Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My TV Bipolarity

I've got TV bipolar disorder.  There are two shows I have been watching, and they are completely different.  The first one is Mad Men, and the second is Call the Midwife.  I'm sure everyone knows about Mad Men: set in 1960s New York City and the world of a cutthroat advertising agency, centered around Don Draper, the ever unfaithful yet ever unflappable mystery wrapped in a mystery man.  He's not happy, his wife isn't happy, his ex-wife isn't happy.  His children aren't happy.  His coworkers aren't happy.  They all do destructive things to themselves, and it's gorgeously filmed.  

The second show I've been watching, Call the Midwife, is perhaps less well-known, and in its second season.  Produced in England, it tells the story of a group of nun-midwives in east London during the post-war 1950s baby boom, and their young assistant nurses, especially Jenny Lee.  The characters are sweet, cheerful, kind to each other but witty, sad at times but very happy a lot, especially when they have helped someone, and it's gorgeously filmed.

I guess I like both shows because they are beautiful, not just visually, but in a well-executed artistic way that encompasses acting, filming, costumes, writing, and everything.  It's fun to look for parallels in Mad Men and try to guess how things that happen or are shown are supposed to relate to each other, or contrast.  I think the creators put a lot of thought into it, and I appreciate that.  But then sometimes watching Mad Men just seems like a waste.  I am frustrated by it because I want to see the characters grow.  I want a woman to think Don is disgusting and refuse his advances for a change.  I want a married couple to be happy and faithful.  I want someone to be genuinely kind.  It leaves one feeling very disappointed in society and wondering how trustworthy people really are.

On the other hand, Call the Midwife leaves me feeling peaceful and uplifted.  It is a much more realistic show in the sense that there is a wider variety of types of people.  Some husbands and wives are loving and kind, some aren't.  Some are good mothers, some aren't.  Some babies are born easily, and others aren't.  The poorest Londoners of the time are portrayed realistically, maybe slightly sensationalized because it is a TV show after all, but beautifully.  Every show has a victorious moment, a realization for someone, a moment of sweetness or sometimes bittersweetness.  And the thing I love the most about Call the Midwife is that the main characters are kind, helpful, and hardworking.  They may struggle with insecurities or personal heartbreaks, but who doesn't?  The writers of this show chose to portray women with real moral values and valuable skills, and even highlight those things.

So, while I can't stop myself from watching Mad Men, I encourage everyone to watch Call the Midwife.  Both shows capture the mid-century nostalgia that we all have right now, but one is just hollow beauty, and the other full of nourishment.


Just Julie said...

You have captured EXACTLY what I like and dislike about Mad Men--I get so frustrated to see everyone cheating and never growing. However, I do think Ken is happy and hasn't strayed (I haven't watched this season yet...).

Lis said...

Great post. It is hard to watch the Mad Men characters be stuck, forever, or worse than they were when we first met them. Never better.

Call the Midwife is triumphant and I think Sister Julienne is the most compassionate character on television.