But at least no naked actresses.
That is the general reaction in the Hart household to the completion of Mad Men, a tv series perhaps a tad better than Breaking Bad, but miles behind — wait for it — The Wire. (The atmospherics of Mad Men inch the series just barely ahead of Breaking Bad.) I had to go through 90 episodes to see Don practicing transcendental meditation, Peggy finding love, Joan being torn between love and career, Roger finding love appropriate to his age, and Pete landing in Witchita? Yes, it was uncomfortable to see Betty get sick, but not so much that you see a different side of her.
The morning after I read Louis Menand (who is emerging as someone worthy of a man-crush) on Charles Duhigg’s book, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life. Menand can’t quite understand why self-help books for business people sell. They are so obvious:
There is not much to disagree with here, and that is one of the intriguing things about the genre this book belongs to. Not dozens or hundreds but thousands of titles like “Smarter Faster Better” are published every year, and they account for a disproportionate percentage of total book sales. Yet they mainly reiterate common sense.
Does anybody think it’s unwise to be lean, nimble, and innovative? Who needs a book to know that rote behavior and fear of uncertainty are not going to take us very far? It’s not startling to learn that organizations that nurture a “culture of commitment” are more productive than organizations that don’t, or that setting ambitious objectives can jump-start innovation. “People who know how to self-motivate, according to studies, earn more money than their peers, report higher levels of happiness, and say they are more satisfied with their families, jobs, and lives.” I can believe that. “Determined and focused people . . . often have higher paying jobs.” I won’t argue. “An instinct for decisiveness is great—until it’s not.” An impregnable assertion.
In an uncanny way, Menand also explains the logic of Mad Men:
If you owned an advertising agency fifty years ago, on the other hand, you wouldn’t care how much pig iron your workers could carry in an hour. You would want your account executives to have winning personalities, to be able to bond easily with other people, to be likable. You would want them to have manners tailored to attract the patronage and retain the loyalty of your customers. Their task would be to persuade, not to push. You would therefore want them to be able to conceal, maybe even from themselves, the manipulative and possibly mercenary nature of their relationship with clients, and to transform a business transaction into a friendly quid pro quo. You would reward the most successful account executives with lavish expense accounts.
The series never goes beyond this (except when Don is being Don).