Details make ad world so real
THERE’S more than simple attention to detail on the set of Mad Men. There’s an affection for all the tiny, exacting touches that make the set and the show not only a journey backwards, but a layered tale about America and its culture.
The living room of the Draper household, the home of advertising man Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) and his family, is ‘‘Drexel Heritage’’ circa 1960, as the producers describe it. With semi-dark wood, mild greens and abstract-butbland art on the walls, it’s slightly ornate, slightly modern and slightly sterile.
‘‘It is what rich people had,’’ creator Matthew Weiner says.
‘‘It’s not too stylish, not all coordinated, and the kids weren’t allowed in the room.’’
All the details that go into this set help to flesh out the characters. Best of all is the White Room, a long, large production space where each character’s clothes and style are deftly and intricately detailed.
That tells you much about Mad Men and explains why the show earned 16 Emmy nominations this year.
Mad Men, centred on the people and the mores of Madison Ave more than 40 years ago, is not only a period piece or a throwback drama. It’s a literary, layered story of people living with, and pushing against, the rules of society and their own complicated natures. And it’s as much about 2008 as it is the 1960s, if you care to look that deep.
It’s also hypnotically entertaining because of all that dead-on detail, and because of the nimble writing and storytelling, the line-up of absorbing characters, the subtle and powerful acting and, of course, its atmospheric cool.
Despite the nuanced plot lines, season two remains a good starting point for viewers who have not seen the show.
The second season opened on Valentine’s Day, 1962, 14 months after last season ended with Draper (Jon Hamm) facing increasing problems in his home life despite his family-oriented ad campaigns, and shortly after Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) gave birth.
Weiner says much has happened in those months, and the people in Mad Men (and viewers, too) will spend a few episodes learning what occurred.
‘‘Trust me,’’ he says, ‘‘and I’ll give you information as you need it in the most entertaining fashion.’’
He chose this short time leap because, as Weiner says, change is gradual, not sudden, and this move puts the group, and America, in a different cultural place.
‘‘Though 1962 was a peaceful, optimistic time, the world was changing,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a time in American culture that’s become idealised.’’
Mad for it:
Christina Hendricks and Jon Hamm in season two of Mad Men.