Mad Men

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Mad Men
Mad-men-title-card.jpg
GenrePeriod drama
Created byMatthew Weiner
Starring
Opening theme"A Beautiful Mine" (Instrumental)
by RJD2
Composer(s)David Carbonara
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes68 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Location(s)Los Angeles, California
Running time47 minutes
Production company(s)
Broadcast
Original channelAMC
Picture format480i (SDTV)
720p (HDTV)
Original runJuly 19, 2007 (2007-07-19) – present
External links
Website
 
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Mad Men
Mad-men-title-card.jpg
GenrePeriod drama
Created byMatthew Weiner
Starring
Opening theme"A Beautiful Mine" (Instrumental)
by RJD2
Composer(s)David Carbonara
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes68 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Location(s)Los Angeles, California
Running time47 minutes
Production company(s)
Broadcast
Original channelAMC
Picture format480i (SDTV)
720p (HDTV)
Original runJuly 19, 2007 (2007-07-19) – present
External links
Website

Mad Men is an American period drama television series created and produced by Matthew Weiner. The series premiered on July 19, 2007, on the American cable network AMC and is produced by Lionsgate Television. The series was renewed for a sixth season,[1] which premiered on April 7, 2013.[2]

Mad Men is set in the 1960s, initially at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, and later at the newly created firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. According to the show's pilot, the phrase "Mad Men" was a slang term coined in the 1950s by advertisers working on Madison Avenue to refer to themselves, the term being a portmanteau of the expression "ad men" (short for "advertising men") and the metonymic expression for the advertising industry, "Madison Avenue." The focal point of the series is Don Draper (Jon Hamm), creative director at Sterling Cooper and a founding partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and the people in his life, both in and out of the office. The plot focuses on the business of the agencies as well as the personal lives of the characters, regularly depicting the changing moods and social mores of the United States in the 1960s.

Mad Men has received critical acclaim, particularly for its historical authenticity, visual style, costume design, acting, writing, and directing, and has won many awards, including fifteen Emmys and four Golden Globes. It is the first and only basic cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, winning it in each of its first four seasons in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.[3] In 2013, TV Guide ranked it #6 in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.[4]

Contents

Production

Conception

In 2000, while working as a staff writer for Becker, Matthew Weiner wrote the first draft for the pilot of what would later be called Mad Men as a spec script.[5][6] Television producer David Chase recruited Weiner to work as a writer on his HBO series The Sopranos after reading the pilot script in 2002.[5][7] "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."[7] Weiner set the pilot script aside for the next seven years — during which time neither HBO nor Showtime expressed interest in the project[5][6]—until The Sopranos was completing its final season and cable network AMC happened to be in the market for new programming.[7] "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."[5][8]

Pre-production

Tim Hunter, the director of a half-dozen episodes from the show's first two seasons, called Mad Men a "very well-run show." He said'[9]

They have a lot of production meetings during pre-production. The day the script comes in we all meet for a first page turn, and Matt starts telling us how he envisions it. Then there's a 'tone' meeting a few days later where Matt tells us how he envisions it. And then there's a final full crew production meeting...

Filming and production design

The pilot episode was shot at Silvercup Studios and various locations around New York City; subsequent episodes have been filmed at Los Angeles Center Studios.[10][11] It is available in high definition for showing on AMC HD and on video-on-demand services available from various cable affiliates.[12] The writers, including Weiner, amassed volumes of research on the period in which Mad Men takes place so as to make most aspects of the series—including detailed set designs, costume design, and props—historically accurate,[6][7][13] producing an authentic visual style that garnered critical praise.[14][15][16] Each episode has a budget between US$2–2.5 million, though the pilot episode's budget was over $3 million.[5][6] On the scenes featuring smoking, Weiner stated: "Doing this show without smoking would've been a joke. It would've been sanitary and it would've been phony."[13] Since the actors cannot, by California law, smoke tobacco cigarettes in their workplace, they instead smoke herbal cigarettes.[5][13] Robert Morse was cast in the role of senior partner Bertram Cooper; Morse starred in two 1967 films about amoral businessmen, A Guide for the Married Man (1967), a source of inspiration for Weiner,[7] and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1967), in which Morse recreated his role from the 1961 Broadway play of the same name, (and which was itself based on a satiric novel by a former executive at the now-defunct New York ad agency, Benton & Bowles, Inc.).[17]

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."[11] Alan Taylor, a veteran director of The Sopranos, directed the pilot and also helped establish the series' visual tone.[18] To convey an "air of mystery" around Don Draper, Taylor 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. Alan 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.[11]

Finances

According to a 2011 Miller Tabak + Company estimate published in Barron's, Lions Gate Entertainment receives an estimated $2.71 million from AMC for each episode, a little less than the $2.84 million each episode costs to produce.[19]

In March 2011, after negotiations between the network and the series' creator, AMC picked up Mad Men for a fifth season, which premiered on March 25, 2012.[20] Weiner reportedly signed a $30 million contract which will keep him at the helm of the show for three more seasons.[21] A couple of weeks later, a Marie Claire interview with January Jones was published, noting the limits to that financial success when it comes to the actors: "We don’t get paid very much on the show and that’s well-documented. On the other hand, when you do television you have a steady paycheck each week, so that’s nice."[22]

Sales from home video and iTunes could amount to $100 million in revenue during the show's expected seven-year run, with international syndication sales bringing in an additional estimated $700,000 per episode.[19] That does not include the $71[19] to $100 million[23] estimated to come from a Netflix streaming video deal announced in April 2011.

