The other day, I had an Email from a longtime Wellesnetter, who no longer posts. He sent me a fascinating YouTube clip from Season 1 of the smash AMC series, MAD MEN, a TV novel, similar in ambition to THE SOPRANOS, but different in style and subject matter. MAD MEN, as many here will know, is about the shift of "an older America" at the end of the 1950's to the new "commercial consumer society" of the 1960's. It follows the life and work of the employees from a New York ad agency, contrasting how they and their families cope with societal changes that they are both initiating and becoming a part of. The production design favors interiors, and the furnishings, clothing, not to mention the dialogue and habits of the characters, are dead on for their time.
The series was created by Mathew Weiner, a supervising producer for THE SOPRANOS, and has employed imaginative directors, such as Tim Hunter (RIVERS EDGE, 1986).
I had watched a few of the episodes last year, but had missed a connection of interest to us, which our old Wellesnet correspondent noticed:
The Agency is divided into to various teams, sales, creative, and clerical staff. There is considerable competition and a bit of jealousy.
The creative team is headed up by Don Draper (Jon Hamm), and most of the copywriters and commercial artists under him would rather be writing the Great American Novel or turning out paintings in the style of Ben Shahn. In Season 1, one of these, Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis), had an embarrassing affair with the svelte Agency office manager, Joan Holloway (Christina Hicks).
As you will see below, if you have not kept up with the series, one of the reasons Miss Holloway was attracted to Kinsey is that he reminds her of . . . Orson Welles. If you look at the clip, you will twig right away, as I did, how right she is. Not only that, but in Season 2 (AMC, Sunday Nights, 10/9c), now in 1962, Paul Kinsey has grown a beard, continues to smoke a pipe, and is living with a young black woman. It's as if Orson Welles had gone Hollywood, and you may imagine what the wounded Miss Holloway feels about these developments.
Michael Gladis was evidently selected for his part because he does look like a young Orson Welles, and Producer/Writer Weiner has given him more business along those lines. Gladis formerly played Welles in an O'Neil Playwrights Theater production (Waterford, CT) of The Importance of Being Orson by Jessica Cooke (an Irish play about Welles at the Gate Theater in 1931). He was also up to play Welles in a movie [title unknown], which fell through.
Anyway, I excitedly took this intelligence to Todd Baesen, who often acts as Mr. French's gatekeeper. Baesen glared at me with those unforgiving rummy eyes of his, and hissed, "Mr. French and I have no time to waste on Television."
A pity . . . but that is no reason why you should not clue in on one of the most auspicious TV series in recent decades: