About This Show
Mad Men is an American dramatic television series created and produced by Matthew Weiner. It premiered on July 19, 2007, and completed its fourth season on October 17, 2010. Each season consists of 13 episodes. On March 31, 2011, Weiner signed a $30 million contract which will keep him at the helm of the show for three more seasons.
Mad Men is set in the 1960s, initially at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, and later at the newly created firm of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The focal point of the series is Don Draper (Jon Hamm), creative director at Sterling Cooper and a founding partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, as well as those in his life, both in and out of the office. As such, it regularly depicts the changing moods and social mores of 1960s America.
Mad Men has received critical acclaim, particularly for its historical authenticity and visual style, and has won multiple awards, including thirteen Emmys and four Golden Globes. It is the first basic cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, winning it in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
In 2000, while working as a staff writer for Becker, Matthew Weiner wrote the first draft for the pilot of what would later be called Mad Men as a spec script. Television producer David Chase recruited Weiner to work as a writer on his HBO series The Sopranos after reading the pilot script in 2002. "It was lively, and it had something new to say," Chase said. "Here was someone [Weiner] who had written a story about advertising in the 1960s, and was looking at recent American history through that prism." Weiner set the pilot script aside for the next seven years – during which time neither HBO nor Showtime expressed interest in the project—until The Sopranos was completing its final season and cable network AMC happened to be in the market for new programming."The network was looking for distinction in launching its first original series," according to AMC Networks president Ed Carroll "and we took a bet that quality would win out over formulaic mass appeal."
Filming and production design
The pilot episode was shot at Silvercup Studios and various locations around New York City; subsequent episodes have been filmed at Los Angeles Center Studios. It is available in high definition for showing on AMC-HD and on video-on-demand services available from various cable affiliates. The writers, including Weiner, amassed volumes of research on the period in which Mad Men takes place so as to make most aspects of the series—including detailed set designs, costume design, and props—historically accurate, producing an authentic visual style that garnered critical praise. Each episode has a budget between $2–2.5 million, though the pilot episode's budget was over $3 million. the scenes featuring smoking, Weiner stated: "Doing this show without smoking would've been a joke. It would've been sanitary and it would've been phony." Since the actors cannot, by California law, smoke tobacco cigarettes in their workplace, they instead smoke herbal cigarettes. Robert Morse was cast in the role of senior partner Bertram Cooper; Morse starred in A Guide for the Married Man (1967), a source of inspiration for Weiner, and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1961)—two Broadway plays about amoral New Yorkers.
Weiner collaborated with cinematographer Phil Abraham and production designers Robert Shaw (who worked on the pilot only) and Dan Bishop to develop a visual style that was "influenced more by cinema than television."Alan Taylor, a veteran director of The Sopranos, directed the pilot and also helped establish the series' visual tone.To convey an "air of mystery" around Don Draper, Taylor tended to shoot from behind him or would frame him partially obscured. Many scenes set at Sterling Cooper were shot lower-than-eyeline to incorporate the ceilings into the composition of frame; this reflects the photography, graphic design and architecture of the period. Alan felt that neither steadicam nor handheld camera work would be appropriate to the "visual grammar of that time, and that aesthetic didn’t mesh with [their] classic approach"—accordingly, the sets were designed to be practical for dolly work.
Episode credit and title sequences
The opening title sequence features credits superimposed over a graphic animation of a businessman falling from a height, surrounded by skyscrapers with reflections of period advertising posters and billboards, accompanied by a short edit of the instrumental, "A Beautiful Mine", by RJD2. The businessman appears as a black-and-white silhouette. The titles pay homage to graphic designer Saul Bass's skyscraper-filled opening titles for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) and falling man movie poster for Vertigo (1958); Weiner has listed Hitchcock as a major influence on the visual style of the series. David Carbonara composes the original score for the series. Mad Men - Original Score Vol. 1 was released on January 13, 2009
At the end of almost all episodes, the show either fades to black or smash cut to black as period music or a theme by series composer, David Carbonara, plays during the ending credits; at least one episode ends with silence or ambient sounds. A few episodes have ended with more recent popular music, or with a diegetic song dissolving into the credits music.
Genre Period drama
Created by Matthew Weiner
Written by Matthew Weiner, Lisa Albert, Jane Anderson, Rick Cleveland, Andrew Colville, Kater Gordon, Cathryn Humphris, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Brett Johnson, Erin Levy, Marti Noxon, Tom Palmer, Chris Provenzano, Robin Veith, Dahvi Waller, among others
Video: Watch the opening credits of Mad Men:
- Matthew Weiner on the style and realism of Mad Men; costuming
Clip begins at: 38:25, Duration: 12m 58s
- Matthew Weiner on how many details on Mad Men are derived from memories of his childhood
Clip begins at: 14:10, Duration: 00m 42s
- Matthew Weiner on the lawnmower episode of Mad Men
Clip begins at: 53:44, Duration: 04m 00s
- Matthew Weiner on getting Jon Hamm hired on Mad Men
Clip begins at: 00:52, Duration: 02m 59s
- Matthew Weiner on his process for writing the pilot of Mad Men
Clip begins at: 44:44
- Matthew Weiner on the editing style on Mad Men; not wanting it to be fast-paced like West Wing
Clip begins at: 12:57
- Matthew Weiner on the inner workings of Don Draper's character on Mad Men; when the wife of the man he's impersonating dies
Clip begins at: 52:57, Duration: 03m 46s