Episode credit and title sequences

The opening title sequence features credits superimposed over a graphic animation of a businessman 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 businessman appears as a black-and-white silhouette. The titles, created by production house Imaginary Forces, 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.[13] David Carbonara composes the original score for the series. Mad Men — Original Score Vol. 1 was released on January 13, 2009.

In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the show’s opening title sequence ranked #9 on a list of TV's top 10 credits sequences, as selected by readers.[24]

At the end of almost all episodes, the show either fades to black or smash cut to black as period music or a theme by series composer, David Carbonara, plays during the ending credits; at least one episode ends with silence or ambient sounds. A few episodes have ended with more recent popular music, or with a diegetic song dissolving into the credits music. The Beatles authorized the use of "Tomorrow Never Knows" for the season 5 episode "Lady Lazarus", and the same track was used over the closing credits. It marked a rare instance where the band licensed their music for a television series. Lionsgate, which produces Mad Men, paid $250,000 for the use of the song in the episode.[25] Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" ended the last episode of Season 1.

Crew

Series creator Matthew Weiner also serves as executive producer and showrunner. Weiner co-writes the majority of the episodes with another writer, and directs each season finale episode.

In addition to having created the series, Matthew Weiner is the show runner, head writer, and an executive producer; he contributes to each episode—writing or co-writing the scripts, casting various roles, and approving costume and set designs.[5][6] He is notorious for being selective about all aspects of the series, and promotes a high level of secrecy around production details.[5][6] Tom Palmer served as a co-executive producer and writer on the first season. Scott Hornbacher (who later became an executive producer[10]), 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. Weiner, Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Veith, Noxon, Cleveland and Anderson were all writers for the second season. New writer's assistant Kater Gordon was the season's other writer. Isaacs, Cleveland and Anderson left the crew at the end of the second season.

Albert remained a supervising producer for the third season but Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton became consulting producers. Hornbacher was promoted again, this time to executive producer. Veith returned as a story editor and Gordon became a staff writer. Noxon remained a consulting producer and was joined by new consulting producer Frank Pierson. Dahvi Waller joined the crew as a co-producer. Weiner, Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Veith, Noxon and Waller were all writers for the third season. New writer's assistant Erin Levy, executive story editor Cathryn Humphris, script co-ordinator Brett Johnson and freelance writer Andrew Colville complete the third season writing staff.

Alan Taylor, Phil Abraham, Jennifer Getzinger, Lesli Linka Glatter, Tim Hunter, Andrew Bernstein, and Michael Uppendahl are regular directors for the series. Matthew Weiner directs the season finales. Cast members John Slattery and Jon Hamm have also directed episodes.

As of the third season, seven of the nine writers for the show are women, in contrast to Writers Guild of America 2006 statistics that show male writers outnumber female writers by 2 to 1.[26] As Maria Jacquemetton noted:[26]

We have a predominately female writing staff—women from their early 20s to their 50s—and plenty of female department heads and directors. [Show creator] Matt Weiner and [executive producer] Scott Hornbacher hire people they believe in, based on their talent and their experience. "Can you capture this world? Can you bring great storytelling?"

Characters

Mad Men Season 5 core cast from left to right: Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Jared Harris, Vincent Kartheiser, Jon Hamm, Robert Morse, Elisabeth Moss

Mad Men focuses mostly on Don Draper, although it features an ensemble cast representing several segments of society in 1960s New York. Mad Men places emphasis on recollective progression as a means of revealing the characters' past.[27]

Lead characters

Supporting characters

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedDVD and Blu-ray release dates
Season premiereSeason finaleRegion 1Region 2Region 4
113July 19, 2007 (2007-07-19)October 18, 2007 (2007-10-18)July 1, 2008 (2008-07-01)June 30, 2008 (2008-06-30)November 26, 2008 (2008-11-26)
213July 27, 2008 (2008-07-27)October 26, 2008 (2008-10-26)July 14, 2009 (2009-07-14)July 13, 2009 (2009-07-13)August 18, 2009 (2009-08-18)
313August 16, 2009 (2009-08-16)November 8, 2009 (2009-11-08)March 23, 2010 (2010-03-23)April 26, 2010 (2010-04-26)June 2, 2010 (2010-06-02)
413July 25, 2010 (2010-07-25)October 17, 2010 (2010-10-17)March 29, 2011 (2011-03-29)March 28, 2011 (2011-03-28)April 6, 2011 (2011-04-06)
513March 25, 2012 (2012-03-25)June 10, 2012 (2012-06-10)October 16, 2012 (2012-10-16)[43]October 29, 2012 (2012-10-29)[44]November 14, 2012 (2012-11-14)[45]
613April 7, 2013 (2013-04-07)June 23, 2013 (2013-06-23)[46]N/AN/AN/A

