Mad Men: As the show ends, some facts and a spoiler rumour that will leave you stunned.

Mad Men is simply TV at its best. It’s almost as cool as Kojak. It is sumptuously written, stylistically pristine, has great characterisation, meandering storylines which are always thought provoking and yes, sometimes just weird but they always make you think.
Television has taken the discipline, structure, design, look and feel, the cinematography of the old movie system. The Sopranos was probably the new benchmark, giving us something of a golden age in shows like Mad Men, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad.
Mad Men was first broadcast in 2007 with Episode 1 ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,’ but like all good things the show must come to an end. As the highly anticipated finale approaches, fans across the globe are desperately waiting to see how things will unfold at Sterling, Cooper, Draper Pryce.
It has become one of the coolest TV shows ever and we will miss the Creative Director, Don Draper and his idiosyncratic and progressive approach to advertising. Of course, by now we know that all is not as it seems with Don; he has a shadowy past and a stolen identity. We will miss Roger Sterling’s rapid fire sexist Groucho Marx lines-‘When God closes one door, he opens a dress.’ Who could forget the classic; ‘Look we’ve got oysters Rockefeller, Beef Wellingtons, Napoleons. We leave this lunch alone it will take over Europe.’ We have the sultry, sassy, office manager Joan Holloway and the lovably ambitious Peggy Olson. We haven’t even mentioned the ladies in Don’s life, his first wife Betty. Blonde, insecure, emotionally starved, intelligent- the Hitchcock icy blonde type. She gets so sick of struggling to deal with Don’s pumping that by the end of Season 2 she pumps a random stranger in a bar. Then we have his new exotic younger soon to be second ex-wife, the moody and mercurial Megan Calvet who becomes a success as an actor. Ironic really as she’s about the least believable actor on Mad Men.
The show is of course spectacularly stylish. Detail is everything, from the suits to the furniture, making Mad Men literally a cut above the rest. The shape of the suits, tight fitted Ralf Lauren and Brooks Brothers, masculine, V-shaped with textured weaves, even down to the straight folded white linen pocket square.
The look and furniture, the show’s whole style, sets the scene for the Cultural Revolution taking place through the 1960s. Advertising, as Don delights in lying to us, is about happiness. However the show’s backdrop wasn’t always bubblegum and popcorn. The zeitgeist of the time is captured; the historical backdrop carefully and skilfully incorporated; the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s assassination, Beatlemania, Civil Rights, Nixon’s win and the Moon landings, everything is there.
Here are some facts and figures about the show, including one alleged storyline that will scare and amaze you…

Family Connections…
Matthew Weiner was one of the main writers on The Sopranos. He got the gig there because he sent David Chase an unproduced script while he was working on the sitcom Becker and he loved it. The script was for an idea called Mad Men. In fact he loved it so much he offered him a job. Then there’s the director Phil Abrahams, who worked as the Director of Photography on The Sopranos. Alan Taylor also came from The Sopranos team and is another who captured that stylised 1960s feel and tone.
Casting…
John Slattery who played Roger Sterling originally auditioned for the part of Don. January Jones initially auditioned for Peggy. In what has to be said was brilliant casting, Jones was switched to Don’s wife Betty, leaving the career defining role of Peggy Olson to Elisabeth Moss. Christina Hendricks auditioned for the role of Midge Daniels, the independent thinking artist and illustrator who Don had an intense and a rather bohemian relationship with.

Hamm Acting…
Jon Hamm had to audition eight times for the role of Don. It’s strange after the event to see how idiotic that is but an interesting fact none the less. He also auditioned for The Tudors after a mix-up with close namesake John Hannah. How close you think that is will be up for debate and well, question your ability to read. However, the idea of Don Draper doing an ad and voice over for the Co-op and telling us ‘food is good’ makes me laugh.

HBO said no and let’s talk money…
One of the most astounding facts about Mad Men is that HBO were offered it and said no. So were Showtime who didn’t pick it up. This allowed AMC to come in and make it their own. Unbelievably, AMC took five years to agree to pick up the show. They clearly weren’t ones for making snap judgements and jumping in on a hunch. Fools rushing in etc…Having said that, they had never produced a drama before so maybe they were entitled to some leeway in terms of nervous trepidation. With an estimated cost of around $2.9 million per episode maybe HBO felt it would be too pricey in terms of budget. The star Jon Hamm gets $250,000 per episode. For using the trippy music of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, the show had to pay $250,000. And of course one of the show’s most important figures; 39-30-39, Christina Hendricks’s measurements.
Freddy Rumsen…Look Closer
Joel Murray who plays senior copywriter, Freddy Rumsen, the man who spotted Peggy’s talent and who later had to leave due to urinating himself while drunk and in a middle of an important pitch, remember Peggy saved the day and took over? He was later brought back in on a freelance basis. He memorably liked to play Mozart on his trouser zip. Take a closer look, can you see a resemblance? He’s the brother of comedian and actor Bill Murray.

