Saudade (Portuguese): the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love, something that is lost and may never return.
Iktsuarpok (Inuit): literally, “to go outside to check if anyone is coming”; used to describe the sensation of impatiently awaiting an anticipated friend.
There ought to be a word for nostalgia toward a place and time one never actually experienced. If there is, it probably isn’t English; the above Inuit and Portuguese words were the closest we could find to express our pining for the postponed fifth season of Mad Men – Sunday-night destination TV, Emmy magnet and masterpiece of faux-nostalgic melancholy.
Most of Mad Men’s devoted fans weren’t alive in 1961, yet the powerful subcurrent of repressed emotion and the slavish attention to period detail give the show such authority that it’s easy to feel you were there. Like all the best storytelling, Mad Men feels like memory. Don Draper’s self-hating charisma; Betty Draper’s thwarted, frozen femininity; Roger Sterling’s WASP antics, masking an end-of-the-party bitterness; Joan Holloway’s generous bosom and penny-counting soul; Peggy Olson’s voyage from blank slate to personhood; and that’s leaving out the rest of the gang at Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) – they and their milieu are so finely drawn that AMC’s no-budget long shot has gained, in four seasons, the kind of critical acclaim and committed audience not seen since The Wire.
Show creator Matthew Weiner’s well-documented battles with his writing staff, Lionsgate producers and AMC network execs led Season 5 negotiations up to the precipice. Weiner isn’t, as he threatened, going to take his ball and go play on another network, but the delay means fans will have to wait until March 2012 for their next fix, instead of the late-July/early-August premiere of the previous four seasons. Until then, we’ve devised a list of substitutes – Nicorette for your Lucky Strikes, if you will. Break out the chip ’n’ dip; it’s going to be a long seven months.
The suffering broadcast networks could not have asked for better timing for Mad Men’s self-imposed hiatus: They’ve been pouring money into their own Draper clones, which will now have months to catch on before having to compete with the real thing. NBC still hasn’t set a start date for The Playboy Club , newbie creator Chad Hodge’s imagining of the magazine’s swinging heyday, but the show is already having predictable affiliate trouble (too racy for Iowa!), and its cast, devoid of any genuine stars (as Mad Men was, at first) could be a disadvantage in the kill-or-be-killed prime-time climate. ABC’s Pan Am , on the other hand, has everything going for it: a swinging-pilots premise that was already proven to work like gangbusters in Catch Me if You Can, a movie star (Christina Ricci) as its lead and a gleaming crew of Emmy-hoarders behind the camera, from ER producer and Pan Am creator Jack Orman to The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip executive producer Thomas Schlamme. And have you seen the promo? Thrilling!
Face it: It’s the gin-soaked, smoke-filled atmosphere you miss the most; those sweaty nights full of intrigue, face-slapping and adultery cast a spell that AMC’s B-team of meth dealers and zombies just can’t quite match. Luckily, there’s a treasure trove of great films with just that vibe to enjoy from the comfort of your fainting couch. Curvy, stiletto-heeled Elizabeth Taylor stars as the lust object of married Manhattanite Laurence Harvey in BUtterfield 8 , a richly colored melodrama that won Taylor an Academy Award. If you prefer the existential despair of Don Draper over Joan and her silver-haired fox, check out Gregory Peck in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit , in which he plays an impeccably dressed New York PR man haunted by war flashbacks and his lovechild’s mother. (By the way, Peck’s ball-busting wife is named “Betsy” and is played by Jennifer Jones. Hmm.) Of course, no ’60s New York marathon is complete without Billy Wilder’s The Apartment , in which Jack Lemmon plays an ambitious insurance man who sublets his apartment by the hour to his higher-ups and their mistresses in the hope that he’ll be promoted. The whole thing goes to hell when he falls for the elevator girl (Shirley MacLaine as the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl), who happens to be quite familiar with Lemmon’s apartment. From the talk of suicide to Lemmon’s boozy, last-call dance with a Marilyn Monroe wannabe to powerful men acting like monsters, The Apartment serves as a solid reminder of the familiar Mad Men shame spiral. And it’s a comedy! Finally, because you must, cue up 1963’s Bye Bye Birdie , starring Ann-Margret as the girl that Sterling Cooper just couldn’t quite copy for a failed Pepsi campaign. (YouTube bonus: Search for the cast and crew of Mad Men performing the film’s titular song against a blue screen.) All of these titles are available on DVD from Netflix or immediately to rent or buy from Amazon Instant.
