urx unit loader On the Set: Mad Men

Today’s cuppa: Raspberry pick-me-up iced tea

A month or so ago, I did a set visit to AMC’s "Mad Men" for a syndicated feature story timed to this week’s premiere. Since the story was used primarily in Sunday TV supplements, it’s been hard to find on the Internet, so I haven’t been able to link to it. But now I can, thanks to a little Web wizardry from the Albuquerque Journal.

It still may be hard to read for some, so below find the story as it appeared in Albuquerque (sans a lovely black-and-white photo). Soon, I’ll also be putting up a post in which someone with firsthand memories of the "Mad Men" era comments on watching the first season on DVD.

AMC’s ‘Mad’ ad world is back in season

Even without earphones, it’s easy to hear the resonant voice of Robert Morse
echoing through the downtown Los Angeles set for the Manhattan-based Sterling
Cooper Advertising Agency, the main location of AMC’s 1960s-era drama “Mad Men,” which returns for its second
season on Sunday.

image001 On the Set: Mad MenOn this late June morning, the camera is on Jon Hamm, as newly promoted
partner Don Draper. He’s listening to Morse, as agency co-founder Bertram Cooper, informing him he’ll be sitting on a museum board.

At a certain point, Cooper asks fellow partner Roger Sterling — heard but
not yet seen in this take — to exit. Actor John Slattery emerges, tossing his
tie dramatically over one shoulder as he laughs with series creator Matt

Cooper then essentially tells Draper he’s giving him the keys to the kingdom,
news that Draper takes with aplomb.

Weiner smiles approval, and it’s time to move on.

While “Mad Men” has yet to find a huge
audience, it charmed critics and awards voters (Hamm
 and the series won Golden Globes earlier
this year). To say its return is highly anticipated would do a disservice to
the state of quivering anticipation displayed in certain corners.

On the phone a few days later, Weiner is keeping his own emotions under

“I’m very superstitious,” he says. “I have to warn you. It’s mistakenly
seen as modesty, but I’m really just superstitious. I want all these things,
but I don’t even want to think about them. But it is a really nice thing. It’s
nice to get recognition.”

Journeyman actor Hamm — who projects both masculine confidence and
self-effacing humor — his hair sleek and suit immaculate, settles into an
armchair in Draper’s office.

Asked about all the press attention, he jokes, “Fortunately, I’m pretty good
at talking.”

The new season picks up a little more than 14 months after season one ended,
but it’s still the early ’60s. Even though Draper’s former secretary, young
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), is now a junior copywriter, Sterling Cooper is
very much a man’s world.

“This is an agency,” Moss says, looking very puttogether
in a tight ponytail and snug plaid suit, “where men run it like it’s 10 years ago,
not necessarily in the creative ideas, but in the way they treat women.”

The top ad execs enjoy practically unlimited access to liquor, cigarettes
and sex.

“Totally,” Hamm says, “but all of that stuff comes with a price. It’s like a big playground, Manhattan, for these

Sterling is
one who knows the price, having suffered a heart attack last season.

“In what other job,” Slattery says, “are you going to get to ride the girl
into your office in a bra and girdle, then, 10 minutes later, be crying your
eyes out, afraid you’re going to die after having a massive coronary?”

For Cooper, though, it’s another matter.

“I never get the girl,” laments 77-year-old Morse.

Inhabiting the world of “Mad
Men” are people who, depending
on their age, lived through some combination of the Depression, World War II
and the Korean War. The shooting has stopped, but the Cold War continues.

What “Mad Men” is not is a show about Baby
Boomers, who began to be born after World War II.

“The generation that came of age in the ’50s was responsible for the ’60s,
all of it,” Hamm says. “The generation that came of age in the ’60s was responsible for the

But it is a world where the fascination with youth culture is just beginning
to bubble up. After lunch, filming starts on a scene in which Draper hands a
meeting over to 20-something Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)
to introduce a youth-oriented campaign for Martinson’s Coffee.

It includes a Latin-flavored song that plays repeatedly during different
takes. Morse, who has doffed Cooper’s goatee and suit in favor of a T-shirt,
cargo shorts and sneakers, nods and keeps time.

Near the end of one take, Kartheiser starts
dancing, followed by Moss, followed by Hamm wiggling his butt across the frame. The crew also bops along.

When Peggy says of the song, “It stays with you,” she’s not kidding.

“How about that, huh?” Weiner says. “I saw the
dailies. Last year we didn’t have a gag reel. I’m going to do that this year. Jon
Hamm and John Slattery cannot go through a rehearsal without making fart noises. I want that on film. It’s so elegant.”

In a way, this odd little dance routine is a very “Mad Men” moment, though happier than

“I’m always looking to do something new,” Weiner says, “looking at a part
of humanity that doesn’t get dramatized much, and I’m not just talking about on

“I love the private moments. I love seeing the small
embarrassments. I love seeing how a tiny thing can ruin your day, just doing a
show about having a bad day, even.