Back in the day, Dirk Bogarde refused on principle to do anything for television; "I'm not having my audience get up to have a piss or put the kettle on while I'm hard at work". I'm not really au fait with The Great American TV Series of the past decade (The Wire, Sopranos et al), but unless you live in a bubble, even the most ardent cinephile would have to concede that these shows are where it's at right now. I was a fan of Six Feet Under at the time but the little I saw of Desperate Housewives and Nip/Tuck were enough to put me off.
Recently however I've been watching series 1 of Mad Men. "You would like it," Mr Sarll told me, "because all the characters are very dapper and filled with repressed longing for each other". Sounds about right, I thought. It's a drama about advertising on the cusp of the 1960s- the ultra-competitive world of the admen, the clients they have to please, the scheming secretaries whom they screw in hotel rooms, the wives raising their kids in big commuter belt detached houses. It's a chauvinistic and hierarchical world, depicted in a noirish way but with the lushest palette of colours.
What makes it compulsive is the way the approaching 60s subtly, almost imperceptibly manage to filtrate into their world. At first glance it's a world where men are men and mom is leaving a hot apple pie on the windowsill, but the closer you zoom in the more cracks are visible. The advertisers are thrown into panic by the confirmation that cigarettes cause cancer; the secretaries look for broad-minded GPs who will put them on the Pill. The suburban wives are replused (and a little frightened) by the existence of a single mother in their neighbourhood. In the last episode I watched, dynamic alpha hero Don Draper was dragged to a beatnik poetry club and found himself an object of derision. Half a dozen episodes in, it feels like the social changes started out a mere speck on the lens and will get closer and bigger until there's some great collision. Fascinating stuff.
Current Music: Billie Holiday, I Wished On The Moon