What’s it about?
Set in 1960s New York, Mad Men follows smooth advertising creative Don Draper, a man who can put a positive spin on almost anything. The show centers around the Sterling Cooper agency, navigating the evolving tastes of the decade.
Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser, Robert Morse, Jessica Paré
An Introduction to Mad Men
It’s the dawn of the 1960s, a decade of incredible creativity, experimentation and upheaval. Fashion, music and culture are on the move, while the youth are becoming more aware in an increasingly volatile political landscape. For now, it’s 1960 – the start of a fresh decade of potential – in this case, within the advertising industry.
Sterling Cooper are a small but ambitious advertising agency situated on Madison Avenue, New York City (the source of the ‘Mad’ in the title, apparently). Their creative director is handsome Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a heavy-drinking, heavy-smoking brand selling machine, who has a winning instinct for knowing the right sales pitch and nailing a great tag-line for a product.
Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) is the smart and overqualified office manager at Sterling Cooper who oversees the smooth running of the company. Imposing to many yet caring to the deserving, today Joan has a new secretary in her charge: timid and naive Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). Peggy is new to office politics and, having been assigned as Don Draper’s secretary, is happy to receive some hard-learned advice from Joan. Peggy certainly comes with ambitions but will Joan’s advice help or hinder her?
The agency, Sterling Cooper gets its name from the rakish Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and the slightly more esoteric but reliable Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse). They depend heavily on Don to charm the important clients and, in spite of his occasional overindulgences, he’s ably and consistently on board. Unfortunately, his private life is a different matter altogether. Outside of work, Don has a wife, Betty (January Jones), kids, and a whole lot of personal demons.
An iconic and hugely stylish show from AMC, Mad Men has also left its cultural mark, from sparking a renewed interest in early sixties sharp, Italian-influenced tailoring to ensuring some classic cocktails are continually in demand. The sight of Don Draper nonchalently mixing a couple of Old Fashioneds whilst having a conversation held the rapt attention of an eager new generation of lounge apprentices.
Jon Hamm heads up a fabulous cast with an understated, old school charisma, and is rivalled only by John Slattery in the sartorial stakes. Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks give especially great performances as polar opposite personalities forging ahead in a male-centric industry and age.
Incidentally, for anyone longing for a return to such a ‘white men behaving badly’ era, there are regular reminders that not everyone was allowed on the same playing field; Mad Men doesn’t shy away from some of the prevalent and less palatable aspects of the sixties but is never ‘preachy’; the viewer is left to make up their own mind. On the subject of sexism, for instance, the show has been labelled as both feminist and misogynist, depending on the reviewer.
Mad Men is a high-calibre, classy drama from the very start, and maintains its high standards throughout. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, it’s intelligent and regularly compulsive watching.
One of the shows that re-invigorated the DVD box set market (see also, The Sopranos), Mad Men is unreservedly recommended as a binge-watcher classic.
Check out the Season 1 Trailer here: