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Don Draper’s Inferno

(AP Photo/AMC Frank Ockenfels)

For National Review OnlineThomas S. Hibbs writes: With the conclusion of the first half of season seven on Sunday, May 25, Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed AMC series Mad Men has only seven episodes left (which we won’t get to see until next spring).

“…it is not difficult to see in the show’s unmasking of the illusions of the self-made man a critique of the world of capitalist advertising with its construction of images of happiness…”

Main character Don Draper began this season at the nadir of his career and personal life. The previous season began with Don on a beach with second wife Megan, now an actress. Reading the opening of Dante’s Inferno, he intones: “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” The book is a gift from Sylvia, a married neighbor with whom he is having a torrid affair but whom he tells at one point, “I want to stop doing this.” The despair in his voice indicates how incapable he is of freeing himself from something he knows is wrong.showsaboutnothing

[Order Thomas S. Hibbs' book Shows about Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture from Amazon]

Season six proceeded to portray a descent for Don, perhaps reminiscent of Dante’s journey into the depths of hell: progressive alienation from his new wife, a heart-wrenching scene in which his daughter Sally catches him in sexual congress with Sylvia, and his self-destruction in the middle of a business meeting in which he breaks down and tells clients about his childhood in a brothel. The last move put him on an indefinite leave. Unlike Dante, however, Don has no clear path and no Virgil as his guide.

“…But Mad Men also manages to capture something of the attraction of the life of the entrepreneur.”

The question of season seven is whether, like that of Dante, Don’s descent will be followed by an ascent or at least a return to form as a Manhattan master of the universe. In the concluding episode of the first half, Don finds himself facing loss on multiple fronts: the end of his marriage, as he and Megan realize they have been leading separate lives; and the imminent loss of his job — especially with the death of Bert Cooper, who had reluctantly continued to support Don’s presence at the firm. But the episode ends on a high note, with Don’s job and his connections to the longest-standing members of the firm restored. In a final note of whimsy, Don has a vision of the now dead Bert doing a song-and-dance routine of “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Is this a sign that Don is coming unhinged or that he has found his Virgil? Read the rest of this entry »

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TV: What “Mad Men” Characters Will Look Like In The 1980s

From Buzzfeed.com:

On the red carpet at Mad Men’s Season 6 premiere, BuzzFeed asked the show’s stars where their characters would be in the ’80s. Here’s what they’re predicting, along with our interpretations of them as contemporary ads.

 Don Draperoriginal-4327-1398813787-35-1

Peggy Olsen

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(see more) Buzzfeed.com


[VIDEO] Mad Men Season 7: May 4th Preview

Don’t miss the next episode of Mad Men, Sun., May 4th at 10/9c. For more Mad Men videos.

Find out where to watch Mad Men

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BREAKING MAD: Screenwriter Robert Towne Joins Writing Staff of ‘Mad Men’

MadManTowne

A sign of confidence? Or uncertainty? Mad Men hits the final stretch.

Cynthia Littleton writes:

“Veteran screenwriter Robert Towne (pictured) is among Matthew Weiner’s new recruits to “Mad Men’s” writing staff for the upcoming seventh and final season, which AMC announced Monday will unfold in two seven-episode batches in spring 2014 and spring 2015.”

I question the decision to break up the final season into a two-year boutique-sized spread. Is this a creative decision? Or is AMC milking the popularity of the series for additional commercial or prestige reasons Or is the Mad Men staff pressed to conclude the series to Matthew Weiner’s satisfaction, and AMC is giving him more time? Let’s hear what you guys think. — The Butcher

“Towne is serving as a consulting producer…. He won an original screenplay Oscar for 1974′s “Chinatown” (a source of many oft-quoted lines including: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown”). He earned three other Oscar screenwriting noms, for 1973′s “The Last Detail,” 1975′s “Shampoo” … Recent credits include “Mission: Impossible II…”

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Nostalgia: Mad Men’s Don Draper

Recalling Don Draper’s creative peak, his most poignant pitch, to Kodak. Before his unresolved personality disorder, cracked identity and mid-life crisis led him to his epic season 5 meltdown.


‘Mad Men’s’ Matthew Weiner Talks His First Feature Film

Matthew Weiner

There’s a growing consensus among filmmakers that television, not film, offers the more hospitable climate for innovative work. While this might be true, here’s the anomaly: The very innovators who brought about this change still go back to movies to create their “personal” projects.

David Chase, who turned TV around with “The Sopranos,” shot his own personal story in his 2012 movie “Not Fade Away,” which pulled a fast fade earning less than $650,000 domestically. And now Matthew Weiner, who is prepping his seventh and final season of “Mad Men,” is unveiling his first significant feature directing effort, “You Are Here,” at the Toronto fest next week. His new film is a far cry from his first feature, a low-budget black-and-white pic in which he also starred, which was never released.

