Mad Men – Complex Narratives


In week 9, the idea of the dispersal of quality TV and complex narratives was discussed in the lecture, focusing on the series Mad Men. Why is Mad Men is considered as a quality TV show? As mentioned, “Complex television employs a range of serial techniques, with the underlying assumption that a series is a cumulative narrative that builds over time, rather than resetting back to a steady-state equilibrium at the end of every episode” (Mittell, 2012). In Mad Men, the plot develops slowly over time and very character-centered. The show also emphasizes on building immersive storyworld. The three factors work together and create an incredible viewing experience of the show with a complex narrative.


In episode 13 ‘The Wheel’, the famous scene of the Carousel slide projector presentation by Don Draper has been many people’s favourite and an impressive end for season 1. He uses the wheel-Carousel as a time machine to go back to some of the most memorable and happy moments in his life. Don creates a relatable feeling that everyone in the storyworld and the audience can connect with, by sharing his very personal memories. In Mad Men’s complex narrative, each character is very centered that makes their actions and motivations a lot more valuable because we follow and understand their back-story over the time.


 “Since Mad Men‘s slow moving plot lacks the suspenseful cliff-hangers that often drive serial narratives … our investment in the storyworld is lodged in the characters’ struggles and motivations” (Mittel, 2010)


The ‘Carousel’ is a great example of the narrative complexity in Mad Men, as the characteristic of Don and his life untangles the most in the scene, let the audience know what makes him the way he is.

“Somewhere in the middle of that pitch, though, he realizes the place he longs to go is the place he’s already talking about, even if he won’t allow himself to feel that for more than a millisecond. He’s trapped by time, as we all are, forced to live our lives in sequence, as the same, flawed people who never really realize the truth of who they really are at heart, which is wounded and beaten and fleeting. But also, possibly, kind and good and capable of something outside of themselves.” (Vanderwerff, 2014)

 Through out the season, it transforms character development, emotion and an immersive storyworld into a powerful show on screen. In ‘The Wheel’, the pitch of Don Daper makes a very impressive scene for the episode as it recaptures and reminds the audience storylines of every character in the season as well as the themes of the show.


Mittell, J. (2010). On Disliking Mad Men.

Mittell, J. (2012). Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling, pre-publication edition.

Vanderwerff, T.(2014). Mad Men: “The Wheel”.

One Born Every Minute & Reality TV

One born every minute.


One born is an UK reality show documenting a journey of giving birth in hospital environment. The show is captured by 40 rigged cameras, which give the audience the “real” moments, “real” persons without scripted. Besides giving insights of labour, it also brings some interest aspects of relationship between the fathers and the mothers, as well as between the mothers and the midwives.


In the screening of season 1, episode 4, we are induced to two mothers Joy and Kelly. Every part of the episode is very original and authentic as the characters tell their stories, situations through the episode and how they appear on screen via different fixed camera angles. The fact that everything is captured by the rigged cameras also support the “realness” of the show as some people are tend to not being themselves in front of TV crews, they hardly notice the camera operation and that they are being filmed. And to the fact that it’s about the journeys of labour and the starts of new lives, the authenticity factor of the show is really important to the audience; it explains why the show has such a high rating and success. The experience of labour and birth is so emotionally charged that the ability to capture every detail of a experience in this way makes for compelling television. The rigged cameras also give the audience a privileged position on sharing the very personal moment of the characters without being obtrusive.


With it unique format, One Born Every Minute can be considered as a ‘docusoap’ as it often brings up emotional moments to the audience witnessing the very moment of human’s life beginnings. One more interesting thing about the show is the way they edit all the footages together. Using different angles showing different personal perspective/ point of view during the conversation and what is happening around them.


This format of using rigged cameras has been using a lot more often now in reality tv shows. Big Brother can be considered as the very first one using the technique but not until OBEM, it really becomes popular and favorite as it can provide audience unmediated, voyeuristic but very ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ personalities, situations and narratives. With this format, it can be very cost effective with the economic shifts as it does not required a huge crew to produce the show as in traditional way. And with the development of technology, the producers now have more choices and more options with their rigged cameras which make it even more convenient and effective in capturing the moments.