Tag Archives: Slate

The Other Don


I finally got around to watching some episodes of AMC’s “Mad Men” and I’m finding it strikingly similar to HBO’s “The Sopranos”.  Both about powerful men, alienated by their own success and  pitted against themselves.  Both feature conflicted wives who have  ‘made a deal’ in order to get what they think they want.  I recently learned that the executive producer of “Mad Men”, Matthew Weiner, was a writer on “The Sopranos” so this is starting to make sense.

These series titillate the viewer with vicarious views of internecine battles: in “The Sopranos” someone usually ends up getting whacked, while in “Mad Men” they are simply humiliated and sent down the pecking order.   It’s like being in the court of the Borgias without the personal risk.  Yet the melodrama of a “Dallas” or “Dynasty” is avoided though good writing, the lofty theme of tragedy, and a comprehensive view into a subculture.

In both “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos” the societal rules of modern life don’t apply.  The cultures they portray are politically incorrect in the extreme, and that offers a sense of definitiveness and strangeness that is compelling .  I recently read a series of blog entries in Slate magazine by married couple Michael Agger and Susan Barton, describing their experience “trading places” for two weeks: she gives up taking care of the the kids to work at his job as an editor, and he becomes a stay-at-home Dad (note: they have a part-time nanny who remains silent) .  The entries are written with painstakingly care,  neither lifestyle is described as “better”,  no judgments made, and  basically nothing happens.   On “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos” judgments are made every 10 minutes, with devestating consequences.  What a relief!

The lack of resolution in the finale”The Sopranos”was a disappointment to me.  I’m hoping that now that David Weiner has his own show, “Mad Men” will follow through on its  tragic promise.