Mad Men

MILLION DOLLAR ARM
Movie fans were drowning in choice at AARP's Life@50+ event in Boston last week.
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In his new book Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, author Brett Martin writes about TV's current "Third Golden Age," which he says began when The Sopranos premiered on HBO in 1999. According to Martin, the common thread running through the great shows of this era are the prickly men who created them, and the complex male characters they placed at the center of each. Cable television, less beholden to ratings and advertisers than networks and more willing to take risks, became the place for a movement that has shifted the center of pop culture conversation from the movie theater to the living room.
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At the  Mad Men Season 6 premiere last month at the Director's Guild Theater in Hollywood, Jon Hamm told reporters that the drama's time frame for this season has parallels to today - an intriguing idea, in that Mad Men is now in 1968, arguably the most dramatic year of calamity and change in those tumultuous times.  (Yes, yes - we know hyper-secretive series creator Matt Weiner wanted the year kept under wraps, but it has already been reported elsewhere.)
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In Season 3 of AMC's Mad Men, Betty Draper's father, Gene Hofstadt, moves in with the family. He and his granddaughter - the 9-year-old Sally Draper - soon bond over Edward Gibbons's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
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One of the things that keeps so many of us avidly watching  Mad Men, AMC's epic series about the audacious misadventures of advertising industry reprobates in the 1950s and 1960s, is the show's stylish period panache, from the classic contour of the bespoke suits and skinny neckties worn by rakish protagonist Don Draper to the mid-century modern decor of Don and trophy wife Megan's apartment (which, as this  Los Angeles Times article details, was meticulously assembled by designers who scoured eBay to find an actual 1964 white metal patio dinette set).
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The Primetime Emmy nominations were unveiled this morning, honoring the best in television during the 2011-12 season. AMC's juggernaut Mad Men and the FX mini-series American Horror Story led the way with 17 total nominations apiece, while PBS' Downton Abbey and the History Channel mini-series Hatfields & McCoys each nabbed 16. Among comedies, ABC's Modern Family led the way with 14 nods.
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It's been a 17-month wait, but "Mad Men" finally returns tonight (3/25) amid a hale of hyperbole aimed at getting the public back in the mood for the 15 Emmy-winning drama.  The AMC website even offers a handy "Mad Men" party planner; you can almost smell the vermouth!  Will Season 5 live up to the series' storied history, or begin to look tired, like Don Draper (Jon Hamm) after a string of one-night stands?  Will its slap-in-the-face frank encounters with racism this year keep Matthew Weiner's creation sharp and relevant?  Or will it slip on its soapy elements?
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