Themes and motifs

Mad Men depicts parts of American society and culture of the 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, feminism, adultery, homophobia, and racism.[13][47] There are hints of the future and the radical changes to come in the 1960s. Themes of alienation, social mobility and ruthlessness also underpin the tone of the show. MSNBC noted that the series "mostly remains disconnected from the outside world, so the politics and cultural trends of the time are illustrated through people and their lives, not broad, sweeping arguments."[48] Creator Matthew Weiner called the series science fiction in the past, reasoning that just as science fiction uses a future world to discuss issues that concern us today, Mad Men uses the past to discuss issues that concern us today that we don't discuss openly.[49]

Adultery and sexism

Mad Men has become the subject of much gender-based discussion. The show presents a subculture in which men, many of whom are engaged or married, frequently enter sexual relationships with other women. Most of the main characters have strayed outside of their marriages.[50]

Marie Wilson, in an op-ed for The Washington Post said that "it is difficult and painful to see the ways in which women and men dealt with each other and with power. It's painful because this behavior is not as far back in our past as we would like to think. Our daughters continually get the messages that power still comes through powerful men. And unfortunately being pretty is still a quality that can get you on the ladder – though it still won't take you to the top."[51]

The Los Angeles Times said that "the sexism, in particular, is almost suffocating, and not in the least fun to watch. But it's the force against which the most compelling female characters struggle, and the opposition that defines them. The interaction with everyday misogyny and condescension — the housewife whose shrink reports to her husband, the ad woman who's cut out of the after-hours wheeling and dealing — gives the characters purpose and shape."[52]

In Salon, Nelle Engoron explained that while Mad Men seems to illuminate gender issues, its male characters get off "scot-free" for their drinking and adultery, while the female characters are often punished.[53]

One columnist for Ms., Aviva Dove-Viebahn argues that "Mad Men straddles the line between a nuanced portrayal of how sexism and patriarchal entitlement shape lives, careers and social interactions in the 1960s (and, by extension, today) and a glorified rendering of the “fast-paced, chauvinistic world of 1960s advertising and all that comes with it.”"[54]

Melissa Witkowski, writing for The Guardian, argued that Peggy's ascendancy was marred because the show "strongly implies that no woman had ever been a copywriter at Sterling Cooper prior to Peggy, but the circumstances of her promotion imply that this was merely because no woman had ever happened to have shown talent in front of a man before," pointing out that Peggy's career path bore little resemblance to the stories of successful ad women of the time such as Mary Wells Lawrence and Jean Wade Rindlaub.[55]

Alcoholism

ABC News noted that "as the show's time frame progressed into the 1960s, series creator Matthew Weiner didn't hold back in depicting a world of liquor-stocked offices, boozy lunches and alcohol-soaked dinners." One incident in Season 2 finds advertising executive Freddy Rumsen being sent to rehab after urinating on himself. Don, Betty, Herman 'Duck' Phillips, and Roger Sterling were singled out by television reporters for their excessive drinking. ABC News also quoted an addiction specialist who said that "over the last ten years, alcoholism has been more fully understood as a disease. But in the sixties, bad behavior resulting from heavy drinking could be considered 'macho' and even romantic, rather than as a compulsive use of alcohol despite adverse consequences."[56] One reviewer called the fourth season a "sobering tale of drunken excess" as the Don Draper character struggled with his addiction to alcohol.[57]

Counterculture

The Los Angeles Times opined that Mad Men excels at "stories of characters fighting to achieve personal liberation in the restless years before the advent of the full-blown culture wars."[52] One reviewer was excited that the fourth season, through Peggy, brought "the introduction to the Counterculture (Andy Warhol as the King of Pop and Leader of the Band), with all the loud music, joint-passing, underground movies so present in those times. Peggy's visit to a loft, with a Life Magazine photo editor-"friend", placed her squarely in the center of the exciting creativity so rampant in the underground and also so rebellious against the mainstream." The Huffington Post focused on one scene where "Peggy joins her new beatnik friends in the lobby while Pete stays behind with the SCDP partners to relish in his newly captured $6 million account. As they embark on their opposite trajectories, the camera lingers on their knowing glances. Here is where we find emotional truth."[58]

