More Good Summer TV:
I just finished watching the new series Mad Men on AMC — a show about advertising executives on Madison Avenue in 1960. It is well worth trying. Well written, gorgeously photographed, paced and scored in the style of cinema rather than TV. No doubt, the American Movie Channel required this for their first network series. As the description from the website says, it is from the executive producer and writer of The Sopranos and it shows. One more thing. Don't expect pap. It is obviously going to explore the issues of race, sexism, and antisemitism that was simmering just beneath the surface in 1960. I hope the show does not get too preachy — it has that potential, but the first episode at least did not succumb. Oh yes, unlike Sharon Gless in Burn Notice, the whole cast inhales and exhales copious amount of smoke. It is about a subject other than cops and lawyers, and it is going to be very sexy.

Here is the description:
What you are, what you want, what you love doesn't matter. It's all about how you sell it. From AMC and the Emmy® Award-winning executive producer and writer of "The Sopranos" Matthew Weiner, comes MAD MEN, a provocative new primetime drama about how to sell the truth. Set in 1960 New York, the daring new series is about the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising, an ego-driven world where key players make an art of the sell while their private world gets sold. The 13-episode, one-hour original program produced by Lionsgate premieres Thursday, July 19 at 10 PM | 9C.

Created, executive produced and written by Weiner, the drama series stars Jon Hamm (We Were Soldiers), Elisabeth Moss ("The West Wing"), Vincent Kartheiser ("Angel"), January Jones (We Are Marshall) and Christina Hendricks ("Kevin Hill"), and guest stars John Slattery ("Desperate Housewives"), Rosemarie DeWitt ("Standoff"), Talia Balsam (All the Kings Men) and legendary stage and screen star Robert Morse ("How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"). Michael Gladis ("Third Watch"), Aaron Staton ("The Nanny Diaries"), Rich Sommer ("The Devil Wears Prada"), Maggie Siff ("Michael Clayton") and Bryan Batt ("La Cage Aux Folles") round out the cast.

The Setting: In 1960, advertising agencies were an all-powerful influence on the masses. Personal and professional manipulation and sexual exploits defined the workplace and closed the deals. The high profile Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency created advertising campaigns – from cigarettes to political candidates — better than anyone. It was a time of great ferment. Women had barely begun to come into their own. Librium and birth control were on the move. Ethics in the workplace, smoke-free environments, sexual harassment and ethnic diversity were workshops of the future.

The Premise: The series depicts the sexual exploits and social mores of this most innovative yet ruthless profession, while taking an unflinching look at the ad-men who shaped the hopes and dreams of Americans on a daily basis.

The Players: The series revolves around the conflicted world of Don Draper (Hamm), the biggest ad man (and ladies man) in the business, and his colleagues at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. As Don makes the plays in the boardroom and the bedroom, he struggles to stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing times and the young executives nipping at his heels. The series also depicts authentically the roles of men and women in this era while exploring the true human nature beneath the guise of 1960 traditional family values.
You can catch the premier episode several times between now and Thursday. Here's the schedule. And you can watch a sneak preview of premier episode here, but it does not convey fully how the show feels as it unfolds.

PS: I am almost caught up with my Tivo'd episodes of Rescue Me. It is off the scale this season. I really don't know how writers can write like that. And it takes real actors to deliver these lines so naturally, like its real. Here's a little treat for fans of the show, which looks like it was made with scenes from season one (but if you have not seen the show, you can't judge it from this video, which selects "action" clips, not the dialog that makes this show great):

Update: Rewatching the video I see scenes from other seasons. And there was just not that amount of fisticuffs in one season.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More Good Summer TV:
  2. Good Summer TV:
Mark H.:
Thanks for the reminder on "MadMen" (and the schedule link), I was intrigued by the promos for it, yet inexplicably forgot to watch/tape it on the debut airing.

Since I've enjoyed, greatly, "Rescue Me," from the get go, I'm sure your judgement about "MadMen" is worthwhile before the fact!
7.21.2007 1:36am
I watched it based upon several good reviews, and was rather disappointed by the end. Like too many shows and movies intent on " exploring the true human nature beneath the guise of ... traditional family values" (gee, there's a taboo subject Hollywoood hasn't explored yet), it paints a childishly inaccurate picture of life. If the traditional depiction suppressed all non-approved sexuality, this show drips it everywhere. Was there not a single executive or secretary in 1960 who was faithful to a spouse? Not one? Because we didn't see one. Similarly, was every interaction between executives and secretaries infused with overt sexual innuendo and overtures. Every one? Was there not a single instance in 1960 that an eexecutive asked a secretary to do something about work that wasn't accompanied by a leer, a remark, or physical contact? Not once? Because we didn't see that either. Even the wort harassers have moments where they say "please get me a file" and it is really just about the file.

Sure, the rogues can be more interesting dramatically, but not when you pretend (1) they are universal and (2) they inject sex into every single interaction in their day. The Sopranos could make everyone misbehave because it fit that subculture. Yet no matter how much you disdain advertising, its foolish and silly to pretend these people are as sociopathic about sex, or anything, as the mobsters in the Sopranos are. If everyone in the world is a rogue, that's boring. Plus, in the Sopranos, Silvio could talk to one of the Bada Bing strippers without flirting or asking for a bj. Sometimes it was actually about business, or just the weather. That's how even sociopaths live and talk, not like the 1-dimensional characters I saw in this show.

Sadly, the dialogue was well-written and professional, but the decisions on plot and characterization seem to have been made by 12-14 year olds, for 12-14 year olds.
7.21.2007 9:21am
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
You raise a perfectly valid point, and I do not dispute the accuracy of your observation. The same criticism could be made of Rescue Me, and nearly every other TV series, which, since Dallas, now seem to have adopted the soap opera convention of eventually having every character hook up with every other. I suppose I just swallow and accept this convention in order to enjoy other elements of a program. But I can see it bothering others more, especially in this particular show where they are very likely to depict the pre-60s Sexual Revolution as hypocritical about sex, which was claimed by the Baby Boomer revolutionaries. (Don't get me started on the Boomers, of which I am one.) That would make it more grating with this show than others. I think we can also expect some negative depictions of advertising, another bugaboo of the Left that I do not share. If this "message" becomes heavy handed or common, that would get me off this program. For me, on Mad Men, the jury is still out.

Mark H:
Thanks for the vote of confidence. I should be clear that I am only claiming that Mad Men has promise, based on the first episode. Deciding to watch a new series is a considerable investment. I often sample a premier episode for a few minutes before deciding against investing in watching it. Mad Men passed the first episode test. Meadowlands is still on probation after three. Burn Notice was in solid after two.

Whoa. I do not recall being corrected for the previous misspelling (and I just corrected both posts). But if this sort of thing gets you that upset, I imagine you are pretty upset most of the time, which is too bad.
7.21.2007 10:59am
Sk (mail):
Hmmm. I'm sceptical. After reading mgarbowski's review, and the description of the show ("It is obviously going to explore the issues of race, sexism, and antisemitism that was simmering just beneath the surface in 1960"-wow, you mean the entertainment industry is going to question the morality of the '50's? Who would have seen THAT coming?), it sounds like more oversexed pablum with enough moral sanctimony about race and women's roles to try to convince us otherwise.

Why do movies and television so often seem like afterschool specials for adults? Do that many viewers actually enjoy being preached at?

7.21.2007 11:02am
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
I just read Eugene's comment on Revonna here. I will act accordingly in the future.
7.21.2007 11:06am
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
I think you skepticism is warranted. I did not read the program description until writing the blog post only after watching the program and it made me a bit hesitant to recommend. I might have been more reluctant to watch had I read it before. But I am going to stick with it a bit longer because of the production values, characters that have potential, and the fact that it is about an unconventional subject for a TV series. And frankly sexism, racism, antisemitism and homophobia WAS rampant in that period, and it is important to remember this to appreciate how enormously far we have come in both areas since then.

BTW, I wish there was a better word to use than "homophobia," which connotes fear rather than moral disapproval. "Sexism," "racism" and "antisemitism" are all neutral on the motivation for subordinating or hostility towards a particular group and address only the attitude itself.
7.21.2007 11:18am
Sk (mail):
"And frankly sexism, racism, antisemitism and homophobia WAS rampant in that period,"

Note that hunting, eating fried foods, excessive use of hair spray, poor recycling, automobiles with bad gas mileage, poor waste disposal habits, and abuse of alcohol (as well as a whole host of others) were also rampant.

There were a few good things around back then, too, and a tv series could choose to talk about them. For instance, the Dick Van Dyke show isn't as good as I remember it, but its still pretty good. Ultimately, it depends on what do you want to do with your free time.

And so, my question remains: why do people enjoy being preached at by entertainment writers?

7.21.2007 11:39am
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):

When it comes to preaching, I am with you. But I did add "and it is important to remember this to appreciate how enormously far we have come in both areas since then." I think it is useful to putting the amount racism, et al that exists today into perspective today to remember how racist and sexist, American society once was comparatively recently. We have made enormous, indeed miraculous, progress in handling race, etc. and this progress tends to be discounted. Remember when it was a realllly big deal when Bill Cosby became a costar in a dramatic series, "I Spy." That was such a big move that it was said at the time that Robert Culp had to fight to ensure that happened. Sexism was not really seriously addressed until the 1970s. So there is a utility to being reminded how far we have come by showing past practices in action--rather than speechifying about them. Provided of course that the vehicle is otherwise intelligent and entertaining enough to be worth watching for other reasons. And when was the last show to remind us of rampant antisemitism?

And I think The Dick Van Dyke Show remains amazing. Too bad I have seen all the episodes too many times--though it has been a while.
7.21.2007 12:14pm
BGates (www):
And when was the last show to remind us of rampant antisemitism?

Last season's summer tv, I think.
7.21.2007 1:18pm
frankcross (mail):
Hitler was an animal lover. We should talk about that part of his personality rather than dwelling on the negative, don't you think?
7.21.2007 2:04pm
Sk (mail):
"Hitler was an animal lover. We should talk about that part of his personality rather than dwelling on the negative, don't you think?"

I'm not sure. Apparently, every time I think of my grandfather I have to be reminded that he was a racist sexist pig, but whether that means I dwell on the negative with Hitler or the positive with Hitler, I don't know. Won't some executive from a tv channel help me out of this dilemma?

7.21.2007 2:18pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
RB, people in the 60's weren't afraid of homosexuals or only afraid of them in the same sense that they were afraid of child sex predators, so a word that has a connotation equal to fear wouldn't be appropriate either. A word that indicates hostility based upon strong moral disapproval would be the appropriate word, imho.

I agree with you on Burn Notice. I found it excellent right away, and prior to seeing your post on it. I also had noticed the similarities to the old equalizer program.

I'll give mad men a try. If it presents a false caricature of life at that time, but an entertaining one, I can get over its one sidedness by understanding from the get go that it is and will only be a one sided caricature of just a part of reality at that time. If its both a one side caricature and also over the top obvious preaching to the audience then that will be too much to take.

Its true we have come a very long way since the 60's regarding sexism and sexual innuendo in the office workplace. I had my first office job in 1971-1972 time frame and even at that time the constant sexual innuendo in conversations between men and women of all levels was starkly different than what was acceptable by the end of the 70's. I can easily imagine just how bad it would have been in the 60's post "the pill" revolution.

To the poster who commented on gas mileage in the 60's. For most of the 60's cars got gas mileage that was pretty good even by today's standards, when comparing cars of equal weight and horsepower. Actually, perhaps better gas mileage than today when comparing cars of equal weight and horsepower. Towards the end of the 60's and beginning of 70's when the government mandated taking lead out of gasoline is when the gas mileage fell through the floor. Prior to taking lead out of the gasoline the cars had compression ratios of 16, 17, and 18 to 1. After taking lead out of the gasoline the compression ratios had to be dropped to 8 and 9 to 1 in order to avoid preignition igniting of the fuel (which the lead was in there to prevent). It was the dropping of the compression ratios that caused gas mileage on these big horsepower heavy muscle cars to drop from 17 and 18 miles per gallon to 9 miles per gallon.

Says the "Dog"
7.21.2007 2:26pm
Anonymo the Anonymous:
Apparently, every time I think of my grandfather I have to be reminded that he was a racist sexist pig...

Did someone make a film called "This One Guy Who Posts Comments at This Web Site Under the Handle 'Sk' Had a Grandfather Who Was a Racist, Sexist Pig"?

Are these TV shows that bother you all subtitled, "(A Proportional Representation of Everyone Who Ever Lived in the Time and Place Depicted Accurately Conveying All Their Character Traits without Any Caricature, Exaggeration or Simplification For the Purposes of Dramatic Effect or Treating Complex Subjects under the Unavoidable Constraints of a 42-minute Commercially Viable Television Episode that Can Necessarily Only Show a Limited Number of Characters and Events)"?
7.21.2007 10:49pm
Loren (mail) (www):
No doubt, the American Movie Channel required this for their first network series.

Remember WENN?
7.22.2007 10:05am
I'm still upset about Deadwood being cancelled. Studio 60 wasn't bad either.
7.22.2007 5:54pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
Deadwood was a HUGE loss. I think Studio 60 deserved to die. It almost immediately became more about politics and pregnancies than show biz, and basically was a big downer. Although I watched it until the end, it won't be missed by me. But Deadwood is another story.
7.22.2007 5:58pm
Mark H.:
Just finished that first episode of Mad Men and indeed it was pretty good. I don't often start watching a new series, but it's worth the upcoming 2nd episode at least.

I do enjoy Traveler on ABC (my son does as well, a few weeks ago I called him and asked Did they just drop a dump truck load of new twists on our heads or not? Yes, he said!), but they just aired the season finale last week, so there's room for me to get into this one if it stands up.
7.22.2007 7:06pm
wolfefan (mail):
Hi -

This would be their third series, wouldn't it? In addition to Remember WENN, AMC also presented Hustle, with Robert Vaughn. One of my favorite indulgences is to watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at 9:00 pm Eastern on American Life TV and follow it up with Hustle at 10:00. Kind of a Robert Vaughn before-and-after...
7.23.2007 1:28am