Mad Men is an American dramatic television series created and produced by Matthew Weiner. The episodes are premiered on Sunday evenings on the American cable network AMC and are produced by Lionsgate Television. It premiered on July 19, 2007, and completed its fourth season on October 17, 2010. Each season has consisted of 13 episodes.
Mad Men is set in the 1960s, initially at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, and later at the newly created firm of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The focal point of the series is Don Draper (Jon Hamm), creative director at Sterling Cooper and a founding partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, as well as those in his life, both in and out of the office. As such, it regularly depicts the changing moods and social mores of 1960s America.
Mad Men has received critical acclaim, particularly for its historical authenticity and visual style, and has won multiple awards, including thirteen Emmys and four Golden Globes. It is the first basic cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, winning it in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.
In 2000, while working as a staff writer for Becker, Matthew Weiner wrote the first draft for the pilot of what would later be called Mad Men as a spec script. Television producer David Chase recruited Weiner to work as a writer on his HBO series The Sopranos after reading the pilot script in 2002. "It was lively, and it had something new to say," Chase said. "Here was someone Weiner who had written a story about advertising in the 1960s, and was looking at recent American history through that prism. Weiner set the pilot script aside for the next seven years — during which time neither HBO nor Showtime expressed interest in the project—until The Sopranos was completing its final season and cable network AMC happened to be in the market for new programming. "The network was looking for distinction in launching its first original series," according to AMC Networks president Ed Carroll "and we took a bet that quality would win out over formulaic mass appeal.
Tim Hunter, the director of a half-dozen episodes from the show's first two seasons, called Mad Men a "very well-run show". ‹The template Cquote is being considered for deletion.›
“ They have a lot of production meetings during pre-production. The day the script comes in we all meet for a first page turn, and Matt starts telling us how he envisions it. Then there's a "tone" meeting a few days later where Matt tells us how he envisions it. And then there's a final full crew production meeting.
Filming and production design
The pilot episode was shot at Silvercup Studios and various locations around New York City; subsequent episodes have been filmed at Los Angeles Center Studios. It is available in high definition for showing on AMC-HD and on video-on-demand services available from various cable affiliates. The writers, including Weiner, amassed volumes of research on the period in which Mad Men takes place so as to make most aspects of the series—including detailed set designs, costume design, and props—historically accurate, producing an authentic visual style that garnered critical praise. Each episode has a budget between $2–2.5 million, though the pilot episode's budget was over $3 million. On the scenes featuring smoking, Weiner stated: "Doing this show without smoking would've been a joke. It would've been sanitary and it would've been phony." Since the actors cannot, by California law, smoke tobacco cigarettes in their workplace, they instead smoke herbal cigarettes. Robert Morse was cast in the role of senior partner Bertram Cooper; Morse starred in two 1967 films about amoral businessmen, A Guide for the Married Man (1967), a source of inspiration for Weiner, and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1967), in which Morse recreated his role from the 1961 Broadway play of the same name, (and which was itself based on a satiric novel by a former executive at the now-defunct New York ad agency, Benton & Bowles, Inc.).
Weiner collaborated with cinematographer Phil Abraham and production designers Robert Shaw (who worked on the pilot only) and Dan Bishop to develop a visual style that was "influenced more by cinema than television." Alan Taylor, a veteran director of The Sopranos, directed the pilot and also helped establish the series' visual tone. To convey an "air of mystery" around Don Draper, Taylor tended to shoot from behind him or would frame him partially obscured. Many scenes set at Sterling Cooper were shot lower-than-eyeline to incorporate the ceilings into the composition of frame; this reflects the photography, graphic design and architecture of the period. Alan felt that neither steadicam nor handheld camera work would be appropriate to the "visual grammar of that time, and that aesthetic didn’t mesh with their classic approach"—accordingly, the sets were designed to be practical for dolly work.
According to a 2011 Miller Tabak + Company estimate published in Barrons, Lions Gate Entertainment receives an estimated $2.71 million from AMC for each episode, a little less than the $2.84 million each episode costs to produce.
In March 2011, after negotiations between the network and the series' creator, AMC picked up Mad Men for a fifth season, which will premiere in early 2012. Weiner reportedly signed a $30 million contract which will keep him at the helm of the show for three more seasons. A couple of weeks later, a Marie Claire interview with January Jones was published, noting the limits to that financial success when it comes to the actors: "We don’t get paid very much on the show and that’s well-documented. On the other hand, when you do television you have a steady paycheck each week, so that’s nice."
