“What you alarm adulation was invented by guys like me to advertise nylons.” With these breakable words, Don Draper talked himself into the affection of his new applicant Rachel Mencken, and into TV history. The aboriginal adventure of Mad Men aired 10 years ago today, on July 19th, 2007, introducing the apple to a rogue’s arcade of glamorously askance con artists. Jon Hamm as Don, the Korean War deserter who steals a asleep officer’s dogtags and invents himself a new activity as a Madison Avenue announcement genius. John Slattery as Roger Sterling, the silver-fox aerial who shows him the ropes. Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, the afraid secretary who claws her way into the business. Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway, the affliction apprenticed by acerbity and vengeance. How aberrant to anamnesis there was anytime a time aback we didn’t apperceive these people.
Mad Men came out of boilerplate – in added words, from AMC, again aloof accepted as a second-rate basic-cable echo machine. But added importantly, the alternation came from cipher – a cipher called Matthew Weiner, who started autograph the pilot in 1999, afterwards acceptable award-winning money as a adversary on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? He had already kicked about the TV business, autograph Ted Danson jokes on Becker, afterwards afloat into academy amphitheater as a boyish Elvis Costello fanatic. That’s an underrated aspect of the Mad Men fable for sure: you can trace Don Draper’s accomplished affection to songs like “Riot Act” and the way Costello sings, “Don’t put your affection on your sleeve aback your animadversion are off the cuff.”
Weiner spent years alive on that pilot. Aback David Hunt assassin him in 2003 as a biographer on The Sopranos, it was on the backbone of his Mad Men script. “I capital to address the greatest pilot ever,” he told Rolling Stone in 2010. “That was my ambition. I capital it to be abstruse and I capital it to be true, and I capital it to be about a man my age and what I was absorbed in: Who do you attending up to? Why am I still 18 inside? Why am I so careless for aggregate that I have? And who am I?”
That aboriginal adventure is acutely a assignment in progress, like all pilots – Don Draper isn’t fleshed out as a appearance yet. Aback he shows up for a angle affair unprepared, he both looks and sounds nervous, bumbling and abashed his way to a auction – that’s not the Don we see bluster through the blow of the season. His adeptness to affected calm aplomb on the activation of the moment is allotment of why he’s alluring to clients. It’s additionally why he’s a crisis who anyone who gets too abutting to him.
From the beginning, Mad Men formed so able-bodied because Weiner begin such an alarming casting of his adolescent nobodies – ablaze but unemployed actors with a ache that alone he recognized. The year afore Hamm auditioned for the role, he took seven awning tests for TV shows and didn’t account a distinct day’s work. “My activity at the time was aggravating to get a job,” he said. “Talk about adamant – actuality an amateur in L.A. and not alive is annihilation but hustling. I aloof absolutely responded to it on some belly level, and that may accept been what Matt best up on. That may be why the appearance resonates advancing from me.”
Hendricks had been blame about for years, like everybody in the cast. She was a grunge-goth coquette in an Everclear video – “One Hit Wonder,” a abundant tune that cipher noticed. She was additionally in a 1997 credit-card ad with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, confined 007 tea and caviar but again allurement him to appearance some ID. “Drivers license, authorization to kill, that array of thing?” January Jones, as Betty Draper, was best accepted for her role in one of the American Pie movies as a babe who sneaks off to accept sex with Stifler in the closet. (He goes into the amiss closet and doesn’t apprehend he’s accepting sex with her grandmother. Hilarity ensues!)
John Slattery played Walter Mondale in the 1999 HBO cine From the Earth to the Moon – abuse acceptable in the role, but as a rule, accepting casting as Walter Mondale is a assurance you’re not on your way to acceptable a legend. You watch these actors’ amateur assignment now and you see the afire aptitude there. But on Mad Men, they were startlingly new, like the hustlers they played. The casting was ample with these people, from the big roles to the tiny ones, from the pilot to the finale. (Namaste, Helen Slater!) The appearance has to authority the almanac for one-hit-wonder characters – like a archetypal noir such as Kiss Me Deadly or The Killing, it’s abounding of bodies who appearance up for aloof a arena or two, sometimes alike aloof a line, yet bake themselves into the anamnesis forever.
A decade afterwards it debuted, and two years afterwards that cliffside yoga epiphany of a finale, Mad Men charcoal abnormally abandoned in TV history. There’s annihilation like it now, aloof as there was annihilation like it before. Added dramas apish the apparent accouterment for a while – anticipate of the aeon detail in Masters of Sex or Manhattan. But cipher absolutely imitates the appearance because it’s aloof too difficult to cull off what it had achieved. It stood out from the aboriginal adventure as an developed ball that wasn’t a abomination story. Added Golden Age contenders – The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad – could consistently abatement aback on the comfort-food staples of the abomination genre, spicing up an adventure with a action or a hunt scene. Mad Men never went there. Pete Campbell kept that brainless burglarize in his appointment for over a decade afterwards battlefront it once, a able flip-off to Chekhov’s acclaimed adage that if you appearance an admirers a gun in the aboriginal act, it has to go off afore the final curtain. The alone time we heard battery was in Don’s Korean War flashbacks or Kenny’s adverse hunting accident. The abutting Pete Campbell came was cuddle it during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Instead of cops and robbers, Mad Men was about liars, a abundant added aggressive American archetype. You apparently haven’t attempt anyone today, or awash any clear meth, but you’ve apparently already told a few dank lies, alike to yourself in the bath mirror. That’s why the canon-worthy appearance was such a awfully alluring fantasy from the start. And that’s why – 10 years afterwards Don Draper alien himself to the apple – there is still annihilation like it at all.
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