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William Bradley

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Mad Men for Christmas

Posted: 12/23/10 05:45 PM ET

Because there's nothing that says Christmas quite like advertising and excess.

The advent of awards season, and of late Christmas shopping, brings... Mad Men! Yes, I know the show won't be back for its fifth season for months to come. (And it will be back, even though creator Matthew Weiner and the studio and network are in the midst of their usual negotiation mishegoss. The key thing to know is that the actors' options have all been exercised.)

As always, there be a few spoilers ahead.


You can buy Roger Sterling's memoir, or you can watch this.

First, before we talk about the Mad Men books -- including the faux Roger Sterling memoir much discussed in Season 4 -- which can make late stocking stuffer presents, or even later presents to, er, one's self, let's go to the awards stuff. The best show on television is again being honored as the awards season begins to ramp up.

Incidentally, you can see all my Mad Men pieces, from this year and last year, here in The Mad Men File.

Mad Men copped two Writers Guild Award nominations, one for the series and one for the Erin Levy-penned episode "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword." That's the one in which Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce goes for some new business from Honda, and Roger Sterling channels the spirit of revenge for Pearl Harbor.

The American Film Institute, as usual, named Mad Men one of the best shows on television.

Mad Men garnered three Golden Globe Award nominations, for best dramatic series and for Jon Hamm as best dramatic actor and Elisabeth Moss as best dramatic actress.

The Screen Actors Guild Award nominations mirrored the Golden Globes, with the show earning a nomination for best dramatic ensemble (the SAG equivalent of best dramatic series), and Hamm and Moss again nominated in their categories.

The list of cast members garnering the SAG ensemble nominations is at the bottom of the piece. You'll notice that, once again, Alison Brie is not nominated as part of the ensemble for her memorable portrayal of Trudy Campbell, I assume because she was only in five of the 13 episodes.

Frankly, I find this ridiculous and extremely irritating.

And what about John Slattery for best supporting actor and Christina Hendricks for best supporting actress? (Which are categories for the Golden Globes, but not the Screen Actors Guild.)

Mad Men was also nominated by the American Society of Cinematographers, with Christopher Manley gaining the nod for "Blowing Smoke," Season 4's penultimate episode in which Don Draper turns the lemonade of SCDP's rejection by the tobacco industry into his New York Times full-page ad rejecting, yes, the tobacco industry.

So Mad Men seems poised for another year of significant honors. Indeed, if it wins the Emmy Award for best dramatic series for a fourth year in a row it will tie the record set by The West Wing.

Meanwhile, there are Mad Men books, suitable for stocking stuffing if one is so inclined. Or, even better, for self-gifting.


This episode of Mad Men, "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword," was nominated for a Writers Guild Award.

Mad Men's great costumer designer Janie Bryant has a nifty book called The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men. If you like the clothes on Mad Men, and who doesn't, you'll find this book interesting.

The advice, like most fashion advice for a general audience, as distinguished from a specific and well-scrutinized client, tends to the fairly obvious.

Make sure your clothes fit properly and avoid visible panty lines (something I always strive for), wear what makes you feel your your best, dress for your actual as opposed to ideal body type, buy a few key pieces and build your ensembles around them.

But the illustrations are killer, along with the designer's discussion of her fashion passions.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper gives a terrific twenty-something view of the show in Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America. The book, based on the author's web site, is like a hyperlinked exploration of the milieu of Mad Men. By which I mean the advertising, lifestyles, culture, and even a little politics that the show's characters were undoubtedly steeped in. If they were real people, that is. Which of course they are!

There's also Mad Men: The Illustrated World by Dyna Moe. It's exactly what it sounds like, a wittily illustrated companion to the series, an officially licensed tie-in to the various themes, looks, crazes, and fads of the show and its times.

Which brings us at last to Sterling's Gold: Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man, by one Roger Sterling.

Let me whet your appetite by quoting from the book's dust jacket: "Advertising pioneer and visionary Roger Sterling, Jr. served with distinction in the Navy during World War II, and joined Sterling Cooper Advertising as a junior account executive in 1947. He worked his way up to managing partner before leaving to found his own agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, in 1963."

"During his long and illustrious career, Sterling has come into contact with all the luminaries and would-be luminaries of the advertising world, and he has acquired quite a reputation among his colleagues for his quips, barbs, and witticisms."

Some of which it then proceeds to quote.


This is no longer the television programming most frequently seen in the Don Draper household.

"Taken as a whole, Roger Sterling's pithy comments and observations amount to a unique window on the advertising world -- a world that few among us are privileged to witness first-hand -- as well as a commentary on life in New York City in the middle of the twentieth century."

It sounds great, doesn't it? There's just one problem. The book is not a faux memoir at all.

What it is is a compendium of Roger Sterling witticisms and sardonic observations and one-liners. One to a page, making this the first 170-page book you can read in about a quarter of an hour. That includes pictures, each of which gets its own page.

I'm not saying it's not cute. It is.

But what it really is like is one of those tiny books they used to put next to the cash register for a three dollar impulse buy. This one lists for $16.95, though of course you can get it for less on Amazon.

If you know the show, you'll recognize many of the lines and get a chuckle. Or a grimace, as the case may be.

I enjoy leafing through the book. But it would have been much better if the lines were placed in some context, as so much of what John Slattery does as Roger Sterling is behave within the logic of a situation.


The essential milieu of Mad Men is not all that admirable.

Better still would have been the "real" Roger Sterling memoir itself. That would have been very interesting, alternately hilarious and cautionary. Somewhere there is a writer who can strike the right balance of fatuousness and grandeur, nobility and venality, the pathetic and the self-aware (and the sheer coolness) that is our Roger.

As it is, the book, while a nice little souvenir that generates a smile or twelve, is a rare unrealized opportunity in the Mad Men universe.

Here, incidentally, per SAG, is the list of cast members who garnered Screen Actors Guild Award nominations in the best ensemble category.

MAD MEN (AMC)
CARA BUONO / Faye Miller
JON HAMM / Don Draper
JARED HARRIS / Lane Pryce
CHRISTINA HENDRICKS / Joan Harris
JANUARY JONES / Betty Francis (Draper)
VINCENT KARTHEISER / Pete Campbell
MATT LONG / Joey Baird
ROBERT MORSE / Bert Cooper
ELISABETH MOSS / Peggy Olson
JESSICA PARÉ / Megan Calvet
KIERNAN SHIPKA / Sally Draper
JOHN SLATTERY / Roger Sterling
RICH SOMMER / Harry Crane
CHRISTOPHER STANLEY / Henry Francis
AARON STATON / Ken Cosgrove

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.