The Return of Mad Men

Mad Men returns to our living rooms this evening after an absence of over a year, and no one who was hooked on Season 4 has forgotten it.  No one seems to know what’s going to happen, either.  The folks behind the show have done a very good job of keeping spoilers off the Internet, and the promos on TV have all been shots from earlier episodes.

I’ve been a fan since the first episode.  I grew up in the ad business in the sixties.  My dad was an ad man, but not, thank goodness, on Madison Avenue.  He worked for an agency in Milwaukee after WWII, and when I was ten he bought into a small agency in Miami.  He was never with an outfit the size (or stress) of Sterling Cooper.  But I did get to know something about the advertising industry over the years, filling in as clerical help from time to time.  My brother and I were drafted into posing for the occasional print ad.  Two of my high school classmates were the children of partners in another local agency.

When Peggy Olsen went to work for Sterling Cooper in 1960, I was in junior high school.  I was a few years younger than Peggy, but I wore her clothes.  I recognized the props.  Everything about the look of the show took me right back to that time.

Watching Peggy grow through the show also reminded me of so much I wasn’t aware of while I was safely in school in the sixties:  how much, how fast the world was changing, especially for young women.  Peggy has made me think, “Go for it, girl–show them you can do it,” more than once.  I may even have said it out loud to the TV from time to time.

Peggy is my avatar in Mad Men, but she’s not the only female character who carries her own weight, one way or another.  Joan, the curvaceous office manager, comes back from any disaster with fresh determination.  Betty, who seemed innocent and ill-treated in season one, has turned into a manipulative shrew.  And what can one say about the endless parade of women through Don Draper’s life?

Somehow Don Draper holds our interest, even our sympathies, despite his womanizing, his secrets, his sometimes inexplicable behavior.  All the male characters have their ups and downs, and it’s hard to pick out favorites.  I do miss Sal, the closeted art director who was outed and fired a while back.  Robert Morse is a hoot as the senior partner, and a bit of an in joke for those who remember him as the bouyant young hero conquering the corporate world in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying back in 1967.

Last night I got back in touch, watching the last two episodes of season 4.  Now I’m looking forward putting my feet up and devoting my full attention to tonight’s two-hour return.  How much time will have passed?  Will Don have married Megan, the secretary he suddenly proposed to in the last episode?  How has Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce survived the long drought after Lucky Strike dumped them?  Has Don’s full-page ad in the New York Times, swearing off tobacco advertising, paid off?  Has Joan had her baby?   Has Peggy bought a new wardrobe?  Has anybody stopped smoking?  Stay tuned.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl Bolen
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 13:52:33

    I’m trying to catch up on reading your blog. I spent half of March traveling. Never seen Mad Men, despite the glowing reviews. I love the clothes — and no one could be more handsome than . . . John Hamm? Is that his name? Pass the fan!

    Like

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