AMC show puts 'mad' back in Mad Ave.

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If you're nostalgic for interoffice affairs, three-martini lunches, selling cigarettes and sexual liberation, "Mad Men" will be your kind of show. In the one-hour pilot AMC has commissioned about Madison Avenue in the '60s, TV is new media and the Pill and Valium have just hit pharmacy shelves and office desk drawers.

Matt Weiner, the writer-director who created the dramedy, has a more blunt description: "A lot of f**king and drinking and very, very wry and funny." And ironic, he said. "The people are aware of the fact that what they're doing is bullshit."

The show follows Don Draper, the 30-something creative director of the Sterling Cooper agency, "a white, old-fashioned advertising firm that's about to be left behind" when the likes of DDB, Mary Wells Lawrence and David Ogilvy launch the "creative revolution."

"I was interested in writing something about American men and their complexity, some of which is ugly," he said. "There are two conflicting drives: one, to be an ideal father on the PTA ... and, two, to get drunk, laid and smoke as much as possible."

If it sounds a bit "Sopranos"-like, there's a reason. After years of passing around the script to no avail, it landed in the hands of "Sopranos" creator David Chase, who hired Mr. Weiner to write several episodes in seasons five and six of the HBO mob drama.

Radical Media's Jon Kamen, whose firm is handling production, has read the script as has Hal Riney. And on a recent cross-country flight Mr. Weiner found himself sitting next to the sister of DDB chief Ken Kaess, who suggested he show the script to her brother. Unfortunately, said Mr. Weiner, he never got the chance. But he offers an appraisal of advertising that would make the late adman smile. "If you're into media and idolize business, there are very few things more American than advertising," Mr. Weiner said.

Rob Sorcher, AMC's exec VP-programming and productions, started out as an advertising copywriter at Benton & Bowles-"a place that still had all those guys from a previous era." Despite its setting, he said the show offers a social commentary on today. And AMC is optimistic "Mad Men" will elicit high interest among advertisers.

"I just know that everybody in the mafia's watching 'The Sopranos,"' Mr. Sorcher said.
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