Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz is the author of Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion. From his Q & A with Scott Timberg for Salon:

There’s been a debate around “Mad Men” from the beginning: Is it a handsome, well-designed exercise in nostalgia, or is it a show of dramatic depth that’s also a critique of society? How do you come down? Did the show deepen over time?

I think it was always a deep show – not just in relation to television, but in relation to anything. The first season is a bit more meticulously designed… I do slightly prefer the later seasons for their fragmentary nature.

One thing my friend Andrew said that I’ve quoted many times is that scripted dramas on TV tend to fall into one of two categories: They are novelistic, or they are like short stories. “Mad Men,” like “The Sopranos” before it, lived in both of those modes simultaneously, and did it at the level of the season. That’s what made it so fascinating.

I don’t think they had a bad season. And if you watch the entire thing again, and consider it in totality, you see what a complete vision it is. If you’ve read any of the literature that influenced the writers of the show – John Cheever, John Dos Passos is a huge influence, also John Updike… Dos Passos tells stories of characters of various socioeconomic background, and they’re followed like characters on a television show. And these novels are edited like a movie. And suddenly you’ll get the equivalent of a montage, where he’s interspersing newspaper stories, newsreel narration and popular song lyrics in an almost kaleidoscopic fashion. And then he’ll return you to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue