Babylon (Mad Men)

Mad Men

[mad-man, -muhn]
Mad Men is an American television drama series created by Matthew Weiner. It is broadcast in the United States and Canada on the cable network AMC, and is produced by Lionsgate Television. It premiered on July 19, 2007, and completed its first season on October 18, 2007. Its second season began on July 27, 2008.

Set in New York City, Mad Men takes place in the early 1960s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on New York City's Madison Avenue. The show centers on Don Draper (Jon Hamm), 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 1960s America.

Mad Men has received wide critical acclaim, particularly for its historical authenticity and visual style, and has won numerous awards, including two Golden Globes and six Emmys. It is the second cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series and the first basic cable series to do so.

Production

Conception

Matthew 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 in 2002. "It was lively, and it had something new to say," Chase said. "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 – during which time neither HBO nor Showtime expressed interest in the project – until The Sopranos was completing its final season and cable network AMC happened to be in the market for new programming. "The network was looking for distinction in launching its first original series," according to AMC Networks president Ed Carroll, "and we took a bet that quality would win out over formulaic mass appeal."

Filming and production design

With the exception of the pilot episode, shot at Silvercup Studios in New York City, Mad Men is filmed at Los Angeles Center Studios on Panavision 35 mm cameras; it has been converted to high definition for video-on-demand availability from various cable affiliates. 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. Each episode has a budget between $2–2.5 million, though the pilot episode's budget was over $3 million. 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 tobacco cigarettes in their workplace, they instead smoke herbal cigarettes. In a nod to New York City, Robert Morse was cast in the role of senior partner Bertram Cooper; Morse starred in A Guide for the Married Man (1967), a source of inspiration for Weiner, and the How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying both on Broadway and reprising his character for the 1967 film.

Weiner collaborated with cinematographer Phil Abraham and production designers Robert Shaw (who worked on the pilot only) and Dan Bishop to develop a visual style that was "influenced more by cinema than television." Alan Taylor, a veteran director of The Sopranos, directed the pilot and also helped establish the series' visual tone. To convey an "air of mystery" around Don Draper, Abraham tended to shoot from behind him or would frame him partially obscured. Many scenes set at Sterling Cooper were shot lower-than-eyeline to incorporate the ceilings into the composition of frame; this reflects the photography, graphic design and architecture of the period. Abraham felt that neither steadicam nor handheld camera work would be appropriate to the "visual grammar of that time, and that aesthetic didn’t mesh with [their] classic approach" – accordingly, the sets were designed to be practical for dolly work.

Episode format

The opening title sequence features credits superimposed over a graphic animation of a business man falling from a height, surrounded by skyscrapers with reflections of period advertising posters and billboards, accompanied by a short edit of the instrumental "A Beautiful Mine" by RJD2. The titles pay homage to graphic designer 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. At their end, episodes either fade to black or smash cut to black as period music or a theme by series composer David Carbonara plays during the ending credits.

Crew

Aside from having created the series, Matthew Weiner is the show runner, head writer, and the sole executive producer; he contributes to each episode – writing or co-writing the scripts, casting various roles, and approving costume and set designs. He is notorious for being highly selective about all aspects of the series, and promotes a high level of secrecy around production details. Tom Palmer served as a co-executive producer and writer on the first season. Scott Hornbacher, Todd London, Lisa Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, and Maria Jacquemetton were producers on the first season. Palmer, Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, and Maria Jacquemetton were also writers on the first season. Bridget Bedard, Chris Provenzano, and writer's assistant Robin Veith complete the first season writing team.

Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, and Maria Jacquemetton returned as supervising producers for the second season. Veith also returned and was promoted to staff writer. Hornbacher replaced Palmer as co-executive producer for the second season. Consulting producers David Isaacs, Marti Noxon, Rick Cleveland, and Jane Anderson joined the crew for the second season. Tim Hunter, Alan Taylor, Andrew Bernstein, and Lesli Linka Glatter are regular directors for the series.

Characters

Mad Men features an ensemble cast representing several segments of society in 1960s New York, although it focuses more on Don Draper. Mad Men places emphasis on showing each character's past and their development over time.

Lead characters:

  • Don Draper (born Richard Whitman) (Jon Hamm): creative director and eventual junior partner of Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency; Draper is the series' protagonist. His past is shadowy, but he has achieved success and attained a reputation on account of his talent for insight into the consumer's mind. He is married to Elizabeth "Betty" Draper, with two children, but is not satisfied and embarks on several affairs. Draper has a complicated personal life, on which Hamm commented: "He has a marriage he’s not that involved in, kids he’s not that involved in, a brother he wasn’t involved with at all. He tries to make amends a day late and a dollar short. That’s his great tragedy." "[H]e wants to be a different kind of person than he is."
  • Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss): She began as the ostensibly naïve "new girl" at Sterling Cooper. Starting as Draper's unassuming new secretary, she shows talent in advertising often strikingly similar to Draper's own and is promoted to junior copywriter. She has a brief affair with Pete Campbell, resulting in the birth of a son. The state of New York places her son in the custody of her mother and sister in Brooklyn when doctors decide that Peggy is not fit to take care of the infant. Peggy does not inform Pete about the birth of their child, and her "time off of work" remains a mystery to most of the Sterling Cooper staff. After Freddy's Rumsen's departure, she finds herself promoted again to copywriter responsible for all of Freddy's accounts.
  • Peter "Pete" Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser): a young, ambitious junior account executive. Campbell comes from an old Manhattan family that, while it has of late run into financial difficulties, remains fairly influential, and he lived a life of privilege prior to joining Sterling Cooper. He appears to have been something of a cad at first, and sexually pursues Peggy despite his pending marriage to Trudy; he eventually settles down. He tries to blackmail Don Draper with information on the latter's past; the attempt backfires, but Campbell remains in good standing at Sterling Cooper.
  • Elizabeth "Betty" Draper (January Jones): Don Draper's wife and mother of their two children, Sally and Bobby. Prior to marrying Don, Betty had been a professional model. However, she has since become, on the surface, the very model of a 1950s homemaker, staying at home and minding the children while Don goes to work and comes back at odd hours. In the first season, her relationship with Don is rather distant, manifesting itself in tremors and other psychosomatic disturbances that eventually cause Don to set up sessions for her with a therapist. In season two, Betty is a much stronger person; she takes up horseback riding and frequently clashes with Don over matters of parenting. When she discovers his affairs, she tells him not to come home. Jones described her character as "lost [...] She’s supposed to be this perfect Grace Kelly wife of a businessman, and it’s just not going the way she imagined."
  • Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks): an office manager at Sterling Cooper. She is head of the secretarial pool, and acts as a professional and social mentor to Peggy and the other secretaries. She relishes the role of femme fatale, engaging in an affair with Roger Sterling until his heart attack. In season two, Joan reveals that she is engaged to a doctor.
  • Roger Sterling (John Slattery): one of the two senior partners of Sterling Cooper, and a good friend of Don Draper. He was a notorious womanizer until a heart attack changed his perspective for a while. The heart attack did not affect his drinking habits, which remained excessive even by Sterling Cooper's standards. Despite these characteristics, he retains considerable affection from both Sterling Cooper employees (with whom he has far more contact than Bert Cooper) and his family. By 1962, Sterling has returned to work and is seen to indulge in many of his old habits. He also left his wife, Mona, for Don's secretary, Jane. Sterling's father founded the firm with Bertram Cooper, which explains why his name is before Cooper's.

Recurring characters:

  • Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis): A copywriter, he prides himself in his progressive views. Some time prior to season one he had a relationship with Joan Holloway which ended poorly. Currently, he is dating an African-American woman from South Orange, New Jersey..
  • Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton): An account executive. Outside the office he is an aspiring author with a short story published in the Atlantic Monthly, a fact which is the source of much envy from his co-workers, especially Pete Campbell.
  • Harry Crane (Rich Sommer): A media buyer and recently appointed head of the television department (which presently consists only of himself). Although he joins his colleagues in drinking and flirtations, he is a dedicated husband and soon to be father. However, he did have a one night stand with a secretary in season one which lead to his being briefly kicked out of his home by his wife.
  • Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt): the Italian-American art director at Sterling Cooper. He is the only "ethnic" in a high-level position at the agency, and is also a closeted gay man. In fear of being caught and in deference to his mother's Roman Catholicism, he avoids engagements with other men, and by 1962 has married a woman, Kitty, who seems unaware of his true feelings.
  • Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse): The senior partner at Sterling Cooper. He has a behind-the-scenes, hands-off approach to business, leaving day-to-day affairs to Sterling and Draper. He is a Republican with an admiration for the ideas of Ayn Rand. He is also fascinated by Japanese culture, especially Japanese art.
  • Herman 'Duck' Phillips (Mark Moses): Director of Account Services at Sterling Cooper. He had previously worked at the London office of Young & Rubicam, a larger agency, but an undisclosed fiasco caused him to leave. A tough, driven executive, he often clashes with Don Draper. He appears to be a recovering alcoholic.
  • Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray) is a copywriter at Sterling Cooper. He is the first in the office to notice Peggy Olsen's talent for copywriting while working on an ad campaign for Belle Jolie. Since that time, he has been quite supportive of Olsen's copywriting ambition. Freddie also displays a talent for playing Mozart on the zipper of his pants. After his alcoholism starts to interfere with his job, he is asked to take a six month leave of absence, presumably not to return.
  • Francine Hanson (Anne Dudek): One of Betty Draper’s closest friends and neighbors. She spends much time with Betty, gossiping about other neighbors. She is also rather jealous and vindictive, becoming furious after discovering her husband Carlton's infidelity, although they remain together.
  • Trudy Campbell (Alison Brie): Pete Campbell's wife. She is apparently oblivious to Pete's early infidelity with Peggy. Trudy yearns to be a mother, and is jealous of women who are pregnant or already have children.
  • Father John Gill (Colin Hanks): A young Catholic priest visiting at the church Peggy's family attends in Brooklyn. He tries to keep Peggy in contact with the parish, often by employing her advertising skills for the benefit of the church, and appears to represent a more tolerant, caring kind of clergy than the parish is used to.

Episodes

Season Episodes Season Premiere Season Finale
Season 1 13 July 19, 2007 October 18, 2007
Season 2 13 July 27, 2008 October 26, 2008

Themes

Mad Men depicts the society and culture of the early 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, and racial bias as examples of how that era was so radically different from the present. Smoking, far more common in 1960 than it is now, is featured throughout the series; almost every character can be seen smoking multiple times in the course of an 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 in which men who are engaged or married frequently enter sexual relationships with other women. The series also observes advertising as a corporate outlet for creativity for mainstream, middle-class, young, white 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." Along with each of these examples, however, there are hints of the future and the radical changes of the later 1960s; Betty's anxiety, the Beats Draper discovers through Midge, even talk about how smoking is bad for health (usually dismissed or ignored). Characters also see stirrings of change in the ad industry itself, with the Volkswagen Beetle's "Think Small" ad campaign mentioned and dismissed by many at Sterling Cooper.

Impact

Critical reception

Mad Men has received highly positive 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-ass 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 dynamics in the workplace, and the high prevalence of smoking and drinking. The Washington Post agreed with most other reviews in regard to Mad Men's visual style, but disliked what was referred to as "lethargic" pacing of the storylines.

The American Film Institute selected it as one of the 10 best television series of 2007, and it was named the best television show of that year by the Television Critics Association and several national publications, including the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, TIME Magazine, and TV Guide.

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 Daniel's was mentioned by name in the fifth episode.

Among people who worked in advertising during the 1960s, opinions on the realism of Mad Men differ to some extent. Jerry Della Femina, who worked as a copywriter in that era and later founded his own agency, said that the show "accurately reflects what went on. The smoking, the prejudice and the bigotry." Robert Levinson, one of Weiner's advertising consultants, who worked at BBDO from 1960 to 1980, concurred with Femina: "What [Matthew Weiner] captured was so real. The drinking was commonplace, the smoking was constant, the relationships between the executives and the secretaries was exactly right." However, Allen Rosenshine, a copywriter who went on to lead BBDO, called the show "a total fabrication," saying, "if anybody talked to women the way these goons do, they’d have been out on their ass.

Awards

In 2008, Mad Men won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series - Drama and Jon Hamm won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama for his performance as Don Draper. Mad Men received a 2007 Peabody Award from the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Jon Hamm was nominated for Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and the cast of Mad Men were nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Additionally, Vincent Kartheiser was honored with a 2007 Young Hollywood award for his work as Pete Campbell.

The show also won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best New Series, and the first-season episode "Shoot" won the Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design for a Single Camera Television Series. Mad Men also received a special achievement Satellite Award from the International Press Academy for Best Television Ensemble.

Mad Men was the most-nominated drama series and the third most-nominated series overall at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2008, receiving 16 nominations total – behind the NBC comedy 30 Rock and the HBO miniseries John Adams, with 17 and 23 nominations, respectively. Alongside the concurrently nominated FX drama Damages, it became one of the first basic cable series to ever be nominated for the award for Outstanding Drama Series, an award that it subsequently won. Series creator Matthew Weiner also won the award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for his script for the premiere episode, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". In the technical categories, Mad Men won Emmys for Outstanding Hair-Styling for a Single Camera Series (episode: "Shoot"), Outstanding Art Direction for a Single Camera Series (episode: "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"), Outstanding Main Title Design, and Outstanding Cinematography for a One-Hour Series (episode: "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes").

Marketing

In promotion for the series, AMC aired multiple commercials and a behind the scenes documentary on the making of Mad Men before its premiere. 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.

For the second season, AMC undertook the largest marketing campaign it had ever launched, intending to reflect the "cinematic quality" of the series. The Grand Central Station subway shuttle to Times Square was decorated with life-size posters of Jon Hamm as Don Draper, and quotes from the first season. Inside Grand Central, flash mobs dressed in period clothing would hand out "Sterling Cooper" business cards to promote the July 27 season premiere. Window displays were arranged at 14 Bloomingdale's stores for exhibition throughout July, and a 45' by 100' wallscape was posted at the corner of Hollywood and Highland in downtown Hollywood. Television commercials on various cable and local networks, full-page print ads, and a 30-second trailer in Landmark Theaters throughout July were also run in promotion of the series.

Inspired by the iconic Zippo brand, the DVD box set of the first season of Mad Men was designed like a flip-open Zippo lighter. Zippo subsequently developed two designs of lighters with "Mad Men" logos to be sold at the company headquarters and online. The DVD box set, as well as a high definition Blu-ray disc set, was released July 1, 2008; it features a total of 23 audio commentaries on the season's 13 episodes from various members of the cast and crew.

Product placement

As befits a program about advertising and marketing, Mad Men integrates product placement into its narratives. For instance, in a second season episode, the beer manufacturer Heineken is seen as a client seeking to bring their beer to the attention of American consumers. This placement was paid for by Heineken as an additional part of their advertising on the show. Cadillac has a similar deal with Mad Men. Other examples remain less obvious, like ads worked on by the firm, or companies sought as clients such as Utz potato chips, Maidenform, American Airlines, and others.

References

External links

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