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AMC's "Mad Men" Returns -- And Once Again, It's a Blast from the Past
July 25, 2008  | By David Bianculli

weiner_lg.jpgI hope Matthew Weiner, the passionate and innovative creator of AMC's Mad Men, won't take this the wrong way, but I've found errors in his fabulous period drama about Madison Avenue ad-agency employees in the early 1960s.

Of course, to find them, I had to visit the set, poke around, and look closely. Very, VERY closely...

Mad Men, which begins its second season Sunday night at 10 ET, is a masterpiece of set design, period detail, wardrobe and all the other elements that immerse you so completely in that bygone era of three-martini lunches, overstuffed ashtrays and bullet bras. A week ago, Weiner invited TV critics to visit his set and enjoy the small details, down to the covers on the electric typewriters and the vintage desk calendars. So I went, eagerly.


The level of detail on that set is amazing. In the typewriters are pieces of letterhead stationery from Sterling Cooper, the ad agency employing Jon Hamm's Don Draper. TV Guides and old TV scripts from 1962, the year season two begins, are scattered on the desks. On the bulletin boards are charts showing "Sterling Cooper TV Placement," listing the shows on which the firm's clients advertise.

Surely, I thought, as I checked out the shows on that chart, this is where Weiner and company's legendary attention to detail falls apart. But no. The TV series listed -- including Mister Ed, Password, Combat and The Untouchables -- all really were on network television at some point in 1962. But peer even closer at that list, and finally, there's a crack in the veneer, a sign that someone young enough not to remember the original era, or shows, typed up this impressive but bogus list.


One of the other shows listed was called "Dobie Girls," when it should have been Dobie Gillis. And one of the top five shows on the Sterling Cooper TV Placement list was accidentally ghoulish: Instead of The Red Skelton Show, it was listed as "The Red Skeleton Show."

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy! Matt Weiner, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Not really. I'm goofing around to make a point of how accurate the show IS, and to find some way of writing something new about a series that, all of a sudden, is being discussed and praised everywhere. Emmy nominations. TCA Awards. Reams of rave reviews.

I'm adding to that pile of praise myself. You can hear my Fresh Air with Terry Gross review of the second-season premiere of Mad Men, which ran Friday, by clicking here. Or you can read my Broadcasting & Cable blog on the same subject by clicking here.

Only on TV WORTH WATCHING, though, will you learn about the Red Skeletons in the Mad Men closet...




John Shumate said:

Wasn't the name of the show, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"? (Indeed it was. Good memory. And for those who think the idea of addressing the camera directly and talking to the audience in a sitcom is a relatively new phenomenon, Dobie did in back in 1959. Then again, George Burns did it on his TV show, "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show," way, way back in 1950. -- David B.)

Comment posted on July 26, 2008 1:36 PM

jeff kisseloff said:

There was another error in the show tonight, and it made me laugh because weiner is always going on and on about how important it is to get the details right. well, in the scene where draper says goodbye to the two young copywriters, he compliments their work but says something to the effect that they copied it from julian koenig, who was a famous ad man in those days. except he pronounces it "ko-nig. It's "kay-nig"

I know julian. he's alive and well and thinks mad man in a lot of crap, and he certainly will think so even more if he saw tonight's episode. (Made me laugh, Jeff! Or is that JEEF? Even so, I like this show... -- David B.)

Comment posted on July 27, 2008 11:05 PM
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