Sky Atlantic, Wednesday
TV review: Mad Men - That's a hell of a routine you've got there, Roger
Saturday 13 April 2013
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.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 This is what the photographer has to say about the picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Poldark star Heida Reed says show is not that racy: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kanye West drops 'All Day', music video to come from Steve McQueen
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut