Wednesday, August 12, 2009

'Mad Men' season three review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review (with a minimum of what you might consider spoilers) the start of "Mad Men" season three:
Early in the third season of "Mad Men," '60s ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) finds himself bonding with a stranger about the difficulty of fitting into high society.

"It's different on the inside," the man tells him.

That difference -- between how things look from afar and how they feel close up -- is one of the fundamental topics of "Mad Men," which remains the best show on television.
I know that some other media outlets talked about the period when season three is set, but I'm going to abide by Matt Weiner's request, and I'll ask you to do the same in the comments. If you've read it elsewhere, don't talk about it here. Period.

More "Mad Men" content coming later in the week, including a Jon Hamm profile on Friday and both a blog review of the premiere and a premiere post-mortem interview with Weiner coming up on Sunday night.

25 comments:

Todd said...

So, I mean, since you worked so diligently to not reveal when this season takes place, does it kinda piss you off that other outlets just didn't care?

Actually, I generally don't care about spoilers, but I was kind of enjoying not knowing what year it took place in and the guessing game therein. Until I read a review that just revealed it like it was nothing in one of the first paragraphs.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Eh. I can't control what anybody else does, and I figure at least some of my readers aren't reading every other Mad Men article out there. So for them, it'll be the surprise Weiner wants. (Though, again, you find out within five minutes, which is usually one of those things that's considered fair game in reviews.) But I didn't reveal that Don was married in my initial review, even though it was obvious to almost everyone, and this turned out not to be as difficult as I thought to write around.

SteveW said...

Nice review Alan -- or should I say overview? I can't wait till the episodes unspool so we can really get into the nitty-gritty as you are so great at.

Sonia said...

I'm glad to see that new viewers can dig in starting with season 3 -- I've seen all the episodes from s1 and 2, but my husband hasn't...and all of a sudden, he wants to watch. I think he heard it had a sopranos vibe to it...LOL

TL said...

I pisses me off that other reviewers have revealed when season 3 takes place. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Rob Sheffield.) When I heard that MW asked reviewers not to spill the beans, I thought that meant that I could read reviews without worrying about spoilers.

Jackasses.

gma said...

Alan -- I am looking forward to your critical essays on the episodes on Monday mornings. Not only are they good writing but smart and insightful - and unimpeded by dictates of your Ledger column (which I also read). Hope you keep it up, and many thanks from a grateful reader.

belinda said...

Can't wait! I'm excited, and thankfully completely unspoiled.

Great updated banner! It looks marvelous.

alynch said...

Eh, I'm not all that bothered by reviewers revealing the year. It's such a rather mundane detail to be secretive about. It's like telling people not to reveal what color tie Don is wearing.

I can kind of understand why Weiner does it though. It's easier to protect the big details if you fight over the little details.

Susan said...

I was surprised that the New York Times article on Mad Men last weekend revealed the year, but oh, well. It's a minor surprise and it's not really what I watch the show for.

I got ready for season 3 by watching the last six episodes of season 2, and now I just can't wait. There were so many interesting threads left hanging at the end of season 2 - the British takeover, Peggy's new position, Don and Betty's tenuous reunion and her unwanted pregnancy, the position of Duck, Bert and most people at the agency, Joan's engagement status post-rape, etc. But as much as I enjoy the plot, I really watch this show as much for style and character. It's just fascinating to watch Don Draper walk through Sterling Cooper or see Peggy's transformation through the seasons.

JanieJones said...

Alan,
I look forward to your reviews in the coming weeks. I also enjoy your writing. It's thorough and precise with your mix of talent with words and observations. You are extremely talented.
I think it's a shame that some people could not honor Weiner's request to not reveal spoilers.
I happened upon a spoiler of the time it takes place and I stopped reading immediately.
I just want that momentary excitement, even it's for a just a few minutes.

Manton said...

