September 10, 2007

RECORD-REVIEW: "I am a Mad Woman for 'MAD MEN'"

By Bonni Brodnick

Is anyone else catching the new American Movie Channel (AMC) series, “Mad Men” on Thursday nights at ten? Now that the same “Soprano’s” writer/executive producer Matthew Weiner has put Tony to bed, what other soapy drama is there on tee-vee? We tried HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords.” NIX. We like “Entourage”, but besides Cooper Anderson’s “360”on CNN, where can you get drama like “Mad Men”?

It’s set in 1960 New York (in the month of April, to be exact) and is about the then new world of advertising and the ruthless competition of artful sell on Madison Avenue. Main encampment is Sterling Cooper Ad Agency and the characters are cutting-edge cool. Donald Draper, the main character, is beau and brazen. Roger Sterling, his boss and co-partner of the ad agency, gives a whole new look at having a morning glass of milk (with vodka). The full-of-gloat young rising account exec Pete Campbell has a post-honeymoon twinkle in his eyes (for someone else in the office). My other superficial delights are Joan, the red head office manager and her curvaceous rear end, and Don’s secretary’s mouse ears. But besides this, there is a visceral connection to the 60s. It reminds me of growing up in Maplewood, New Jersey. Cousin Brucie blaring on my hand-held transistor radio. An “Endless Summer” poster hanging in my room. The Monkees' “Last Train to Clarksville” spinning on my record player from Two Guys. My bottle of Eau de Love perfume and white Twiggy lipstick. It was an era that included my father, and for this reason I think I embrace the show.

I worked on Madison Avenue twice (first time was at Condé Nast Publications at 350 Madison Avenue; second time was at ICPR at 477 Madison Avenue). I lived on West 58th Street and my desks on Mad Ave were daily destinations. (Although that was in the 70s, when muffin tops were the craze for breakfast; frozen yogurt the cal-free delight for lunch, followed by Chipwiches sold by a vender in front of St. Pat’s Cathedral at 4).

Everything about “Mad Men” rings true for me. It was my inspiration for buying a Model 500 black rotary telephone for our yellow den. The clicking sound of dialing, and the loud RING beckon me to the era just prior to Vietnam and Kennedy in office. The show makes me want to also purchase an avocado-color fridge, or whip up a pineapple upside-down cake for the heck of it. But let’s not get too kooky.

Enough of the fetishness with 60s details. What about the “Mad Men” characters? What can’t you like about a sexy guy on tee-vee who has a beautiful wife in the suburbs (in a town called “Chilmark” no less. Hey, wait a second…. our Vineyard house in is Chilmark!), a beatnik lover in Greenwich Village, and the possibility of a Jewess magnate in the wings? Or Pete Campbell with his nudgy groaning wife who looks ridiculous in a pillbox hat (Jackie she’s not)? And aren’t we just waiting for Salvatore Romano to bust out of the closet? Does Betty Draper (Don’s “Breck Girl” wife) have MS? Will account exec Ken Cosgove sell another story to The Atlantic? Will Don’s secretary Peggy (who was just dissed by Joan the office manager for looking like she’s “eating too many lunches.” Ouch!) make it from the secretary desk into the creative pool? Will we find out why Bertram Cooper, the boss of the agency, can’t ever find his shoes? Will Francine Hanson, the pregnant neighbor in chic maternity smocks, ever give up smoking?

These are the story lines I am living for. With Tony and Carmella Soprano settled into television history, now there are Don and Betty Draper and the Sterling Cooper Ad Agency. I’m completely sold.

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