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Manhattan transfer: Mad Men’s UK return (September 8)

September 8, 2010

Big fish in the Big Apple: Don Draper and the rest of the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce team reveal how – and how not – to get ahead in advertising in the fourth season of Mad Men

You know, in recent years, if I’m being honest, there’s been few dramas out there in Tellyland that have been up my street from the start and kept me loyally watching to the finish. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip for sure (based on the strength of The West Wing – the same guy created both). Ashes To Ashes definitely (conceived by the same peeps behind Life On Mars). And that’s about it. Oh… but of course, how could I forget? Then there’s Mad Men.

Created by Matt Weiner, one of the chaps behind the hugely successful The Sopranos, US cable channel AMC’s Mad Men – for the uninitiated – is focused around the work and people of the fictitious Madison Avenue ad agency Sterling Cooper. Set in early to mid-’60s, it’s shamelessly stylish, refreshingly intelligent and unfalteringly captivating. It’s also unrepentantly un-PC – or, at least, the world it presents us is – what with characters smoking like chimneys and drinking like fish, executives slapping secretaries’ backsides, husbands cheating on wives without a thought of remorse and a homosexual character compromised because he’s gay. It shows the era in which it’s set fairly honestly then.

But, for me, best of all, it’s genuinely grown-up drama. The writing, acting and directing is consistently excellent, offering up three-dimensional characters, crisp, acerbic dialogue and constant food for thought – while passing through the 1960 Presidential election, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy’s assassination, it examines the beatnik ethos versus corporate capitalism, the hobo versus the ‘American Dream’-style family man laying down his roots, and a chauvinistic society discovering early feminism. Indeed, moments experienced by ad man extraordinaire Don Draper and would-be highflyer account handler Pete Campbell showcase the best existential angst you’ll see this side of a Stephen Poliakoff drama.

Meeting the Beats: Ad man Don mingles with beatniks Midge and Roy in the first season

The retro and artistic appeal isn’t just limited to the creators and actors, though. For any lover of mid-century modern design, Mad Men is interior decor and clothing porn. The Madison Avenue office interiors are beautifully and starkly seductive (much like the dark behaviour of the characters), and the suits and dresses on show as sharp and eye-catching as Errol Flynn in a sword fight. Moreover, the opening credits clearly nod to the credits and poster design created by the legendary Saul Bass for Hitchcock’s North By Northwest (1959) and Vertigo (1958), respectively.

And, if a would-be viewer required any further reason to give this series’ fourth season a whirl, then be assured it’s never been in a more promising and exciting position. In the real world, just last week it won the Best TV Drama Golden Globe award for its third season, its third in a row – it’s also won the corresponding Emmy award three times. And, in its own world, at the end of the third season (warning: here be spoilers) its eponymous ad agency had folded, a new one created from its ashes and the main character started life as a single man. Make no mistake, the fourth season is awaited with greatly baited breath by fans.

Plus, if you’re still not convinced, consider the fact Mad Men features two of America’s latest sex symbols, James Bond lookalike Jon Hamm (ladies’ man-and-a-half Don Draper) and the irresistibly lovely Christina Hendricks (voluptuous office vixen Joan Holloway). If that advert won’t draw you to the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency, then you’re a bull-headed, stuck-in-the-mud client indeed.

The fourth season of Mad Men begins in the UK tonight on BBC4 at 10pm.


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. kitts permalink
    September 8, 2010 11:24 pm

    Believe it or not, I’ve never seen an entire episode of Mad Men. 😦 I shall start when the nights grow longer.

    Great clip for the piece. And nice timing with dublo’s too. Together you have me sold.


    • September 9, 2010 10:48 pm

      Thanks, vradbourne. Glad you enjoyed the piece and good plan for watching Mad Men – I’ve a sneaking suspicion you’ll enjoy it… 🙂


  1. Mad World – The production design of Mad Men. « double o' nothing

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