Identity

Television commentators have noted the series' study of personal identity, most significantly through Don Draper's identity fraud during the Korean War in which he took on another soldier's identity to get out of the war. Tim Goodman has said that the overriding theme of Mad Men is identity. Goodman called Don Draper "a man who's been living a lie for a long time. He's built to be a loner. And over the course of three seasons we've watched him carry this existential angst through a fairy-tale life of his own creation."[59]

Gawker noted that "Not only is the agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the business of spinning them—or at least warping the truth—to sell product, but the main character, Don Draper, is built on a lie. Just like one of his campaigns, his whole identity is a sweet fabrication, a kind of candy floss spun out of opportunity, innuendo, and straight-up falsehood."[60]

The New Republic writer Ruth Franklin said that "The show’s method is to take us behind the scenes of the branding of American icons—Lucky Strike cigarettes, Hilton hotels, Life cereal—to show us not how the products themselves were created, but how their 'very sexy … very magical' images were dreamed up." She went on to say that "In this way, we are all Don Drapers, obsessed with selling an image rather than tending to what lies underneath. Draper’s fatal flaw is his lack of psychological awareness: He is at once perfectly tuned into the desires of America and entirely out of touch with his own character".[61] One reviewer said that "Identity is a key theme in Mad Men, and nobody is ever quite who they appear to be. Each one is filled with thwarted ambitions and frustrated dreams, none more so than Don Draper himself, whose closet, it's gradually revealed over seasons one and two, is filled with proverbial skeletons."[62]

Racism

The San Francisco Chronicle has argued that the character of Don Draper is racist, stating, "Unless Don Draper was out marching for civil rights, and hired black interns or had a black girlfriend, it’s fantasy to think Draper wasn’t racist. Indeed, it would be inaccurate to the period to present him as not having racist views, yet achieving that level of success."[63] Change.org said, "the very absence of people of color in the main narrative of this show speaks volumes. To be clear, Mad Men is not about the mid-20th century. If it were, the show would deserve criticism for not making race a driving issue. But Mad Men is about Don Draper and the people in his orbit—middle- to upper-class white Americans living and working around Manhattan in the late '50s to mid-'60s. For these people, race and racism are largely invisible, until and unless the struggle for equality impinges upon their privilege."[64]

It has been argued that the show distorts history by erasing the stories of the successful men and women of color of 1960s-era Madison Avenue such as Clarence Holte, Georg Olden, and Caroline Robinson Jones.[55] Latoya Peterson, writing for Slate's Double X, argues that Mad Men isn't confronting racial issues, but glossing over them.[65] The Root's Michael Ross points out that the continued lack of black admen is rapidly becoming ahistorical.[66]

However, Slate writer Tanner Colby wrote an article praising the show's treatment of race and Madison Avenue as historically accurate, especially the storyline in the third season episode "The Fog" in which Pete Campbell's idea to market certain products specifically towards African-Americans is struck down by the company. Slate also referred to the fourth season episode "The Beautiful Girls," where Peggy Olson suggests Harry Belafonte as a spokesman for Fillmore Auto after Fillmore Auto faced a boycott for not hiring black employees. Don shoots down the idea. Colby also pointed to an expose published in a 1963 copy of Ad Age that revealed that "out of over 20,000 employees, the report identified only 25 blacks working in any kind of professional or creative capacity, i.e., nonclerical or custodial." Colby said that "Mad Men isn’t cowardly for avoiding race. Quite the opposite. It’s brave for being honest about Madison Avenue’s cowardice."[67]

Smoking

Smoking, far more common in the United States of the 1960s than it is now,[68] is featured throughout the series; many characters can be seen smoking several times in the course of an episode.[13] 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.[69] Talk of smoking being harmful to health and physical appearance is usually dismissed or ignored. In the fourth season, after Lucky Strike fires Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as its ad agency, Draper writes an advertisement in The New York Times called "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco" that announces SCDP's refusal to take tobacco accounts. The finale finds the agency working for the American Cancer Society.

The actors themselves do not smoke real cigarettes, however. Creator Matthew Weiner disclosed in an interview with The New York Times that the reason was not overly about the actors' health: "You don't want actors smoking real cigarettes", Weiner said. "They get agitated and nervous. I've been on sets where people throw up, they’ve smoked so much". There is also the issue of California (where the series is filmed) forbidding smoking tobacco in the workplace.[5]

Reception

Ratings

Viewership for the premiere at 10:00 pm on July 19, 2007, was higher than any other AMC original series to date.[70] The premiere attracted 900,000 viewers.[71] The numbers for the first season premiere were more than doubled for the heavily promoted[72] second season premiere.[73] A major drop in viewership for the episode following the second season premiere prompted concern from some television critics.[72][73]

However, the second season finale posted significantly higher numbers than the series' first season finale, and was up 20% over the season two average. 1.75 million people viewed the second season finale of Mad Men. The cumulative audience for the episode was 2.9 million viewers, when the two re-broadcasts at 11:00 pm and 1:00 am were factored in.[74]

