about the 60s, cigarettes, Old Fashioneds and Mad Men
Today I am the Med City Media Guy as I branch out to opine about quality television.
Readers of my movie reviews know that they are frequently peppered with references to what I consider the best of the little screen: The Honeymooners, The Sopranos, the early seasons of e.r., and Matthew Weiner's magnificent period drama Mad Men.
Mad Men premiered in 2007 and follows the exploits of a Madison Avenue advertising firm's creative director Don Draper played by Jon Hamm. (In the lingo of the time, advertising execs, those men of Madison Avenue, were apparently called “Mad Men” though I don’t recall Darrin Stephens from the old TV show Bewitched assuming that moniker.)
As the series evolved his secretary Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) worked her way up the male-dominated org chart to creative director of another agency and when season 5 ended she was struggling with a slogan for the new lady’s cigarette from Phillip Morris. If her own journey (she's come along way, baby) is any indication, we pretty much know what she'll come up with.
Weiner wrote a dozen Sopranos episodes before creating Mad Men and admits he subscribes to the David Chase style of production which means popular characters are not spared the axe (coincidentally, in both The Sopranos and in Mad Men a popular character who abruptly left the show was named Sal) and not every question is answered. It’s smart writing that doesn’t underestimate the audience.
Like Chase, Weiner treats every episode as a film in itself though they all contribute to the arcs of the entire season. Its characters are meticulously chiseled and the best of the supporting players include mainstays Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and Bert Cooper (veteran Robert Morse of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying fame).
The series started slow and purposeful (season 1, for example, gained traction only with episode 9 when Betty shoots the neighbor’s pigeons) but that solid groundwork has consistently paid off in subsequent seasons.
Mad Men begins its 6th season Sunday on AMC.
Chris Miksanek, The Med City Movie Guy
Right. From Season 2, "A Night to Remember." Betty Draper (January Jones) in the famous polka dot dress, hands-down her best episode. Unfortunately, Betty has fallen to irrelevancy since remarrying at the onset of season 4.