Friday, July 20, 2007

Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon Coming

Mad Men debuted on AMC television a few hours ago. My wife had seen a write-up of the show in The New York Times. A smart friend, Zach, mentioned it a comment on my "Barely Political Revolution" (Obama Girl) post in this blog. Matthew Wiener - a Sopranos Emmy winner for his producer work - is the Executive Producer. So we gave it a try - and we weren't disappointed. Not at all.

The show was quite good.

The setting is the New York City advertising world in 1960 - the "Mad Men" are Madison Avenue advertising men, which according to a squib on the show, was a name they gave to themselves.

Jon Hamm plays Don Draper, an advertising guy pretty close to the top of his game in his company. He looks like a young Robert De Niro, and dresses a lot like James Bond in his second and third movies. Not too shabby. His main problem is that one of the company's main clients is Lucky Strike Cigarettes - and this is a time when the Surgeon General and the media are first waking up to the real dangers of smoking.

The ambiance is superb and accurate. There's a high energy in this era, which I can still recall from when I was a kid. It somehow got sapped a little by everything that happened in the 1960s and after.

There's also a lot of smoke. Everyone smokes, all the time, including the doctors. Male chauvinism is rampant. And the music is spot-on perfect for the time and feel of the era.

The only possible error I caught was what looked like a sleek new IBM Selectric just brought into the 1960 office. But that revolutionary model - with no carriage - was introduced in 1961, in our reality. Well, maybe the typewriter in the office was some kind of test-run model...

But there was nothing else test-run about this show. The secretaries, clients - women as well as men - bosses and assistants are all vibrant and believable.

And Mad Men has an attractiveness all its own. It's certainly not like anything I've ever seen on the networks, and doesn't feel like an HBO or even an edgy off-beat Showtime entry. It has a pace and style that's somewhere between an Arthur Miller play and a Playhouse 90 production - meaning, good, and something you don't see too often if at all these days.

Affairs are simmering, and next week our hero may take on a new client - Richard Nixon, who may be running for President.

Cigarette companies and Nixon as clients - you gotta love it. I'll be watching.

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

6-minute podcast review of Mad Men

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
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