Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 1

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (19 Jul. 2007)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
8.1
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In 1960 New York City - the high-powered and glamorous "Golden Age" of advertising - Don Draper, the biggest ad man in the business, struggles to stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing ... See full summary »

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In 1960 New York City - the high-powered and glamorous "Golden Age" of advertising - Don Draper, the biggest ad man in the business, struggles to stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing times and the young executives nipping at his heels. Written by Official Site

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19 July 2007 (USA)  »

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Trivia

One of the themes of this episode (and the first season) is the general atmosphere of anti-semitism that pervades the main characters' attitudes and lives. This is referred to both overtly, as when Draper tells Sterling that the firm has never hired a Jew "on my watch," and subtlety, as when the hors d'oeuvre served to Rachel Mencken at her first meeting is shrimp cocktail (shellfish is forbidden under Jewish dietary laws, but since nobody at Sterling Cooper has even rudimentary knowledge of Judaism, they obliviously serve Rachel shrimp anyway). See more »

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In March, 1960 Don Draper says "It's not like there's a magic machine that makes identical copies of things." The Xerox copier was introduced in 1959. See more »

Quotes

Don Draper: The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one.
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References Make Room for Daddy (1953) See more »

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Caravan
(uncredited)
Written by Juan Tizol
Performed by Gordon Jenkins
Background music heard near the end of the story, while Don Draper is traveling on his way home
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The new Sopranos? Possibly
19 January 2009 | by (Italy) – See all my reviews

Just a few months after The Sopranos went off the air, people started looking for the next great American drama. Therefore, when AMC's first original TV series, Mad Men (followed by the darkly comic Breaking Bad), made its debut, critics were quick to drown it in well-deserved praise, the hyperbole hitting the top spot when some described it as "the new Sopranos". Why they would make such a claim is easy to understand: the show's creator, Matthew Weiner, had writing and producing duties on HBO's masterpiece, the director of photography (Phil Abraham) is the same (and it shows), and the main characters are a bunch of chain-smoking, hard-drinking, womanizing businessmen and their secretly frustrated wives/girlfriends/whatever. It's another trip to the dark side of the American dream. And it's as excellent as US television can get.

Before we get started, though, a little clarification about the title: Mad Men is not about asylum patients. The expression, as stated in the opening title card, was coined in the early '60s referring to the ad executives working on Madison Avenue, New York. To be more specific: "They coined it". "They" have a very special representative in the shape of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), one of the big names at Sterling Cooper: he's brilliant in conducting research and pitching ideas (not to mention selling them), but there's still something that doesn't feel quite right about him. Or better, like Tony Soprano, he doesn't feel quite right: despite a good job and an attractive mistress, something's missing in his life. No time for such thinking, though: right now he has to convince Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff) he's the right guy for her advertising campaign, and make sure young, ambitious sleaze-bags such as Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) don't make the job more complicated for him. Pete is also involved in another controversial matter: although he is about to get married later that same day, he finds the time to openly flirt with Don's new secretary, the naive and virginal Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss), who's gonna need all the help she can get from her "mentor" Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) if she wants to survive in a male-driven, highly sexist environment.

Weiner's point is quite obvious and eloquently expressed: these people advertise the perfect American way of life, yet they follow a completely different set of rules. Adhering to a mentality that isn't very different from Tony Soprano's code of ethics, they believe everything is allowed in order to seal the deal. Women, in this specific case, are simply part of the tools necessary to achieve that goal, and occasionally they serve as a source of fun, too. It's a grim portrait of yesterday's America (which hasn't changed that much, it would seem), but rendered through gorgeous images. In fact, the advertising industry setting allows the creative team to stage each episode as if it were a 45-minute ad. Apart from the omnipresent elements (good houses, perfect suits, yada yada yada), the most interesting aspect of Mad Men's opening episode is how the key product

  • cigarettes - is shamelessly and efficiently put on display. Not only


is the title quite unsubtle (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes), but everyone (well, almost) is seen smoking a cigarette in nearly every scene, especially in that key moment when they are discussing the marketing strategy. If the characters themselves could see the show, they would be very proud of the achievement.

Alongside the visual splendor, the writing is Sopranos-worthy as well, but that wasn't much of a surprise, was it? Every line exudes quality and, most importantly, a healthy dose of ambiguity, which is also conveyed via some extraordinary performances: not everyone gets a truly big moment in this episode, but it is worth mentioning that Moss and Kartheiser have evolved significantly from the already superb recurring roles they had on two other great shows (The West Wing for her, Angel for him) into players capable to deal with meatier, almost leading parts. The real thing to watch out for, however, is the carefully crafted companionship between Draper and his boss, Roger Sterling (special guest star John Slattery, aka Eva Longoria's unfortunate second husband on Desperate Housewives): less caustic than the bond between Alan Shore and Denny Crane (Boston Legal) and less tense than that between Tony Soprano and Johnny Sack, it's one of those amazing small-screen partnerships that give a series extra flavor and grant two fine actors like Hamm (who has said in interviews he was experiencing some difficult times before he was cast) and Slattery the extended space they so richly deserve. And all this happens in the first 50 minutes of what looks like the next big thing in American TV drama.


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