on days when not at BYT, Peter Heyneman tumblrs about TV here.
We have a lot of expectations for the next series of Mad Men. But as the best series on TV (see below) returns, my biggest hope is that we see the nascent roots of the music of failure bloom into full gorgeous orchids of poisoned sadness in the 1970s. With any luck, we’ll be ascot deep in Yacht Rock tonight or soon.
Mad Men is the best show on TV because unlike just about any other series, it can’t rely on violence for narrative. Where any other show can pull out a gun to raise the stakes on a situation, Mad Men has divorce, business challenges, or, at worst, suicide. And so as often as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad will splatter blood or threaten to do so, our friends at Sterling Cooper Draper Price-Waterhouse Joan Whatever, are on or over the brink of desperation and dissolution. We watch the show to see Don’s brilliance, to watch the gorgeous destroy themselves and the rakish or clever young people realize their ambitions. But as the show stretches into the 70s, as the world, and the city, these characters dwell in gets more crass and violent, we have to expect their lives to get even darker, less sleek and spotless. The 70s are garish—disgustingly bright as the sins of the world’s first superpower slip from the shadows into the ever broadening spotlight of mass culture.
And we’d expect the music that defines central moments on the show to follow suit. The last song on the last episode of last season was You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra—a great choice to represent the death of the 60s and the death of the 50s simultaneously. Lush Lee Hazelwood strings wrap Nancy’s second-rate, devolved-from-her-Pops voice in James Bond aspirations, but we can see the rust on the hood ornament as she deadpans “You drift through the years…”. The 60s, which behind the scenes of these people’s lives were exploding with savage hippie teenage sounds, are dying before anyone on Madison Avenue gets to even access the best bits of them (aside from Roger), and all they get is the wistful string section. You Only Live Twice was the last Connery Bond film, and I can’t expect Draper will remain that untouchable either—his destiny is Roger Moore, or, if he’s lucky, Lazenby.
And in the 70s what possible musical culture could these folks be into other than Yacht Rock? I mean come the fuck on, the Ramones? Funk? Gimme a break. Burt Bacharach’s self-pitying luxury can’t help but melt into Steely Dan’s decayed party. The 70s in New York are the apartment in Breakfast At Tiffany’s after the guests have abandoned the building and the sugar daddies have to blow longer and longer lines of coke off rotting furniture to get that “cool” feeling. Even they know it’s depressing, staring into the mirrors under their noses, reeling in the years from the long poles off the back of their white boats in the black water of Boca and Marina Del Ray, catch and release, staring down the years, letting the years slip away, unable to devour anymore but still unable to give up on the expedition.
If Don doesn’t have a mustache within 6 episodes I’ll eat my captain’s hat. We’re headed for doldrums or whirlpool in the third act, and no matter what happens to these individuals, the horribly colored mold is going to win. The only beautiful thing about the 70s was the failure.