Mad Men Update

In case you missed it, back in January I posted this update about Mad Men where I mentioned that “personal issues” in my life might keep me from posting my famous Mad Men recaps in a timely fashion.

I just wanted to let you know that yes, I have been very busy with “personal issues” in the past couple of weeks, and will continue to be busy for the next couple of weeks. Please don’t expect the recap for the first episode until the week of April 9th at the earliest. I will try like hell to catch up from there.

By the way, the “personal issues” are nothing bad… on the contrary, I expect to have a lot of fun in the next couple of weeks. I’ll explain it all later, OK? 🙂

Some Mad Men News

The season premiere of Mad Men is almost upon us, and I wanted to link to a couple of cool online things I’ve found recently.

The first is this interview with Matthew Weiner, in which he discusses how season 5 (and beyond) almost didn’t happen.

The second thing is this neat article from The Atlantic which discusses the language used in the show. If you’re a fan of the series, you probably know the amazing lengths the show goes to to ensure authenticity. The costumers require actresses to wear reproductions of period (no pun intended) underwear. The Foley artists track down actual newscasts from the day in question to play on radios in the background, and sounds of period office equipment as background noise. The prop designers painstakingly recreate concert tickets, newspapers, matchbooks, restaurant menus and other ephemera of the era. But when it comes to language, the show falls a bit short.

Benjamin Schmidt, author of the Atlantic piece and a “visiting graduate fellow at the Cultural Observatory at Harvard and a graduate student in history at Princeton University”, wrote a computer program that analyzes online Mad Men scripts and subtitle files ripped from DVDs, and then uses Google’s Ngram Viewer to compare the scripts to written works of the period. And while it’s true that there aren’t that many obvious mistakes (at no point does Peggy say “OhMyGod! Gag me with a spoon!”), there are a million subtle ones.

Much of the language in the show did exist as a concept at the time of the series, but wouldn’t enter popular usage for some time later. For example, in season 1, Salvatore talks about “espresso beans”; while the concept existed (and might have been common in Manhattan’s Italian community in the 60s), the specific phrase didn’t enter mainstream use until the 1980s. And speaking of the 80s, in season 4, Pete Campbell said that Philip Morris used SCDP as “leverage” to get a better deal with a competing agency. “Leverage” (in that sense) didn’t appear in “American Business English” until the 1980s. Sure, it existed as a banking term, but was almost unknown outside that. All in all, it’s a fascinating read, and worth checking out.

Mad Men season 5 promo

Mad Men returns!

Woo-Hoo! Mad Men, the greatest show in the history of television ever, returns on March 25, 2012 with a two-hour season premiere!


The downside is that I will be very busy with something else around that time. I had been on the fence about doing recaps for season 5. It takes 8-10 hours to do each recap… and that’s just for the recap; that’s not including time wasted on Facebook or Twitter! It’s a lot of work, but something I love. But don’t kid yourself – it’s work. And while I still envision myself doing them, I’d hate to fall behind due to “real life” and then just kind of give up after an episode or two.

I’m sure I’ll still do them, but I’ll keep you posted about the recaps as the season approaches.

Heads Up, “Mad Men” fans!

I know several folks have found my site thanks to my Mad Men reviews, and I thought I’d give you guys a heads-up about a new show debuting this week that you might like.

It’s a six-part BBC series called The Hour. It’s set in a fictional 1950s British current affairs TV show. According to everything I’ve read, production values (costumes, set design) are supposed to rival Mad Men in authenticity. And, like our favorite show, The Hour is supposed to be a pastiche of actual people and events. For example, one of the characters, Bel Rowley (played by Romola Garai) is based on Grace Wyndham Goldie, the first female executive at the BBC, and a giant name in the history of British TV (although, as it so often happens on TV, Bel will look much more like Joan Holloway or Betty Draper than the real Goldie). And at least one actual event, the Suez Canal Crisis, will be featured on the show. Fans of The Wire will also be pleased that Dominic West will play one of the three main characters of The Hour.

Here’s the trailer for the series:


The series is produced by Kudos, the production company that gave us Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Spooks, The Fixer and Law and Order UK, so I have high hopes for the show. The Daily Mail has a good piece about the series (and about how the character of Bel is based on Goldie) here. Check out Wikipedia’s page on the show here. Check out the official BBC page for the show here.

The show airs on Tuesdays at 21:00 BST (16:00 EDT) on BBC 2. There’s a 99% chance the show will appear on torrent and cyberlocker sites in both XviD and 720p formats shortly after the show airs. If you prefer, you can use this guide to setting up your computer to use a British proxy server and watch the streaming version on iPlayer.

The show will also debut on BBC America on Wednesday, August 17, at 10:00 PM as part of their new Dramaville series. Even better, each episode will be introduced by Luther‘s Idris Elba! I could swear I read somewhere that shows aired under the Dramaville banner will not be edited for time; there will still be commercial breaks, but instead of cutting content to make a 58 minute BBC show fit into a 43 minute US timeslot, the show will run for 75 minutes with breaks added. I can’t verify this at the moment, so perhaps a reader can help.

