Madmen look back

For my money, Madmen is one of the greatest dramas to ever rear its head on television.  Unlike Seinfeld, which was “a show about nothing”, this was a show about well thought out characters who took their various dysfunctional backstories and made their way through an industry known for putting a shiny spin on a bad apple.

In a recent interview creator Mat Weiner was asked if there was added pressure in writing the finale, given the critical acclaim leading up to it.    He told Rolling Stone Magazine, “I don’t owe anybody anything…we have held up our end of the bargain so far.”

A show as beautifully crafted as Madmen shouldn’t be put on the same comparison graph with Breaking Bad.  Both  are masterpieces in their own way, but it’s like comparing a Michelangelo to a Picasso — two very different flavours that required different approaches to bring their respective stories to a close.

Given I’ve already started my pre-finale mourning, I wanted to share some ad moments from the last 7 seasons, moments that were truly wonderful television, not just ad industry fodder.

This is one of my favourite scenes from the 7 seasons.  “The carousel”.

The carousel starts to show the first of many kinks in the Draper armour. Leading up to the full on melt down with executives of Hershey’s where Don reveals his true past, growing up in a backwood’s brothel.

Peggy Olson played a pivotal role in the show.  From steno pool to McCann Erickson she represented a modern woman who made the major sacrifices necessary to excel in a man’s world.

Her walk down the hallway to her new McCann Erickson office is a beautiful moment in the evolution of a complicated character. Sonya Saraiya of Salon Magazine wrote a beautiful article summarizing her favourite episodes. She pointed out that female characters were dealt with so completely because 7 of the 9 writers used by Weiner were women.

There were so many other magic moments and characters.  Roger Sterling will always be one of my favourites because of his brash honesty about where he stood on every issue under the sun. And his acid trip episode was memorable by everyone but him.  Bert Cooper’s “The Best Things in Life are Free” dance was a stellar sign off.  Lane Pryce’s exit by noose burned an indelible vision.   Canadian Jessica Paré created an internet sensation with her season 6 song and dance for Don’s birthday.

A suitable send off for a show that was so unpredictable.

One of the things I loved best about Madmen was it’s refusal to compromise. In the early stages producers asked Weiner to cut back on the number of characters he was writing into the show because of the expense. He refused.  Weiner  didn’t set out to write a mass appeal show. So the last word should appropriately go to him.

Mathew Weiner

I’m not doing “How to Keep a Moron in Suspense”; I’m not playing that game. I have a story, and the story starts on Page 1, not on Page 50.

Thank you Matt Weiner. In the ad industry the expression goes, you’re only as good as your last ad. In the case of Madmen, that’s good enough.

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Tim McLarty - Ontrack Communications Inc.

About the author

Tim McLarty is creative director at Ontrack Communications in Toronto. He’s a podcaster, and his background includes 9 years as professor of media creation at Humber College and 17 years as a broadcaster across Canada.  Ontrack is a media studio creating video, motion graphics, audio and podcast content.  In his spare time he makes short films and travels to any country that will have him.