Sales from home video and iTunes could amount to $100 million in revenue during the show's expected seven-year run, with international syndication sales bringing in an additional estimated $700,000 per episode. That does not include the $71 to $100 million estimated to come from a Netflix streaming video deal announced in April 2011.
Episode credit and title sequences
The opening title sequence features credits superimposed over a graphic animation of a businessman falling from a height, surrounded by skyscrapers with reflections of period advertising posters and billboards, accompanied by a short edit of the instrumental "A Beautiful Mine" by RJD2. The businessman appears as a black-and-white silhouette. The titles pay homage to graphic designer Saul Bass's skyscraper-filled opening titles for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) and falling man movie poster for Vertigo (1958); Weiner has listed Hitchcock as a major influence on the visual style of the series. David Carbonara composes the original score for the series. Mad Men — Original Score Vol. 1 was released on January 13, 2009.
In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the show’s opening title sequence ranked #9 on a list of TV's top 10 credits sequences, as selected by readers.
At the end of almost all episodes, the show either fades to black or smash cut to black as period music or a theme by series composer, David Carbonara, plays during the ending credits; at least one episode ends with silence or ambient sounds. A few episodes have ended with more recent popular music, or with a diegetic song dissolving into the credits music.
Crew of Mad Men
In addition to having created the series, Matthew Weiner is the show runner, head writer, and an executive producer; he contributes to each episode—writing or co-writing the scripts, casting various roles, and approving costume and set designs.He is notorious for being selective about all aspects of the series, and promotes a high level of secrecy around production details. Tom Palmer served as a co-executive producer and writer on the first season. Scott Hornbacher (who later became an executive producer), Todd London, Lisa Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, and Maria Jacquemetton were producers on the first season. Palmer, Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, and Maria Jacquemetton were also writers on the first season. Bridget Bedard, Chris Provenzano, and writer's assistant Robin Veith complete the first season writing team.
Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, and Maria Jacquemetton returned as supervising producers for the second season. Veith also returned and was promoted to staff writer. Hornbacher replaced Palmer as co-executive producer for the second season. Consulting producers David Isaacs, Marti Noxon, Rick Cleveland, and Jane Anderson joined the crew for the second season. Weiner, Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Veith, Noxon, Cleveland and Anderson were all writers for the second season. New writer's assistant Kater Gordon was the season's other writer. Isaacs, Cleveland and Anderson left the crew at the end of the second season.
Albert remained a supervising producer for the third season but Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton became consulting producers. Hornbacher was promoted again, this time to executive producer. Veith returned as a story editor and Gordon became a staff writer. Noxon remained a consulting producer and was joined by new consulting producer Frank Pierson. Dahvi Waller joined the crew as a co-producer. Weiner, Albert, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Veith, Noxon and Waller were all writers for the third season. New writer's assistant Erin Levy, executive story editor Cathryn Humphris, script co-ordinator Brett Johnson and freelance writer Andrew Colville complete the third season writing staff.
Tim Hunter, Phil Abraham, Alan Taylor, Jennifer Getzinger, and Lesli Linka Glatter are regular directors for the series. Matthew Weiner directs the season finales.
As of the third season, seven of the nine writers for the show are women, in contrast to Writers Guild of America 2006 statistics that show male writers outnumber female writers by 2 to 1. As Maria Jacquemetton notes:
We have a predominately female writing staff—women from their early 20s to their 50s—and plenty of female department heads and directors. [Show creator] Matt Weiner and executive producer Scott Hornbacher hire people they believe in, based on their talent and their experience. 'Can you capture this world? Can you bring great storytelling?'
Mad Men characters
Mad Men focuses mostly on Don Draper, although it features an ensemble cast representing several segments of society in 1960s New York. Mad Men places emphasis on recollective progression as a means of revealing the characters' past.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm): Creative director and junior partner of Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency and, as of the fourth season, a partner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, he is the series' main character. He is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking executive with a shadowy past who has achieved success in advertising. He was married to Elizabeth "Betty" Draper and has three children with her, but his history of infidelity, along with his revelations to her about his past led to their separation at the end of Season 3 and eventual divorce. Draper's real name is Richard (Dick) Whitman; he assumed the identity of Don Draper during the Korean War after the death of his lieutenant, who was due to return from the war, thereby avoiding further combat.