Don smoking and poring over Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency; Betty soaking in the tub with a paperback copy of Mary McCarthy’s The Group – books are essential to Mad Men’s allusion-rich ecosphere. Along with the movies mentioned above, they’re also key to understanding the 1960s mindset, and the lovely librarians at the New York Public Library’s Battery Park branch have created a continually updated and meticulously sourced Mad Men Reading List (nypl.org/blog/2010/09/13/mad-men-reading-list) for your pleasure. Every book mentioned in an episode, from the scholarly (Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) to the deliciously trashy (Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything), from forgotten classics (Diane di Prima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik) to the kiddy stuff (Sally Draper’s Nancy Drew books), is included in this treasure trove of literary backup. To be avoided, however, are the numerous tie-in books cashing in on AMC’s hit like pilot fish feeding off the big shark’s scraps – especially “Roger Sterling’s Fools Gold.” The exception is Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s brilliant Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America, compiled from her Footnotes of Mad Men blog (still live, though untouched since last October).
In June official word came that Janie Bryant, Mad Men’s ace costume designer, would collaborate on a capsule collection with Banana Republic. Lovers of fashion had been hoping Bryant would design a vintage-inspired collection since the first season: those wafty-skirted, wasp-waisted dresses of Betty’s were fashion-mag page-bait, sure, but voluptuous viewers everywhere coveted Joan’s va-va-voom red sweater dress for themselves. Even the flat-front high-water trousers worn by the men of Sterling Cooper had a certain … well, package-enhancing effect that wasn’t lost on some fans. Unfortunately, Bryant’s BR line looks uninspired – those who truly wish for the Mad Men look without the thrift-store aroma would do much, much better to spend money on Kate Spade’s dresses, shoes and jewelry (ladies) and J. Crew’s Ludlow suiting line (gentlemen). If you just can’t resist a cross-promotion, though, the Banana Republic collection goes on sale today (Aug. 11).
This December, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook is scheduled to drop: Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin promise a tour through the kitchens and restaurants of the 1960s, “with every detail true to the period and themes of the show.” But as we said above, most MM tie-in books are throwaway-cheap; you’re best off consulting primary sources. Julia Child’s landmark Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961, but it’s unlikely Betty would have succumbed to its garlicky charms. Indeed, her shudder-inducing “trip around the world” menu in Season 2 – gazpacho, rumaki, lamb with egg noodles – pegs her a Better Homes and Gardens recipe clipper at best. Working gal Peggy, meanwhile, no doubt has a copy of Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book : Bracken, an ad copywriter herself, published the collection of no-goof box-powder-and-can recipes (“Elevator Lady Spice Cookies,” “Company Carrots” and “Skinny Meatloaf”) in 1960. A handsome 50th-anniversary edition came out last year, but the original, with illustrations by Hilary Knight (of Eloise fame) is worth seeking out. The perfect Christmas gift from the concerned secretaries of Don Draper, Lane Pryce and all the other suddenly superfluous ’60s husbands: a copy of the cook-by-pictures Wolf in Chef’s Clothing , Robert Loeb’s male corollary to Bracken’s book – though Wolf, of course, posits cooking merely as a seduction device.