I can't believe it's set in 1994. I wonder how Don will adjust to Nirvana and flannel

Rand said...

It's notable though that whenever anyone pictures a London Fog nowadays, they never imagine the yellow pea soup fog : In the end it isn't even the past that was romantic but the imagination imposed upon the past.

Matthew L said...

Just checking - Am I right in remembering that season 2 ended with Don having quit SC over the British takeover?

And I was shocked to see the NYT reveal the year the season takes place. But that's the surprising thing - normally revealing that type of detail wouldn't bother me, since it's really just background information and it is revealed so early in the show. However, knowing Matthew Weiner doesn't want that information revealed means I'm suddenly annoyed to have that knowledge.

JenJen said...

To be honest, I'm afraid to click.

I've waited this long, after all! Look forward to revisiting this post next Sunday, Alan!

Elena said...

I can't wait for it to start. . . and I won't see the 1st episodes live as I'll be vacationing where there is no TV - I know not such a bad thing, but waiting two weeks to see how it starts. . . well I'll survive somehow. I caught the end of the AMC MM marathon on Monday and found 2 season 2 episodes on a VHS tape I was looking at to see what it contained. Tis the season!

Hatfield said...

Matthew L, at the end of Season 2 Duck tried to use Don's "no compete clause" in his contract to get him in line, but of course Don didn't have an actual contract. He basically told St. John and the othe guy that if they wanted things Duck's way he was gone, and then he walked out. Duck then threw a tantrum and was asked to leave the room, after which St. John made a comment about how Duck could never hold his liquor. I'm assuming Don will still be there and Duck will be gone when we pick up.

Matthew L said...

Ah, that's right. Thanks, Hatfield. I just wish I had had the chance to do the Mad Men rewatch I had intended.

In case you haven't seen it, there's a good article in Vanity Fair about the show - http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2009/09/mad-men200909

Anonymous said...

No scoop on Betty? I hope they continue to grow her character, she became so interesting last season...it was sort of sad to see January not get her due from The Emmy's.

LA said...

I'm greatly looking forward to Sunday's show, Alan's postmortem, and the subsequent comments and analyses here in the comments. This is the truly best place on the web to discuss Mad Men.

Here's to a great season, all. ("Clink" goes the highball glass.)

LA said...

In fact, I'm so excited for season 3, I got all dressed up with a "Madvatar" to celebrate.

Paul B. said...

Matthew L:
Does the Vanity Fair article have spoilers? I may have to bookmark it for later if so.

Anonymous @ 6:02PM:
If there were any scoop on Betty, I hope it stays off this board. What happened with her pregnancy, even the age of the child, would be a spoiler. I also think it would be sort of a spoiler to say whether the actor who plays Duck is back this season. Just my opinion.

Matthew L said...

Does the Vanity Fair article have spoilers? I may have to bookmark it for later if so.

I've just quickly reread the article, and I think the writer has tried to be careful. Based on what is said, it seems the spoilery material relates specifically to the first episode - the writer talks about sitting in a tone meeting for the first episode where casting, props, and a particular set are discussed, and mentioned some recurring imagery in the first episode. Most of the discussion is vague, but there is one prop mentioned that would definitely be considered a vague spoiler - it could potentially be a surprise, and I'm now curious what context it fits in. But from a reading of the article, I think it should be sage after seeing the first episode.

dronkmunk said...

Thanks for mentioning that other blogs are spoiling things. I will avoid reading anything until I see the premiere.

Anonymous said...

Sadly they never "explained" Sal's wife...how they met, when they married, etc. Poor Sal...suddenly he's a member of the very club he never wanted to join.

John Webb said...

"Sadly they never 'explained' Sal's wife..."

They haven't explained anyone's marriage, really. I noticed this after interviewing my parents about their childhoods, etc., and neither could really tell me why they married each other. I'm not sure I could say why I married my wife (I'm glad I did). This would be a great question for Mr. Weiner.