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Sunday, 25 March 2012

The world's gone mad





In case you hadn't noticed, Mad Men returns to our screens on Tuesday. Well, to some of our screens. The series is being imported on the Sky Atlantic channel, which last week enjoyed a total audience of three million.
The programme will be available to fewer than half the country's households, but that hasn't deterred our newspapers, which have been in a Downton Abbey-like frenzy all month.
Christina Hendricks, January Jones and Elisabeth Moss - the three leading women, in case you are not an aficionado - have been on the news pages, fashion pages, features pages. You name it, they've been there, done it. 
We've also seen interviews with Matthew Weiner, the show's creator,  a controversy over the falling man poster, and an unexpected publicity coup for the Cambridge Satchels company, thanks to the disclosure that all 300 members of the cast and crew had  been given one of its old-style school bags.
Yes, the show comes from the same pedigree as the Sopranos - which ended up being acclaimed 'Greatest TV Show Seen on the Planet in the History of the Universe. Ever'. I admit to being a fan, but let's be honest, as a minority sport is it really worth all these column inches? Or are the people putting (mostly quality) papers together entertaining themselves rather than their readers? 
It comes to something when a respected newspaper like the Observer interviews an American TV critic, simply because he's seen the opening episode in advance (and is, of course, sworn to secrecy on its contents).Its big sister the Guardian put no fewer than five writers on the case, assigning each to interview one of the leading actors, then went on to  publish a survival guide blog on how to cope socially if you don't have Sky and don't know what to say at that water cooler.
The hype started early, like those anniversary pieces that always appear days or even weeks before the event in case someone else gets in first - the Titanic centenary is well under way and don't even ask about the Queen's jubilee.
Anyway, back to Draper and co. The i on Sunday was off the mark a couple of weeks back with a quiz inviting readers  to decide which character they most resembled. Last Wednesday the Mail told us that you could now do much the same thing on an internet game. Meanwhile the daily Independent was producing an armchair guide to the Sterling Cooper etc etc empire, complete with a splendid spidergram.There was even a slot in the Telegraph's motoring pages on the prestige cars preferred by admen on either side of the Atlantic.
The Telegraph did at least try to dress up the puffery  as something a little more substantial by asking real advertising agencies whether working life was really like that in the Sixties (answer: it was even more debauched). And the Mail, that bastion of  feminism and the rights of working women, deserves half a brownie point for focusing on the sexist ads that the likes of Sterling Cooper etc etc produced in that era.
Perhaps the cutest - and most irresponsible - approach was that of the Times2 team who dressed Tom Whipple  and Carol Midgley in 1960s garb and got them to spend a working day on the sauce to see how well they were able to do their jobs. The result was a witty and original feature.
Of course, the biggest plum in the final weekend before D-for-Don Day was to talk to the main mad man: Jon Hamm. Having secured the interview, The Times went overboard, putting his picture on the front of both the paper and  the magazine cover.
But the ultimate disappointment was to see the  Magazine - winner this week of the  UK Press Awards supplement of the year gong - run with the tag line 
Jon Hamm: I am not Don Draper: I am not this brooding, sad, angry guy
Er, no. Anthony Hopkins isn't a cannibal; Daniel Radcliffe isn't a wizard. Jon Hamm isn't an advertising man in a time warp.
Whisper it quietly: he's an actor.It's all fiction. Get over it.
Ambridge, of course, is something else entirely.....




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