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

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