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Join Date: May 2006
Is anyone else obsessed with this show? I am! The clothing, the writing, it is all on point!
Mad Men is an American television drama series set and produced in New York City. Created by The Sopranos writer and executive producer Matthew Weiner, the series is broadcast on cable network AMC. It takes place in 1960 at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on New York City's Madison Avenue and centers on a high-level advertising executive and the people in his life in and out of the office. It also depicts the changing social mores of early 1960s America. Mad Men premiered on July 19, 2007, and was given an initial production of 13 episodes.
Creator Weiner wrote the pilot of Mad Men in 2000 as a spec script when he was working as a staff writer for Becker; television producer David Chase recruited Weiner to work as a writer on his HBO series The Sopranos after reading the pilot script. Chase remarked about the script and its author: "It was lively, and it had something new to say. Here was someone [Weiner] who had written a story about advertising in the 1960s, and was looking at recent American history through that prism." Weiner set the pilot script aside for the next seven years, until The Sopranos was completing its final season and cable network AMC happened to be in the market for a new original series.
Mad Men depicts the society and culture of the early 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking (alcoholic beverages), sexism, and racial bias. Smoking, more common in 1960 than it is today, is featured throughout the series; almost every character can be seen smoking multiple times in the course of one episode. In the pilot, representatives of Lucky Strike cigarettes come to Sterling Cooper looking for a new advertising campaign in the wake of a Reader's Digest report that smoking will lead to various health issues including lung cancer. The show presents a culture where men who are engaged or married freely partake of sexual relationships with other women. The series also observes advertising as a corporate outlet for creativity for mainstream, middle-class young men. The main character, Don Draper, observes at one point about Sterling-Cooper, "This place has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich."
Cast and characters
Don Draper (Jon Hamm): creative director of Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency; Draper is the series' protagonist. Little of his past is known; he was apparently raised Richard "Dick" Whitman, but changed his name and cut off all contact from his family upon returning from the Korean War; he appears to be an illegitimate child, the son of a prostitute. He has a younger brother named Adam Whitman who found him, but he shunned.
Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss): a somewhat naïve "new girl" at Sterling Cooper; Draper's new secretary.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser): young junior account manager who sexually pursues Peggy, despite his pending marriage. He is not well liked by his immediate superiors, but he is retained because he comes from a very old, wealthy, and powerful Manhattan family.
Betty Draper (January Jones): Don Draper's wife, and mother of their two children.
Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks): office manager at Sterling Cooper, who acts as a professional and social mentor to Peggy. She is romantically involved with Roger Sterling.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery): one of the partners of Sterling Cooper, and a good friend of Don Draper. He is anti-Semitic, bitterly misogynistic, and cynical about the world he has helped to shape, which leads him to extensive womanizing, as well as a degree of alcohol use that is excessive even by the standards of his co-workers.
Midge (Rosemarie DeWitt): an art illustrator engaged in an affair with Draper. She is involved with the Beats and several proto-hippies and makes references to Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg.
Paul (Michael Gladis), Ken (Aaron Staton), and Harry (Rich Sommer): two account executives and a media buyer, respectively. They help Pete plan his bachelor party and serve as his entourage. Ken has literary aspirations and has been published in The Atlantic Monthly.
Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff): Jewish head of a department store who becomes involved with Draper after she comes to Sterling Cooper in search of an advertising agency to revamp her business' image.
Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt): the art director at Sterling Cooper; he appears to be a closeted gay man.
Main article: List of Mad Men episodes
Number Title Director Writer(s) Original airdate
101 "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" Alan Taylor Matthew Weiner July 19, 2007
102 "Ladies Room" Alan Taylor Matthew Weiner July 26, 2007
103 "Marriage of Figaro" Ed Bianchi Tom Palmer August 2, 2007
104 "New Amsterdam" Tim Hunter Lisa Albert August 9, 2007
105 "5G" Lesli Linka Glatter Matthew Weiner August 16, 2007
106 "Babylon" Andrew Bernstein Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton August 23, 2007
107 "Red in the Face" Tim Hunter Bridget Bedard August 30, 2007
108 "The Hobo Code" Phil Abraham Chris Provenzano September 6, 2007
Mad Men has received high critical response since its premiere. Viewership for the premiere at 10 p.m. on July 19, 2007, was higher than any other AMC original series to date. A New York Times reviewer called the series groundbreaking for "luxuriating in the not-so-distant past." The San Francisco Chronicle called Mad Men "stylized, visually arresting […] an adult drama of introspection and the inconvenience of modernity in a man's world". A Chicago Sun-Times reviewer described the series as an "unsentimental portrayal of complicated 'whole people' who act with the more decent 1960 manners America has lost, while also playing grab-*** and crassly defaming subordinates." The reaction at Entertainment Weekly was similar, noting how in the period in which Mad Men takes place, "play is part of work, sexual banter isn't yet harassment, and America is free of self-doubt, guilt, and countercultural confusion." The Los Angeles Times said that the show had found "a strange and lovely space between nostalgia and political correctness". The show also received critical praise for its historical accuracy – mainly its depictions of gender and racial bias, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the high prevalence of smoking and drinking. The Washington Post agreed with most other reviews in regards to Mad Men's visual style, but disliked what was referred to as "lethargic" pacing of the storylines. Mad Men has received a score of 78 (generally favorable reviews) on the media review website Metacritic.
On June 20, 2007, a consumer activist group called Commercial Alert filed a complaint with the United States Distilled Spirits Council alleging that Mad Men sponsor Jack Daniel's whiskey was violating liquor advertising standards since the show features "depictions of overt sexual activity" as well as irresponsible intoxication. Jack Daniels was mentioned by name in the fifth episode.
Among people who worked in advertising during the 1960s, opinions differ as to the show's realism. Jerry Della Femina, who worked as a copywriter in that era and later founded his own agency, said, "Picture a bunch of drunks talking to each other through a cloud of smoke — that's really what the '60s was." But Allen Rosenshine, another copywriter who went on to lead BBDO, called the show "a total fabrication."
Mad Men is shot on film and is broadcast in standard definition. It has been converted to high definition for video-on-demand availability from various cable affiliates. Though Weiner's script for the pilot of Mad Men pre-dates The Sopranos, HBO, according to Weiner, was not interested in producing his script. Alan Taylor, a director of multiple episodes of The Sopranos, directed the pilot of Mad Men and some subsequent episodes. The writers, including Weiner, amassed volumes of research on the period in which Mad Men takes place so as to make all aspects of the series – including detailed set designs, costume design, and props – historically accurate, producing an authentic visual style that garnered critical praise. On the copious scenes featuring smoking, Weiner stated that "Doing this show without smoking would've been a joke. It would've been sanitary and it would've been phony." Since the actors cannot, by law, smoke cigarettes in their workplace, they instead smoke herbal cigarettes.
The opening title sequence features credits superimposed over a graphic animation of a business man in freefall, surrounded by skyscrapers with reflections of period advertising posters and billboards. The titles pay homage to celebrated designer and adman Saul Bass's skyscraper filled opening titles for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) and falling man movie poster for Vertigo (1958). Weiner has listed Hitchcock as a major influence on the visual style of the series.
In promotion for the show, AMC aired multiple commercials and a behind the scenes documentary on the making of Mad Men. The commercials, as well as the documentary, featured the song "You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse. The documentary, in addition to trailers and sneak peeks of upcoming episodes, were released on the official AMC website. Mad Men was also made available at the iTunes Store on July 20, 2007, along with the "making of" documentary.
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