AMC's new TV series Mad Men is completely fantastic. It's a period ensemble drama about a Madison Avenue advertising agency in 1960. It first sounded a bit dumb, but it's beautiful and brilliantly written and terrific television.

The period setting is amazingly well executed. 1960 is just far enough back to be somewhat mythical while still familiar. And because that era has generally been neglected it's fertile ground for a new drama. Incredible costumes, hair styles and furnishings make the show beautiful. And the writers' delicious indulgence in forbidden things like sex and drinking at the office, smoking, and awkward racist jokes is both uncomfortable and slightly wistful.

And the writing is intelligent, not the stupid pandering that passes for most TV. For example, the centerpiece of the third episode is a suburban kid's birthday party. The desparation and discomfort of the parents is just devastating, but it's not thrown in your face so much as exposed through a series of vignettes. Great storytelling.

  2007-09-12 17:02 Z