Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Gary Edgerton of Old Dominion University explains the popularity of one of television's hottest shows, Mad Men.
Gary Edgerton is a professor and chair of the Communication and Theatre Arts Department at Old Dominion University where he teaches courses in media history, theory, criticism, and production. He has published nine books and more than seventy-five essays on a wide assortment of media and culture topics including his most recent volume, Mad Men: Dream Come True TV. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts.
Dr. Gary Edgerton - Mad Men
Every few years a new television program comes along to capture and express the zeitgeist. Mad Men is now that show.
Since premiering in July 2007, it's won numerous awards including four straight EMMYs for "Outstanding Drama Series," being the first basic cable program ever to receive this recognition. It is also syndicated around the world in over three-dozen countries with an international reach that is expanding all the time.
Its imprint too is evident throughout contemporary culture, inspiring other TV series and films, print advertisements and designer fashions, and all sorts of ancillary products. Creator Matthew Weiner, a former executive producer on The Sopranos, presents another set of compelling, complex characters on Mad Men set in the sophisticated go-go world of Madison Avenue in the early 1960s.
Don and Betty Draper for example have a picture-perfect colonial in wealthy Westchester County. He is a hard-living advertising executive on the fast track to success. She a Bryn Mawr graduate and former fashion model who can now luxuriate her days away as a suburban princess. Why then are the Drapers so unhappy? Why is their dream come true not enough?
Overall, the characters on Mad Men are basically stand-ins for our parents and grandparents, representing an earlier, confused, and conflicted version of us, trying to make the best of a future that is unfolding before them at breakneck speed. Audiences today understand and relate to their disorientation. Where better to begin to make sense of yet another transformative moment like our own than in a television narrative like Mad Men where the characters are similarly caught in a kind of limbo between the recent past and a shadowy uncertain future.