The third season premiere, which aired August 16, 2009, gained 2.8 million views on its first run, and 0.78 million with the 11:00 pm and 1:00 am repeats. In 2009, Mad Men was second in Nielsen's list of Top 10 timeshifted primetime TV programs, with a 57.7% gain in viewers, second only to the final season of Battlestar Galactica.[75]

The fourth season premiere of Mad Men received 2.9 million viewers, and was up five percent from the ratings for season three's debut and up 61 percent from the third season average, and became the most watched-episode in AMC history until the series premiere of the AMC original series The Walking Dead.[76]

The fifth season premiere, "A Little Kiss", was the most watched-episode of Mad Men of all-time to date, receiving 3.5 million viewers and 1.6 million viewers in the 18–49 demographic. Before the fifth season, Mad Men had never achieved above a 1.0 in the 18–49 demographic. Charlie Collier, AMC's president, said that "For each of the five Mad Men seasons Matthew Weiner and his team have crafted a beautifully told story and each season a larger audience has responded; a rare accomplishment. We couldn’t be more proud of this program, the brilliant writers, cast and crew, and the entire team on each side of the camera."[77] The fifth season finale, "The Phantom", was watched by 2.7 million viewers, the highest ratings for a Mad Men season finale to date.[78] In 2012, the series was second in Nielsen's list of Top 10 timeshifted primetime TV programs, with a 127% gain in viewers.[79]

SeasonBroadcast datesPremiere viewers
(in millions)
1[71]July 19 – October 18, 20070.90
2[73]July 27 – October 26, 20082.00
3[80]August 16 – November 8, 20092.80
4[81]July 25 – October 17, 20102.92
5[77]March 25 – June 10, 20123.54

Critical reception

Mad Men has received high critical acclaim since its premiere.[82] The American Film Institute selected it as one of the 10 best television series of 2007,[83] 2008,[84] 2009,[85] 2010,[86] and 2012[87] (having aired no episodes during 2011) and it was named the best television show of 2007 by the Television Critics Association[88] and several national publications, including the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, TIME Magazine, and TV Guide.[89] On the review aggregator website Metacritic, the first season scored 77/100,[90] the second season scored 88/100,[91] the third season scored 87/100,[92] the fourth season scored 92/100,[93] the fifth season scored 88/100[94] and the sixth season scored 87/100.[95]

A New York Times reviewer called the series groundbreaking for "luxuriating in the not-so-distant past."[47] 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."[14]

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."[96] 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."[97] The Los Angeles Times said that the show had found "a strange and lovely space between nostalgia and political correctness."[98] 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.[7][15][98][99]

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.[100] A review of the first season DVD set in the London Review of Books by Mark Greif was much less laudatory. Greif stated that the series was an "unpleasant little entry in the genre of Now We Know Better" as the cast was a series of historical stereotypes that failed to do anything except "congratulate the present."[101] In a February 2011 review of the show's first four seasons, critic Daniel Mendelsohn wrote a critical review that called Mad Men a "drama with aspirations to treating social and historical “issues”—the show is melodramatic rather than dramatic. By this I mean that it proceeds, for the most part, like a soap opera, serially (and often unbelievably) generating, and then resolving, successive personal crises (adulteries, abortions, premarital pregnancies, interracial affairs, alcoholism and drug addiction, etc.), rather than exploring, by means of believable conflicts between personality and situation, the contemporary social and cultural phenomena it regards with such fascination: sexism, misogyny, social hypocrisy, racism, the counterculture, and so forth."[102]

Authenticity

With Mad Men, Weiner and his creative team have "received critical acclaim for its historical authenticity and visual style"[103] although opinions on Mad Men vary among people who worked in advertising during the 1960s.

According to Robert Levinson, a consultant for Mad Men who worked at BBDO from 1960 to 1980, "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".[5] Jerry Della Femina, who worked as a copywriter in that era and later founded his own agency, said that the show is accurate in its depiction of "the smoking, the prejudice and the bigotry".[5]

Conversely, 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".[104] George Lois, who worked at Doyle Dane Bernbach for a year before starting his own ad agency in 1960, said "Mad Men is nothing more than the fulfillment of every possible stereotype of the early 1960s bundled up nicely to convince consumers that the sort of morally repugnant behavior exhibited by its characters... is glamorous and vintage....[U]nlike the TV 'Mad Men,' we worked full, exhausting, joyous days: pitching new business, creating ideas, "comping" them up, storyboarding them, selling them, photographing them, and directing commercials. And our only 'extracurricular activity' was chasing fly balls and dunking basketballs on our agency softball and basketball teams!"[105]

