Hi-ho Mad Men fans! What did you guys think of the season premiere? I liked it, although it was a bit rough around the edges (WTF, Betty?). Of course, most Mad Men premieres are a bit “slow”, so I’m kind of… not “shocked”, exactly… but sort of… “confused” by much of the negative press the premiere got. What do you think?
Some observations – mostly goofs – from last night’s premiere:
– Did anyone catch that Megan was wearing a backless dress at the luau (no bra), but was wearing a white bra later that same night in the hotel room?
– Those really tall hotels at the base of Diamond Head didn’t exist in the 1960s. Here’s a picture of what it looked like in 1967, and here’s a pic of what it looks like today. I guess it would have been too involved and\or expensive to remove the new hotels via CGI.
– Is it just me, or was the product placement even more blatant than usual? Ritz crackers? Smucker’s jelly? Talk about on the nose!
– Given the high profile of the Super Bowl, I’m surprised that they got so much wrong about it. First, some background: American football was created by universities. The first football game was played by Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1869. The sport rapidly spread to other universities, and it was the success of college football as a spectator sport that led to the creation of the American Professional Football Conference in 1920 (it renamed itself the “National Football League”, or NFL, in 1922). However, professional football would remain a distant second in popularity to college football until the late 1950s. Nationwide TV broadcasts allowed millions of Americans to see the games for the first time, and air travel made a geographically larger league possible. However, the NFL was reluctant to expand into “untested” cities. A man named Lamar Hunt (son of Texas oil tycoon HL Hunt – the inspiration for the “J,R. Ewing” character on Dallas – and younger brother of Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, who famously tried to corner the silver market in 1980) approached the NFL about creating a team in Dallas. The NFL turned him down, so Hunt, along with others who had been refused teams, created his own league, the American Football League (AFL). At first, the NFL dismissed the upstart league, but when the AFL quickly became popular with football fans, the two leagues went to war with each other. Both leagues expanded to new cities and fought with each other over players leaving college. It was soon obvious to everyone that the whole situation was counterproductive, and merger talks began between the two leagues. 1970 was the first year they played as a combined league, but before that the leagues agreed to play a game between the NFL and AFL champion at the end of the season. This was, of course, the Super Bowl. However, for the first two seasons it was known by its official name, the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game”. So I’m not so sure Peggy would be calling it the “Super Bowl”. The name “Super Bowl” existed, but wasn’t officially adopted until Super Bowl III. What’s more, the first few Super Bowls were not the huge “events” they are today. Super Bowl I didn’t even sell out: the stadium was only two-thirds full, perhaps because of the “high” ticket price of $12 ($81.40 in 2012 dollars, which is almost laughable given that face value of tickets for the most recent game, Super Bowl XLVII, was $850 to $1,250!). Super Bowl commercials really didn’t become a “big thing” until Apple’s famous 1984 ad from Super Bowl XVIII in 1983:
Before that, the only really notable Super Bowl commercials were from Master Lock (their iconic “lock getting shot with a rifle” ads debuted during Super Bowl VII):
Coca-Cola (the “Mean Joe” Greene commercial, aired during Super Bowl XIV in 1980, and considered by many the best Super Bowl ad ever):
And Xerox (their “monk” ads first aired in Super Bowl X in 1976):
So it’s also highly unlikely that Peggy would be stressing out over a “Super Bowl ad”, when such ads had not become a “thing” yet.
– While I’m on the subject of football, the “Cotton Bowl” was mentioned. This is a postseason college football game played in Dallas, Texas. College sports are somewhat confusing, especially to people outside the United States. The oldest “bowl” game is the Rose Bowl, which started in Pasedena, CA in 1901. At first the game was meant to feature the best team from the eastern US against the best team from the western US, and whoever won the game was considered national champion. The bowl game was incredibly popular, and other cities wanted to get in on the action. A few decades later you had the Cotton Bowl (1936, Dallas), the Orange Bowl (1934, Miami), and the Sugar Bowl (1934, New Orleans). Nowadays there are over 30 bowl games! And for the record, in the Cotton Bowl mentioned in Mad Men, Texas A&M beat #8 Alabama 20-16.
– As far as I know, there were no courts martial for war atrocities in Vietnam until well in to 1968.
– DEFCON (short for “defense readiness condition”) is an acronym used by the United States military to describe their overall alert level. The system was instituted in November of 1959, but I’m not sure how much the average public would have known about it in 1967 (especially since Peggy notes that the system “counts down” rather than up; i.e that DEFCON 5 is normal and DEFCON 1 is nuclear war).
– Lastly, the area around St. Mark’s Street was known as the “Lower East Side” until the 1980s, when “East Village” became the norm. There were people calling it East Village in 1967, but it was rare, and very unlikely that a 15 year-old girl from Rye would even know to call it that.