Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 1

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (19 Jul. 2007)

TV Episode  |  TV-14  |   |  Drama
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 1,797 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 11 critic

New York City, 1960s. In the ego-driven Golden Age of advertising, everyone is selling something and nothing is what it seems.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:


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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




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Release Date:

19 July 2007 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


'Mad men' was a slang term coined in the 1950s by advertisers working on Madison Avenue to refer to themselves. See more »


Wall calendar in doctor's office reads March, 1960 when Peggy goes for a prescription for "contraceptive pills." The first birth control pill was approved by the FDA in May, 1960. See more »


Salvatore Romano: [replying to Dr. Guttman's statement about smoking and a death wish] So we're supposed to believe that people are living one way and secretly thinking the exact opposite? That's ridiculous.
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Featured in Screenwipe: Episode #5.2 (2008) See more »


Music by Matty Malneck and Robert Maxwell
Performed by Robert Maxwell
playing in the strip club
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User Reviews

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.

28 of 32 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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