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss): Olson rises from being Draper's secretary to a copywriter with her own office. She becomes pregnant with Pete Campbell's child, a pregnancy that neither she nor her family or coworkers seem to notice, until she goes into labor alone and goes to the emergency room. Campbell is unaware of her pregnancy until the end of Season 2, when Peggy tells him that she gave the baby up for adoption. In Season 3, Peggy is approached by Duck Phillips to leave Sterling Cooper, but turns him down, despite the fact that his persistence leads to a romantic relationship. While he rarely acknowledges it, Don's appreciation of Peggy's abilities leads him to choose her to go with him to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. She is given more freedom to come up with her own creative advertising ideas, though Don continues to push her to be better.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser): A young, ambitious account executive from an old New York family with connections and a privileged background. Campbell tries to blackmail Don Draper with information from Draper's past. However, he and Don develop a grudging respect for each other, culminating in Don's approaching Pete over Ken Cosgrove when forming a new agency. Campbell and his wife, Trudy, had been unable to conceive a child earlier in their marriage, and he remained unaware of his child with Olson until the Season 2 finale. At the end of Season 3, dissatisfied with his treatment at Sterling Cooper regarding a promotion, he secretly plans to leave the firm. Unaware of this, Don Draper approaches Campbell with an offer to join his new firm as long as Pete brings accounts worth $8 million of cash flow. Campbell decides to join Draper, with the condition that he be made a partner, though his surname does not appear in the new firm's name (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce). Campbell is one of the few characters in the show who does not smoke.
Betty Francis (née Hofstadt, formerly Draper) (January Jones): Don Draper's ex-wife and mother of their three children, Sally, Bobby, and Eugene Scott. Raised in the tiny Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, she met Don when she was a model in Manhattan and married him soon thereafter. At the start of the series, they have been married for seven years (1953–1960) and live in Ossining, New York. Over the course of the first two seasons, Betty gradually becomes aware of her husband's womanizing. After a brief separation, Betty allows Don to return home when she learns she is pregnant with their third child, but first has a one-night stand of her own.She leaves for Reno at the end of Season 3, in December 1963, with the intention of divorcing Don. At the start of Season 4, in November 1964, she has divorced Don and married Henry Francis. She, the children, and her new husband continue to live in the Drapers' old house, but by the end of the season decide to move to another house in Rye. Betty's relationship with her children is often strained, in particular with Sally.
Joan Harris (née Holloway) (Christina Hendricks): Office manager and head of the secretarial pool at Sterling Cooper. She had a long-term affair with Roger Sterling until his two heart attacks cause him to end the relationship. In Season 2, she becomes engaged to Dr. Greg Harris. By Season 3, they are married and at Greg's request Joan quits her job at Sterling Cooper. Their marriage becomes tested when Greg's difficulties securing work as a surgeon force Joan to return to work at a department store, prompting her to call Roger Sterling to ask for his help in finding an office job. Because of her invaluable managerial skills, she is later hired for the new agency formed by Don, Roger, Bert and Lane. Meanwhile, Greg's desire to assure his career as a surgeon leads him to obtain a commission in the Army, and early in Season 4 he is sent to basic training and then to Vietnam. While her husband is deployed, Joan and Roger have a brief sexual encounter, which results in her becoming pregnant. Joan initially decides to terminate the pregnancy, but at the end of Season 4 she is seen discussing her pregnancy with Greg, who is unaware that the child is not his.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery): One of the two senior partners of Sterling Cooper, and one-time mentor to Don Draper. His father founded the firm with Bertram Cooper, hence his name comes before Cooper's in the firm's title. A picture in Cooper's office shows Roger as a child alongside Cooper depicted as a young adult. In Season 2, Bertram Cooper mentions that "the late Mrs. Cooper" introduced Sterling to his wife, Mona, whom Sterling is in the process of divorcing in favor of Don's former secretary, 22-year-old Jane. Sterling served in the Navy during World War II and was a notorious womanizer (living like he was "on shore leave") until two heart attacks changed his perspective, although they did not affect his drinking or smoking habits, which remained excessive. Prior to his marriage to Jane, Roger had a longstanding affair with Joan Holloway. In Season 4, he and Joan have a brief romantic encounter, and Joan becomes pregnant. It was revealed in Season 3 that it was Roger who had hired Don Draper sometime in the mid- to late-1950s, when Don was a salesman at a furrier, and eager to break into advertising. Season 4 also has Roger less involved with the day-to-day activities at SCDP than he was at Sterling Cooper. His primary function is to manage the Lucky Strike account which is responsible for over half of SCDP's billings. However, in the "Chinese Wall" episode, it is revealed that Lucky Strike is moving its account to a rival agency, forcing a dramatic downsizing of the firm.
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