Mad Men

Thursdays at 10 p.m. on AMC. Nine episodes into the first season.

Mad Men is like a girl whose beauty distracts people from her intelligence. Or maybe it’s like a girl whose charm and good looks mislead people into thinking she’s smarter than she truly is. I’m not sure, to be honest, but the look of Mad Men is undeniably ravishing, and the analogy amuses me: insidious, condescending sexism is one of the principal threads of the show.

But it’s not the only one. Quietly provocative and sumptuously textured, Mad Men does not lack for ambition. Set in a midlevel New York ad agency during the early 1960s, it delves into sexism, classism, racism, anti-Semitism, and homosexuality without ever feeling like a movie-of-the-week. It’s too luxuriantly filmed for that and occasionally too opaque, presenting a striking tableau without necessarily spelling out what it means.