Tuned In

Viewers Mad for Men; PTC Mad at Men

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The ratings for the first season 3 episode of Mad Men are in, and though AMC did not give the show the extravagantly expensive ad campaign it did in season 2, it scored its highest rating ever–2.8 million, up a third from last year. Granted that number wouldn’t be a minor hit on a big network, but it’s a jackpot for AMC.

Another sign of the show’s rising buzz: it’s scored a complaint from the Parents Television Council, who complain that the show got a TV-14 rating when it should have been rated for mature audiences only. There were racy elements to the episode, sure, but nothing unprecedented in graphicness for the show–not, say, like Don Draper’s well-hello-there hand thrust to Bobbie last season. (As far as I can tell at the group’s website, over two seasons the PTC has never critiqued or rated the show, as it has, say, Nip/Tuck.)

Could the PTC’s attention have been drawn by the fact that the episode featured a big old gay kiss, between two gay men, kissing gayly in the gay manner? Could it be an attempt to piggyback on the show’s substantial season 3 publicity? Or did the PTC simply figure it was time to catch up on Mad Men as an example of mature cable content its members would like to opt out of? The PTC specified its objections thus:

AMC gave the show a TV-14 (L, S) rating, which means that the company thinks that the episode was appropriate for 14-year-old children. The basic cable episode contained a shot of a character’s hand going down into the underwear of another character for sexual stimulation, a half-naked woman whose hands covered her breasts just before insinuating that she had sex with another character, and a graphic scene with a prostitute that repeats several times, “I’m gonna cut your dick off and boil it in hog fat.”

Now, the thing is, I actually think the PTC has several points. Yeah, I probably would not screen the show for an average 14-year-old. I can do without the inconsistent ratings systems too, and would like to see a la carte cable choices, because I think consumer choice is a good thing, especially as it applies to cable near-monopolies.

But would I show Mad Men to a mature 14-year-old? One who was, say, already reading the kind of adult literary fiction that Mad Men mirrors? Yes. And other than that, what 14-year-old is actually interested in watching moody period pieces about the social mores of affluent suburbs in the 1960s? For whom is this actually a serious concern? Let me clue you in: if your 14-year-old is surfing cable alone, trying to find something dirty to watch, he wants to see Skinemax or something, not Bert Cooper talking about the nuances of Japanese tentacle-erotica art.

Still to the extent that all publicity is good publicity—I think Don Draper might agree, and the ratings don’t lie—then I congratulate Matthew Weiner. You have arrived, sir!

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