The XX Factor

Is Mad Men Falling Apart This Season?

Slate ‘s TV Club is having great fun dissecting Mad Men , praising the show more than not. But my friend Matt Labash, a writer at The Weekly Standard , sent me a dissenting rant this morning. Matt is semi-horrified that I asked to publish his email, but I wonder what all you fans think? Is Matt right that Mad Men is losing its way this season? His guest post:

Gosh-damnit, what’s a brother gotta do to get Roger Sterling involved in the show again? The thing’s falling apart dramatically. And I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on why, because it’s still better than most things on television. But there are two problems, the way I see it (you will probably disagree).

1) It’s getting all message-y. An inevitability as we ebb further into the ‘60s. But it feels broad and ham-handed: Women and blacks are people, too? Really? No shit! Even the sexism and racism are vanilla and clumsy and predictable. Rather unlike Mad Men , Season One. And if I wanted my effing consciousness raised, I wouldn’t watch Mad Men . I’d watch every other preachy, politically correct show on television. The time-capsule element is the appeal-even for people whose politics are diametrically opposed. Good drama involves ambiguity-solving riddles-and the writers are taking it in directions where we all know the proper preapproved outcome. We don’t catch up to the characters, they catch up to us. No fun.

2. But a much bigger problem is no Roger Sterling, played brilliantly by John Slattery. They walk him on for three lines per episode, and invariably, these are the best lines per episode. If I’m creator Matthew Weiner, here’s my simple two-step recipe for continued success: Hand Slattery scenery, watch him chew it. Easy. Every show is 30 percent better straight away, maybe more. Enough with little Sally and gramps and all the other extraneous BS we don’t care about. The only ray of hope as I see it is Sally’s teacher. We already know Draper is going to shtup her, and I hope he gets to it soon, quite frankly. Cause he hasn’t shtupped any women this season, including his wife. Which is why I hate baby storylines. In real life, kids = happiness. In television, babies = stillborn story arcs. Some of the best scenes in Mad Men ever were the early Greenwich Village scenes with Don’s boho paramour and all her artsy friends. There were some great culture clashes there, where the suit and pocket square, for a change, was the good guy, even as he was essentially raging against his own obsolescence. Now that was knotty and interesting and unpredictable. I’m just surprised they didn’t make January Jones (Don’s wife, Betty) have the baby in a stuck elevator, like every other dumbass show on television. That’s the way it’s going this year. Enough! More Roger. Less “evolving.” And to think, we still have the Kennedy assassination ahead of us. Good God. I don’t even want to think what that looks like.