According to an analysis of the language used in Mad Men by Benjamin Schmidt, a visiting graduate fellow at the Cultural Observatory at Harvard University, the vocabulary and phrases used in the show are not all quite authentic to the period despite attempts to use period specific vocabulary. Using a computer program, he determined that the show uses relatively few words that are clearly anachronistic, but that there are many words and phrases used that are far more common in modern speech than in the speech of the era ("need to", "feel good about", "euthanize" etc...). In aggregate these words and constructions give a misleading impression of the speech patterns of the time. He notes particularly that the use of modern business language, (leverage, signing bonus, etc..) unknown or little used at the time "creeps in with striking regularity."[106]

Influence

Mad Men has been credited with setting off a wave of renewed interest in the fashion and culture of the early 1960s. According to The Guardian in 2008, the show was responsible for a revival in men's suits, especially suits resembling those of that time period, with higher waistbands and shorter jackets; as well as "everything from tortoise shell glasses to fedoras".[107] According to the website BabyCenter, the show led to the name "Betty" soaring in popularity for baby girls in the United States in 2010.[108]

New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley wrote that the success of Mad Men had turned "the booze-guzzling, chain-smoking, babe-chasing 1960s" into "Broadway’s decade du jour", citing three 1960s-set musicals that had appeared on Broadway in 2010 and 2011: revivals of Promises, Promises and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and a new musical, Catch Me If You Can.[109] Brantley also wrote, "I’m presuming that Mad Men is the reason this Promises, Promises is set not in the late ’60s, as the original was, but in 1962."[110]

The 2009 TNT series Trust Me, which ran for one season, was set at a modern-day advertising agency; television critic Tom Shales called it a cross between Mad Men and another television show, Nip/Tuck. Two network television series that premiered in 2011, the short-lived The Playboy Club and the one-season Pan Am, both set in 1963, were frequently referred to as imitations of Mad Men.[111][112] The British TV drama The Hour, which also premiered in 2011, and is set in 1956, was also described as influenced by Mad Men.[113]

Don Draper's rendition of the Frank O'Hara poem 'Mayakovsky' from Meditations in an Emergency, at the end of episode one of season two, led to the poet's work entering the top 50 sales on Amazon.com.[98]

The appearance of actress Christina Hendricks as office manager Joan is said to have sparked a renewed interest in a voluptuous look for women, and to be partly responsible for, among other things, a 10% increase in breast implant surgery in Britain in 2010.[114]

The nostalgia for the fashions and social norms of the early 1960s engendered by Mad Men has been criticized by some commentators. Amy Benfer, writing in Salon, asked, "But isn’t it a little odd that a show that, among other things, warns about the dangers of seeing the past in too amber a light has spawned an industry devoted to fetishizing nostalgia for that same flawed past?"[115] Anna Kelna, in Ms. Magazine, wrote, "Mad Men itself might ascribe [sic] to the feminist agenda, but thanks to its pervasive impact on pop culture, the show is crafting a whole new generation of would-be Bettys (Draper’s stylish wife) not Peggys (the show’s ambitious “career girl”)."[116]

Accolades

Mad Men is the recipient of many nominations and awards from various organizations, including the American Film Institute, Emmys and Creative Arts Emmys from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, a Peabody Award from the Peabody Board at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Satellite Awards from the International Press Academy, and British Academy Television Awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Numerous nominations and award has also been received from guilds and societies such as the Art Directors Guild, Casting Society of America, Cinema Audio Society, Costume Designers Guild, Directors Guild of America, Motion Picture Sound Editors, Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Television Critics Association, and Writers Guild of America.

Award highlights include winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series four times, for each of its first four seasons; its fourth win tied the record for serial dramas set earlier by Hill Street Blues (1981–1984), L.A. Law (1987, 1989–1991), and The West Wing (2000–2003).[117] In 2012 Mad Men set a record for the most Emmy nominations, 17, without winning.[118]

Parodies

Jon Hamm was the host of Saturday Night Live on October 26, 2008, during the show's 34th season. Mad Men was parodied on two skits in that episode. In one, "A-Holes: Pitch Meeting", Hamm is joined by two other Mad Men cast members making appearances, Elisabeth Moss (who was called the morning of the show and asked to play Peggy, since Amy Poehler, who was set to play Peggy in the sketch, went into labor)[119] and John Slattery.[120] In another skit, "Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women," Hamm pokes fun at how easily his character seduces women.[121]

The Simpsons' episode "Treehouse of Horror XIX", which first aired in the United States on November 2, 2008, included a segment called "How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising"[122] The segment, an adaptation of the Mad Men animated title sequence, was the "inspiration" of executive producer Al Jean; it featured a "rotund, lunchbox-carrying figure, undoubtedly Homer Simpson, enter[ing] a living room and then float[ing] past windows bearing Springfield-centric displays that include a Duff Beer ad," with the Mad Men theme music on the soundtrack.[122] On November 27, 2011, The Simpsons aired the episode, "The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants", once again parodying Mad Men. It featured Mad Men actor John Slattery and creator Matthew Weiner.

