Sky Atlantic, Wednesday

TV review: Mad Men - That's a hell of a routine you've got there, Roger

3.00

 

There can't be many men on television less self-aware than Don Draper. In this double bill to begin series six of Mad Men, the first scene proper showed Don sweltering on Waikiki beach reading Dante's Inferno. Even in paradise, the wretched Don is in hell – but of course not a ripple of irony disturbs his furrowed brow.

Mad Men does not allow its characters what you might call personal development. The only soul who began to face up to himself was Sal, the gay art director, who soon disappeared. Every other character broils in their personal inferno. One benefit is that the programme-makers are thereby licensed to flesh out the last detail of their characters particular psycho-dramas to the most rococo detail (in Wednesday's episode, after his mother's funeral, Roger Sterling, below, passed on to his daughter an odd heirloom, a bottle of water from the River Jordan – that's not a scene you'd have caught on The Hour). This suits a long-running series, and may even be an approximation of life itself – hands up who's reached their revelatory third act? The challenge for the dramatist, however, is to try to do more with these circular journeys than add a few scenic detours.

To judge by Don, I'm not sure Mad Men is succeeding. The ad agency is thriving, he has a beautiful young wife, yet in his quest for his true identity, we know by now that Don ignores those closest to him, and clutches at meagre scraps of meaning here and there. When late one night in his Hawaii hotel bar he bumps into a young soldier on leave from Vietnam to get married, the encounter will, yes, require of Jon Hamm his rheumy-eyed gaze of pain. And on it goes: Don looks out of his office window mournfully or appears lost when a photographer exhorts him to "be yourself".

He also devises a print campaign for the Hawaiian hotel that looks more like a sketch of a suicide: a suit and shoes cast aside on an empty beach. What, you wonder, distinguishes these scenes from a couple of dozen over the previous 70-odd episodes? Little, perhaps, apart from the ever more cacophonous intimations of mortality. (It was the Don and Roger Show, largely: Betty got a look-in, but Pete, Peggy and Joan were shunted into the wings.)

Roger is similarly preoccupied. His mother dies and his favourite shoeshine boy dies, and he's unsure which matters to him more. He may be seeing a shrink, but Roger is always two lines ahead of him: "I'm just acknowledging that life, unlike this analysis, will eventually end, and someone else will get the bill."

It's not Roger's zingers that prevent you from losing patience, though; it is, for instance, the care that's gone into the nature of the opportunity his son-in-law wants him to invest in: a fruit refrigeration business, which preserves the flesh on its long journey across America. The world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and its employees may be familiar, but it's well enough appointed to keep giving them your business.

The blonde bob, the lisp, the head-girl poise. Lucy Worsley, the chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, is a broadcasting blue-blood. Rightly, the BBC agrees. But her latest series, Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History (BBC2, Monday ***), only fleetingly fulfilled its brief in its first outing last week. It appears to be, in fact, a straightforward narrative history of the personalities of the British monarchs. Worsley waved piss-pots and diaries before various academics, but it was only when she presented us with Charles I's orthopaedic boots, designed to ensure his legs didn't fail him during important ceremonies, that we glimpsed the all too frail figure that was often required to bear the crown.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?