Tube Talk: Mad about Mad Men

I remember it very clearly. A couple years ago, this package—about the size of a shirt box—was delivered to my door. I opened it and saw the iconic black, white and red Mad Men image for the first time: a silhouette of a businessman, one arm casually draped across the back of a chair, cigarette in hand. Intrigued, I popped in the first preview DVD. From opening scene, I was completely drawn into Don Draper’s 1960 Manhattan. I watched all of the preview episodes in one day, and wished there were more. Making that mental switch back to the present day was pretty jolting.

As enrapt as I was with Mad Men, I didn’t know if the series would last beyond a short cable season. It seemed too good for TV. Too sharp. Too smart. Too stylized. Would other viewers enjoy it as much as I did? Or would the show’s slower pace put off today’s viewers, who seem to prefer fast-paced action and lighthearted comedies?

Little did I know that Mad Men would become a huge hit for AMC, earn numerous accolades, and even be parodied on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Mad Men star Jon Hamm. His co-stars and fellow Emmy nominees Elisabeth Moss and John Slattery made surprise appearances in one scene: And, in a pre-taped short from the same episode, Hamm pokes fun at his onscreen alter ego, Don Draper:

For its first season, Mad Men received 16 Emmy nominations, and won six Emmys including Outstanding Drama Series, as well as awards for cinematography, art direction, hairstyling, main title design and writing. This year, the show’s second season nabbed another 16 nominations, including four of the five writing nominations for episodes of dramatic series. (For trivia buffs, the other nomination went to Lost writers for an episode called “The Incident.”)

Last week, a friend posted her own Mad Men vignette on her blog, a realistic, cartoon-like image of herself in 1962 attire, in the office with Joan and Peggy. She created it with MadMenYourself, an application on the show’s official site: There’s a lot of other fun stuff there to occupy yourself until season three kicks off Sunday, Aug. 16—a Fashion File, a Cocktail Guide, games and countless other things to keep you happily immersed in Don Draper’s world.

Mad Men has become so popular that this year, like last, AMC didn’t need to send out any big splashy press kits or review copies to announce or promote the new season. It seems their initial marketing push was good enough to make even the brilliant ad man Don Draper proud.

Programming note: Mad Men airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

from the Aug 12-18, 2009 issue

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