A couple weeks ago -- after seeing a photo of the cast of Mad Men in contemporary clothing at the Emmys -- I twittered that "I'm not convinced that the cast of Mad Men should be allowed out in public out of their period clothing." Yeah, that was a joke, but there was definitely some truth behind the statement.
To me, the authenticity of Mad Men comes from its slow pace and the inaction, rather than action, of the characters. And even though viewers are watching the story unfold without any sort of omniscient narrator or voice from 2008 as a guide, there's always some sort of entity hovering over the series saying "these people really truly existed, but that was in the past and everything you are now watching is gone."
At least that is what I experience when watching the show -- kind of like the big emotional payoff in "The Carousel."
It may be a bit surprising that, to me, the two characters who seem closest to flesh and blood have actually the fewest lines and development in the show -- Sally and Bobby Draper. It's hard for me to watch the show and not think "these kids are in their 50s now." Or, "I wonder how they would remember this particular event in their life." Like the scene when Don Draper brings home the dog after bailing on his family during Sally's birthday party. I couldn't help but think that a 50-something Sally Draper now thinks back of that memory with much fondness -- completely oblivious to what was reality. Or Bobby, now Robert Draper, recalling his father's work ethic and the weeks he traveled the world for business.
And that's the thing that fascinates me so much about the show. Everyone hears stories from relatives about their pasts, yet there are so many details missing from these stories that will remain unknown. The cast of Mad Men do their part to fill in those gaps of a larger, universal story.