Good News, Bad News

Some good news and some bad news for Mad Men fans.

AMC has officially greenlit season 5 of the Emmy-winning series. Talks between show runner and creator Matthew Weiner and AMC\Lionsgate had nearly broken down, not over his 2 year, $30m deal, but because AMC demanded more product placement, cutting episodes by two minutes, and axing two regular cast members.

I don’t have a problem with product placement per se; the show’s been doing that for years, and as long as it’s appropriate to the era it can be easily worked into the script.

In the past, AMC has accommodated Weiner by letting the show run long (say, an hour and five minutes instead of an hour) instead of cutting content to run more ads. I don’t see why AMC just can’t keep this up.

Weiner is adamant about not cutting cast members, so this might be a genuine sticking point. Betty (January Jones) is remarried, so as much as I enjoy looking at January every week, there’s little reason for her to be there. I’m not sure how much money Robert Morse (Bert Cooper) makes, so having him die of a heart attack might be a possibility, if necessary. Who else would you cut if you had to make the choice?


So the good news is that far from negotiations “collapsing”, the series is absolutely on. The bad news? Season 5 won’t air until 2012. As crappy as that is, I can wait for quality programming, ya know?

Random TV News

Here’s a few TV-related items for today:

– If you read my Ashes to Ashes recaps, you might remember this screencap from season 1 episode 4:

In the recap, I commented on the poster behind Gene Hunt’s head, and how funny it was to see it again after all these years. Well guess what? A woman named Fiona Walker has come forward and taken credit (or blame, depending on your gender politics ) for being the girl who bared her bottom. Although it’s not quite “What happened to Amelia Earhart” or “Who was Jack the Ripper”, it’s still nice to have one of life’s little mysteries solved.

Justified is a show about a US Marshall who is transferred to his native Kentucky after shooting a drug dealer in Miami. It’s based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, and it’s pretty damn good. Stephen Root (Jimmy James from News Radio and Milton from Office Space) occasionally plays a judge on the show… and it’s nice to see he hasn’t forgotten his red Swingline stapler:


– Lastly, here’s Mad Men’s John Slattery in the new music video from The National, where he plays a Secret Service agent in love with the (female) president:

A Mad Men Mystery Solved!

This season’s Mad Men had an episode called “The Beautiful Girls”. As I do in all my Mad Men recaps, I tried to get the names of all the songs used in this episode. However, I just couldn’t seem to get any information about one song in particular (for those in the know, it was in the second scene with Peggy and Abe at the bar, after the Swedish girls showed up at Joan’s apartment).

I wasn’t alone, either. As you can see from the comments section of the recap, folks were interested in finding out what the name of the song was. I emailed the Lipp Sisters, who didn’t know. They forwarded my question to Karl, their music expert, who also didn’t know. Other Mad Men fan sites were mystified too.

Well, thanks to a reader, I can now say that the mystery has been solved! Reader Robert Earle was somehow able to contact the producers of the show, who told him that the song is called “Lonely Girl”, by obscure 60s artist Jay Ramsey. The song appears on an album called Cult Hits of the 1960’s, Vol. 2, which is available as a download from iTunes here and Amazon here.

THANK YOU for solving the mystery, Robert!

Mad Men s1 graphic

Mad Men: “Tomorrowland”

The season 4 finale begins with Don in bed. He hears a noise, which wakes him up. He calls out, and a fully dressed Faye walks in the room. Don asks her to “put him out of his misery” before she goes. Faye tells him that the American Cancer Society loved his ad, and they will love him. She then tells him that he will have a blast with his kids in California. Don insists that he has a “sick feeling” in his stomach, and Faye says that it might not be about work, that it could be about his past. Don says that it’s not that simple, and Faye agrees. But she also says that if he resolves some of his issues, he might feel better about everything. She kisses him, and says that she’ll call him on Tuesday when he gets back. Don says that he will miss her.

Joan pushes the mail cart around a mostly empty office. She arrives at Lane’s office, where he promotes her to “Director of Agency Operations”. Unfortunately, the job comes with no increase in salary, as the agency hasn’t signed any new clients in ten weeks. Joan says that it’s “almost an honor”.


We then see Don and Pete meeting with the American Cancer Society. One of the board members asks what made him write his now-famous open letter, and a nervous Don says that it was just an impulse, and was something he needed to do to “move forward”. The same board member compliments him on the gesture and says that they feel that lung cancer is avoidable, especially with the right ad campaign. She wonders what the campaign might be like. Another member says that they feel that scary medical facts are “useless”, and he reveals that half the board smokes. Don says that he also smokes, and mentions how futile it was to run ads to get people to change brands, much less quit.

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