From the Mafia to Madison Avenue

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Who do you turn to when the mafia is gone? Admen, of course. That was the case for Sopranos scribe Matthew Weiner, the creator of AMC's first original series, Mad Men. The show, which debuted on Thursday, July 19, follows the professional and personal exploits of Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), a hotshot creative director at fictional 1960 shop Sterling Cooper—a "small, white, conservative agency," says Weiner, who likens it to a mini BBDO of that time.

Although things on Weiner's Madison Avenue may be a lot less bada bing and a lot more buttoned up, he says the issues tackled on the new show (the pilot was produced by @radical.media) will be just as complicated, and the behavior may be just as bad. "Nineteen-sixty is kind of a magic year," Weiner says. "There is an Eisenhower, conservative mood in business and manners, but at the same time you have a counterculture, the beatniks and the pill." Weiner is particularly interested in exploring the male psyche of that era, which will be fleshed out in the characters of Draper and his Sterling Cooper colleagues. "There's two conflicting desires in the American male, maybe in all men," Weiner says. "One is to be a great father, husband and provider; and the other is to drink and smoke as much as you want and have sex with as many women as possible. Most of us forego the second half of that when we get married, but at that time, in that world, those two things coexisted. My thought was, How do you live with that?"
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