As Jon Hamm explained to Jimmy Kimmel last night, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner had been thinking about ending the show with that iconic Coca-Cola commercial for years before the company cleared the way for him to use it. If things had gone a different way, the ending might have had a slightly different impact…(read more)
The Real Story Behind ‘Mad Men’s’ ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ Ad
(Warning: spoilers) John Jurgensen writes: For Don Draper, enlightenment apparently came in the form of the perfect advertising pitch. After sinking to the depths of anguish, loss and emptiness in the series finale of “Mad Men,” Don ended up in lotus position, bathed in sunshine on a hillside, with a sphinx-like smile on his face. Cut to a grainy 1971 commercial for Coca-Cola, one of the most famous TV spots in advertising history.
The implication (which sharp viewers predicted, after so many Coke allusions in recent episodes) was that Don would return to McCann Erickson with a brilliant idea in hand for a commercial featuring a multiracial cast singing about a world living in “perfect harmony,” thanks to a particular soda.
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In fact, the real-life person behind the idea was a creative director at McCann Erickson named Bill Backer…(read more)
The falling men on a 1967 LIFE cover seem to presage the falling man in the AMC show’s opening credits
Eliza Berman writes: Analyzing the title sequence to Mad Men has become something of a sport for the show’s fans. Does the suited man hurtling toward earth foreshadow protagonist/anti-hero Don Draper’s literal death or his figurative demise? Does it echo the chilling photograph of a man who jumped from a burning World Trade Center tower? (Showrunner Matthew Weiner has said emphatically that it does not.) Whatever it represents, where did Imaginary Forces, the agency that produced the sequence, get the idea?
Here’s another idea: it’s now been pointed out that the design has many similarities to a 1967 LIFE Magazine cover, the first in a four-part series on “The Struggle To Be an Individual.” The cover, like Mad Men’s credits, features silhouetted men against the backdrop of a 1960s-era skyscraper. Both suggest a sense of helplessness, of ceding control to powerful forces beyond one’s self.
“The cover, like Mad Men’s credits, features silhouetted men against the backdrop of a 1960s-era skyscraper. Both suggest a sense of helplessness, of ceding control to powerful forces beyond one’s self.”
The Imaginary Forces team that produced the credits has spoken about some of the inspiration behind the design. Weiner initially approached them with the skeleton of an idea — a man walks into an office building, takes the elevator to the top and jumps — and they began developing storyboards. Those boards included a Volkswagen ad, movie stills and, as designer Steve Fuller told Print, “the design stew that’s been swirling around in our head over the last 15 years since we left college.”
Though AMC could not confirm, as of publication time, whether this particular LIFE cover ever made it onto those storyboards, the photo essay the cover advertises in many ways articulates the existential crises Draper faces in Mad Men. As an ad man, Draper sells access to an American dream he himself hasn’t entirely bought into. Even as he accumulates successes in the boardroom and the bedroom, the satisfaction never lasts longer than a few drags of a cigarette that might kill him anyway.
The ethos of the 1960s is, of course, omnipresent in Mad Men — and not just in its fastidious commitment to the furniture and fashions of the time. In post-WWII America, many Americans had settled into the comfort of corporate jobs that afforded them the same white picket fence and station wagon their neighbors boasted. Responding to that phenomenon, books like William H. Whyte’s The Organization Man, published in the mid-1950s, lamented how modern workers’ collectivist group-think ran in opposition to creativity and innovation. Read the rest of this entry »
“Mad Men” is going out with a bang, setting a series of events for the evening of the show’s May 17 finale, including Television Academy panel sessions moderated by Variety‘s Debra Birnbaum.
“The Television Academy Presents a Farewell to Mad Men” at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood will feature Birnbaum moderating a Q&A with creator Matthew Weiner and star Jon Hamm. That conversation will be followed by a panel with cast members January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery, Kiernan Shipka and Jessica Pare, as well as key production staffers including costume designer Janie Bryant and production designer Dan Bishop and d.p. Christopher Manley.
The 5 p.m. PT event will stream live at TelevisionAcademy.com…(read more)
Cynthia Littleton writes: Next to Matt Weiner, nobody knows the look and feel of “Mad Men” better than Phil Abraham. He was the cinematographer on the pilot, and he made an auspicious debut as a director for the series with 2007’s “The Hobo Code.” Abraham took a break from helming an episode of AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” in Atlanta on Monday evening to talk about directing his final “Mad Men” episode, the May 3 installment “Lost Horizon,” from a razor-sharp script by Semi Chellas and Weiner.
This episode had so many pause-worthy moments for Joan, Don, Peggy and Roger. Did you know that going in or did it evolve as you were shooting?
“Mad Men” is different than any other show because the objective is to create those moments on camera and define them in a precise way. They are so special and so carefully crafted by the writers. As a director you’ve got to make sure they play visually and performance-wise and that everyone who is watching is aware of them….That’s what makes “Mad Men” such a different show than any other I’ve worked on. There is a precision to everything.
Does that precision make it harder or easier for you as the director?
The rigor with which these episodes are crafted is something special. The only way you can have moments like the one where Don is sitting in the conference room hearing the research thrown out and seeing the disembodied hands open up their portfolios and all take their pens out at the same time — that’s all scripted. But it has to be visualized to resonate. When you have Jon Hamm it’s not hard to make those things resonate. … It’s this amazing dance of performance and staging and everything that makes “Mad Men” the unique series that it is.
Christina Hendricks steals the episode with Joan’s showdown with McCann’s Jim Hobart.
She’s so strong-willed and I thought such a worthy adversary to (Hobart). I remember going through those scenes with her. Those are long scenes, there’s a lot of words. We talked about the emotion and the lack of emotion she would need to go toe to toe with the big boss. It was great. (Actor H. Richard Greene) was fantastic as well. The two of them played off each other so well. That scene stole the show for me. The dance they dance. It’s been a year since we shot it so it was great to watch it.
Roger and Peggy had a long and entertaining ‘moment’ together. How is Elisabeth Moss’ roller skating?
Peggy says to Roger ‘I don’t think you’ve ever paid this much attention to me.’ I don’t think they’ve ever had such a big scene. Read the rest of this entry »
We’re pleased to announce that fictional character on AMC’s “Mad Men” Roger Sterling will be a regular guest on the Spiegel and Goff Show. Sterling will appear every Tuesday at Noon during the baseball season to talk, make clever wisecracks, and enjoy a refreshing cocktail or two.
“Roger Sterling is one of the more interesting guys from the world of fictional advertising agencies,” said Jason Goff. “He’s got a renewed energy for Mad Men fans, who have been waiting for that pop, for that next big thing.”
Known for witty, zen-like sayings, skirt-chasing, and drinking on the job, Roger Sterling is as unique among fictional 1960s-era TV characters, and should bring great perspective to the show. Read the rest of this entry »
Eric Thurm writes: TV is an odd mishmash of a medium. It shares enough qualities with film that we can use the word “cinematic” as a blanket compliment, yet its traditional broadcast model more closely resembles radio. In fact, with the advent of original programming from online-only platforms, it’s increasingly difficult to tell what, exactly, TV is.
“At its core, that self-reflexivity is rooted in anxiety for the future—as well it should be. Because as it turns out, the end of Mad Men is not the end of TV, but rather the end of a particular era for the medium, one that has been repeatedly canonized in books like Brett Martin’s ‘Difficult Men’ and Alan Sepinwall’s ‘The Revolution was Televised’.”
Maybe that’s why, dating back to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, TV is so often about itself. There’s a long history of scripted TV that’s about making TV. Yet, for all the literal examples of it—Sports Night, 30 Rock—Mad Men, which returns for its final seven episodes on Sunday, is the most self-reflexive series of them all.
[Order Brett Martin’s book “Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad“ from Amazon.com]
Mad Men‘s ad firm Sterling Cooper & Partners (né Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, né the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency) is itself a representation of the process of making television. The writers’ room pitches, the long nights, the fights with executives over the creative integrity of material that, with varying degrees of explicitness, is ultimately about selling products. Many of the show’s most triumphant moments come not from interpersonal dynamics, but the act of intellectual conception—being struck by writerly inspiration, often in a room full of people trying to come up with their own perfect idea.
And the show’s behind-the-scenes dynamics become manifest in its characters. Critic Todd VanDerWerff has described episodes as “fan fiction Matt Weiner is writing about his own writers’ room,” something that’s especially apparent in the relationship between Don Draper and his protege-turned-peer, Peggy Olson.
“The writers’ room pitches, the long nights, the fights with executives over the creative integrity of material that, with varying degrees of explicitness, is ultimately about selling products.”
Their tempestuous creative partnership prompts fights over the ownership of everything from ad campaigns to each other’s careers, culminating in the infamous “That’s what the money is for!” scene from “The Suitcase”—an episode in which they argue over what you can and cannot do on TV.
In later seasons of the show, even that layer of metaphor has fallen away; the show has become much more explicit in enacting its own struggle to surpass the limitations of TV storytelling. In particular, the merger between Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and onetime rival agency Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough is a self-conscious solution to the problem of keeping Peggy on the show once she had naturally grown past the point of needing Don as a mentor and professional champion.
“Many of the show’s most triumphant moments come not from interpersonal dynamics, but the act of intellectual conception—being struck by writerly inspiration, often in a room full of people trying to come up with their own perfect idea.”
Don and Betty may have gotten divorced, but their relationship is effectively unchanged from what it was in Season 1—because to send her offstage is to deny Don his true moral foil. Will any of these characters ever change?
Maybe not, but they’ll certainly keep trying, and stay painfully aware of their failures. Matthew Weiner and his staff threaten change, but it’s never real; they’re just daring us to confront what would happen if the status quo ever seriously shifted. And it’s all so artfully done that Mad Men more than justifies the level of Talmudic recap coverage it has historically received.
“Indeed, many of today’s prestige shows feel like the creative efforts of people who watched ‘Mad Men’, ‘The Sopranos’, and ‘Breaking Bad’ and then tried to replicate them without understanding what actually made them so good.”
But at its core, that self-reflexivity is rooted in anxiety for the future—as well it should be. Because as it turns out, the end of Mad Men is not the end of TV, but rather the end of a particular era for the medium, one that has been repeatedly canonized in books like Brett Martin’s Difficult Men and Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution was Televised. The Difficult Men narrative of “visionary” showrunners provides a picture of what Good TV is supposed to look like, and how it’s supposed to be made: by exacting geniuses like Don Draper. Read the rest of this entry »
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. Read the rest of this entry »
“For me, Peggy and Don will always be my favorite relationship on the show. I used to hear for so long, ‘Are they going to get together romantically or is it a father–daughter thing? Is it mentor–protégée? Are they enemies? Are they friends?’ It’s all of those things.”
— Elisabeth Moss
For National Review Online, Thomas 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.
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 »
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.
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…”
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.