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Mad to miss it.

Byline: Paddy Shennan

IF only there were more programmes like Mad Men (BBC4, Tuesday/BBC2, Wednesday). More programmes with effortless style and elegance which didn't feel the need to shout at us and drag us along at their pace, not ours, with the help of jerky, hand-held cameras and a jerky, stop-start soundtrack.

If only there were more programmes which didn't suffer from a chronic insecurity - basically because they know, deep down, that they're not very good - and the desperate need to impress us.

And yet not everyone, it seems, has faith in Mad Men, the multi-Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning drama set in a 1960s New York ad agency, which this week began its second 13-part series.

I'm all for people being modest, but 10pm on BBC4 and 11.20pm the following night on grown-up channel BBC2? Come on. It may be gratifying for viewers to stumble upon hidden gems, but surely the schedulers have a duty to let them sparkle before a wider audience.

I came late to the first series - another victim of the BBC's apparent "Let's go for as few viewers as possible" policy (it worked, for a time, with the American comedy Arrested Development, too) - but I reckon new viewers will soon pick up the relaxed pace.

Unhurried and unforced - we're in the early 1960s don't forget, when the arrival of new technology at the Sterling Cooper agency in the shape of a photocopier is bound to cause a big fuss - the drama centres on the work and home life of advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

Married with two children, he appears, on the surface, to be unruffled and in control - but we know he's living a life of quiet desperation. The first episode begins with the 36-year-old being warned by his doctor to stop burning the candle at both ends - and later sees him reflecting on Frank O'Hara's Meditations In An Emergency.

As it's the early 1960s, Don, together with almost everyone else, is a smoker, while sharp haircuts and sharp suits complement the sharp dialogue. But while the writing is sharp, it's never too sharp or in-your-face. It allows characters time and space in everyday conversations and - this is a novelty these days - celebrates the power of the pause.

So go on, join its growing fan club (but don't tell the BBC, in case it persuades them to put it on after midnight).


UBER COOL: The cast of Mad Men
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2009
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