Tonight at 10 on AMC, it's the premiere of Season 2 of Mad Men, my most favorite summer television series ever!
If you're of a certain age, doesn't the idea of summer television strike you as, well, odd? When I was kid, back when there were only three channels and a very fuzzy PBS station that you could maybe tune in if you fiddled with the rabbit ears, summer meant only one thing - reruns. Now, there's an entire summer television lineup. Entertainment Weekly even had a summer television preview issue. Progress!
Granted, there's not always a lot of drama in this drama about life at Sterling Cooper, a second-tier Madison Avenue advertising agency, circa 1960. The big secret that ad executive Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, was hiding didn't seem all that interesting when it was finally revealed.
Still, I'm fascinated by Mad Men. It's such a stylish, faithful look at a an era in the not-too-distant past. It's a time that we may even remember a bit of from our own childhood but now look back on in horror - the smoking, the sexism, the racism, the lack of things we take for granted today, like seat belts and microwaves.
I feel almost giddy with anticipation knowing how much the lives of these characters will change over the course of the next decade. How will they cope with the advent of the civil-rights movement, the women's movement, the antiwar movement, affirmative action and free love? We're looking at America on the cusp of change and I wonder who will adapt and thrive, and who will fall off the edge.
Alex Wichtel wrote in the New York Times magazine about spending three days on the set of Mad Men. Creator Matthew Weiner says that he chose advertising as his subject because “it’s a great way to talk about the image we have of ourselves, versus who we really are. And admen were the rock stars of that era, creative, cocky, anti-authority. They made a lot of money, and they lived hard.”
Season 2 takes place in February 1962, 14 months after the Season 1 finale. At the television critics press tour earlier this summer, Weiner said "I honestly felt that picking up the story right after the finale was limiting. It would've really turned it into more of a soap opera than I would want it to be. " Weiner told the critics that he wants the show to be in 1968 by Season 5.
Finally, in a very clever spoof, Advertising Age designed vintage 1960 issue featuring Mad Men. Here's one story that made me smile: Sterling Cooper wins Kodak Projector Account." Apparently, Kodak was getting ready to launch a "revolutionary new technology" in slide projectors dubbed "the wheel," a removable circular tray for holding slides and dropping them into the projector.
Revolutionary new technology? I had no idea! I just happen to have a Kodak projector sitting all-but-forgotten in the back of my closet. I bought it to show off the 700-plus slides I took during my trip to Europe the summer after I graduated from college. Sadly, very few of my friends ever wanted to see them. And if you want one today, you're out of luck. Kodak stopped making slide projectors in 2004.