The children's television show Sesame Street ran a child-friendly parody of Mad Men on November 11, 2009 (episode 4188). Muppet versions of Don Draper and two other advertising professionals are shown going on an "emotional rollercoaster," becoming "mad," "sad" and "glad," as they sort through pictures of an ad campaign featuring a cartoon bear.[123][124] When Miranda Barry of the Sesame Workshop was asked how such a parody is possible "given the drinking, smoking, and womanizing that's a big part of the AMC show", she compared it to their parody of Desperate Housewives: "You may have seen our parody called 'Desperate Houseplants.' It was about a houseplant not getting its needs met by the gardener. So it always works on two levels."[124]

The April 2011 issue of Mad magazine included "Sad Men," written by Arnie Kogen and illustrated by Tom Richmond. The spoof ends with the ad agency landing a slew of promising new blue chip accounts in 1965: Johns Manville ("The king of asbestos!"), the Hearst newspaper chain ("print will never die!"), Underwood ("Nothing will ever replace typewriters!"), Gimbels department store, and E.J. Korvette.

In the Community episode "Physical Education", the character Abed, a television and movie connoisseur, does an impression of Don Draper, after his peers encourage him to change his personality. He practices a conversation with Annie (played by Alison Brie, who plays Trudy Campbell on Mad Men). He offers her cigarettes, while putting on a deep voice and a flirtatious charm. As Annie leans in to kiss Abed, he quickly turns away and says, "Don Draper from Mad Men". While many of his friends are impressed, Shirley shouts, "Don't be him! He cheats on his wife!"

In the 30 Rock episode "The Moms", Liz Lemon's mother, Margaret, mentions working for Sterling Cooper after graduating from secretarial school. In the episode "The Ones", Kenneth Parcell has an allergic reaction to strawberries and says "My real name... is Dick Whitman." The television show House references Mad Men when Dr. Gregory House insults a high ranking man who works at a well-respected advertisement agency by calling him Don when his name is Dave. In late 2010, the TV show Arthur had a parody of Mad Men in the episode "Nicked by a Name," using a character named Tom Taper instead of Don Draper. In the fifth episode of the second season of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, it is revealed that Jon Hamm (who guest stars on the show) is playing himself and needs to return home as Mad Men begins filming shortly. A five-minute parody entitled "Malt Men" features actors Ryan Ridley and Eric Price as characters who advertise malt liquor beverages, and appears on Channel 101, a monthly short-film festival in Los Angeles.[125]

The comedy website Funny or Die has a small series of skits entitled MA Men which transplants the show into present-day South Boston and invariably involves creating ad campaigns for various Boston businesses in which certain members of Boston's professional sports rivals are sodomized.[126] Comedy website CollegeHumor released an animated short called "Alternate Mad Men Intros" for the release for the fifth season.[127]

Marketing

Season premiere campaigns

In promotions for the series, AMC aired commercials and a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Mad Men before its premiere. The commercials mostly show the one (usually brief) sex scene from each episode of the season. The commercials, as well as the documentary, featured the song "You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse.[13] 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.[128]

For the second season, AMC undertook the largest marketing campaign it had ever launched, intending to reflect the "cinematic quality" of the series.[129] The Grand Central Terminal subway shuttle to Times Square was decorated with life-size posters of Jon Hamm as Don Draper, and quotes from the first season.[129] Inside Grand Central, groups of people dressed in period clothing would hand out "Sterling Cooper" business cards to promote the July 27 season premiere.[129] 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.[129] 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.[129] Television promotions for the second season featured the song "The Truth" by Handsome Boy Modelling School.[130]

The advertising campaign for the fifth season of Mad Men was conceived by the network as a way to promote the series after the 17-month break between seasons. A teaser campaign began in which posters, using images of the enigmatic "falling man" from the opening credits, were spread out on buildings in New York and Los Angeles. The New York Times ran a story about the image's similarity to the 9/11 falling man image. Some 9/11 family members accused the campaign of being insensitive. However, one family member accused the paper of creating a "kerfuffle where none exists", as well as using 9/11 family members to "write a story that refers only to your own feelings". AMC responded with a statement that said, "The image of Don Draper tumbling through space has been used since the show began in 2007 to represent a man whose life is in turmoil. The image used in the campaign is intended to serve as a metaphor for what is happening in Don Draper’s fictional life and in no way references actual events."[131]

The advertising campaign also included the use of posters that proclaimed "Adultery Is Back." The Atlantic Wire criticized the AMC campaign, saying "Not that we're some creaky old traditionalists who value monogamy above all else, but making that of all things the selling point for a brilliant, beautiful show seems a little silly."[132]