And while Weiner commands an imperial presence in TV land, he arrives at Toronto as a humble near-first time director, aspiring for some good reviews and, more importantly, for a distributor.

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Mad Men Season 6: Creator Matthew Weiner On Don’s Bold Moves And Season 6 Conspiracy Theories

mad men season 6
Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen the Season 6 finale of AMC’s “Mad Men,” titled “In Care Of.”

Could Don Draper finally be growing up?

Most fathers are not a mystery to their children; most adults are not quite so hobbled by tortured pasts. But most people are not Don Draper, who, in the course of “Mad Men’s” six seasons, has tried to shield his kids from the most basic truths about himself. Where he’s from, how he grew up, what kind of life he had: Those were all things that he lied about, to co-workers, clients and those closest to him. But as viewers saw in the show’s Season 6 finale (which I wrote about here), Don is in the process of shedding that false skin.

The final image of Season 6 was Draper showing his three children the house of ill repute in which he grew up. We don’t know yet if his bold gamble will pay off, or if his daughter Sally, who grew especially disenchanted with her father this season, will continue on her path of rebellion and barely-suppressed fury at her father.

Don also revealed the truth about his origins during a meeting with an important potential client, and everyone in the room was appropriately stunned. According to “Mad Men” creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner, however, Don’s behavior in the Hershey meeting is not what got him fired (or placed on leave). That meeting, shocking though it was, was “a very minor infraction in all this,” Weiner said. As he explained, the entire penultimate season of the show (and all the questionable behavior it contained) was meant to lead Don to the point where he felt he could — and had to — start to be at least partially truthful about himself to the people around him.

In the interview below, Weiner discusses the events that led Don to this moment, as well as his future (or lack thereof) at SC&P, the paths that Joan and Peggy took this season, the conspiracy theories surrounding the show and Megan Draper’s infamous “Sharon Tate” T-shirt, among other things.

This interview has been edited and slightly condensed.

Don went in to that Hershey meeting thinking they weren’t really serious about taking on an agency, so in a way, there wasn’t much at stake for him. But could you talk a little bit more about his motivations for coming clean about his past in that setting, especially given how his colleagues were likely to react?
I think that he is not thinking about his colleagues and I think that he is in a crisis. As you can tell, he’s planning on going to California; he has quit drinking. Ted has just told him that he wants to go to California, and I think a lot of what Ted said is resonating in his mind. But our whole goal for the season was to put Don in a position where he knew whether he was going to change or not. At least looking in the mirror and admitting who he was, in some ways, was going to make him feel better, and alleviate that anxiety that he has been feeling all year — [the anxiety] that led to him destroying his relationship with his daughter, that led to him destroying his business and his role in his business.

It’s not that the Hershey meeting has no stakes. It’s that the Hershey meeting actually has a very personal connection to him. You see him get up there and just lie his head off. And we know that everything he is saying isn’t true. We were sort of building to one line the whole season, where the client says, “Weren’t you a lucky little boy?” [In that moment, Don was] looking over at Ted and realizing that he was a liar and that he had to confess. That’s what I think that was: a confession.

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Mad Men creator: Don’t hate Don Draper

‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner says his central character, who is becoming maddening to some fans, is not the devil

By Martin Miller, Los Angeles Times

If nothing else, AMC‘s “Mad Men” has been the deliberate and artful chronicle of the psychological undressing of the secretive Don Draper. In its current season, the drama laid the character even more bare when he was caught with another woman — and with his pants down — by his 14-year-old daughter.

The excruciating moment, a culmination of self-imposed humiliations in a season awash in shame for the Emmy Award-winning show’s central character, prompted a fresh round of howling at the depraved depths of its charismatic antihero. He’s a terrible father. He’s a monster. He’s the devil.

But Don Draper is none of those things, counters the show’s creator Matthew Weiner, who after Sunday’s season finale will only have 13 episodes left to tell the troubled ad executive’s tale. Don, he says, is 1968.

“People expect Don to be out of touch, but given society’s identity crisis in 1968, he’s never been more in touch,” said Weiner, who spent much of this season exploring the tumult of one of the nation’s most painful and divisive years. “It’s like the entire world is in a state that Don is in all the time — the id has overtaken the culture.”

It was a state some critics found wearisome this season, particularly when it came to Draper. While there were new examples of his morally reprehensible behavior, the most common complaint among many of the show’s devoted legions of episode recappers and social media commentators was they’d had enough. The New Yorker’s television critic Emily Nussbaum wrote midseason that “Don, instead of being the show’s engine, has become its anchor — heavy, even in the sixties sense.”

In an interview at his Los Angeles Center Studios office earlier this week, Weiner talked about his penultimate season and the critical reaction to it, as well as elaborating on some of the key narrative developments. The 47-year-old show runner, famously guarded about revealing plot details, also hinted at what might lie ahead for his leading man.

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