I’m pretty stoked – Mad Men is back and I couldn’t be more excited. Actually, if I found out Christina Hendricks was doing the entire season in a wet t-shirt I’d be a lot more excited, but that’s not in the cards. On the up side, Robert Morse won’t be showing up in a peek-a-boo kimono, so there’s that.
I’ve never been a big history fan but MM is different; it really makes ancient times – the 1960s – come to life. This is due, in part, to exhaustive research that ensures that everything portrayed is note-perfect and historically accurate.
For instance, I’ve learned that everyone in the ‘60s smoked; in fact, it was the law back then. Accordingly, in MM, the men smoke, the women smoke – even the kids smoke. And in an early episode, if you use the freeze frame, you can actually see one of Don Draper’s dogs light up.
Another historically accurate aspect of MM is the drinking; again, back in the ‘60s everyone drank. And drank all day long with no apparent ill effect. Don and his pals start each day (and when I say “Start each day” I mean, “Roll into the office in time for a pre-lunch cocktail”) with a stiff one. Speaking of starting the day with a stiff one, Don does his share of that, too. But that’s another story.
The sets and props in MM are also stylistically accurate, reflecting the design esthetic of the day – clean, unadorned and trending toward the Bauhaus. Perhaps most notably, MM is set in an age before the development of the Comic Sans typeface; this means no ugly photocopied flyers reminding you that Larry in HR is flogging his fat kid’s Girl Scout cookies.
But my favorite thing about MM is the smart clothes. All the men wear suits – indeed, Roger Sterling’s natty Glenn plaid three-piece is practically his trademark. The guys all wear hats, too – not ball caps turned ass-backwards, but proper fedoras. Professional men in the ‘60s were real men, and when they went to work, they looked like men going to work – not like frat boys going to a kegger at the lake.
The ladies’ styles are spot-on perfect, as well. No revealing muffin tops, no dolphin tattoos, and no jeans that let the world know what color thong a woman is rocking (in fact, the thong would not be invented until the mid-‘70s by a team of Brazilian underwear researchers working in a secret laboratory under Copa Cabana Beach). The women have Aqua-Netted their hair into submission, their makeup is Vogue perfect, and their bras look like they were fashioned from surplus ICBM nose cones.
Anyway, come Sunday evenings, you know where you can find me – parked in front of my big-screen with my skinny tie loosened, Chivas in one hand and Lucky Strike in the other. And here’s a note to Ken Burns: sure, your histories are popular – but stick Abraham Lincoln in a sharkskin suit, give him a drink and a smoke, and your ratings will take off like a NASA moon shot.