April 13, 2010

MAD MEN's Little Helper


(Click on this photo to link to the article.)

Weiner: "I want them not to pay too much attention to each other, so it feels real, more perfunctory. Not that TV thing."

By Wendy McHale

It depicts all that's wrong with our business, New York City, and how selfish and petty we can be. That's what makes it brilliant. It's what YouTube would be like during the JFK era.

If you didn't see yesterday's New York Times Magazine, staff writer Alex Witchel wrote that our favorite show in the world, MAD MEN is the smartest program on television. Her new novel, titled, "The Spare Wife" was published this past Spring.

Here are some excerpts from her 8,000+ word article. click on any of the photos to link to the article.

Witchel: "Mad Men," about the world of advertising on Madison Avenue set in New York in the early 1960s, languished for years after being rejected by HBO.

Witchel: Most of the time he holds a "tone meeting" with the director at which he essentially performs the entire show himself so it's perfectly clear how he wants it done.

Witchel: Deepening the tension between that fantasy and reality, Weiner has put Sterling Cooper, the fictional ad agency that employs the show's characters, on the old-school, WASP side of the equation, letting them revel in their racism, sexism and anti-Semitism. It was during that period that the creative revolution in advertising was taking off at agencies like Grey and Doyle Dane Bernbach, where Jews and some women held leadership positions.

Georg Lois: The creative revolution was the name of the game. This show gives you the impression it was all three-martini lunches." Wasn't it? "Of course not, are you serious?" he retorts. "We worked from 5:30 in the morning until 10 at night. We had three women copywriters. We didn't bed secretaries. I introduced Xerox.


(Click on this photo to link to "The Spare Wife" review.)

Witchel: But the way Jerry Della Femina remembers it, that's not far off. He now owns his sixth agency, Della Femina Rothschild Jeary & Partners, and wrote a best-selling account of his early advertising career in 1970. Its title was his proposed slogan for the Japanese-owned Panasonic account when he was creative director at Ted Bates: "From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor."

Jerry Della Famina: 'Mad Men' accurately reflects what went on," Della Femina says. "The smoking, the prejudice and the bigotry.

Witchel: We'd like to think that things were simpler then, but what's hard now has always been hard. In "Mad Men," scenes are set at P. J. Clarke's and Toots Shor's; people meet at the Roosevelt Hotel. They dance the cha-cha and the twist. That's fun.


Witchel: Last season, Don Draper had a mistress in the Village; the affair ended during a pot-smoking party when he photographed her with a Polaroid camera and realized she was in love with a beatnik wannabe -- only by seeing it in the picture. This season, African-Americans are moving beyond operating the elevators at Sterling Cooper, though to what extent remains unclear.

Witchel: Betty started seeing a psychiatrist last season, who reported on her "condition" regularly to her husband, in flagrant violation of her privacy. "Basically we're dealing with the emotions of a child here," the shrink told Don. At home, when Betty expressed grief about her mother's death, Don told her, "Mourning is just extended self-pity."

Weiner: "Betty doesn't say what she feels to Don. She can only speak to Glen." (Glen is the 9-year-old son of the most terrifying woman in the neighborhood -- Helen Bishop, a divorcee. He is played by Marten Weiner, Matthew's son.)

Witchel: Glen and Betty have a simpatico relationship that borders on both the bizarre and the inappropriate.


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(Click on this photo to link to ""From The Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor."" review.)

See Part Two tomorrow

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