Online promotion

Promotion for Seasons 4 and 5 saw Mad Men and AMC partnering with Banana Republic for the Mad Men Casting Call, in which users submit photos of themselves in Mad Men style and one winner receives the opportunity for a walk-on role in an upcoming season.[133] Promotion for Seasons 3 and 4 included “Mad Men Yourself”, an interactive game in which the user can choose clothing and accessories for an avatar similar to the appearance of Mad Men characters, drawn in the sixties-inspired style of illustrator Dyna Moe.[134]Mad Men Cocktail Culture” was also featured, an iPhone app that challenges users to create the perfect drink as featured in Mad Men episodes.[135] Another interactive game launched prior to Season 3, the “Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Job Interview”, allowed users to answer questions based on various scenarios and then offered them a position in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce office.[136] Season 3 also included “Which Mad Man Are You?”, an interactive game in which users could find out which Mad Men character they were most like based on their answers to questions about various work and life situations.[137] Users can take trivia quizzes based on the years in which the Mad Men episodes take place[138] and find recipes for 1960s-era drinks on the Mad Men Cocktail Guide.[139] AMC's Mad Men website also features exclusive sneak peek and behind the scenes videos, episodic and behind-the-scenes photo galleries, episode and character guides, a blog, and a community forum.

Media releases

DVD/Blu-ray releaseEpisodesOriginally airedRelease date
Region 1Region 2Region 4
The Complete First Season132007July 1, 2008 (2008-07-01)June 30, 2008 (2008-06-30)November 26, 2008 (2008-11-26)
The Complete Second Season132008July 14, 2009 (2009-07-14)July 13, 2009 (2009-07-13)August 18, 2009 (2009-08-18)
The Complete Third Season132009March 23, 2010 (2010-03-23)April 26, 2010 (2010-04-26)June 2, 2010 (2010-06-02)
The Complete Fourth Season132010March 29, 2011 (2011-03-29)March 28, 2011 (2011-03-28)April 6, 2011 (2011-04-06)
The Complete Fifth Season132012October 16, 2012 (2012-10-16)October 29, 2012 (2012-10-29)November 14, 2012 (2012-11-14)

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.[140] The DVD box set, as well as a 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.[141]

Licensed merchandise

For the third season, the clothing store Banana Republic partnered with Mad Men to create window displays at its U.S. stores, showing clothing inspired by the fashion of the show. The store also ran a "casting call" competition, in which participants were asked to mail photos of themselves in period fashion for a chance at a walk-on part in the show;[142] two winners were announced in October 2010.[143]

Another clothing promotion from the series' third season includes a "Mad-Men Edition" suit offered by American clothing retailer Brooks Brothers.[144] The suit is designed by the show's costume designer, Janie Bryant, and is based on an actual style sold by Brooks Brothers in the early 1960s.[144]

In spring 2010, Mattel released a series of limited-edition collectible Barbie and Ken dolls based on the characters Don and Betty Draper, Joan Holloway, and Roger Sterling.[145]

The fourth season saw the announcement of a collaboration between Janie Bryant and Californian-based company, Nailtini, to produce a limited-edition line of Mad Men nail polish. The four shades are entitled Bourbon Satin, French 75, Deauville and Stinger and are reported to have been inspired by the fabrics used to make cocktail dresses in the 1960s. The Mad Men nail polish line went on sale in the U.S. in late 2010.[146]

Product placement

Mad Men has integrated product placement into its narratives. For instance, in a second season episode, the beer manufacturer Heineken is seen as a client seeking to bring its beer to the attention of American consumers. Heineken paid for the placement as an additional part of its advertising on the show. The closing episode of season two was broadcast (for its premiere) in the United States with only one brief commercial interruption: a short ad for Heineken beer.[147]

On June 20, 2007, the consumer-rights activist group 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.[148] Jack Daniel's was mentioned by name in the fifth episode.

During the fourth season, Unilever created a series of six retro commercials to be aired during the show in the United States. The ads are set at the fictional Smith Winter Mitchell advertising agency and take place during the same time period as Mad Men. The products used in the ads are Dove, Breyers, Hellman's, Klondike, Suave, and Vaseline.[149][150]

Some sources attribute other mentions of real life products on the show, such as ads worked on by the firm, or companies sought as clients including Utz potato chips, Maidenform, Gillette, American Airlines, Clearasil and others to product placement[151]

In an interview for the Archive of American Television on November 12, 2010, creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner stated that there is much less product placement on Mad Men than is commonly perceived, and that most real products featured (including Cadillac and Utz) are included for purposes of realism, with no product placement deals behind them. Weiner said: "There is very little [product placement], and it is an illusion propagated by the network. It never works out... Literally I've named four things in four seasons and there have probably been a hundred products on the show. Half of them are made up, no one's paying to be on the show."[152]

Weiner added that he is not opposed to product placement, provided that it could increase the show's budget or eliminate the advertising breaks. However, he says that the limited product placement in the show has been a frustrating experience for his creative team. Because of these frustrations, Weiner anticipates no product placement deals in future seasons. "I can say here and now, never again".[153] Weiner also expressed his regret at his inability to edit Mad Men's Wikipedia article to correct the misperception that real products on the show are the result of product placement deals.[154]

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