The world is full of mixologists’ wisdom – AMC offers Mad Men-themed drink recipes, drinking games, even a “cocktail culture” app for your phone – but it really boils down to this: brown liquor or clear, in a highball glass, from noon until night. Just, as Roger Sterling says, “don’t be a sissy Mary” about it: “You don’t know how to drink. Your whole generation, you drink for the wrong reasons. My generation, we drink because it’s good, because it feels better than unbuttoning your collar, because we deserve it. We drink because it’s what men do.” Yeah … and women.
When you can’t be next to your crush, the next best thing is to hang out with people just as crushed-out as you, and perhaps the most detailed (and borderline stalker-y) of the thousands of MM fan sites is Basket of Kisses (lippsisters.com). BoK slices the details so thin you can see through them; on a given day they may delve into Bert Cooper’s motivation for whistling “Give a Dog a Bone” after speaking to Pete Campbell; an obituary of the actor who played Pete’s father in exactly one scene of one episode; the unspoken subtext of a brief exchange between Betty Draper and divorcee-next-door Helen Bishop (with a supporting dip into the Clutter family murders that inspired Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood); and, example by example, the “really significant” bird motif in Season 1 (with 18 multi-paragraph responses from their readers). Should this level of fangirl mania wear you out, Slate’s Mad Men TV Club is similarly obsessive, but with a more historical-scholarly bent – plus, reading it doesn’t give you the queasy suspicion that, given the chance, the writers would kidnap Matthew Weiner and eat his face. If you just want a good laugh, check out Pete Campbell’s Bitchface or any of the hundreds of other Tumblr sites devoted to Mad Men GIF-wizardry.
Feel cheated when Joan and Roger slip under the covers and then it cuts to the next scene? Devil’s Film can fix that. The makers of porn parodies ranging from UFC to The Bachelor to Twilight cobbled together This Isn’t Mad Men: The XXX Parody , a baffling take-it-off takeoff of Mad Men. While the research seems to have been limited to a quick viewing of a random episode (most likely “Long Weekend,” judging by the vigorous encounter between Don Draper and Season 1 character Rachel Menken), the admirable inattention to period detail is the hilarious selling point here. From the framed 2002 Newsweek cover on the wall to Draper’s pink microfiber office chair next to a massive bookshelf to a blonde Joan Harris (“It doesn’t hurt to start at the bottom,” she tells newbie Peggy Olson, “or even on your knees”) to the brief appearance by a lens cap and an off-camera (but very loud) digital camera, this is the rare porn that lives up to its title.
What do Sterling Cooper’s young guns do to bide their time between backstabbings? They slap on a fedora and head to Los Angeles to solve some crimes, of course. L.A. Noire is a MotionScan mood piece following haunted detective Cole Phelps as he rises through the PD ranks, nailing mobsters and drug dealers while surrounded by movie stars and femme fatales. The coolest (and Mad Men-est) part: Cole is voiced by Aaron Staton, aka junior account exec and Atlantic-published short-story writer Ken Cosgrove. (Also featured are the nasally vocals of one Vincent Kartheiser, or, as we know and love him, Pete Campbell.) A warning from a gamer friend, however: “The controller buzzes every time you get close to a clue and the game tells you when you’ve gathered all the clues necessary to solve the case. Kind of defeats the purpose of being a detective.” But – but – Ken Cosgrove! Available for both Playstation and X-Box.
Of course, nothing satisfies like the real thing. Netflix announced at the end of July that they’d reached a deal with Lionsgate to make all four seasons available for streaming, thereby killing two bitter pills with one swallow. Netflix members incensed at the recent 56 percent rate increase may be soothed by yet another cultural phenom show making itself completely accessible instead of sticking with the DVD-by-mail model most are wedded to; it also makes Netflix appear to be a player worth sticking by. Impatient Mad Men fans can now scratch the itch anywhere, anytime (so long as they’re Netflix members). That’s 52 sweet, moody, saudade-inous hours to dole out to yourself or wallow in for the next … seven … months. Ouch.
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