Mad Men will soon be back on AMC for its 2nd season. The setting, a Madison Avenue ad agency in 1960, is so interesting to me because it represents a turning point in advertising. Around this time advertisers started embracing conceptual ideas and humor instead of straight pitches, and watching the Sterling Cooper creative team dismiss these newfangled ideas is amusing. In the pilot, they debate the famous DDB Lemon ad for Volkswagen, and most of them don’t get it. That sets up the whole show — this is a group of old white guys about to be hit by a cultural revolution, and they aren’t going to be able to keep up.
Mad Men can be hard to watch at times, as many plot points center around a sexist, racist society that I am thankful not to live in. That’s not to say racism and sexism don’t still exist (see: Election 2008) but at least I don’t live in a time when it’s practically laughable to hire a woman as a writer. Rumor has it the show will resume two years in the future, which I think will be a good move. It allows the characters to experience cultural shifts and to grow emotionally more quickly.
But setting the serious stuff aside, the art direction alone is worth watching this show for: Sharp suits, perfectly tailored dresses, sleek mid-century furniture, intriguing vintage baubles, you name it. Nothing is overlooked. (Of course, there are times it’s hard to see all this greatness through great clouds of cigarette smoke!)