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Mad Vampires

August 10, 2009 by jjosh


Been thinking about vampires a bit. A while back I read this kfan post regarding Tru Blood and Mad Men, and it keeps coming back into my frontal brain, especially as the Mad Men hype machine goes into overload preparing for the upcoming season. I’ve seen only the smallest clip of Blood, but it made me feel odd, and I have no clue if I’d like it. And I do Like Mad Men, though I understand kfan’s ambivalence.

And then last night Maxine and I watched an episode of Intervention and it made me feel awful. I hated the thing, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. As Max pointed out, at its core it’s a show about people helping other people. Friends and relatives who so love someone that they go to this crazy length to help them. Which is true, but there’s something so voyeuristic and exploitative about it that I feel it kind of cancels out all the love. Like, if you’re doing this out of love, why on earth would you want the cameras there?! That’s not going to help.

I think A & E picked up Random 1 in part because of Intervention’s success, but I think Random 1 did it cleaner — when we appeared in someone’s life to help them, it felt like winning the lottery, like against all the odds here are these 2 guys who have shown up help! Amazing!

Then today seeing one of the Mad Men bus stop posters I started thinking about how advertising and junk tv sucks the life right out of you. How you feel awful after that stuff, how advertisers are trying so hard to get you to do things, buy things. An article in today’s NYT about Woodstock and how it was the last time that advertisers would miss out on opportunity like that to merchandise a movement, a demographic. I have a book called The Conquest of Cool that is all about that, about the machinations that inevitably transform the underground cool into the purchasable mainstream; it reads like a grad school text, so I’ve never gone truly deep into it, but maybe now’s the time.

In other words, it’s the advertising guys that are the true vampires here. The guys who spend their entire careers trying to get people to give their vital essences up to buy products, to watch shows. JG sent me a book that was about a 60-minutes style tv show where vampires start to take over the show. It was pretty good, kind of simple clean spooky fun, with a metaphor built into it about the camera and people’s relationship to it.

All I’m saying is that if you think of Mad Men as a vampire story, it has a true ring to it. It’ll be interesting to see if that bears out over season 3.


  1. crispin says:

    wow good points and i think you put youur finger on my issues about mad men. am i supposed to care about any of these smarmy asshole ad men? i care much more about betty than any of the fools in the tall building. their whole purpose irks me and i can’t stop thinking about bill hicks’ scathing attack on advertisers.

  2. jjosh says:

    but the thing is, I like the show. I don’t know why I care about them, I’ll think more on it as I watch this season. I agree that Betty is the most interesting part of the show though…maybe because most of the writers are women?

    As for that Bill Hicks rant — which is stunning — I came across that when I was particularly depressed about working in promos at TLC and it crystalized so much of what was making me depressed. It got me down enough that I desperately wanted to make some changes…highly recommended, check it:

  3. crispin says:

    yeah, i like the show too but it’s taken me forever to really be interested in it. the first season i could have dropped out at anytime and never looked back but the second season snagged me and i’m looking forward to where don’s lost weekend takes him.

  4. dan says:

    i don’t understand the notion that we have to like the main characters. i love how despicable the characters are.

    i try not to let the hype machine of the past 2 years ruin my enjoyment of the show. they are 2 very different things.

  5. crispin says:

    you don’t have to like them as in ” i would hang out with them” but there has to be something to hook me about them and i find them despicable in a boring way. ho hum – soulless ad execs.

  6. dan says:

    the show has a vision! you obviously agree because otherwise you would have quit.

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