Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mad Men City

As some of you may know, this Sunday marks the return of easily the best show on television -- AMC's "Mad Men." This is a show of such superlative quality, such amazing writing and acting, such beauty and depth, that it almost feels like you're stealing something great by getting to watch it for free (okay, you have to pay for cable -- basic cable -- but it's not like it's on premium).

The show is set in a 1960s ad agency in New York City called Sterling Cooper, a place where the men run the office, the women live to serve them (in oh-so-many ways), people drink throughout the day in their offices, the sexism and racism are rampant, and the most important thing is how you appear, not how you treat others. The focus of the show is the ad whiz Don Draper who's only life is as artificial as anything he and his fellow mad men create. The greatness of this show is that for as much as we see and learn about each character, they are forever shrouded in mystery -- we know there's so much more to learn about them and desperately want to find out. And the central mystery of this show is who is Don Draper? What is he all about?

And who, in the end, are any of us?

"Mad Men" is also a great NYC, set in the city we all know and love but that is, in many ways, very different from today. Since this is "Mad Men" season four premiere week, the New York Times is running a week-long Mad Men City blog about what NYC was like in November, 1964 (when this new season begins). What was in the news? What movies were playing? What could you buy in the stores? What were the hot restaurants and clubs? What was going on in NYC back then? And yes, what was advertising like back in 1964?

If we were to time travel back to NYC at that time, I'm sure lots of it would be recognizable but other parts of it would make our fair city seem like an alien world. My mother was a young woman back then and she's told me stories of what NYC was like back in the early sixties -- and how true to life the sexism depicted in the show really is.


  1. Greetings!

    I would've loved to see the West Village when it was truly bohemian and not a tourist trap.

  2. Welcome back - you've been missed!


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