Review of ‘Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men’ at the Museum of the Moving ImagePosted: April 2, 2015
Marc Myers writes: When “Mad Men” returns to AMC on Sunday with the first of its final seven episodes, viewers will be wondering how ad-agency executive Don Draper ends the series—emotionally awakened or drifting down from his office window, as hinted by a falling silhouette in the show’s opening credits. For fans of the series’ 1960s wardrobe and sets, the more pressing question is how the show’s fashion and furnishings will evolve as its timeline inches past the moon landing and enters the shaggy, burnt-orange decay of 1970.
“Through the lens of series creator, producer and writer Matthew Weiner, the adult world of the 1960s is much more jaded and complex than the rosy, adolescent one recalled by many baby boomers who grew up then.”
The runaway popularity of “Mad Men” owes much to its dark story lines of personal demons, office power struggles and noirish character interactions with historical events. But from the start, in 2007, the series’ appeal has also been rooted in its richly detailed look that transports viewers back to an age of sleek office furniture, space-age design, meticulous grooming and colorful clothes. All are represented in “Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men” at the Museum of the Moving Image, an exhibit that celebrates both the show’s vision and visuals.
“The show is not a history lesson or intellectual exploration. It is entertainment based on tension, irony and storytelling that is closely related to today’s life.”
— Matthew Weiner, summarizing the show’s guiding principle
Through the lens of series creator, producer and writer Matthew Weiner, the adult world of the 1960s is much more jaded and complex than the rosy, adolescent one recalled by many baby boomers who grew up then. As the decade unfolds beginning in 1960, the show’s characters find themselves caught in a cultural riptide, with rock, civil rights and feminism changing the balance of power faster than they can adapt. Many turn to alcohol, drugs and serial affairs to ease the stress and hold on to the world they once knew.
Staged in a winding series of rooms, the new exhibit sheds light on how ”Mad Men” was developed by Mr. Weiner and his writers and designers. The exhibit begins with a glass case of books that most influenced Mr. Weiner’s approach, including Helen Gurley Brown’s “Sex and the Single Girl,” the “Journals of John Cheever” and David Ogilvy’s “Ogilvy on Advertising.” The book display is followed by a full-blown re-creation of the room used by the “Mad Men” writing team, complete with their 1960s Danish modern teak conference table, 10 black leather executive chairs, and character-development cards on a wall board.
Small exhibit cards along the way tell us that Mr. Weiner thought long and hard about “Mad Men,” conceiving Don Draper’s prototype in 1992 as he developed a character named Peter for a screenplay called “The Horseshoe.” We also learn that while developing the series, Mr. Weiner made sure to avoid the obvious pitfalls of a 1960s period drama. In his notes leading up to the first season of “Mad Men,” he crystallized his guiding principle: “The show is not a history lesson or intellectual exploration. It is entertainment based on tension, irony and storytelling that is closely related to today’s life.”
But despite the exhibit’s many insights into Mr. Weiner’s thinking and its dozens of iconic items from the show…(read more)
Mr. Myers, a frequent contributor to the Journal, writes daily about the arts and music at JazzWax.com.
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