Harris son…
On the subject of family resemblances, Jared Harris who played the troubled Englishman, Lance Pryce, sent over by PPL after they acquired Sterling Cooper to cut the company’s operating expenses. His stiff upper lip belies his own deep and troubling personal financial problems which eventually lead to him taking his own life. The actor Jared Harris is the son of Richard Harris. He is, rather surprisingly, a bit of a hit with the ladies. His current girlfriend is the stunning Allegra Riggio and he was also married to actress Emilia Fox. Me thinks Jared may be a bit of a fox with the ladies, twirls ends of sculpted waxed moustache in sinisterly sexist fashion. He also directs one of the last ever shows.

Facts and Accuracy…
Allison Mann the head of research and Erin levy, writer and supervising producer go to incredible lengths to get it right. If a plot line is based in a particular year they will immerse themselves in movies and publications of that year. Reading everything like Time, Playboy, The New Yorker. They will also read books written specifically about the era. The short stories of John Cheever and books like Jack Olsen’s ‘The Girls In the Office’ about girls who move to take on a big city job and ‘Sex and the Single Girl’ by Helen Gurley Brown . They are also encouraged to watch movies like ‘The Apartment’. Then and only then will they start to have the ear, the tone, the feel and the detail just right and be able to check on grammar, idioms and sayings that maybe weren’t around.

Writers…
A huge part of the fun in following Mad Men is trying to guess where the writers are going? I usually guess to the studio or production offices for a writers’ meeting, so what do I know? However, keen observers will know Mad Men is not like other shows, we trust the writers to take us back to Don’s childhood for instance, that’s what makes it so intriguing. You can start to watch an episode and literally not have a clue as to what has just happened by the end of it. You may think the show gets inside the soul of women and has a slightly different point of view. Why would a show that’s based on sexist, misogynistic, chain-smoking ad men have such a balanced pace of narrative? That’s because seven of the nine writers are women. That’s why we have the stories of Peggy Olson working her way up to copywriter through gaining weight after becoming pregnant, as if she has to bulk up like a guy, become less feminine, more of a man to succeed. In another heartbreaking scene, we have Joan Holloway who proves brilliantly adept at understanding and getting to grips with script reading in the agency’s newly developed TV department only to have to meekly step aside to let a less qualified man get the job she cherished and most definitely deserved. The writing feels like it not only captures the heart of men but it comes from the soul of the women.

Bert Cooper…
Robert Morse who played Bert Cooper starred in both the original 1961 Broadway production and the 1967 movie, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. His sweet natured dancing send off on the show was a tribute to his decades as a multi-award winning song and dance man on Broadway. I liked him because he was eccentric, walked around in his socks, was a fan of Russian American playwright, screenwriter and philosopher Ayn Rand and had a Mark Rothko hanging up in his office. He even dies while watching the 1969 moon landings as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Beat that.

The Epic Puke…
Roger’s infamous puke in Season One while pitching to a client was rigged through a tube attached to his cheek and then pumped with chicken soup. Apparently in real life the actor can’t face chicken soup anymore. In the process of the show we see Roger trying to divorce his wife Mona for Don’s sexy and very young ex-secretary. However in real life actor John Slattery is happily married to the actress who plays Mona, Talia Balsam.

The Taking of Pelham 125, the Sneeze and Clooney Link…?
Talia Balsam comes from an interesting acting family. Her dad was Martin Balsam who won an Oscar for his role as Arnold Burns in A Thousand Clowns, starred in Hitchcock’s Psycho and Archie’s Bunker. He also appeared in the original and the Scorsese remake of Cape Fear. Despite his huge TV, stage and film credits, in our house he is best remembered as the guy who sneezed in The Taking of Pelham 123. Despite that epic meander from the point, Talia’s mother was also an actor, Joyce van Patten mainly a successful working TV star. However Talia is best known for being the first Mrs George Clooney. She was married to George Clooney when the bold George sported a mullet to die for. Maybe not a mullet as such but he had that look like he had two haircuts going at once.

Obama Cares…
The boss adores the show, not Springsteen, President Barack Obama. He actually loves the show so much he wrote its creator a letter which Matthew Weiner keeps framed outside his office door. He famously also mentioned Mad Men in his 2014 State of the Union address in connection with women’s pay.

Glen Bishop’s Crush on Betty…
Fans will recall Sally Draper’s friend Glen. He was the kid who had a crush on Betty. In real life, he is the son of Mathew Weiner. How did that conversation go? ‘OK son, now I want you to make a move on Betty.’ It walked the very fine line between being creepy and cute and just about carried it off.

Now to the Clincher…
Apparently, a rumour most likely too amazing to be true and probably apocryphal, that near the end of the final show, the scene dissolves to the future. The phones change tone and the typewriters change, it’s the turn of the millennium. The sky is beautiful, the view from the office clear. It’s a wonderful clear autumnal day high in what is clearly a new sky scraper with incredible panoramic views of New York. As staff silently type on lap tops and computers and wear suits from the 2000s, they’re pleasantly interrupted by the old partners trying to get together for the annual directors meeting. They are all in their 70s, obviously older, all still quite stylish and sharing a joke. Remarkably, despite the lifestyle and stress they are all still alive. Don at 75 is still dapper and even manages to turn a few heads in a Harris Tweed 3 piece suit. Roger is in a wheel chair and still wise-cracking. Then there are screams and a huge smash and crash. They are in the World Trade Centre on 9/11. Eventually Don decides to jump…He dissolves into the infamous falling man at the start of the show.
Andy Bollen.
May 2015.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s