Central character is a self-confident and, of course, devious advertising executive called Don Draper (I will not trouble you with the actors’ names). He has a blonde beauty-queen wife in the suburbs as well as two cute kids and a shady past. We learn early on that he has both re-made and re-named himself to hide his embarrassing and humble origins. I think the scriptwriters intend this as a big metaphor for the way all ad people disguise and distort reality, though at once credibility factors arise about how Don has been able to maintain this deception. Around Don in the ad agency office, other major characters are Peggy, apparently the innocent new office girl, but soon shown to be very much a careerist on the make; an annoying junior ad exec, employed because of his daddy's money, who is just learning the ropes and frequently makes a fool of himself with embarrassing outbursts; a sexpot, always in a red dress, who sleeps with one of the elderly senior execs and regards herself as the mentor of the girls in the typing pool; and others whom I won’t bother mentioning. You get the point. The series draws recognisable “types”.Share
The strength of what I have seen, however, is the series’ sense of period. Suits, dresses, interior decoration, habits of speech, all belong to the age in which the series is set. As an avid anachronism-spotter, I have yet to spot an anachronism. More important, Mad Men creates what I assume were the mores of the age for this particular profession and social class.
Everybody smokes unapologetically and in all circumstances – at board meetings, while typing, at parties, after making love etc. etc. – even if an early episode has admen wondering how they will market Lucky Strike when annoying doctors are beginning to talk about the health risks presented by tobacco.
Gallons of alcohol are consumed by the admen, not just at the inevitable long, liquid lunches but in the office itself. Announcements – even trivial ones – are greeted by the boys gathering round and chugging back bourbon. (Read more.)